Approximately four months ago my boyfriend Jeffrey and I returned after a 1.5 year trip through Australia and Asia. I expected that we both would be completely miserable once we were back home in the Netherlands. Because, a lot of travellers experience a depression after travelling and it’s something that a lot of fellow travel bloggers have written about. For instance this post by Nomadic Matt in which he uses the term Post-Trip Depression and says that it’s often emotionally harder to come home than to go away. Or the article by Kellie Donnely named The Hardest Part Of Traveling No One Talks About, in which she talks about the difficulty of returning home. It’s quite logical that people feel depressed after a long term trip, as you’ve had freedom for so long, and suddenly you’re back home. Everything around you seems the same, yet you feel different. But surprisingly, when Jeffrey and I returned this wasn’t the case for us. Yes, it wasn’t all easy. But we weren’t as miserable as I expected and actually we quickly were accustomed to being back home. With this post I hope to help other travellers to avoid feeling depressed too by giving 10 tips to easily settle back after travelling long term.
1. Realise that you can still travel
What helps me every time I return after a (long) trip is telling myself: “If you want, you can still travel. Maybe not now, but in a few months or even years.”
Now of course everyone has a different reason for returning home. It could be money, a study or returning to a job. It can be that one’s visa ran out, or there might be sick family members that need caring. Whatever the reason, if you managed to travel (long term) before, I bet you can do it again. A lot of people, including me, feel like returning home is the end of all travels. After my long trip with Jeffrey I actually didn’t want to return home, because I felt like that would be it, no more travelling after this. But now I realise that if I really want to, I can travel again. And I will.
So who knows what your next adventure will be! Perhaps you can’t take a long term trip again (or don’t want to), maybe you’ll just go for a short week or month, but you’ll travel again.
“If you want, you can still travel. Maybe not now, but in a few months or even years.”
2. Enjoy the positives of being back
Travelling full time is amazing, but let’s face it. It’s definitely not perfect. There are plenty of positive things to be back home. Once you’ve settled into a place, you finally can put your belongings somewhere! Finally, there is no need to pack every single day. And you’re close to your family and friends again.
Try to enjoy all the positives of being back home after travelling and don’t be negative. If you already have a negative attitude to start with, it won’t get better.
3. Take on a goal
Personally, I think taking on a goal or multiple goals is very important, also for when you didn’t just return from a long term trip. Having a goal in life is always important! I believe it’s one of the main reasons I haven’t experienced any major post travel depressions. If you’re anything like me, you make a bunch of goals during your travels that you want to achieve once you’re back home. I’ve had this every time I travelled, whether it’s starting a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree, moving to Amsterdam (I’m from Rotterdam and lived in Amsterdam for six months) or starting an own business.
Often when people return from travelling long term, they don’t know what to do with their lives. Again, this is also possible if you haven’t travelled… By having a goal, you basically have a reason to wake up in the morning. If it’s hard to decide on a goal or if you’re very unmotivated, just start simple, like eating a healthy breakfast each morning or spent ten minutes each day looking at online job openings. After a while you can make bigger goals! And don’t be afraid to dream big and chase the things you really want in life. Just be realistic and know that it takes time.
4. Create a routine
Oh boy, I had so much trouble with being on time when I was just back. Really, I was so chaotic and that’s very unlike me. But somehow travel can take away all your routine. Because during travels, most people don’t really take note of the time, eat when they’re hungry, do fun activities when they want, sleep when they want. And then they return home and suddenly have to wake up at a certain time and catch appointments! How annoying, right?
Well, you just need to get your routine back in your day. Set an alarm clock at the same time each day and don’t sleep in too long, even if you don’t have a job yet. Take a shower, dress yourself and do something with your day.
5. Give yourself time
Don’t be hard on yourself and give yourself time. Although it’s good to take on a goal and get a routine in your daily life, don’t expect everything to go smooth right away.
A few weeks after I returned home I had a little mental breakdown, because I had all these plans and it wasn’t going exactly how I envisioned it. My sister and one of my best friends told me I shouldn’t be that hard on myself. It makes sense if not everything is going exactly how you expected it after you just returned home. You need time to adjust being back home.
And realise this: even people who have a fulltime job, a home and seem to have everything figured out sometimes have no clue what they’re actually doing with their lives. Never be too hard on yourself and realise you’re always a “work in progress”.
6. Keep in touch with your travel friends
It’s great to keep in touch with your travel friends and super easy too with the technology these days. That way you can finally talk with someone who actually wants to listen to your travel stories, as you were both there! You can bring up memories and swap photos. Plus, keeping in touch with your friends abroad is a great way to get offers for places around the world! Enough couches to crash on, right?
7. Enjoy your time with family and friends
Meet up with everyone you missed. Enjoy the time you can spent with them now that you’re back. It’s not always easy to miss important birthdays or events when one is travelling, so now it’s time to soak it all in.
One of the things a lot of travellers experience is that you lose a few (or a lot) of friends when you’re away. Even though this is very harsh, just realise that the ones that did stick are actually worth your time! Also, sometimes it’s just out of sight, out of mind. But now that you’re back you might be able to rekindle some of the friendships you thought were over.
8. Explore more close to home
Again, even though you’ve returned from an amazing trip doesn’t mean you won’t be able to travel anymore. And even if the money is low, it’s still possible to explore closer to home. Look at your city with a different set of eyes: those of a tourist. Go to the typical tourism spots of your hometown or visit one of the neighbouring cities. Already while I was travelling, I realised how cool my home town actually is and even started a new platform: Weekends in Rotterdam. Honestly, I still marvel when I’m walking in the city center now and I see all the amazing modern architecture in my city. It’s fascinating how my perception of the city I grew up in changed just by being away for a while.
No need to buy a planeticket to have a little fun!
9. Live in the moment
Life goes on. Yes, you have a lot of amazing travel experiences and it’s wonderful to talk about it or think about it, but don’t let it be the only thing you do. Nobody really appreciates it if your travels is all you talk about. The truth is, they don’t really care. Of course, at first when you just came back everyone asks you how your trip was. But after a week they can already get bored of your travel stories. Jeffrey and I are lucky as we have experienced everything together and can always reminisce about our travel memories. I can imagine this is harder when you’ve travelled solo.
Just try to live in the moment and create new memories with your friends. Have new experiences that you can talk about!
10. Start planning a next trip
Why not? I told you, you would travel again. Start planning!
It’s not easy to return home after being away for so long. It’s really true what they say; it seems as if time has stood still at home and everything is the same. The only thing that has changed is you. Take the lessons you’ve learned from travelling and bring it into something positive. Let returning home be a new adventure. Hopefully these ten tips help you to prevent or overcome post travel depression!
Have you ever experienced post travel depression? Let us know in the comments!