When I’m traveling, it’s like I’m on a permanent high. Everything is exciting, fun, and interesting. I’m in a place I’ve never been before, surrounded by things I’ve never seen and people I’ve never met. There is so much opportunity to learn and experience new things. My intense curiosity is being rewarded, my wanderlust is being fulfilled, and my adrenaline levels are high.
Sure, there are times while traveling when I get tired, frustrated, or maybe even a little bored—but those short moments are trumped immediately when I look at where I am, and then I’m back on that high. That high lasts the majority of the weeks/months/etc. that I’m out in the world exploring, and I feel like life couldn’t get any better. I’m truly at my best while I’m on the road.
But then the inevitable happens: the time comes to end the trip, go home, or take a break from traveling. There are an endless number of reasons why one would have to take a break and sit still for a minute, whether it’s to get a job (or go back to one after a vacation), save up money, or visit family and friends.
After the constant excitement I feel while traveling, going back “home” leaves me feeling…low. Back home, everything is the same as it always was. My adrenaline levels tank as I return to the familiar. I go from constant change to constant sameness, and it all seems bleak. My lust for life disappears as I try to assimilate back into a steadier lifestyle. That’s post travel depression.
What is Post Travel Depression?
Post travel depression is a very real thing, and not just for me. It’s actually pretty common for people to feel kind of down after returning from a trip. Traveling heightens the senses, putting you “on alert” at all times, because you’re in an unfamiliar environment. Those heightened senses mean more intense responses to stimuli, and in the case of traveling, that usually means intense happiness (assuming your trip is going well). You get so used to that intensity and excitement you felt while traveling, but once you’re home, there is nothing to stimulate you. It just seems kind of…boring.
My Experience with Post Travel Depression
Some people welcome the relaxation of returning to the familiarity of home, but others need time to adjust back into a simpler day-to-day. I spent a week in Washington, D.C. quite a few years ago and when I went back home, I got really depressed. I wanted so badly to keep feeling the way I felt for that week in D.C. So badly, in fact, that I quit my job and booked it to Santa Fe for another adventure. Let me just say, it was not the best or most well-thought out plan. I’d even go as far as to say that it was a terrible decision and I should not have done it (I really shouldn’t have). But that gives you an idea of how serious post travel depression can be. I’d give up anything to be able to travel, which is why I’ve chosen to focus my life decisions around it.
How to Deal with Post Travel Depression
So what is the “right” way to deal with post travel depression? Quitting your job and converting to permanent nomadism is not the best (or most realistic) option for most. Not everyone can or wants to travel all the time, but that doesn’t stop those blues from setting in after vacation. There isn’t a one-size-cures-all answer, but there are a few things you can do to ease the transition back to daily routine.
Take some time after your travels to reflect on your experiences. Look through your photos and write down all of your thoughts about what you did, who you met, where you went. Include all of the good and the bad. This gives you time to re-live the excitement while making sense of it all.
As you reflect, search for some underlying theme to your experiences. Try to find what meant the most to you, what really had an impact on you. Search for meaning. One of the most important aspects of travel is its ability to teach you something about life or about yourself. Search for that hidden lesson.
Share your photos, share you stories, and talk about your adventures with anyone who wants to listen. People love to hear stories about travel (as long as you don’t go on too much). The point is to entertain, not brag. If your friends don’t want to hear your stories, find an outlet online. Find a community of people who DO want you to share (hello blogging!).
Just because you’re home and can’t hop on a plane to another country right away, that doesn’t mean you have to sit around and let your curiosity go to waste. Remember that your hometown has plenty to offer too! Go out looking for what might interest you if you were just visiting. Go to a new restaurant, or take a drive an hour away and see what you find. Keep exploring and things won’t seem so boring.
If your post travel depression is really bad, plan another trip! If traveling is something you really enjoy, keep doing it. Plan a weekend trip, or start saving up for something bigger. The planning process is proven to be one of the most exciting parts of travel for most people, so get going and you’ll snap out of it in no time.
Have you ever experienced post travel depression? What did you do about it? Got any tips on “curing” it after a big trip? Leave me a comment below!
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