Beating post travel depression

Beating The Post-Travel Blues

No matter how often you travel — and I travel extremely often — coming home is always a bittersweet experience. As you may know if you’ve been reading the past several weeks, I’ve just finished up a six-week trip to Australia.

I returned to Austin the day before yesterday to find my city literally infested with music lovers and industry professionals, who were in town for the annual SXSW Music and Arts Festival. I headed out that night and met literally dozens of amazing, talented, interesting people. Yesterday evening, I listened to Santigold’s showcase from my front porch.

It’s a great time to be in the capital of Texas right now, but I’m still bummed — wasn’t I just on the other side of the planet? It can be difficult to beat feelings of sadness and even depression in the wake of a great trip, even if you love the place you live, but there are steps you can take to make the process more painless.

Travel and Homesickness: The Build-Up

From personal experience, I can tell you that it is literally impossible not to develop some sort of homesickness during travel, no matter how comfortable you are on the road or how much you love the place where you’re traveling.

Although homesickness can sometimes take the form of legitimate and profound sadness, it’s more often the fleeting memories of great times with friends or sights and sounds that remind you of being at home that get you. In other instances, loneliness, discomfort or sickness can make you long for the comforts of home. Remember my sick Christmas in China?

Regardless of which sort of homesickness overtakes you or its intensity and frequency, you will slowly but surely begin to get excited for “going home,” just as you probably did for your trip before you boarded the plane. And unfortunately, the “home” for which you get excited is probably a romanticized, vastly superior version of the “home” that actually exists.

Setting Realistic Expectations

One way to avoid getting the blues after you return home is not to have overinflated expectations of what you’re going to do — and more importantly, who you’re going to do it with — after you get back.

Since my friend Grace happened to be out at a bar when my plane landed in Austin Tuesday night, I was lucky enough to be able to see her literally an hour after I touched down. On the flip side, literally none of my friends were available to accompany to Takoba, my favorite local Mexican restaurant, for happy hour yesterday. I’d been dreaming about returning there since the last time I ate there, in January!

If you pump yourself up about seeing specific people and doing specific things in advance of arriving home, you’re bound to be disappointed. Are you friends excited about you coming home? Without a doubt, except for the ones that are generally shitty people. Still, the fact is that they didn’t go anywhere (and probably didn’t do much) while you were gone, so they’ve probably developed slightly different habits than they had before you left. Give them time to work you back into their lives.

For me, the best policy is trying only to anticipate the givens: Your own bed; your own car, bike or other form of transport; familiar surroundings; and the language you’re used to speaking. Focus your energy on being thankful for the most fundamentally satisfying aspects of being at home — let the rest happen as organically as possible.

Staying Busy After Travel

Unless you literally spend your entire vacation lying on a beach somewhere, your pace of living while traveling is probably at least a bit faster than it is in normal life, whether you’re rushing to catch planes, trains and automobiles, waking up at the crack of dawn to embark on tours of awesome local attractions or simply trying to squeeze an entire huge city into just one day of sightseeing.

When you exercise, it’s recommended that you spend at least a few minutes following the vigorous portion of exercising doing slightly less vigorous exercise, rather than just stopping altogether. Likewise, after a fast-paced trip, it’s a good idea to keep yourself at least a bit busy once you get back to avoid having too much emotional and mental downtime, voids of thought and feeling that are a breeding ground for post-travel depression.

If you work a full-time job, this mostly takes care of itself. If you freelance like me or are simply between jobs, however, it can be a little difficult, particularly if you’ve rested your post-travel hopes on being able to hang out with a certain person or particular people after you get back. Likewise, you can usually occupy at least a day of your time catching up on bills, errands and other matters to which you were unable to attend while you were away.

Getting back to exercise for a moment, staying active is a great way to beat depression in and of itself. Whether you walk, jog, bike, go to yoga or hit the gym, staying active keeps you endorphins flowing, which all but guarantees a positive state of mind.

Setting New Travel Goals

My favorite method for getting over the blues that tend to set in after I get back from a trip is brainstorming about my next one. At the moment, I’m considering a two-month trip to Japan, Korea, China and Taiwan sometime this summer.

Setting a new travel goal not only gives you something else to get excited about, but can help you get focused quickly after travel. Sure, I’d love to have thrown back a few margaritas last night, but now the $20 I would have spent can be used somewhere else — maybe to buy my first real sushi in Japan?

Goals don’t just help you to save money either. Depending on your line of work, they can also motivate you to work harder and make more, such as if you work a tipped position or if you earn pay-per-piece income doing freelance work like me.

No matter the circumstances of your return, coming home to a happy life after you return from having the time of your life depends far more on your than it does any external factors. Whether you keep extremely busy, set immediately to plotting your next trip or simply remind yourself to be thankful for simple pleasures you often take for granted, you alone have the power to turn your frown upside down after a trip.

About The Author

is the author of 1065 posts on Leave Your Daily Hell. Robert founded Leave Your Daily Hell in 2010 so that other travelers would have an entertaining, reliable source of information, advice and inspiration at their fingertips. Want to travel more often? Subscribe to email updates today!

 

informs, inspires, entertains and empowers travelers like you. My name is Robert and I'm happy you're here!

 
 
 

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{ 47 comments }

Loz in Transit (travel blues) June 17, 2012 at 12:15 pm

When you’re on the road, it feels like you’re writing the story of your life. You’re seeking experience, trying new things, taking more risks.

Its just about continuing that spirit when you get home, its challenging due to the routine of the daily grind but it can be overcome.

Casey E. August 15, 2012 at 2:52 am

Thanks for this great post. It really makes a difference if you’ve prepared yourself for the emotional extremes that come with leaving home and returning after an amazing trip.

I’ve been reading a lot of posts recently about post-travel depression. Something that you, or other travelers, might be interested in is visiting the New Life Foundation in northern Thailand, if you find yourself in Southeast Asia. It’s a great, low-cost facility that caters to people who are recovering from depression, addiction, stress or burn out, but welcomes other guests as well. They are all about practicing mindfulness and healthy, clean living and guests, residents and volunteers can all participate in yoga and meditation, and residents have the opportunity to do sports, art therapy and work one-on-one with a life coach. It’s a great place to reflect and center yourself and the mindfulness techniques they teach here can really help with staying present and positive when you are feeling homesick or when you return home. Their website is: newlifethaifoundation.com

Best of luck to you!

Robert Schrader August 15, 2012 at 4:21 am

Hi Casey:

I will actually be in Thailand later this month! I will definitely look into this option. You can email me directly if you want to discuss promotional opportunities for your organization.

Thank you!

Holi July 5, 2013 at 6:31 pm

I just came back from being off the coast of Italy. It is day 2.5 of being back and I feel so depressed…and I was homesick being over there!! You really made me feel I am not alone. I feel so much better now…not 100%, but better. Thanks!

Robert Schrader July 5, 2013 at 7:27 pm

I am glad to have been able to hlep you, Holi! <3 <3 <3

Señor Awesome July 16, 2013 at 6:07 pm

Just returned from an amazing trip in Spain and once again, I’m in that rut of missing every single aspect of that awesome trip. This is not the first time. I’m glad to have ran into your article. It’s been very difficult the past few days trying to stay afloat (oftentimes the memories, the possibilities keep on creeping in). It’s both good and bad that I have a full-time job that keeps me busy. I’ll try to incorporate your advice in the daily grind. Thanks for the article Robert.

Robert Schrader July 17, 2013 at 9:03 am

Thanks for reading, Señor Awesome! I hope you continue exploring the site for other articles – there are almost 700! – and find motivation to take your next trip.

Ian C September 8, 2013 at 7:09 am

Wow, i thought it’s only me.. i’m glad i searched for DEPRESSION AFTER TRAVEL.. i’m really depressed right now.. this happen to me all the time i get home from a travel, usually this goes away after a couple of days but it is really disturbing to feel this way after a great vacation.

knowing that it’s common or at least happened to other people makes me feel a little better. I can’t wait to get over this.. it’s been a day since I got home from a South east Asia trip.

Ian/26

Robert Schrader September 9, 2013 at 11:34 am

You will definitely get over it. Keep reading my site – it helps!

Ray September 25, 2013 at 3:26 pm

I don’t know what to make out of my depression, I got back about a month ago from a 3 months trip through Europe, the problem is I don’t know if I can get adjusted to this again, I mean I’m pretty settled in my life here as a female in my early 30s, but I can’t seem to be able to stop thinking about what’s out there…I was almost in tears last night because I feel trapped here! is this normal?? I can’t accept the fact that this will be the pace I have to live at the majority of my time…cause I know for sure I will be traveling again, but I’m thinking the solution will be something as drastic as quitting my life here all together!! help!! am I going crazy?

Ray

Robert Schrader September 25, 2013 at 11:13 pm

Ray, I am sorry to hear you are going through depression! The good news is that I use this blog to help people like you fulfill their travel dreams. Head on over to the About page to get started.

Guest January 2, 2014 at 4:00 am

I am back home for 8 weeks now from a two and a half year stint in Australia and New Zealand to a country that has very high unemployment. It is now the middle of winter and the future looks really bleak. Thoughts of suicide come up every few hours.

Robert Schrader January 2, 2014 at 6:58 am

Oh my god, please don’t indulge any of those thoughts! I’m not sure how cold it is where you are, but if you can get outside and be physically active at all, this will lessen your depression. Also, if you’ve already done the Australia/NZ thing, why not move back abroad and Teach English? That was what saved me after realizing that my country was not doing so well.

Gabriel March 30, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Wow, I always feel depressed after my trips abroad (which aren’t that long: 2weeks/year) and decided to search the internet for any info. It turns out it is a thing, after all. What makes it depressing for me, however, is the thought of going back to the routine of my job (and consequently: life; I travel to break away from it). Its weird for me though, because I usually also feel depressed the days right before my trip (maybe I’m anticipating what’s coming or idk). Oh well, it is what it is.

Robert Schrader April 2, 2014 at 3:37 pm

I hope this post was able to help you in some way!

Sarah April 21, 2014 at 9:31 pm

I just went to Africa for a 10 day study abroad trip for Social Work. I have lost all motivation in school and life ever since I got back. I didn’t notice that i’ve been like this after my trip until my friend told me. I am almost failing a couple of my classes and my GPA is a 3.6.. so that is not like me. I am not sure if it is because of “depression” since my trip to Africa, or maybe some other cause.

I do think about Africa everyday and how grateful I am to have had the chance to work alongside the people there. I always catch myself complaining about the smallest things and then realizing that it really isn’t anything to complain about, especially after thinking about Africa. I don’t know. I seriously just want this “phase” to go away.

Robert Schrader April 22, 2014 at 10:45 pm

Aw, Sarah, keep your chin up! Maybe create something (i.e. writing, photograph or drawing) to keep your trip alive? Or take steps to plan another? Regardless, I hope this article and my blog continue to inspire and empower you. Godspeed!

shaileshdas April 23, 2014 at 11:22 pm

I just returned from my 2 weeks of Solo (my first time as solo) travel in Thailand. I had been there twice before but this time I gone there Solo and I am happy about it as I was able to travel and see much more! Felt a bit depressed and googled about travel blues and found your article! It helped me ease my mind as I realized I am not the only one who feels this! Thanks for the article!

shaileshdas April 23, 2014 at 11:32 pm

You are not alone Gabriel. I feel exactly same – both before going to Trip and after coming back! Its travel anxiety before the trip and I even felt cancelling my tickets a week before. I try not to anticipate much and let the things happen and plan about my next return/onward travel in future.

Robert Schrader April 26, 2014 at 2:30 pm

Thanks for reading 🙂 Good luck

AlannaLP April 30, 2014 at 8:37 pm

There must be something fundamentally wrong with me because I never feel homesick or excited to return home when I’m abroad. In fact, when I’m abroad, I’m always super happy I’m NOT home. The only time I ever wanted to go home was in the middle of the Great Tohoku Earthquake in Japan in 2011 and most people wanted to gtfo of Japan at that point, including Japanese nationals. I think my next big trip needs to be a big move to a city I adore because home is not home to me :/ Have you ever had this feeling?

Robert Schrader May 2, 2014 at 7:53 am

I have had this feeling, but I have also had this feeling come and go!

Laura May 25, 2014 at 7:09 am

I have been home 3 months after 3 and a half years Living in Aus n Nz, and my god I have never been this depressed in my life? I am usually an easy going bubbly person! And I have return broken! I dont wanna leave the house, I dont wanna get a job, I dont wanna do anything. Some friends are losing patience with me and keep saying I am ungrateful… BUT I FEEL NOTHING HERE? Then i feel sad because my family is here, I MISS BEING somewhere, where i felt i wasn’t a sheep!! People wanted to talk to me because i had an accent, jobs i worked people thought i was great! Such an active social life!! Since returning my depression and triggered anxiety which has now trigger derpersonalization… I have lost my smile, I cant even imagine going anywhere on my own, not even to the shop? BUT I AM ALONE? I TRAVELED ALONE? Oh god I am so broken!!

Robert Schrader May 25, 2014 at 8:34 am

Laura, I am sorry to hear that. I hope exploring my website will inspire you.

Paul June 2, 2014 at 8:10 am

Everything you are experiencing i am feeling the same way. I lived in Paris and traveled across Europe and is has never been the same. It has been almost a year since I have returned and I feel exactly the same as when i first arrived back in the U.S. I haven’t gotten a job, internship and i lost my girlfriend of a year over my depression and inactivity. I can’t even imagine being with someone anymore….I just feel alone. No friends, Isolated myself from family and my GPA dropped from 4.0 to 3.60 since Paris. I have been so alone and lost. I thought i was the only one who experienced this. I thought about suicide a lot a couple months ago but at least those thoughts are gone. The scariest thing though is that i have come to accept this how my life is and live with it instead of fighting this depression like i attempted to do months ago but failed.

I hope you have better luck in the near future than i Have…..thank you for making not feel alone in this depression.

Robert Schrader June 2, 2014 at 8:13 am

Paul! Please hang in there! It’s OK and important to allow yourself to experience sadder emotions, but it does get better. <3

Laura June 2, 2014 at 10:05 am

Hey Paul 🙂 I understand what you are going through 😛 and trust me you are not alone!! I pushed everyone away 😛 I started to resent everyone… and know matter what anyone said I didnt want to know… in my head ‘they dont understand and they wont ever’ I find myself saying ‘yeah but you dont know how big the world is thats why you dont care’ etc… Since i wrote this i have started writing down my feelings everyday, and given myself daily tasks 😛 like, walk up the road to get a chocolate etc… 😛 I have been trying meditation (basically trying to fill my head with good crap not negative) I put my CV online and I made myself answer the phone when it rang… I signed up with a temp agency on Friday (should of seen me before i went in i was a mess, i basically hated them before i went in!!) but they were lovely and so interested in where i had traveled! I started to see a pattern… If we wake up everyday already hating it, it isnt going to change is it? I wrote down what my short term goals were, and I am trying to sort them out. Obviously I dont want to be here, I dont want this life right now, BUT our 2 options are – Deal with it or end it. (We aren’t going to end it, nothings that bad) If you feel alone feel free to write to me if you want [email protected] – We can beat this DEPRESSION TOGETHER!!! Or plan a holiday to escape forever!!! 😛

Jason June 3, 2014 at 12:17 pm

I know exactly how you feel. Exactly. Like empty. What is my purpose? What do I want to do now? And I was only away for 10 days to Phuket! But it felt like 10 months. The sights, sounds, smells, what I ate, saw, experienced, the people that I met. It was an awakening. And to return home to Australia… without a job, with what to do? What next? Is this all that my life will be? Same thing day in day out? So I know how you feel, totally. I have some great family and friends who get what I’m going through and give me some advice. I’ve been back 4 days now and I can’t eat or sleep properly. What you have to establish is proper rest and eating habits, and follow an exercise routine to feel good again. Plan for your next trip! Or, have you decided that maybe Australia or NZ is your calling, and you should live there? Does that speak to you? But know that I know, and you’re not alone.

Laura June 4, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Australia is amazing !!! You cant ever be bored there!!! You have so many amazing places to visit!!!! I wish i could back there 🙁 If someone told me I have a job there now,,, I would be on a plane instantly!!! But I cant get back over as my visa expired and I am not on the skilled list 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 You have lots of options!!! WHV in europe! NZ! FIJI!!!! Everywhere!!!

Wonny August 6, 2014 at 6:38 pm

I just came back home to Australia from a month of backpacking alone in Europe and it was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had. I had traveled to Thailand earlier this year and got post travel blues pretty bad so I was aware of how to deal with it. I have been back 2 weeks and I can’t help feel there’s a part of me that’s missing, not satisfied or happy (I’m usually a very very happy person). Reading this and knowing that I am not alone is helping a lot. I have taken up learning Spanish and going to the gym everyday but I miss my ‘family’ back in Spain where I met the most amazing people and when the uni work is piling up I feel even worse because I am lacking the motivation to touch it haha. But thank you all! I do feel better reading all of your stories. xx

Robert Schrader August 7, 2014 at 7:56 am

Aw, good luck in adjusting back to life – and Godspeed for a fast departure on your next trip!

Elliott August 18, 2014 at 5:08 am

I’ve created the ultimate solution to avoid the post-travel blues.. Don’t go home!!! 😛

Here’s my take on coming home http://wp.me/p4g3Gz-34

Robert Schrader August 18, 2014 at 5:16 pm

Thanks for sharing, Elliott!

Flo September 4, 2014 at 8:07 am

Found your article looking on internet if a depression post travel ever existed.. I was so happy to know I’m not the only one…

I had an amazing time in Japan, I went for a 6 months long internship.. which has been amazing! I was in a country I loved, surrounded by language and culture I loved, it has always been my dream being there.. Working hours where crazy by I was always active, creative, happy, surrounded by people.. wonderful people from all over the world, both at work and in my sharehouse.. No matter how tired I was, I Always found time to chat and for people there.. I was feeling alive!! and didn’t miss home at all.. not even my boyfriend.. which is something I sometimes felt guilty about.. but it was like having a parallel life where I could be a different person.. In fact I did so many things I had NEVER even dreamt I could do.. And sometimes I didn’t even recognize myself anymore..
Now I’m back home.. Every single day at home.. and I should work on my job applications and figure out my next step.. but I feel super sad and depressed, keep thinking about the people and the life I had there..and it takes forever to finish a single page of my portfolio.. I am kind of stranded.. like I don’t know anymore who I am, if the person I was before leaving or the one I was in Tokyo, or something in between I still have to discover…and what my dreams are, what should I do in my life.. I want to run away but I don’t know where to go, and I don’t even know what to do with my boyfriend, he’s so caring but I just don’t find any interest in anything.. I hate this condition so much..

Robert Schrader September 7, 2014 at 12:21 pm

I hope my blog helps you!

Aussie Wanderlust October 19, 2014 at 3:21 am

Post-holiday blues is definitely a common problem among travellers who have been away from home for a substantial among of time, which is actually understandable since they have immersed in a new environment and culture for a long time thus they encountered reverse cultural shock when they get back.

For me, I definitely experienced the same thing when I first got home. But then I found that exploring my own city is actually a good way to keep myself busy as well as exploring places that I have never been even if I have stayed in Sydney for a long time.

Here is the link for my blog: http://www.auswanderlusts.wordpress.com

Here I have introduced some interesting places to visit at my home city as well as advice to cope with post-holiday blues. As you are a frequent traveller, maybe you can do the same and share some valuable advice to your readers!

Cheers,
Jeff

Robert Schrader October 19, 2014 at 9:55 am

Thanks for providing your blog link – I’ll check it out!

Alison Willgress December 28, 2014 at 4:20 pm

I really enjoyed reading your blog. I have just returned from living in Vancouver for two years where I had built up a life. I tried to immigrate there but fell ill and couldn’t cope with the paperwork, and now I have lost my chance as I have used up my visa allowance.

I’ve been back in the UK for 4 months and deeply depressed. All my friends had left my hometown so I moved upto Edinburgh where I have been forced to start a new life. I came back full of confidence, positive energy and smily, and now I am crying all the time, lost my bubbly self and energy, and feel like a different person! I’ve travelled on and off for the last 5 years and have never felt as though I belong in the UK. It’s a miserable place compared to Canada that’s for sure!

I am saving hard to go back to Canada via the study route, so essentially buying my way in, but it feels so far away and i’m losing hope and motivation.

Travel is so additive, but sometimes the end results can be heartbreaking.

Robert Schrader December 29, 2014 at 8:03 am

Bless your heart, Alison! I hope that reading this piece – and, if you got a chance, some of the rest of my work – has at least given you the comfort of knowing you’re not alone. Good luck with your future in Vancouver. I know you can make it happen if you really want to!

Kris January 5, 2015 at 7:00 am

I know what you mean. I just came back from Canada (albeit, it was a short trip) to Austin and I definitely feel the post-travel blues. I felt homesick when I was traveling, but when I got back, this emptiness just hit me like a ton of bricks. Funny how it works.

Robert Schrader January 6, 2015 at 3:30 pm

Aw, and winter doesn’t help!

G March 4, 2015 at 10:36 am

I´ve just got home from a 10-day trip to New York and Toronto, and I didn´t know that I would react so bad when returning home. I came home late at night and when opening the door to my “apartment” I started crying. I had no idea why I was crying and why I felt so sad. All I wanted was to go back because I wasn´t ready for my “normal” life like school, work and just being home. So I had to google if I were the only one, guess I´m not 🙂

Robert Schrader March 4, 2015 at 2:56 pm

I am glad that I can be there for you, even if only through this post!

Judith March 9, 2015 at 10:45 pm

You are truly amazing. 🙂 You shared this on Facebook, just when I needed to read this. Thank you so much.

Robert Schrader March 11, 2015 at 9:16 am

Thank you for reading!

Sam June 4, 2015 at 6:37 pm

Im glad im not the only one feeling like this. These are exactly my thoughts. Its like its not me when I Was away. And my normal self was still working at home. I don’t know what to do either!

Nicholas Nicou July 25, 2015 at 1:48 pm

I feel also that a part of yourself is just scattered everywhere and what you had you don’t come back with, so your expectations of your life is not great well for me it is not.

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