Post-Travel Depression - And Some Surprising Ways To Beat It
I’m two months into post-travel living. Life is by no means settled (I’m still working out what to do about work, getting my bearings in the new ‘hood and ever-so-gently dipping my toes into the dating pool) but there is a bit of routine. I take the bus everyday and listen to my favourite travel podcast on the commute. I go to my weekly spin class. (Psycle, I love you!) And I do my own laundry again. Yea, I didn’t miss that.
When I first landed back in London, I was overjoyed. In fact, you can read all about that here. And in many ways, I still am. But in others, the novelty and sparkle around returning home have faded slightly. It’s funny, because I read countless articles that this was bound to happen, but I pffffed them all away, because surely I’m too cheerful, too optimistic and too much in love with London for post-holiday depression to strike. Plus, I’d made it two months in without moaning once about London’s public transport.
I’d done it! I’d avoided the cursed post-backpacking blues!
That is, until I didn’t. Until they hit hard. Somehow, post-travel depression snuck through my front door, slinked through my barely unpacked bedroom and crawled into bed with me. And I can’t really put my finger on what triggered its onset. I just know I’ve felt sad, weighed down by a heavy nostalgia for my life of adventure and days full of surprise. It’s been a sadness mixed with fear around all things mundane as well as a sudden paralysis around making major life decisions. Is this how everyone feels after their trip around the world? I suppose we all have our slight variations of the experience, but f*ck, these pesky post-trip blues turned out to be harder than expected. So I’ve been working on conjuring up my own magical cure. Chalk it up to my Aries fire, but I refuse to let them get the best of this next life chapter. So here are seven things that have been working for me that might just do the trick for you too. A few might even surprise you.
1) Treat home like your latest travel destination: OK, this one’s not exactly ground-breaking. We’ll get to some more original ideas in a moment. Pretty much every article on “post-vacation blues” on page one of Google will recommend it. But I’d be remiss not to include it, because it works. It really works! Explore home like a tourist and you’re bound to revive a bit of that travel buzz. Go on a long walk, wander along unfamiliar streets, head to neighbourhoods you’ve never heard of and keep getting lost. And this isn’t exclusive to big cities. You can discover somewhere or something new pretty much anywhere in the world if you’re willing to try. Just head in a new direction and see what you discover.
2) Talk it out with your support network: This one’s been the most important by far. When you stop travelling, so much is running through your head. Those lingering travel memories. How to readjust to normal life. Decisions about what the hell to do next. How to budget (or ahem, live) with a depleted backpacker’s bank account until you’re employed again. The only way I’ve mustered through it is to ring my momma. And FaceTime my brother - who’s suffering from his own version of post-travel blues. And (ok, so I’m finally gonna put this one out on the interwebs) see my beloved therapist, who after five years of working together, knows how I tick probably better than anyone. There is simply nothing like professional - and impartial - support to help you through a big life transition. Honestly, I simply couldn’t do it without this incredible crew. So talk to your squad; this might really be one of those times when you need them most.
3) Connect with fellow travellers and travel junkies: This one’s been a saving grace. When you first come home, everyone’s so excited to have you back and hear about your time away. But before long it’s like you never left. And no one really wants to hear another travel anecdote. That is, until you find some fellow travel addicts. They will happily discuss that island that’s all the rage in the Philippines or the minutiae of why Mexican street food is so mouth-wateringly delicious. (Surprise! I’m written a blog post about that too.) So connect with your local traveller communities asap. I’ve been meeting travel bloggers, signing up to every travel conference under the sun and hanging out with friends who are off travelling soon. It makes me feel (if ever so slightly) that I’m still having a late-night life chat with some of my newfound hostel friends.
4) Escape through books and travel magazines: I know. I know. This one might seem counter-intuitive. A book doesn’t come close to the real deal. It might make you miss travel more. But give it a chance because this might really help. You’ll get lost in the world of words, and explore parts of the globe through your sheer imagination. Not to mention it's certainly better (and healthier) than playing the comparison game as you endlessly scroll through your Instagram feed and wish yourself away to a tropical isle. I’ve been turning to my favourite travel magazines, Suitcase (check out my ode to this brilliant publication) and Conde Nast Traveller for my own Great Escape. And I’m on the hunt for the right travel reads to get me through the tough winter months.
5) Get out and exercise: I’m not sure why this one’s worked so well. Maybe because adrenaline always works a treat?! All I know is that every single time I go on a long run, sweat through a spin class or breathe into my downward dog, it makes being back home - and figuring out what the hell to do with my life - feel more manageable. It wipes away the cobwebs, and reminds me that everything really is going to be alright. But, more than that, it also reignites that sense of freedom that makes travel so special. That one-of-a-kind sensation you get standing - alone - on top of that mountain you’ve just conquered, soaking in that fresh air, feeling free and unstoppable. I get a similar sense of liberty running along the canal, panting for breathe but still singing along to Cardi B.
6) Don’t travel - but start a travel wishlist: I know a lot of people recommend planning and booking your next trip to get through your travel blues. But I’m not going to suggest that. There’s so much going on right now, financially, professionally and emotionally, that the last thing I want to do is add pressure and organise another trip. For now, I just want to concentrate on what I really want next, and settle down (even if just a little) before travelling again. I also want to savour and really reflect on all the incredible experiences I’ve just had before rushing into my next trip. Our generation is all about experiencing that Next Big Thing and avoiding FOMO, but sometimes it’s good to hit the pause button so you can stop and appreciate all the incredible things you’ve already done. Not to mention this moment of reflection could help trigger some brand spanking new travel ideas because you might want to try something different next time round. After so much island hopping, I’m very ready to book a trip to the Christmas markets across Europe or a Lapland winter adventure. Also, I’m not missing planes yet. Or airport security.
7) Get a haircut: I’m the Beauty Backpacker after all. So this one, though rogue, probably won’t surprise you much. And, come on, we all know haircuts can be transformational. Who doesn’t love a good chop after a bad breakup or before starting a new job? So why not apply the same principle to coming home from your backpacking adventure? You’re starting a new chapter, so why not get a ‘fresh to death’ haircut to match? I put this one off for ages because letting go of my mermaid-length hair felt like I was truly saying goodbye to my backpacker self. But instead, it’s given me a new pep in my step. I’m feeling lighter, fresh-faced and ready to see what life’s got in store for me.
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