The coast approached – a sea of terrible sea pun “welcome home” signs overtook the pier. I had spent my night spinning the globe in the library and watching movies in the hallway with a guy. At 5 a.m., we went to the top deck. We stood right next to the only other person up there, staring at the land in the distance. The last notes I wrote about Semester at Sea disembarkation were, “Free wifi!” and “The Fanta doesn’t taste like Fanta.”
I laugh at this tonight, at 11:33 p.m. almost six years later, but at the time, I was genuinely bummed about leaving that floating university. The MV Explorer was my home for four months. Even though I was glad to be back home with my friends and American plugs, I spent months trying to understand why I had changed while I was on Semester at Sea but nothing else had.
How to Handle Post-Travel Depression
When I was younger, I didn’t handle post-travel depression well. I made plans to make scrapbooks and complained about going back on vacation. Over the years, I figured out ways around the inner temper tantrum.
- Find a friend who gets it: If you have another friend who enjoys traveling as much as you do, share your stories with them. If you went on your trip with someone else or a group of people, they’ll be great resources, too. Rather than suffer through a conversation during which the other person is uninterested in what you have to say about the parades you joined on Bourbon Street, spend your time with someone who genuinely cares.
- Ease back into your routine: Meet yourself where you’re at, and try not to chastise yourself when you can’t focus. If you find yourself daydreaming, ease yourself back into work by reading a relevant article, walking around for a few minutes, or switching tasks. Although travel leads to increased productivity, we all experience lows, and that’s okay.
- Write about it: Writing can be cathartic when you don’t put pressure on yourself to write a specific way. When you look back on your trip, you can free write, try your hand at poetry, write bullet points, jot down keywords…whatever you prefer. Getting those thoughts down allows you to reminisce and also preserves memories.
- Take mini trips: Take a weekend road trip to visit friends or spend a day exploring a part of your state you’ve never been. This keeps your travel high intact without breaking the bank.
- Plan your next big trip: Travel planning euphoria can combat post-travel depression by simultaneously reminding you of the trip you just had and preparing yourself for the trip you’re going to take. You remember the travel tips you made mental notes about during your last vacation and apply those to the next.
Coming Back Home
Post-travel depression is something that happens to most of us. Although it certainly happens from domestic travel, it has a tendency to hit a bit harder when we travel internationally because of reverse culture shock. Reverse culture shock can surface when we speak different languages abroad and get flustered speaking English again. It can happen with certain customs we develop when abroad; it can even happen when we realize that our friends and family have lived their lives while we were away and not much has changed, despite feeling like we were changed by the travel experience.
It also can become difficult when we realize people are tired of hearing travel stories. We watch their eyes glaze over and they change subjects as soon as possible. This leads to us becoming frustrated with our home routines.
Despite all of this, travel isn’t something you should be afraid of because of the tiny consequences you might face afterwards.
Why Getting Post-Travel Depression is Worth It
When we settle back in, our minds wander. It takes some serious adjustment. So, why travel if you know you’re going to get upset when you come home?
- Get a new perspective: When you immerse yourself in cultural experiences that different from your own, it does wonders. You take a bit of history back home with you. Learning is invaluable, so savor it.
- Relax: Travel is a natural way to relax and take some usually much-needed “me time.” Being in a different place where you don’t know many people (if anyone at all) offers you the chance to be completely and fearlessly yourself. Don’t waste it.
- Prove yourself: Travel shows you what you’re made of. When you’re forced to bargain with a cab driver in Peru or deal with a stranger praying for you in Philadelphia, you come away with valuable insights about how you handle yourself in odd situations. And if you handle something in a way you weren’t proud of, you come away with an actionable conflict resolution plan moving forward.
There are so many reasons to travel, despite post-travel depression. What’s your biggest motivator? Tell me in the comments!