This post was written by Steven, creator of Anxious Adventurer
The bump back to reality after your travels can be a hard one.
After riding the high of sun-soaked beaches, two-for-one cocktails and a world of new food, life back home can leave you feeling out of sorts. It’s common for you to feel a sense of heightened anxiety or even depression after your trip finishes. Luckily, it’s well known and you’re not alone!
Now before we get into it, it’s important to note that the feeling of depression/anxiety after traveling can sometimes last a few days after your trip. If you feel like your symptoms of sadness, anxiety (or anything else) amount to more than Post-Travel Blues, you should get some professional help. Book and appointment with your GP to talk about how you’re feeling to rule out any serious or underling issues.
Why Do We Experience Post-Travel Blues?
You’ve had a taste of life without a job, eating new food, meeting new friends and seeing new sights – of course you’re going to feel down after that! Most people would want to do that 24/7 compared to sitting behind a desk for the rest of their lives. Now, although there is a lot of people jumping towards digital nomad-ism nowadays (where they pack in their 9-5 jobs for a life of travel), for most, that’s not an option, and we have to face up to reality and handle the post-trip depression and anxiety head-on.
It’s obvious to say but life goes on back home whilst you’re away. You’ll get back and things wouldn’t have changed that much. After the initial catchup with your family and friends, your travels tend to slip into a memory that nobody really asks you about anymore. I’m cringing at my use of this terrible cliché but travel does change you. It’s hard not to feel a change when you’ve seen all these incredible things, experienced different cultures and practically lived a different life while you’re away.
What Are The ‘Symptoms’?
Some common symptoms of the post-travel blues include:
General Feeling of Sadness
Loss of Appetite
Loss of Focus.
Another common symptom for those post-travel (and for those of us with an anxiety disorder) is catastrophising – thinking the worst-case scenario. It’s important to keep those thoughts from snowballing into questioning your whole life and existence. After some time away, the thought of mountains of emails, morning alarms, bills to pay and boring reality can send you into a catastrophising cycle.
“Why am I stuck doing this job when I want to travel all the time?”
“What if I can’t afford to travel for another few years?”
“I don’t have any holiday days left. I’m stuck here!”
“Why did I give up the beach life for this?!”
Things can escalate fast, but of course you’re going to feel down and out after being away on cloud nine!
How to Actually Deal with the Blues:
The transition back to reality can be tough and over the years, I’ve definitely experienced my fair share of post travel depression. My first experience was when I had just returned home from my first ever solo trip in Italy. I was buzzing. I’d pushed myself out of my comfort zone, met some friends, had a nice little holiday romance, and felt on top of the world. Then I was suddenly back home, in my mum’s house, talking about what I wanted in the weekly ASDA food shop. I started *bawling* and couldn’t really explain why. It had only been *hours* since I’d arrived home and everyone and everything was already back to normal.
Luckily, that experience (and countless others) have taught me some tried and tested ways to minimize the effects of the post-travel anxiety and depression.
1. Practice Gratitude
Keep the thought that you were lucky to have your experience and that you’re grateful for it. Not everybody can afford to travel, so count your lucky stars! You’ve just seen another part of this planet and experienced new cultures, food etc.!
2. Make Future Plans
This was my personal saving grace after that Italy trip. I immediately started thinking about my next trip and it gave me the dose of wanderlust I needed. Being home isn’t the end of the world – you can travel again. This helps to manage the blues when you’re at work too. Focus on future trips and it’ll make the ‘now’ more bearable!
3. Keep Yourself Busy
This goes hand in hand with making future plans. I put all my energy & angst into list making and itinerary planning. You don’t need to have a trip to plan, though. Start drawing; get a bike and time yourself; start a blog and write about your travels; make a meal plan based on the foods you ate abroad. You can even make a scrapbook of your travels to fill your time up. You’ll still get your fix of travel by looking through your pictures, and it’ll feed your creative side too. Just be careful this doesn’t send you into a spiral, crying on your bedroom floor surrounded by travel magazine cut-outs.
4. Be Realistic with The Homecoming
Having a good mindset before you get home is a good start. I have a tendency to be very ambitious (and extra) so I know what I’m talking about here… There’s probably going to be a lack of banners, balloons, hysterical crying or street parades when you return home! Try to combat your ambitious thoughts of home life and balance them with real memories of what it was like when you were last there.
5. Plan Time to Adjust
Jet lag can intensify your come-down so try to give yourself a day or two to sleep, recover and let your body adjust to the time zone. The blues usually last for a few days to a week after you’ve arrived home, so patience can go a long way in your return to normality!
Post travel anxiety and depression can take its toll, but it can also mark the start your travel bug. It can give you the push you need to assess your life situation or book that trip to the place you’ve always been putting off. I’ve personally found that traveling has had an impact on how I view home life. Even though I do get down about my return home, I try to use my time make the most of spending time with family, practice gratitude towards my situation and living “in the now”. A positive attitude and the right outlook will help towards making it through the slump. It will keep you going until you can get back on the road again and see more of the world that we’re lucky to be in.
How about you? How do you manage the Post Travel Blues?
Steven is a mental health advocate, frequent traveler and blogger from Scotland. He classes himself as a ‘professional over-thinker’ and was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder in 2017. His blog, Anxious Adventurer, serves as a personal journal of his travels (to over 32 countries so far!) and advice for those with anxiety.
Follow his travels and life adventures over on his Instagram page: @mrstevenwj