The post travel blues are a real thing, but only fellow travelers can understand that.
In fact, that’s one of the worst things about post travel blues, isn’t it? The fact that, unless you’re surrounded by people who also travel, which is unlikely, you largely have to suffer them alone.
I’m currently battling through a case of post travel sadness after 10 years in South East Asia. I’ve returned home to Ireland to settle down since my son was born and I want to give him the best future possible. I was ready for it. I made the choice. I decided to give up my life abroad to give him a head start in life, and I knew when I did so that my travel style would change forever to one of weekend breaks and holidays (I still plan to take MANY) rather than the nomadic lifestyle, which is what I’d been living for close to a decade.
I’ve been going through the post travel blues for about a week now. It started, as it always does, when the excitement of being home and catching up with everyone settled down and the reality began to settle in.
The following are some of the things I’ve begun to realize. They make coming home after travel difficult, and they make repatriation especially so:
First, the country you left all those years back isn’t actually the same country you will return to. There’s something called politics, and it is a massive, powerful force that can change the entire landscape of a nation within a few years. You won’t realize this if you left home in your twenties because most of us aren’t politically aware until we get close to our thirties, but coming home after a long period of time can be a shock as you realize, perhaps for the first time, that the people in charge DO make a huge difference, and the guard has probably changed in your country, and with it the culture.
Second, people have moved on. That’s just how life works. I still have great friends who I will always hold dear, but life goes on and we grow apart. It’s impossible to come home after a long period of travel as the same person you left and to slot right back into the same social circle, many of which will have broken up and dispersed as life passed by.
Especially in cases of extended travel, you grow, learn to think differently, form your own views, and change in ways you don’t realize until you come home and meet the people who have a certain image and idea of who you are, but you aren’t anymore. This difficulty in reconnecting can really add to the post travel blues.
This happens in reverse, too. Everyone grows and changes, not only you off traveling. Since you left your friends may have gone through shattering deaths and divorces, health problems, personal issues and all manner of malarky you will probably have heard about but won’t have really realized how serious they were and how they altered and changed your friends and family until you come back. This, for me, is one of the biggest challenges of repatriation – you’re reconnecting with people you know, but whose lives you have missed massive chunks of.
I fully plan to rebuild these relationships and reconnect with my friends over time, but after so long away, we have to reconnect slowly and accept that the old days are over and we all have our own lives now.
Third, you have the fact that if you’ve been on an epic trip, however long, your brain has probably become used to quite a bit of stimulation and regular hits of dopamine and adrenaline. Coming home can seem like a bummer after the initial excitement dies down, and walking around my hometown often feels like a walk around a graveyard after the lively, 24/7, nonstop hum and hive of Asia. Yet, despite this, I’m glad to be back, too! It’s a strange and conflicting feeling.
Then there are the very practical things. Depending on where you’ve been, the cost of living might be a shock to your system. For me, returning to Ireland after the Philippines means my lifestyle has to be altered because I can spend on a single takeaway for my family what I spent per week on groceries there. Then there’s rent, food, bills, etc. Luckily, I prepared for this going in with a 3 month trip home over the summer before making the big move. I’ve also devised ways to make a good living online, which leaves me with that extra cash needed to ease the transition.
There are of course many great things about being home like seeing old family and friends, hanging out at your old haunts, taking in the beautiful places you didn’t appreciate before, and enjoying home comforts. These things all help stave off the post travel blues, especially if you focus on them, but even still, many travelers feel the whole coming home thing is a massive drag and can’t wait to get back on the road.
I myself have experienced this all before and I’m not the least bit worried about it. I made my decision to come home, and I’m sticking to it no matter what. It helps that I have a greater purpose (my son) and that I plan to travel quite a bit in Europe in the coming years so have something to be excited about and plan for. Yet for the first timer, the post travel blues can be crushing and can actually cause a mini identity crisis.
What about you? Have you experienced the blues upon returning from a great trip? Tell us about what you experienced and how you dealt with it.