By Sarah Bence, MSc OTR
Sarah is a registered Occupational Therapist as well as a travel blogger. Read more from Sarah on her blog, Endless Distances.
Travel can be an incredibly transformative experience, but have you ever felt glum after returning from a trip? If so, you’re not alone in that experience. I have felt post-travel depression often myself, and so have many others.
What is post-travel depression?
Lots of travelers can end up feeling down, or blue, after returning home from a trip. For me, this manifests as feeling like I’m in a fog, or sluggish, or not feeling motivated to carry out everyday activities. It’s not uncommon for sleep and eating habits to change, or to have trouble concentrating.
Post-travel depression makes sense: on the road, you spend your days experiencing new sights and cultures, maybe doing adventure activities or having once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Then, all of a sudden, you get home and you’re thrown back into your daily routine. It can be hard to adjust.
Personally, sometimes after returning from a trip I’ll feel sad, or agitated by small things in my daily routine. I find it hard to focus, and spend my time wistfully thinking of the trip that was. Doing my laundry, cleaning dishes, getting gas, and all my other mundane daily activities can seem frustrating and pointless in comparison to the life-changing travel experiences I’ve just had, like climbing in the Himalayas or swimming with manatees.
In my own experience, and from what I hear talking to other travelers, post-travel depression is a pretty common phenomenon and a natural result of going from 100 to 0 very quickly once you return home from a trip. In other words: you're not alone. But if you could use a little extra help, here are a few of my tried-and-true tips for beating the post-travel blues.
1. Form a network of travel-lovers
A lot of people feel alone with post-travel depression because they’ve just been through a life-changing experience, but they feel like their friends and family at home don’t “get it.” Let’s face it: no matter how close you are to your loved ones, they might not want to hear you tell stories endless of all the adventures you had while they were back home, shopping for groceries and sitting in traffic.
To process your travel experience with people who know what you’re going through, it can help to find a network of fellow travel lovers. There are many Facebook groups and Instagram niches for this. You can also join in-person travel clubs, start your own blog to share your experiences, or even volunteer at a nearby Hostelling International hostel leading tours or activities for international travelers who will help you maintain a connection to a community of travel-lovers.
2. Bring travel into your daily life
Personally, I feel that going “cold turkey” after travel exacerbates my own post-travel depression. I find it can be very hard to bridge the gap between the thrill of daily travel and the routine of home life. But one thing I’ve found very effective is bringing travel into my daily life. What do I mean by this? Whenever I can, I try to go on day trips to nearby cities, and go to events and new restaurants around my hometown. It makes the familiar feel new.
I’ll also look for nearby hostels and plan short weekend trips. Hostelling is a convenient way for me to travel domestically, and it’s incredibly easy since often hostels organize community events and outings that make it so I don’t have to plan too much on my own. Plus, it helps to know that I have upcoming travel plans when I return from a bigger trip, even if it’s just a staycation.
3. Make an at-home to-do list before you leave for your trip
One surprising practice that helps me with my own post-travel depression is making a to-do list before I even leave for my trip. I’ll make a list of all the life admin tasks, or things that need to be around the house. Then when I return from a trip, I’ve got an actionable list ready to go to help me get back into the swing of things. Otherwise, it becomes too easy to forget about the necessary tasks at home, and get consumed by the sadness that my trip is over.
While post-travel depression can be tough, the possibility of it shouldn’t scare you away from travel: it’s a completely normal and temporary feeling that results from the fact that you just had some incredible and life-changing travel experiences. By easing through the adjustment period once you get home, connecting with people in the same boat, and bringing a bit of travel into your daily life, you can navigate the post-travel adjustment with ease.
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