This time last year I was in Bombay, India. Having just set off on a six month trip, I was at the very beginning of a journey I'd been anticipating for years. Now a year on from the adventure and with some retrospect I realise I've been struggling with some severe post-travel blues.
I had good and bad days whilst travelling, as we all do in everyday life. But by month five I was desperate to be still for a while. So I booked an early flight home, having been on the road for five months and having seen and done so much during that time. Following a disastrous long haul flight in which I had a panic attack and puked several times in the loo, I was at the place I called home again. It's hard to put my finger on how I felt arriving back, it's a nauseous strange blur due to lack of sleep and some virus I carried with me from Thailand. I do know that I was happy to be back, with my boyfriend, family, friends and cat, but that everything was eerily similar to when I'd left (what was I expecting?!).
The days rolled on and I began to feel like I'd never been away. I'd missed Christmas and the worst of the winter but England was still chilly. At this point I was running on the self motivation I'd returned with, I was going to get rid of loads of junk I'd been storing needlessly, I was going to get a job I loved and move in with my boyfriend, (surely one of the first most obvious things you notice after returning from long term travel is how many possesions you own).
But I felt empty. I felt like I'd achieved nothing, I knew there was something wrong. I felt lonely and sad a lot, unable to admit these feelings to myself because I wanted so much to enjoy being home. Things weren't working out as planned and even though I didn't see it at first, some of the most important people in my life had changed, and it felt as if there was very little room for me in their lives now.
I remember feeling completely numb and devastated at times. To say that being back home was an anti-climax would be an understatement. After getting used to an invigorating lifestyle where I was pushed and challenged; meeting inspiring people and seeing incredible sites every single day, to this life where I was struggling to get a job and isolated from all that I'd experienced, was very hard. To make matters worse I returned home completely broke having used every penny to my name to fund my trip. I had no savings and no current prospects for earning any money, so I made the decision to sign on.
''I remember feeling completely numb and devastated at times. To say that being back home was an anti-climax would be an understatement.''
The contrast between the life I had lived only weeks earlier and my current life spent indoors, or at the job centre, or on a computer, was too much to bare sometimes. I was well and truly in a rut. I'd definitely say I was depressed, and I don't use that term lightly. I'd lost interest in everything, I was blank and empty. I was sleeping too much and having very negative thoughts about myself and my life. This went on for some time. I felt like I'd failed because I didn't feel more brave and accomplished for what I'd done.
Eventually it took getting a new job in another city and moving in with my boyfriend to start elevating myself out of the black hole I'd fallen in. The job and living situation didn't work out, but I needed that to be able to move on. Only now, seven months later do I finally feel ok. I still have moments where I desperately crave to be on the road again. But now I can look back at my travel photos in amazement at all the things I did and saw. I had an incredible time away and that experience has forged powerful shifts in my opinions and the direction I'd like my life to take. I'm now looking forward to another adventure, I'm not sure where or how yet, but I'm optimistic and excited about where it could lead.
I talked about post-travel blues with a few regular travellers when I was away. It's a very common thing but I struggled to find much online to help me out when I was in the middle of it. I feel like it's a very specific type of depression which is sometimes brushed off as just acclimatising to home. If you're dealing with post-travel blues, know that you're not alone, and you'll feel ok again. Here are some things that helped me out:
- Meeting up with friends, even if they're spread far and wide across the country. Do what you can to see them for a weekend or evening. Seeing old good friends really helps
-Go on mini adventures when you return to keep your mind fresh and invigorated, bike rides to unknown places, a bus to another city
-If you're in the position to go away again (you lucky thing!), start planning your next trip. I found even the planning of my trip really exciting, and if you're the same, planning your next adventure might help with those blues
-Having a routine will stop you from slipping further in to a rut. Maybe you can set you're alarm at an earlier hour, even if you have nothing to get up for, and then try to forge a daily routine for yourself. As soon as I got back I started jogging in the mornings. That helped me for a while
-Get back in to work or do some voluntary work. This will keep you busy and your mind active