It's the moment practically everyone dreads: the end of an amazing trip.
Returning home, whether it's from a two-week-long vacation or a multi-year round-the-world trip can hit you hard, and post-travel depression can affect everyone. This article covers what the post-travel blues are and how you can keep them in check.
What is Post-Travel Depression?
Like it sounds, post-travel depression is a feeling of depression that hits you at the end of a trip.
Sometimes it can even begin in the days running up to the end -- I always end up feeling a little sad in the days before I actually head home. As well as a sense of deep depression, other symptoms you may experience include exhaustion, loss of appetite, a lack of motivation, feelings of nostalgia, and -- my personal favourite -- immediately researching your next trip!
In all seriousness, though, post-travel depression can seriously affect your mental wellbeing and last for as long as weeks or months. Friends of mine who have taken year-long trips around-the-world have confessed they still don't feel as though they're fully back to normal, even up to a year after returning home.
One huge reason why this is the case is because travel is transformative. After you've explored the world, you'll feel like a different person, but everyone you return to is often exactly the same. It's a strange feeling to slow back into your old life as if nothing has changed, while deeply knowing that everything has changed.
And when friends and family take interest in your trip for a week or two then don't care to hear any more, it can be tough to deal with so many incredible memories that nobody wants to hear about.
It's no wonder that travelers are feeling sad after returning home!
So, what can you do to prepare yourself for post-travel depression, and how can you minimise its effects?
I've got 11 tips for you!
1. Keep Busy During the Final Days of Your Travels
The last thing you want is for the end of your trip to be overshadowed by a sense of sadness about it coming to an end. To overcome this, I make the final few days of my vacation the busiest of the entire trip. This means booking myself in for classes, taking tours, going shopping for souvenirs, and taking long walks. It helps to keep your mind off of the fact that you'll be returning home soon and keeps you enjoying the place you're currently in.
2. If Possible, Don't Return to Working or Studying Immediately
Nothing makes you feel as though you've come back to reality with a bang than returning home and immediately throwing yourself back into your old routine. I realise this won't be possible for everyone, but if you're one of the lucky ones, aim to give yourself a few days to transition back into everyday life when you return. If you can't take extra time off, it might be worth arranging to end your trip on a Friday so that you can have the weekend to yourself.
This time will allow you to overcome your jet lag, unpack and do your washing, catch up with friends, or even just sort through your memories. Take your time decompressing and the depression won't hit you as hard.
3. Catch Up With Friends
Let's face it: listening to other peoples' vacation stories can be pretty boring, so talking to friends about your trip for any real length of time can be a challenge. When you're battling the post-travel blues, though, this can be a blessing in disguise! Meet up with a friend and chat about what you've been up to in your time apart. Sure, you'll get to share stories from your travels, but you'll also get to hear about the fun things they've been up to while you've been gone. This will help keep you distracted and lessen your attention on how you wish you were still abroad.
4. Attempt to Maintain the Mindset of a Traveller
When you travel, if you're anything like me, you'll find yourself with a different mindset. On the road, I'm all about trying new things, signing up for fun experiences, and eating as much good food as possible.
When I'm living somewhere, I tend to eat at home, fall into a routine, and rarely sign up to try anything new. Because I work online, I sometimes don't even leave the house for an entire week straight! This lifestyle definitely doesn't help to boost my mood.
Keep the buzz of excitement that comes with travel alive by maintaining the mindset of a traveller. Take a cooking class in your hometown, continue with surf lessons, take a dance class or two, and treat yourself to a nice meal every couple of weeks or so.
5. Travel in Your Backyard
Who says that the travel has to end when you return home? Not me!
After returning home, make a plan to start exploring where you live as if you were a tourist. Take a walking tour, jump on a tour bus, take a cooking class, visit the most famous monuments, and take tons of photos! You could even plan a museum-hopping day to learn more about the history of your home.
I grew up in London and always described it as a dull and depressing city. Well, after traveling for five years, it's suddenly become my favorite city in the world! By making sure I explored London as much as I explored the rest of the world, I discovered what a wonderful place it truly is.
6. Share Your Photos With Friends
Relive your vacation by sharing your photos with friends on Facebook and/or Instagram. It'll make you feel as though you're being productive and cheer you up as you look back on your happy memories. Be careful with your privacy settings if you're not comfortable with sharing your vacation with the entire world, though.
7. Re-Read Your Travel Diary or Travel Blog
If you're anything like me, you'll love to keep a record of those life-changing moments on your travels. If you decided to keep a travel diary or travel blog throughout your trip, then spend some time reliving the best experiences and looking back on what you learned.
If you didn't want your writing to take away from your trip, now could be a good time to start a blog. You can reminisce about the best parts of your journey, share your thoughts and feelings about coming home with your friends or anyone else who stumbles upon it, and use it as an opportunity to go through and edit your photos.
8. Find a Place for Your Souvenirs
If you purchased souvenirs on your trip, spend some time organising them and working out where to place them. It'll help fill your room with happy memories and inspire you to keep seeing the world. One of my favorite rooms in my apartment is the one that's full of trinkets I've picked up on my travels.
9. Start Planning Your Next Trip
One of the best ways to take your mind off of the post-vacation blues is by planning out your next trip. Start by sitting down and coming up with a list of everywhere you dream of visiting. Next, start coming up with a plan for how you can make it become a reality. With a new focus in your life, you'll have something to keep your mind off of your previous trip.
10. Start Taking Care of Yourself
When we travel, it can be hard to take proper care of ourselves. Maybe you ate out for every single meal and are feeling unsettled from all of that rich food; maybe you spent two weeks lying by the pool while letting your exercise routine fall apart; or maybe you spent every night drinking and dancing and are desperately craving a good night's sleep.
Travel isn't always great for us, so take your return home as an opportunity to start taking care of yourself. Decide to eat healthily for a while, join a gym, go for a run, head to a spa, or simply get an early night. Taking good care of yourself should definitely help reduce your depression.
11. Help Out Other Travellers
While you were travelling, it's likely that you ended up relying on the kindness of strangers at multiple point throughout your trip. Whether it was a friendly local who helped send you in the right direction when you were lost or someone at the hostel reception who gave you a fantastic restaurant recommendation, you were probably grateful multiple times for the help that others gave you.
Aim to pay it forward after you return home by helping out tourists who are lost in the place you live. If you see someone staring at a map on their phone and looking confused, ask if you can help them out. If somebody makes eye contact with you, smile and ask how they're doing. If someone looks obviously like a tourist, ask if you can do anything to help. You could even spend some time browsing some forums online to see if you can answer any strangers' queries about places you know well.
It'll keep you busy, help you get back into the routine of chatting to other travelers, and make you feel good about how you're helping others in their times of need.