Does this sound familiar?
You’re on that much-anticipated holiday and are having the time of your life. Salsa dancing in late-night bars, munching the best pizza of your life whilst wandering around a Renaissance square, gazing in awe at ancient treasures, making exciting new friends.
Then, just like that, it’s over.
Real life beckons with all of its rituals and responsibilities. Back to doing your own laundry and cooking, and tackling that credit card bill.
Returning to the daily grind from our travel adventures can leave us feeling empty and flat. So how can we conquer these post-travel blues?
Reflecting on my own experiences, in this article I’ll share how I deal with post-travel depression.
What Are the Post-Travel blues?
Post-travel blues can be thought of as a vacation hangover. Simply put, it is a feeling of sadness that some travellers experience when they return from a trip. The comedown from that addictive drug that is travel.
This is a spectrum of emotions, ranging from mild disappointment that you are not downing Margaritas by an infinity pool to utter misery that your home life can never compare to the adventures that you have just experienced.
Why Do People Get Post-Travel Blues?
At its best, travel is challenging and exhilarating.
You are exposed to new cultures and ideas. By stepping outside of your comfort zone, you are newly empowered. Day-to-day rituals and routines are eschewed for spontaneity and freedom.
Inevitably, you start comparing your life on the road with that at home, and everyday life is rarely the winner.
How Do You Conquer the Post-Travel Blues?
I’ve suffered from the post-vacation blues on many occasions and they suck. Many of my friends and former work colleagues will attest to this.
But the good news is that there are easy, actionable steps that you can take to beat these travel blues.
In no particular order, here are my strategies and tips for beating post-travel blues.
Recognise That the Post-Travel Blues are Normal
First and foremost, you need to anticipate that you may feel down when you return from travelling and that these emotions are normal. A reported 57% of Brits feel depressed after coming home from holiday.
Yep; that might appear to be depressing in itself but the first step to beating the post-travel blues is to own them.
Acknowledge how you are feeling and that your holiday hangover is likely to be the reason. By doing this, you reduce the risk of overreacting, of having that ‘I need to change my job/partner/home’ internal monologue.
You accept that you are going to be feeling a little out of sort for a while and wait for these emotions to blow over.
Make Sure That Your Home is Sparkling Before You Go on Vacation
Is this a weird tip for beating the post-travel blues? Sure. Does it work? Absolutely!
There are few things worse on your return from a wonderful holiday than a home that hasn’t seen a duster or soapy water for weeks, with dishes are still in the sink and resident spiders that have made themselves comfortable in your absence.
Whilst a friend jokes that this pre-holiday spring-clean makes your home clean and tidy for the burglars, it does make returning for vacation easier.
Better still, if you are lucky enough to have a cleaner, get him or her to spruce up your place whilst you are away.
Try to Have a Day or Two as a Buffer Before Returning to Work or Study
Returning to work after the holiday of your life can be grim. Worse still, is throwing yourself back into the daily grind the day after you return.
When I was working as an NHS pharmacist, I used to make sure that I had at least a day as a buffer before I returned to work, more if I was coming back from a long-haul destination. If this is not possible, try to end your trip on a Friday to give you the weekend to yourself.
Believe me; this buffer zone will make all the difference. It gives you time to unpack, do your laundry, buy groceries and a fighting chance of overcoming jet lag.
Have a ‘To-Do’ List for Your Return Locked and Loaded
Hitting the ground running when you return from a trip can help stave off the post-travel blues. I don’t mean running around as a person possessed; far from it. But I have found it hugely helpful to have a list of tasks that are easy to action.
For one, keeping busy and not having to think too much about what you need to do stops you from staring at the walls and moping about what you have lost. And the fulfilment that comes with completing these tasks, however small, sustains that sense of achievement gained from travelling.
Write Down What You Are Missing at Home Whilst You Are Away
Speaking of lists, whilst you are travelling, think of what you are missing at home and commit these to paper.
It’s very easy to lose sight of the things that you love about your day-to-day life, from watching When Harry Met Sally for the 17th time in your PJs to catching up with the latest gossip over coffee with a friend.
Many of us have a tendency to view travel through rose-tinted specs. Would you really want to swap your Hypnos bed made with Egyptian cotton sheets with the dorm bunk above the snorer?
Enjoy Being in Your Own Space
As an outgoing introvert, I value my own space and it’s the thing that I miss most when I am away. So when I return home from travelling, I relish locking my apartment door behind me, safe in the knowledge that this is all mine and I can do what I wish.
Embrace the positives of being home and appreciate your own space.
Capture Your Travel Memories in a Journal, Scrapbook or Blog Post
As I’ve grown older, it’s become increasingly important to capture my precious travel memories. This is one of the main reasons I started this travel blog.
Travel memories are unique to each individual and add to the rich tapestry of our lives. Our experiences help to form who we are.
Capturing these travel memories allow you to relive your travel experiences in an instant.
There are a few ways to do this: journals, scrapbooks, blog posts, photos, video. I’m greedy and use most of these methods.
My magpie nature has made me hold on to travel mementoes, including ticket stubs, itineraries from group tours, business cards and postcards, some of which are arranged in a travel scrapbook.
Transforming your travel memories into something more tangible helps you to deal with your post-travel blues.
Sort Through Your Holiday Photos
Anyone who knows me well will know that I am a keen photographer, both at home and away. For decades, my travel memories have been captured on camera and one of the first things I do when I return from a trip is to start sorting and processing the images from that vacation.
Have you ever downloaded your holiday images two months after your return only to ask ‘Now which temple was that? Is that church in Pienza or Pisa?’
Getting a jump start on reviewing photographs allows you to catalogue images when the trip is fresh in your mind, and also allows you to relive the trip in vivid detail. And there’s the added bonus of being able to bore your friends rigid with your holiday snaps.
Relive Your Travel Experience at Home
There are more ways to relive your travel experience at home than capturing words, images and memories.
Learn more about your chosen country, by seeking out more of its treasures at a museum when you return home. For example; I made a beeline for the British Museum when I had post-vacation depression on returning from a trip to Syria.
Have you just returned from exploring the hilltop towns of Tuscany? Then why not cook an Italian meal in your own home for friends. Washed down with a good bottle of Chianti of course.
Meet with Friends
For me, meeting with friends is a key to beating the blues when I return from travelling. Solo travel can be lonely at times, and the absence of good friends is often a gaping hole.
Catching up friends over coffee or a bottle of wine not only represents a return to normal life, but also gives you space to share your stories and what you are feeling.
But a word of caution. Don’t turn into the holiday bore; let your friend tell you what they have been up to whilst you have been away. This can also work well as a distraction from any negative emotions that you may be feeling.
Connect with Other Travellers
If chatting with friends doesn’t quite cut it, then why not reach out to fellow travellers?
The global travelling community is full of like-minded people with the same sense of wanderlust as you. As a start, join Facebook groups that share your interests and engage with others (Facebook is also hugely helpful for keeping in touch with new travel buddies).
If there was ever a time to take good care of yourself, this is it.
Let’s face it; travelling often isn’t synonymous with a healthy lifestyle. All of that fast food on the go, beers by the pool, late nights and gelati galore can start to take their toll.
Be kind to yourself. Restart those 5k runs, dig out that yoga DVD or reacquaint yourself with local walking trails. Snatch a few early nights and aim for a healthy diet.
Trust me; maintaining a healthy lifestyle helps with depression. Get those endorphins pumping.
In a similar vein, build a few treats into those gloomy weeks when you return from a trip. These could be as simple as your favourite food, a visit to the hairdresser or a manicure.
Or why not push the boat out and treat yourself to a mini spa break soon after your return? Better still, book one or more of these treats before you go travelling.
Have Adventures Closer to Home
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because you are back home means that you cannot have new adventures. Far from it.
If there one travel lesson that the coronavirus pandemic has taught us, it is that you can find travel inspiration much closer to home.
For example; in the space of a year I ticked the Holy Island of Lindisfarne and the Settle-Carlisle Railway off my travel bucket list, had a blast with friends in Walberswick, Suffolk and explored Newcastle upon Tyne and Berwick-upon-Tweed. All of these were the equal of trips to many of the more exotic locations I have visited.
It goes to show that you don’t have to travel to the other side of the world to discover new destinations. I’ve also discovered fascinating London landmarks that I have never set foot in and numerous local woodland walks.
Don’t be content with settling into the same old routine.
Introduce the Travel Mindset Into your Home Life
Many of us are different people when we are on the road.
You are more open-minded, engaging in activities that you would never dream of touching at home or eating food that you would usually avoid. Few things are out of bounds.
Maintain the buzz of excitement that comes with travel by introducing this mindset into your regular life. Learn how to cook Thai food in your hometown, finesse your salsa moves or don that wetsuit (I’m looking at kitesurfing in Camber Sands).
Develop New Hobbies, Interests or Goals
One of the joys of solo travel is that you grow as a person through discovering new things. The good news is that you don’t have to travel far to continue to develop new hobbies, interests and goals.
Make a resolution to engage in at least one personal development activity on your return from travelling. Join a reading club, enrol in a photography class, learn how to paint with watercolours.
It doesn’t matter what you pick. The important thing is that it is something that you feel will enrich your life and represents a change to your everyday life.
To help you commit your plan, write down this promise to yourself whilst you are on the road. Assign SMART objectives to help you measure progress towards your goals.
Even small life changes help you to build on the personal growth that results from travelling.
Determine if the Reason for your Post-Travel Blues are Deeper Seated
My penultimate tip is a cautionary note.
We’ve established that post-travel depression is normal. But what if the blues don’t lift and you continue to feel dissatisfied with life?
If that is the case, it may be time to examine your life to determine if your depression isn’t solely related to returning from recent travel.
Book your Next Trip
Finally, there are few things better at conquering the post-travel blues than having another trip in the can.
This is all about looking forward. Reflect on what you loved about your last trip and use that to plan your next adventure.
Instead of dwelling on what you miss about travelling, focus on your future travel goals by making your next dream trip a reality.
You Can Survive the Post-Travel Blues
Post-travel depression sucks but for the vast majority of people, it’s a temporary state that results from recent incredible or life-changing travel experiences.
The post-travel blues shouldn’t scare you off travelling again. Armed with these actionable steps to ease yourself into day-to-day life when you get home, you will be able to adjust to your post-travel world with ease.