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Last Updated on 23/12/2020
The worst part about travelling is coming home. Nothing quite prepares you for the sadness that seeps into the last remaining days of your trip and hangs like a black cloud over your return. I first experienced post-travel depression during my last days in Hong Kong. I could feel a growing sense of dread that mired the enjoyment I took from any of my final activities.
What made it more difficult to come to terms with was the fact that I had nothing more to look forward to, no job, and rapidly shrinking funds. What’s more, travelling had become my lifestyle and I had grown decidedly comfortable with it. Perhaps it was because you live and breathe adventure on the road.
You’re always seeking out new experiences and tasty food half motivated by the fear of missing out. It’s transformative and you return an entirely new person.
Meanwhile, at home, nothing changes. The world keeps turning just as before. So, for me, the thought of returning felt like self-inflicted shackles and I was already nostalgic for those carefree travelling days before I had even touched down at Heathrow Airport.
But what is post-travel depression?
Photo credit: Paola Chaaya
PTD, post-travel syndrome or the post-holiday blues is the feeling of dread or depression after a stint of travelling. It doesn’t discriminate, and it can hit you whether you’ve been on a two-week holiday or a year-long tour of the world.
During the last few days of the trip and after returning home travellers can experience the following symptoms: anxiety, irritability, fatigue, mood swings, sleeping too much or too little, a lack of motivation and a loss of appetite. In short, it sucks, and it can take weeks, sometimes even months to recover.
Post-travel depression can really affect your mental health and wellbeing which is tough when you’re already getting over jet lag! So, what can you do to prepare yourself and minimise its symptoms when it’s time to come home? Here are some tips to help you muddle through:
7 Strategies for overcoming post-holiday depression
Photo credit: Riccardo Mion
1. Keep yourself busy during the last remaining days of your trip
The last thing you want is a blossoming dread of going home to consume the precious remaining days of your trip. The best way to keep it at bay is to give yourself the busiest itinerary of your holiday.
Fill up your last days with activities, tours, souvenir shopping, long walks and amazing food. Treat yourself to a nice meal. Or, try to turn going home into a positive occasion by saving something you’ve been really excited about doing till last in celebration.
At the end of the day, you’ve done it! You’ve completed that trip you’ve been planning for months and it’s something to be proud of. Keeping a special activity for last will keep your mind occupied and will end your trip on an unforgettable high and help change your mindset about the return flight home.
2. Treat yourself to some much-needed TLC
Photo credit: Louis Hansel
Travelling is an indulgent activity. You’re constantly eating, drinking, and on the move for the sake of not missing a single moment of a fresh new experience. You treat yourself because hey, you’re on holiday! And why not? You may never get to have that opportunity again.
A hedonistic lifestyle can be taxing on the body and it can seriously weigh you down emotionally. So, once you’re home, take the opportunity to indulge in some much-needed self-care.
Join a gym or even just go for a daily walk. Eat healthily for a while and get a good night’s sleep. Travelling is great and a lot of fun, but I must admit that there’s nothing quite like falling into the familiar cosiness of your own bed after a long stint away.
3. Tackle the post-holiday blues by giving yourself some days off to adjust
If you can afford to, give yourself a couple of days off at home to unwind and adjust back into the routine of everyday life. This time will allow you to get over your jet lag, unpack and do a very necessary clothes wash.
Most importantly, it will give you the opportunity to reconnect with the things you’ve missed while on the road. One of the things that helped me to feel a little excited about coming home was writing down a list of all the food I’d been craving since being away and then treating myself on my return.
It was a small gesture but curling up with a good book or podcast and a favourite snack actually made me feel a lot better about being back home. You can read all about my favourite travel books here.
4. Get creative with your travel journal and holiday snaps
Photo credit: Thom Holmes
One of the best ways to combat post-travel depression is to relive those memories of your trip. Get creative and make a scrapbook of all the postcards and leaflets you’ve collected on purpose or accidentally from your travels. Pick out your best photos and share them with your friends or get them developed and make a fun collage for your wall.
Getting creative with your memories will allow you to immerse yourself in your trip once more and look back on what you’ve achieved. The best part about this little project is that you get to remember your trip and feel productive at the same time. You might even rediscover memories you had nearly forgotten about during your travels. It’s a win all round, really!
5. Make the most of your local area
Just because you’re home it doesn’t mean you should give up that tourist mindset you’ve been cultivating abroad. Make a habit of researching what’s on in your local area in case you find something that interests you. Go to an exhibition you’ve always wanted to see or visit a friend for the weekend.
I’ve found that Googling the best activities to do in your local area is a fun and immersive way of discovering more about the community.
You never know where you might find a hidden gem just around the corner from your house. It might not be something as exciting as a new culture, but it can be an enriching experience nonetheless.
6. Travelling gives you a fresh perspective on your life at home
Photo credit: Jazmin Quaynor
Having the chance to see your life with a fresh perspective is probably one of the most underrated things about coming home from travelling. If you’re suffering from a heavy dose of the post-trip depression, it’s a good idea to think about what the root of the problem might be.
Are you simply sad to be coming home? Or is there something more to it that fills you with dread? For me, the biggest culprit to blame for a lot of my post-travel anxiety was the fact that, as a recent university graduate, I had no career to go back to.
Travelling had been an escape. I didn’t have to think about what was waiting for me at home because it all felt too far away to be an issue. So, the thought of coming back reminded me of what I had so deftly been hiding from.
The truth is, you don’t need to know all the answers straight away, you just need to trust the experience. Travelling affects you more than you realise. It pulls you out of the comfort of your routine and shakes up your whole mentality. For me, after I came back I was able to see my life at home with a lot more clarity than I did before I left.
7. Plan another trip!
This is almost too obvious a cure but if you’re yearning to go travelling again then just plan another trip! It doesn’t have to be a world tour. You could just as easily get away with a weekend trip to a place close by.
If you want something lengthier then write down a list of your top destinations and start researching. Booking another trip will throw you back into the excitement of travelling and it will give you something to look forward to over the coming months.
Instead of wishing you were still abroad, you can be happy with the knowledge that you will be again before long. This will motivate you to procure the funds and whatever else you might need to make more of your travels a reality.
Final Thoughts on Post-Travel Depression
Photo credit: Mark Pan4ratte
Holiday blues, post-travel depression, post-trip syndrome, whatever you want to call it, there’s no denying that it can really weigh you down and bring a negative tone to the end of your trip. There’s no telling when it will hit, whether it’s the last week, day or on the flight home but you can implement a few strategies to mitigate some of the damage.
I hope you found these tips useful for combating post-travel depression. Do you have any hacks of your own? Feel free to share them in the comments!