Have you ever come back from a great trip traveling the world, to find yourself feeling depressed afterward? Why is it that when we had such a great time, we ended up feeling very sad? It's called the post-travel depression and today we will explore this feeling together, why it exists, and how you can deal with it.
What caused post travel depression
Two weeks ago, I set out on another solo trip (as usual) to Australia. I had one of the best time of my life there, making numerous friends along the way while appreciating the beauty of both the urban and the outback life. It is the kind of trip that I would remember for many years, but as I approached the end of my trip, I started feeling very down. Throughout, my travel, this feeling comes and goes as time passed and a new adventure awaits, but this time, it was different. The post-travel depression period seems to last longer, and as I was trying to figure out why, I realized a few key things that played a role in my post-travel depression:
1. Saying Goodbye to Friends
The people you meet while traveling will most likely be one of the best people you will ever meet in your life. They have a similar mindset as you, they have great stories to tell, and most of all, they are open-minded enough to strike a conversation with strangers like you. But despite all the great conversations you had, in the end, we all have to part ways knowing that we might not meet again.
How to deal with this?
Saying goodbye is difficult, no matter who you are, but it is part of the lifestyle we chose. People will come and go and there's no way to prevent it especially if you travel often.
What you can do though, is realize the fact that goodbye is inevitable and live in the moment as much as you can. If your roommate in the hostel you stayed asked if you wanna go out for a drink, say yes. If someone strikes a conversation with you, do your part and keep the conversation as engaging and as fun as you can. This way, you will know that you've done your best to enjoy the moment and you will feel less regret when you are back home in the post-travel depression period.
2. The "Back to Reality" mindset
If you are like me, you have bills to pay, you have a business to run, or you have a job to get back to. Traveling is a hobby that we are very passionate about and most of us will eventually have to go back home and work. I used to love coiling this word, "Back to Reality" whenever I'm feeling sad post travel because traveling was something out of my ordinary routine. It felt surreal for the most part, and back to reality seems like a great sentence to explain how I felt. But what if we turn that word on its head? What if travel is the reality and work is a dream?
How to deal with this?
That is exactly what I did to help with the post-travel depression. I flipped the term "Back to Reality" backward and changed my mindset. If you think about it, the concept of "Back to Reality" is wrong on so many levels. We have been shaped by the society so much that we forgot the root of life. We are so brainwashed that working in a cubicle is a reality we think we live in, whereas engaging with the world (as what we were designed for in the first place) are dreams. Now, instead of looking forward and see only work, I look forward to my future and see only travel. This has helped me get back on my feet and start planning for the reality, my next trip.
A friend I met while trekking the King's Canyon in the Red Center, Australia once told me that:
"If you don't go to work you won't know the beauty of travel" — Nicole Kö
It may be possible to travel the world while earning money at the same time without working but it is REALLY difficult and I believe most people will not even come close to it. What you can do though is change your mindset. Look forward to more travel, not more work, and your depression will be replaced with excitements of your next adventure.
3. "Nothing will be better than the last trip"
When I was back from my solo trip up the Himalayan mountains, I thought there would not be any trip that exceeds what I experienced in the Himalayas. The hardship, the sweat, the people I met, it was the whole package — the ultimate experience. This did contribute to a few depressing moments after I came back. Thoughts like "Will my life be boring from now on?", "I would rather be up there than back home" and "Australia next? Meh.." went through my head for the first few months back.
How to deal with this?
First you need to know that this train of thought is wrong, and it can be quite destructive as well. It could trick you into avoiding living in the moment and instead live in the past. Don't compare one experience to another, it is incomparable. Each trip is unique in its own way. The people you meet, the culture you observed will not be the same, so your mindset should not be the same as well.
I learned this from experience as I thought that no trip would be better than the Himalayas, and I was proven wrong by the overwhelming feelings I got from my trip around Australia. Now, I look at each trip as a new adventure and try my best to get the most out of the present instead of clinging to the past.
All in all, it's all about living in the moment and not clinging to the past. I've done my fair share of travel in the past few months and even though I still hate saying goodbye, I've never regret any chances I did not take. At least I know that I did my best to get the most out of each of my travel experience and I think that's the key to prevent the post-travel depression.
Have you ever experience such depression? How did you deal with it? I would love to hear your stories.
Looking for more inspirational articles? Check out The Solo Traveler’s Inspiration section where we will discuss topics related to the nomadic and traveling lifestyle and shower-thoughts that will invoke wanderlust in all of us.
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