It’s not every day that I write about the “dark side” of traveling- if you’re a frequent reader, you know I always write about the fun experiences from my travels, travel tips and all that but today I decided to write about post-travel depression, what it is and how to beat it. For some, this might be hard to comprehend especially if you have never experienced it or if you don’t travel but for travelers who return home from an amazing trip know what post travel blues is and how it can affect an individual.
Even though I might feel a bit embarrassed to share this with you ( yeah a friend of mine says everything embarrasses me – which I don’t believe btw), I feel obligated to let you in on what happened to me and bring awareness to those that may not know that post travel blues is a real thing.
I have so far traveled to just a few places but a place that really hit me was Botswana -I am not sure whether it was the amazing wildlife in Chobe National park, the trip to victoria falls or the flight of angels over the victoria falls that caused it. For my other trips, it was the normal sadness of coming back from an amazing trip but this exact one made me test what post travel depression is. And trust me it’s not a good feeling at all.
But before I go into all the details, let me first explain what post travel blues or post travel depression is.
What is post travel blues?
Post travel blues also known as post travel depression (PTD) is a type of depression that people returning from a vacation/trip might experience. The intensity of the feelings or moods might differ from individual to individual and normally people who travel for longer trips experience deeper feelings of post-travel depression and they’re likely to last longer compared to people who go away for a short trip.
In most cases, post travel blues occur because you realize how different your normal life is from the vacation life and all the activities you were doing that you can’t do once back home. This also comes with a sense of not being satisfied with how your normal life is.
And whilst everything you left home stayed the same, from friends to your real home, you as an individual changed- yes travel changes us and that’s why sometimes that sense of not belonging there kicks in; Because you feel like you belong on the road, traveling from one place another and now here you are back to your “normal routine boring life”.
Now that we are on the same page about what post trip depression is, here is my personal story and how I went through it.
My Personal story of Post travel blues
A few days before flying back home to Uganda, I started getting sad every time I thought about home! The idea of going back to my normal boring life not only scared me but made me cry at times. I thought maybe it was just the idea of saying goodbye to the friends I was traveling with that made me sad and that it would get better once I’m home, I just didn’t realize that it would get worse!
When my flight date reached, it also meant saying goodbye to the people I loved, it was harder than I had imagined- and no, it didn’t help one bit knowing that my living situation back home wasn’t the best! “Indeed goodbye is the saddest thing to say!”
When I reached home, I struggled to get back into my normal life for almost 2 weeks, I was experiencing post travel depression and I didn’t even realize it at first until a friend of mine pointed it out.
It took me some days to actually believe that I had post travel blues – I mean I thought such things can never happen to me until I realized a pattern of my behavior. So here are some of the signs to look out for.
Signs that you might be having post travel blues
Lack of appetite.
I am sure I spent a couple of days without eating or just having snacks the entire day. It’s not because I didn’t want to eat but because I was never hungry and literally everything smelled bad for me.
Feeling like you don’t belong where you are
During that time, all I could think of is to leave the country and go to any other place. It didn’t even matter where, I just wanted to hit the road again. When all you think about is running away to an unknown place because you feel like you’re not meant to be where you’re, there are higher chances that you might be having “end of vacation blues”.
Being alone means deep thoughts and sadness!
If you find yourself extremely sad every time you’re alone, you might be experiencing post vacation depression. Every time I was alone, all I could think of is how unfair life is, why the trip had to end- of course, it had to end but when you’re depressed, reason might not be the closest thing to you.
Now some people may call this being ungrateful because I had just had an amazing trip that others couldn’t go for but here I was back home acting like life was worthless- ( I also used to judge a little bit until I got my dose of travel depression and yes maybe it was a little unappreciative of how lucky I was to even go for the said trip,) but it’s hard to understand this feeling of depression until you’ve gone through it yourself.
You feel like being in bed all the time!
Being depressed after travel not only takes away your appetite but also makes you want to lay in bed all day.
Being generally sad!
This is a common trait whether its travel depression or any other kind of depression. There is always that inner sadness that you feel. It sometimes can be had to explain or understood by anyone else except someone who has gone through the same. The nostalgia that comes along also doesn’t help the situation.
Preferring to be alone all the time
There is nothing travel depression does like solitude. I remember at that time, all I wanted was to be alone. There were even times when my friends invited me out but I always found excuses to say no because I preferred to stay alone.
When you realize that you actually have post travel symptoms, it’s time to find a way of getting rid of it!
When I was talking to one of my friends, he said: “Esther this is absolutely normal and you can fight it, but how long it takes depends entirely on you. You can fight it so that it just takes days or leave it to drag on for months as it eats you away”. That really hit me deep down that I decided to look for ways of getting rid of the post travel blues.
Today I also want to tell you that what you’re going through, I’ve gone through it myself and if I was able to bit it, you too can. But remember, it all depends on you. I am sharing the tips that helped me overcome depression after travel in hopes that they will help you too.
Tips to overcoming post travel blues
I know there are soo many tips to overcome travel depression online like; Going through your travel photos, watching travel movies, writing a travel journal and many others. I actually tried most of them but to be honest they didn’t work for me. We are all different individuals, what might work for you, might not work for me and the other way round. I tried out different things until I got what worked for me. So here are some of the practical tips that I used to overcome post holiday depression.
1. Know what to expect before returning home
Before returning to your home, make a clear picture of what you’ll find. Yes your home stayed the same when away but creating a clear picture will help you adjust your mind easily and know where to start from instead of reaching home and get stack in post travel blues for months.
2. Try to get back into your routine as soon as possible.
This might be a bit challenging as you’ll still be in the vacation mood but to kick depression out, falling back into your normal routine as quickly as possible helps. If you go to work every day, do that! Don’t ask for extra day-offs at work to nurse your depression. Focusing on the things you used to do before your trip will help shift your mind from the vacation to your normal life.
3. Don’t stay alone all the time.
This is one of the things that helped me bit depression. However much I preferred to stay alone in the first place, once I realized that it was doing me more harm than good, I switched gears and decided to be around people. You can invite your family members to stay with you for a couple of days if you stay alone, or even hang out more with friends.
4. Try to keep yourself busy
I am sure you’ve heard the saying, “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop”. That saying still holds even in this case. The more time you have to yourself doing nothing, the higher the chances that sad thoughts will take over your mind. So try to keep yourself busy every chance you get; whether it’s cooking a long meal, watching a good movie- (comedy does work for me in this situation, a good laugh is everything when you’re going through depression.), cleaning your home- literally anything that can help you focus onto something else.
5. Plan your next trip
This is an amazing tip to overcome depression… instead of focusing on the sadness you might be feeling, focus all your energy in planning an upcoming trip. Come up with places you might want to visit and then after deciding on where to go, start thinking of how you’ll make it a reality and then start planning.
This is all good but what happens if you don’t have any trip in the near future? I’m afraid this tip will just wear you out and make you more anxious if you don’t see yourself traveling again in the next 6-12 months. So what do you do? Ignore this tip and focus on the remaining 9 tips.
In previous scientific researches, it was found out that exercising can help cure depression. Scientists also believe that exercising or any form of physical activity helps release “feel-good endorphins, natural cannabis-like brain chemicals and other natural brain chemicals that can improve the sense of your wellbeing hence reducing depression in general.
Away from the scientific terminologies, I personally exercised by talking long walks and jogging around the neighborhood and I couldn’t agree more with scientists, this tip actually works. There is no rule to which kind of exercise you should do, whether it’s going hard in the gym or just taking long walks – just do what your body can handle.
7. If possible, don’t go through your travel photos
I know I know…most articles on the internet encourage people undergoing post travel blues to go through photos of their previous trip. Though this might work for some people, it didn’t work for me. Actually, every time I tried to go through my photos, I just became sadder, nostalgic and more depressed- something that just worsened the situation. Yes, the moments were great but looking at photos just made me remember all the adventurous things I did but couldn’t do now. So I just gave up on going through my photos until I overcame travel depression.
8. Catch up friends and socialize
There is no better way of falling back into your normal life than catching up with friends. Instead of focusing on only travel memories that might make you sadder, meet up with friends – find out what’s been going on in their lives – you never know they might even have some great suggestions about what you could do to stay entertained while back home.
9. Talk to people that understand the situation you’re going through
Let’s face it, your friends back home might not understand what you’re going through because perhaps they’ve never experienced it. To make matters worse, some might even judge you and say how ungrateful you’re. I experienced this first hand when one of my friends told me that I should grow up, get back to reality, and stopping behaving like a kid. Was I mad? No, I just realized that she didn’t understand my situation so I talked to someone who understood exactly what was happening to me because he had experienced the same before. That person encouraged me every step of the way until I finally kicked post travel depression out of my life.
10. Re-evaluate your life
If you find yourself truly sad and you always feel like something is missing after your trip even after trying all the tips of overcoming post travel blues online, maybe it’s not only because you miss your travels. Maybe you just need to reassess your entire life. If you’re extremely unhappy at your current job, try to see if you can find a new one, let go of all things that bring negativity in your life.
However, do not to make any major decisions while still depressed as you might regret them when you overcome your travel depression. I know this because I had so many crazy ideas that would have turned out to be bad decisions if I didn’t have the support of my friends.
With all these tips, I hope you’ll be able to overcome that depression soon. If these tips fail, there other tips all over the internet that you can try out but if they also fail, then you might need to seek professional help
Ps. All the above can be signs of post-travel depression but they can also be something else. So if you use the above tips to overcome post travel blues and they fail, then I would advise you to consult with your therapist. Sometimes what can start as a small thing can result into a big deal if not taken care of from the grassroots.
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