You’ve just returned from an epic adventure. Maybe it was 9 months in Australia, two months in Europe, three months on the road. Doesn’t matter where; just that it was awesome and life-changing. But now you’re home. And it’s back to “real life,” whatever the heck that means. But something’s not right. And you feel kinda sad. You’re glad to be home, sort-of, so you’re not sure why everything feels wrong, but it does. That’s the post-travel blues, my friend, and yes, it bites. The longer the adventure, the harder it hits and you can expect to go through these 5 stages of post-travel blues, yes, much like the 5 stages of grief. So buckle up, ’cause it’s gonna be an emotional ride.
The 5 Stages of Post-Travel Blues
Stage 1: Anxious bargaining
When you first return home, probably within the first hour to the first day or two, you’re probably experiencing a vaguely unsettled feeling. Things don’t seem right, but you can’t put your finger on why. They just aren’t, OK?! Then you’ll start bargaining. What if you moved to New Zealand? What if you bought a van? What if you got a seasonal job in the mountains in Colorado and made just enough to get by, but, hey, who cares ’cause you’re living in the mountains in Colorado? Anything to get you moving again. You’re not gonna like this feeling, and you’re probably not gonna buy a van (at least not right away), but you’ll get through it.
Stage 2: Over-compensation
Next, you’re gonna start doing everything you can to block out that unsettled feeling. If you’re an extrovert like me, you’re going to fill every night of your calendar with events and dinner dates with friends so you have something to look forward to every day. If you’re an introvert like Josh, you might instead make a point to spend your newly freed up evenings catching up on all the movies or TV you missed while you were traveling. Either way, you’re about to spend a lot of energy setting up exciting things to distract you from that empty feeling in your gut. Do whatever makes you happy. Cause stage 3 is coming.
Stage 3: Depression
Next, that unsettled feeling that you can’t identify and tried to ignore during the manic stage of over-planning and pumping your life full of excitement is going to morph into a mild depression. You’ll spend hours staring at your computer screen. Compulsively check your watch when you’re supposed to be working. And give up planning evening activities, cause, you know, what’s the point? This is when you start to wonder if you should just get in your car and start driving. Cause you didn’t feel this garbage-y when you were on the road, did you? Sometimes you just need a day or two–or a week. No judgment–to wallow as you move on.
Stage 4: Acceptance
It’s OK to have boring days where nothing exciting happens. It’s OK not to frolic in fields of sunflowers or summit mountain peaks or try a new cuisine every day. Adventure can be found in the day-to-day stuff, too, like attempting trivia at a bar you’ve never gone to or signing up for a free workshop on coding or some such, I dunno. Acceptance is when you finally realize that it’s OK to be home and not spend every waking moment trying to experience something new. It’s OK to eat the same thing for dinner three nights in a row and do puzzles while you watch TV and not feel the need to go out every night. There are calm moments between adrenaline-pumping, life-altering adventures and acceptance is about embracing those moments and enjoying them.
Stage 5: Planning
But let’s be honest, travelers are only going to accept the quiet moments for all of a few weeks (maybe even a few days) before they start planning the next adventure. The calendars come out, the world map is unfurled, frequent flyer miles are tallied, and bank accounts are totaled to see how soon we can take off again. Because we can’t just sit around and accept mundanity forever! We’ve got to get out there and explore some more! There’s so much to see! So much to experience. So start building that Amazon wishlist, cause you’re at least gonna need a new hat or something.
Know what we’re talking about? Sure you do. How do you get through the post-travel blues? And how long does it take you to cycle through all five stages? We love a good story! Wander on.
*This post contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a percentage of sales (like, maybe enough to buy a bar of vegan dark chocolate to help us get through stage 3).
Alisha is a freelance writer and photographer based in Austin, TX. She loves her tiny house, vegan food and experiencing the community of travel in far away places. She’s also pretty sure she’s addicted to coffee. alishamcdarris.com