Are you suffering from the post-travel blues? You’ve ventured to new and exciting places, tasted flavors you could never have imagined, discovered natural beauty and fascinating historical landmarks, felt inspired, met amazing people, pushed yourself further than you ever have before, then wound down in quiet moments to the point where you feel truly rejuvenated. Such is the power of travel.
But then you return home and dump your suitcase on the floor, unpack, take a shower, do laundry, grab groceries, get into your pajamas and stick on the TV before heading to bed early because you have an early commute to the office on Monday morning. It’s an anti-climax. You find yourself pining for the adventurous days of your travels, comparing your boring home routine to the action-packed days of your travel itinerary; your regular self to the zest-for-life best self you enjoyed being while you were away. You flick through photos, feel nostalgia well up and discontent at the life you’ve returned to.
This is a classic case of the post-travel blues, but I promise, it will pass and there are ways to beat it!
This guide to dealing with the post-travel blues includes a definition on what exactly the post-travel blues are (yes, it’s a real thing), why it happens, as well as steps you can take to beat the blues once you’re back home and feeling a little down.
What are the post-travel blues?
Also known as post-holiday blues or post-vacation blues, post-travel blues is a term used to describe the low mood experienced when you return home from traveling. You may experience symptoms such as tiredness, loss of appetite, nostalgia and depression after coming back to a normal routine after a long vacation, especially if you had a really great time on your travels.
It may sound a little silly to some, but post-travel blues are a real experience, just like homesickness or seasonal affective disorder, and it can be hard to know how to handle it. Mental health is no joke and achieving a balance in your mental wellbeing can be difficult to maintain. Although mostly mild, other moods that work in a similar way are post-Christmas blues, Monday blues and even a phenomenon called gogatsu-byou in Japan, which describes a depression felt in the first month when a new school year or job starts and your expectations are not met.
According to a survey by British newspaper The Daily Mirror, 57% of British travelers have experienced post-travel blues. So – don’t worry – if you’re feeling this way, you’re definitely not alone.
Note that this feeling is no to be confused with the traveling blues, which can happen while you’re traveling, especially by long-term travelers or digital nomads traveling while working. The traveling blues are more a kind of travel fatigue, combined with and exacerbated by loneliness and exhaustion, and this phenomenon deserves its own discussion and guide to how to tackle it at a later date.
Why do we get post-travel blues?
The adjustment back to your normal routine after a long vacation, particularly a pleasurable one full of out-of-character relaxation or excitement, can bring about the post-travel blues. In fact, it’s believed that the longer and more pleasurable the vacation, the more intense the post-travel blues can be. There is also thought to be a link between jet lag and post-travel blues, as the fatigue and other effects of jet lag can exacerbate and intensify symptoms.
In short, the traveler feels bored and unsatisfied with their normal lifestyle in comparison to how they felt during their exciting, action-packed trip.
How to beat the post-travel blues
So now you know what the post-travel blues are, symptoms to look out for and why it happens, here are some steps you can take to beat the post-travel blues and help you readjust to life back at home:
1. Share and scrapbook your photos and souvenirs
One way to alleviate the post-travel blues is to relive your holiday by looking through photos and sharing stories with friends and family from your trip. Although this may seem counter-productive and could make you feel nostalgic, focus on the good memories that you’ll always be able to treasure.
Take things a step further by scrapbooking photos and items from your trip, either digitally via Instagram or other social media, or physically in a memory book. The process of looking back and recording the trip is a distracting project and also provides reassurance that you know you won’t forget your experiences, and can look back over them in years to come. This will make you feel accomplished, plus letting go of the memories can feel cathartic.
2. Take what you learned home with you
Beyond the photos and physical souvenirs, what else have you brought back from your trip with you? Perhaps there was an activity, experience, or lesson that has stuck with you from you trip, which you could make room for in your regular routine.
Maybe you tried out something that you could turn into a hobby once you’re back home, like Chinese calligraphy. Or, if you enjoyed Italian food so much, you could buy an Italian cookbook or take an Italian cooking class and recreate your favorite dishes. If you liked learning a spot of Spanish in Argentina, why not take an online course or keep up the language via an app like Duolingo?
Taking things to an even deeper level, think about any realisations or lessons you learned during your trip. Perhaps spending time watching the sunset on the beach made you realise that you need to spend more time in nature when you’re back home, preoccupied by your busy routine. Maybe seeing bleached coral on a diving trip has inspired you to make adjustments in your life to be more environmentally friendly and take action against climate change. Or perhaps the opportunity to travel simply made you realise just how lucky you are, and how to appreciate your life and make more room for the things you love (like more travel!).
3. Book the next holiday
One sure way to beat the post-travel blues is to focus on the next trip! Planning and booking the next vacation is not only a project that requires time and attention (and is therefore a great distraction), but this will also give you a trip to look forward to in the future, which can be your mind’s focus rather than the trip that has come to an end.
4. Focus on what you have to look forward to back at home
If booking another trip isn’t an option (for budget or, you know, Covid-related reasons), then try to focus on what you do have that’s good in your regular routine. Perhaps you have a really scenic walk to work you can enjoy or a favorite TV show to catch up on. Even the little things such as not having to share a big dorm room in a hostel, sleeping in your own bed and being able to tuck into your favorite home-cooked meals can be small wins.
And it should go without saying that being back home gives you the chance to catch up with friends and family, share stories of your trip and learn about what everyone got up to while you were away.
5. Stay in touch with people you met during your travels
Speaking of people, be sure to keep in touch with those you met during your trip. A quick message or email to say it was lovely meeting them and you hope you’ll meet again soon can help you feel connected to the memories you made and the feeling of being on that trip. Plus, there could be more opportunity for future travels if you want to visit newly-made friends in their respective homes, or travel with those you met again in the future.
6. See your hometown with new eyes
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” – Terry Prachett
In fact, spending time away from home can make you appreciate what’s on your doorstep. To the foreign traveler visiting your country, your hometown may feel as exotic and fascinating as the place you just discovered on your own trip.
Consider the history of the place you live in, places tourists would find interesting, authentic shops and markets, natural beauty spots, the best restaurants and the most unique local dishes to try, festivals or events that take place throughout the year, neighboring places that make for great day or weekend trips… read up about where you live and you’ll feel like a traveler (and maybe even a newly-educated tour guide!) in the place most familiar to you.
7. Allow yourself some time to be sad
Being sad sometimes is totally normal and it’s absolutely fine to feel that way sometimes – we’re all human. It’s better to allow yourself a little time to feel what you need to feel, to process and to talk about what you’re feeling to someone you can trust.
Travel changes us and it’s ok to feel a little lost once you’re back home because little has changed there. You might even be worried that you’ll lose the spark or inspiration that you felt during your trip.
But be sure you don’t spend too much time down in the lows if you can help it, as wallowing and self-pity only ends up becoming a spiraling cycle. Instead, focus on recharging when you feel low – mental health can be improved with enough sleep, fresh air, exercise, healthy eating and a balance of socializing and quiet time by yourself, prioritizing self-care.
8. Give it time
When all else fails, remember that the feelings of post-travel blues will wear off over time. We all have good and bad days, and life is a series of peaks and valleys – the lows balance out the highs. After all, if every moment of your life was as adventurous as your amazing trip, the excitement would lose its appeal and it would become your normal routine anyway.
9. Seek professional help
If your symptoms aren’t getting better, or are even getting worse, then it might be time to seek professional help by speaking to either a doctor or a therapist, or both. Never hesitate to seek help for your mental health – after all, you would always get the opinion and seek treatment from a medical professional if there was a problem with your physical health.
A doctor could prescribe you anti-depressants to help with your mood temporarily, which works well in tandem with therapy as it alleviates symptoms while you focus on doing the work, or until enough time has passed that your post-travel blues are resolved.
There are many types of therapy to choose from, from counselling and talking therapy to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), so consider what is right for you. CBT focuses more on analyzing patterns in thoughts and behavior, and breaking negative cycles, to improve overall outlook and wellbeing.
If you’re worried about the cost, check your insurance to see if therapy is covered or reach out to organisations in your local area that may be able to support you. There are also plenty of options for finding the right therapist or course of therapy for your needs online.
More ways to deal with the post-travel blues
Have you experienced the post-travel blues and how did it make you feel? Are you worried about experiencing the post-travel blues when you return home after a long trip? Or do you have any advice for those who are going through this experience, in addition to the guidelines listed above? Let us know in the comments below, and if you’ve tried any of the steps mentioned in this article, then let us know if it helped and what tips you’d add.