The date creeps ever closer like a black cloud on the horizon and you know you are going to have to experience it but it looks like it’s going to be unbearably cold and that you will never be happy again. Not like you are now. Here, in the bustling market/ the beautiful lake/ relaxed beach/ chilling on this unique island (delete as appropriate). The end of a trip can be a traumatic time in any travellers heart.
I’ve always suffered from intense holiday blues. At the end of my first year long trip in 2014, I was underprepared for what would happen. Initially excited about the new possibilities following the life-changing experiences travel brings, I fairly quickly realised the disappointment that my adventure was over (for now) and life at home felt as if time had stood still. The post-travel blues hit hard.
Usually at some point, the travels have to end. Lack of funds, family commitments, work or study – something usually drags you back to your homelands. Whether you’ve been away a week, a month, a year or a decade, it can be a tricky time for any travel-lover.
Since returning from my recent trip to Vietnam, I’ve been reflecting on how best to cope with these feelings. Here are my tips to surviving it all better than I did!!
1. Plan your next trip
Planning a trip officially makes you happy. After 2 weeks in Mexico in 2013, I booked my round the world ticket starting indefinitely in Guatemala just to cope with the misery of coming home. After a year in South America, I quickly began planning for Vietnam and now I’m planning Cuba. It really helps to hold on to what is important to me and the idea that life is there to be lived.
Even if it’s just a pipe dream and you know it’s going to be really hard to get the money and time together again – plan your next trip, at least in your head. Think about which country it would be or what experience you want to grab next. Make a bucket list and start dream.
2. Don’t spend ALL your money
This was possibly my biggest mistake. My passion for seeing more of the world overcame any sensible voice I might have in my head, and said yes to everything regardless of the consequences. This is brilliant while you’re away, but there is a slight draw back… When I got home, I couldn’t afford to do anything. Sitting around the house after the incredible feeling of freedom I’d had for the last year made the blues so much worse.
Try and keep a little fund for when you get home to help you get back on your feet (easier said than done!).
3. Talk to other travellers
Friends and family who haven’t been on an adventure like yours won’t understand it. They may be nice and sit through a few hours of photos, but they won’t ‘get it’. During post-travel depression, this can feel lonely and frustrating.
I found it helpful to be around friends that had been through similar experiences. Friends met during my travels. Friends who had been away before. Or chatting to travel-passionate people online via the many social media options there are now. There is an active community of people who have the same wanderlust as you on Twitter. My favourite twitter chats are Tuesday’s #TRLT , Thursdays #CultureTrav and the monthly #travelbookclub but there are many more to try. Finding kindred-spirits can really help lessen the blues and appreciate everything you’ve done.
4. Find adventure at home
Home may feel a bit samey during travel blues – like nothing has changed since you went away and boredom quickly creeps in. Home may not have changed, but you have. Try seeing it through your new adventurer eyes. There are bound to be lots of things right on your doorstep you may never have noticed before. Approach your world at home with the same sense of adventure seeking that you had when on the road. Seek out beautiful things and take photos. Look at what is going on in your area. Soak up your own local culture and appreciate it as a stranger might.
5. Cherish your loved ones
I’d been away from my friends and family for a long time on my year abroad. I embraced solo-travel and valued the time to myself. But coming home made me realise how lucky I am to have those loved ones to come home to. Feeling grateful for them can bash the post-travel depression away.
6. Make a list (or three)
I wanted to remember all the things I had learnt about myself and the world and the things I wanted to change in my life. The ‘getting to know yourself’ part of independent travel is impossible to escape. Don’t forget the things you have learnt. Write them down somehow. For me lists and spider charts work. Mine included:
- Things I want to keep doing when I’m home (stuff like speaking Spanish, painting, noticing nature every day)
- Things I learnt about me travelling solo
- Favourite countries
- Reasons I love to travel
7. Make a photo book
If you are anything like me, you will have thousands of photos when you return. Looking through, reflecting and organising into a book of memories can be a very therapeutic process for anyone suffering the loss of a trip. It will also help you to never forget!
8. Make changes
Don’t return from travelling and just be the same person that maybe wasn’t happy before. Use what you have learned to become who you want to be and make changes in your life. For me, there were many things – from being more confident to making more time for myself and writing! It could be something small like continuing to have noodles for breakfast! Whatever moved you while you were away can be part of your home life and doesn’t have to get lost when you return.
9. Have a plan
I’m not very good with plans generally, but I think having a rough plan for when I came home could have helped me settle in more. Maybe it’s to study a new passion, or pursue that dream job. Maybe you are going to try teaching English as a foreign language to help continue the adventure. Whatever it might be, just starting to think about it vaguely while you are away can really take the edge off the shock of being home with a blank page to fill.
10. Be grateful
I bang on about this a bit, but for anyone who has travelled – lets all continue to be eternally grateful that we are the type of people who have the opportunity to travel. Not everyone can and so no matter how blue you get when you come home, be happy that you got to have the experience in the first place. This is something I continue to remind myself of every day – even after a year of being home!
Want more advice?
Vagabond Baker has written a great post on post travel blues with some top tips and things to think about.
What helps you to cope with the post travel blues?