Have you ever gone on a fabulous adventure to an amazing new place…only to come home and find yourself hopelessly depressed? Welcome to the story of my life. Post-travel depression is a real thing that I think most of us with an insatiable desire to roam the globe tend to feel on a regular basis.
It makes sense, really. when you’re traveling, you’re roaming the streets of a new city with no real responsibilities or agenda. You get to walk around all day, doing whatever you want. Perhaps you’re hiking to spectacular waterfalls, or sipping on lattes at a beautiful outdoor cafe. Perhaps you are visiting ancient temples or just relaxing in a hammock underneath some palm trees while you listen to the sound of waves gently crashing on the sand. You’re absolutely free and life is wonderful and beautiful and everything is new and exciting. Then, suddenly, it’s over and you’re back at home. You’ve got bills to pay. You have to go back to work and deal with all the “real life” stuff you’ve been neglecting while you were away.
And it’s depressing.
You had a taste of the beautiful freedom and joy that is living life to it’s fullest, and now you’re right back where you started. I’m not going to lie, I’ve shed actual tears over this very feeling on many occasions. Still, life moves on whether or not you’re ready for it to, and you really have no choice but to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move forward. It’s going to be tough, but you’ll get back into a groove and things will be OK again. I promise. In the meantime, there are some things you can do to get yourself through this tough time.
Give yourself a break.
You’re probably going to be tired when you return from your trip. If it’s at all possible, schedule in a little bit of rest before you have to return to work. If I’m going on a trip that is longer than just a weekend getaway, I like to fly home no later than Saturday so that I have all of Sunday to just rest and relax at home before I have to return to work on Monday. If I’m spanning a large number of time zones, particularly if my return journey takes me from West to East, I like to schedule at least two rest days before returning to work. Spend your downtime just relaxing, watching a movie on the couch, napping, hanging out by the pool, or some other pleasant, restful activity. It really does help.
Take care of business.
After you’ve taken your much needed rest time, it’s time to rip off the band-aid and take care of business. Your time away has likely left a lot of things piled up both at work and at home. It’s best not to neglect these things for too long because they will only stress you out. Take a little time to pay the bills, go grocery shopping, and get your laundry done right away. Back at work, spend the first day or two back just going through everything you missed while you were out. Answer all your emails and meet with colleagues to catch up on the status of any projects that you are a part of. Spend time re-orienting yourself to your home life and your job. The sooner you get yourself organized, the less stress you’re going to feel.
Don’t schedule too much immediately after your return.
If you can at all help it, don’t schedule too many things for immediately after your return. You’re going to have a lot to catch up on, so it’s best not to stress yourself out by piling on additional obligations right off the bat. Even a scheduled dinner with friends can become stressful if you’re still catching up on sleep and have too much to do. Do yourself a favor and keep the nonessential obligations to a minimum for about a week after your return.
But DO schedule something fun in the near future!
How long will it take you to get back on track with your sleep schedule, work obligations, and home obligations? Keep that time free and clear. However, you absolutely should schedule something fun for the near future right after that recovery period. It could be something as simple as a dinner with a friend, a day on a new local hiking trail, or a day relaxing at the community pool. The important thing is to have something to look forward to so you don’t return to a life of endless work and obligations. Make sure fun is on your agenda. Actually write it down on your calendar, if you must. Life needs to be balanced and just because you went on an awesome adventure shouldn’t mean your immediate future has to be drab and depressing…schedule in some fun, too!
Plan your next trip!
Ok, so you just returned from a trip and you’re not going anywhere else anytime soon. That doesn’t mean you can’t start the planning phase of your next adventure! I actually usually have several trip plans going at a time. There is always my next BIG trip (the one that requires extensive planning, saving, and accruing of vacation days at work), but then I always have several weekend getaways planned for the time between. When I get home from a trip, I immediately start planning my next trip. I set up Pinterest boards for things I want to see and do in my next destination, I buy travel guides and spend my time in the evenings thumbing through their pages. It really helps my mind focus on the fact that I have another amazing adventure in my future and really helps to make me feel better that my last journey is over.
As for the weekend getaways, I always have a couple planned at any given moment.They don’t need to be anything expensive… for me, they can be anything as simple as camping in a local campsite or driving the two hours to Los Angeles to stay with a relative and try out new restaurants for the weekend, or something as elaborate as staying at a resort just over the border in Mexico for the weekend or taking a boat over to Catalina Island. Maybe even a weekend road trip to Las Vegas! Wherever you live, I bet there are some cool places you can easily get to within the course of a weekend. I can’t recommend the power of the weekend getaway enough. It really helps get through those long periods between big trips.
Keep yourself busy.
After you’re rested, don’t just slump over on your couch lamenting the fact that you’re no longer on vacation. Instead, engage in the activities you enjoy doing. Get some exercise, read a good book, go hiking, start studying a new language, do a painting. Whatever it is that you enjoy, do it! Enjoying life isn’t just for vacation time. It’s something that should be done every day!
Make your photo book or album.
Get those trip photos printed out and organized into an album! Or, since we’re living in the awesome modern age we are, get a photo book printed! It’s fun to go through your photos and curate them into a book, and getting that little book in the mail is a nice sort of closure (at least for me). Plus, I can’t tell you how many times I sit in front of my bookshelf going over my trip memories over and over. They make great keepsakes and I promise you you’ll treasure them for years to come.
Have you experienced post-travel depression? Any additional tips to get yourself feeling better?