Are you having a hard time coming home after your trip? Do you feel sad and heartbroken to leave the place you got to love so much? I know how it is to not want to go home and leave the travel life. I exactly know how you’re feeling. There is this constant feeling of something is missing, there is negativity, sadness and loneliness, it’s a feeling you can’t find words for. But one thing you know, something doesn’t feel right and everything was better when you were traveling, am I right? Well there might be a great chance you got a culture shock in reverse. Yes, you might even suffer of post-travel depression.
Though no worries, no matter how bad life seems right now, no matter how many struggles and self-doubt there is in your life, there is also a way to overcome post-travel depression and get back the joy of life you’ve been loving throughout your travels.
I myself suffered terribly from post-travel depression after my World Trip back in 2016.
It latterly took me four month to finally come home. Although there are few points in life where I sunk deeper into the shithole, I found a way to recover and am now happier than ever, living a life full of passion, travels and adventure.
And I want this for you too! I want to help you to overcome this hard time and get back joy and happiness. In this post, we will have a closer look on what post-travel depression looks like and how it manifests. I am sharing the three phases of post-travel depression I went through after my trip and give you an insight in what helped me most to overcome it.
What we will cover today:
- What is post-travel depression and where does it come from?
- Three phases of post-travel depression.
- How to overcome PTD.
- Why it is not too bad after all?
What is post-travel depression and where does it come from?
Post travel depression is the anxiety you fall into after you’ve returned home. It’s the all-consuming, negative feeling that follows you everywhere. It’s the unhappiness of being where you are and doing what you do right know. PTD makes you want to cry at night, it makes you question your propose and it leaves you clueless about how to keep on going with life.
This kind of depression results of you enjoying your trip, your new life and then must go back to a life you don’t love anymore. A life where so many things aren’t the way you want them to be.
This then comes all together in the feeling of not being satisfied with your life at home anymore, wanting to go back to the travel life you lived before.
Three phases of post travel depression and how to deal with them
When I got home after my one-year trip in beginning of September 2016 I felt lost. I knew it would be hard to go back home again but I couldn’t imagine what I would be going through.
I found myself going through three phases of post travel depressions. Each of them had its own challenges to face and demons to fight but also turned out to be very educating in the long run. One thing I can promise you, once you overcame that time of struggle, you’ll return as a stronger you and have better knowledge of who you are and what you are capable of.
The first phase “enjoying”
Post-travel depression starts right at the moment you place your foot on home country. It starts with the excitement you feel when seeing all your friends and family again. You’re really enjoying being at home. You now have all the things again you might have missed on your trip like a decent shower, bed or kitchen. You can meet up with your friends and spent time with your family. Or for me most importantly, you could go to the gym again.
How I dealt with this phase:
In my case, this phase lasted about one and a half months. Though the duration is individual so it might be different for you. I worked out and did all the stuff I wanted to do after being back home.
Though after a while it got boring, I realized more and more what things I was missing from traveling. I had done all I wanted to do at home and was ready to leave again.
But life wasn’t meant to be that easy. On 17th of October reality hit me very hard. It was the day university started where phase two began.
How to prevent phase 2:
The transition from phase 1 to phase 2 isn’t always visible. It’s a process that happens deep inside you and by the time you realize it, it might already be too late and you’re too deep in phase 2 already.
To make sure you won’t get that far though, I suggest, take that positive feeling you have when coming home, that excitement to figure out things that will bring you joy in the long run. Start an exciting project right away, move to a different city (if possible), start a new job or book the next vacation. Find ways to keep life exciting! (and reduce all unexciting things as good as possible). If you’re not quite sure what exactly makes your life less exciting and unsatisfying try to write diary. Write down your feelings and thoughts. Maybe you’ll come across something.
This way you have something that’ll keep up the positive vibes and stops you from falling in a hole of one-sidedness and dissatisfaction about life.
The second phase “being stuck”
From there on I had to be on a certain place at a certain time again, listening to loads of boring stuff and doing things I hardly wanted to do.
Phase two is probably the hardest of all three. Now you must do all the things you hate and fight a constant lack of motivation along with dissatisfaction about almost anything in your life.
You discover more and more things in your life, that reflect what the person you had become doesn’t want anymore, but what society has taught you, to want and strive for.
You might find yourself struggling with fighting a war you’ve never fought before – one inside you and against your old self. It is a fight between who you were before, and who you became after traveling. This phase is about self-discovery and you might come across things you don’t want to hear. That is why this is so hard.
Finding out who you are is one of the hardest thing a person must go through during life. To really find out who you are and figure out your deepest desire you need to listen deep inside you. You need to pay attention to all feelings, thoughts and emotions, no matter what demons you might come across. It’s all about finding out all your fears, insecurities as well strengths. Some can luckily escape by just never questioning the way they are living. Though once you travelled, once you’ve experienced other cultures, people and lifestyles, there is no way back.
You can’t deny that traveling changes. It might go as far as turning whole beliefs around and forcing you to completely reconsider the purpose of life.
My experience of phase 2:
Studying just to get a degree to be able to apply for a good job, pleasing others and settling for a good paid but uninspiring job was hardly what I was looking for. I didn’t want to spent time with things, I don’t enjoy doing, at a place I don’t want to be, surrounded by people I feel I have nothing in common with. (Besides my family and a few friends, I love them more than anything!)
I felt lost because I had no other choice. Of course, I could have just dropped out of University and gone somewhere else but you know as well as I do, life isn’t easy like that. There were still the views I grew up with that I couldn’t get rid of. There was always this little voice inside me, which told me I rather do something useful now otherwise I never gonna do it. You can’t change the way you were raised but you can change the way you pursuit your future.
During the next two and a half month I fought against losing myself while doing what I had to do. I knew deep inside me there was a way out. I just needed to figure out how I could do what I wanted and therefore satisfying my new travel-self while still build a serious future that would please my other half who wanted to build a career.
Burring myself in work and projects, I was distracting myself form how unhappy I was here and how badly I just wanted to go away again. I was thinking about all the great moments and people I’ve met repeatedly, wondering what they are doing now and if I ever going to see them again. I tried to meet up with as many as possible so I could still fell some travel spirit. Though it was never enough.
How to make an end to it:
Congrats, you hit rock bottom. Though keep it positive, it can just get better.
I must admit, overcoming that life-struggle is anything else but easy, but although it might not feel like that right now, it is possible, trust me.
To make the first step of pulling yourself out of this phase is by making an active decision of to change something. You need to stop complaining and feeling sorry about yourself and get up to take action.
If you can’t motivate yourself, look for someone you can turn to, someone you can tell how you feel and that you’re trying to get out of this depression environment. Then ask him to help you.
Start by doing small but fun things together. Maybe go on a weekend trip or other things you liked doing when you were traveling.
Then try to find ways to include some of your travel-lifestyle into your day to day life. By journaling you can find out what you loved so much about your travel life and what you don’t like on your current way of living. Then take that knowledge and include more of what you loved doing. Maybe you could do weekly game nights or host meet-ups with friends every month. Or you go for a walk every day because that felt awesome during your travels.
Also write down all the things you don’t like in your life right now and think of ways to either get rid of them or make them more enjoyable. If you don’t like your job or studies you might want to consider looking for a new one. Or like I did you create the opportunity you wish you had and make a correspondence course instead of studying somewhere specific.
The third phase “accepting”
Once you applied the advice above you’re on your best way into phase three. From here on things get just better and better, I promise.
My phase 3:
By the time, Christmas came I got the break I needed so bad. I caught up with my best friends, whom I’ve met during traveling, enjoyed doing nothing and spending time with my loved once. I had so much fun with them just for those few days. Talking to the people who are most important to you helps a lot, with figuring out what you want and who you are. I got to see a lot of different and new perspectives. I heard how others were dealing with “coming home” and figured I wasn’t the only one. It might have hit me a bit worse than others but still every traveller fights some sort of that fight.
It was like a lifeline thrown to me by those who could understand the most, how I felt and what I was going through.
When I returned to university in January 2017 I felt so much better, I was more energized and motivated than I have been in a long time. I felt like I could do this. I knew I could start focusing on studying and being at home and still go traveling a lot. There was a way to combine career and traveling, I was more certain than ever about this.
The last thing you should do now:
Accepted your situation and its pros and cons. I accepted that I’ve decided to do something “serious” and put traveling on second priority.
Book your next trip. Accepting my situation didn’t hold me back from booking a new flight. I might not be able to travel all the time, but there is still enough free time to go discover the world. You just need to use it. I have always known that I would go traveling again. But I needed to buy a ticket to really have something to hold on and a date to look forward to, to really recover.
Appreciate what post-travel depression has done for you. I know that might sound crazy now but PTD can be a good thing. It helps you grow. Once you overcome it you will return as a stronger, more confident you. You’ll know more about our desires and wishes and you will be happier after you got rid of everything that doesn’t make you happy.
Post-travel depression is where real happiness and the beauty of change through traveling starts:
How are you feeling? Better right!?
Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams. – Ashley Smith
Be happy and enjoyed life with all its ups and downs. You can’t change the fact that there are obligations to meet. But by accepting all the things, positive and negative, coming with it you will get surprised by what opportunities of growth and learning, personally and professionally, will occur. You might discover completely new sides of yourself and get to find new passions.
Use this positivity resulting of acceptance to create your own opportunities.
If something doesn’t go the way you want it to go, figure out a way to change things so it will.
And always remember, there are good things about being home as well. You just need to see them and take advantage of the good things rather than the bad things. It is always going to be hard to come home but it must not be forever. You can always go away again.
And during the time until the next adventure, you just have to pick out the good things on being here and have fun while waiting for the time to leave again.
And once you come home the next time, you know what to expect and how to handle it. You now know that nothing is impossible. There is always a way to create the life you want to have!
I hope this post was helpful and motivated you to take action to overcome your post-travel depression. This post was the first of 7 posts on the topic of overcoming post-travel depression and combining traveling and life. In the next few posts I will show you:
- How to see “home” differently and overcome the feeling of not wanting to be where you are
- How you find a way to fit back in (or better get to love standing out) to overcome the feeling of disconnectedness to your tribe and get back the happiness
- Learn how to find a travel-life balance in my Let’s be Happy Guide!
- Wanna crush it while traveling? Check out my Let’s Travel Guide for the how.
- Wondering what it takes to travel and study at the same time? I tell you what it takes in my Let’s Travel Guide.
- Experiences on studying abroad and work and travel
Can’t wait to see you there. Meanwhile if you know anyone who needs help with the culture shock in reverse share this post with him. I’d love to help more people find the joy in life again!