Written by Jenny McWhirter on 10 / 11 / 2014
Gap Year Advice
Those of you that are already well-travelled will know how tough it can be to return from the trip of a lifetime and slot right into a 'normal' routine back at home.
There’s no doubt that those first few days are bliss; the joy of seeing friends and family again, eating home-cooked food, being able to wash in a hot shower and sleep in a comfortable bed are things you never thought you’d appreciate so much.
But at some point in that first week back, as those home comforts return to being part of the everyday, it hits you like a bolt from the blue. A deep, unsettling feeling of nostalgia and gloom. Suddenly you’re pining for the sunshine, the amazing people you met and the wonderful unpredictability of being on the road.
You, my friend, have a case of the post-travel blues.
Luckily, overcoming these pesky feelings can be a relatively straightforward affair. As an avid traveller who’s been in this position several times, allow me to share my tips on how to beat the post-travel blues.
Read carefully and I promise that very soon the overwhelming notion that life will never be the same again will be replaced by a sense of enormous well-being.
Upon your return you’ll probably have 101 things that seem more appealing to you than unpacking that backpack and tidying everything away.
You must resist the urge to put off unpacking. It’s crucial for two reasons:
- Firstly, the longer you live like a backpacker in your own home, the more you’ll start to wish you were still doing it in the country you’ve just returned from.
- Secondly, ever heard the expression 'tidy room, tidy mind'? Having a half-unpacked bag with clothes, travel accessories and souvenirs spilling out will simply add to the stress of re-adapting to life back in your home country.
I’m a particularly sentimental person, who keeps everything from gifts that people have made or given me, to strange bits and bobs I’ve picked up from the various countries I’ve visited. So it's no surprise that I have a ton of photos from every trip I’ve been on (along with journals that are full of notes, quotes and doodles too).
While the memories are still fresh, sort out those photos into something you can look back on for years to come. Depending on who you are, that might be as simple as downloading you snaps from your digital camera and uploading the best ones to Facebook.
Pro tip: Adjust the setting on your Facebook album to allow the friends you travelled with to be contributors. Then you can easily collect images from several different cameras, and create the ultimate photographic record of your trip.
If you want something more permanent, photo book services like the one offered by Photobox will allow you to take photos from your laptop (or Facebook and Instagram) and turn them into a glossy, personalised hardback with layouts and fonts of your choice - which will act as a constant reminder of how awesome your time abroad was. You can do the whole thing with Photobox's handy iPad app.
Admittedly traveling round your own country isn’t nearly as exciting as going abroad. But just because you’re back home, doesn’t mean you can’t go on exploring and discovering new things.
Get into the mindset of a traveller in your country. What would they be interested in seeing and doing? Which parts of the country would they like to visit? Pick a couple of tourist spots near where you live and go check them out! You’ll be shocked at how many you’ve never bothered to go to before.
This is a cheap and cheerful way to spend your time, and gives you the chance to visit all those tourist attractions that are right on your doorstep.
If you want to extend the idea further, go sightseeing with people visiting your country. You’ll inevitably find that their enthusiasm rubs off on you and makes you appreciate your surroundings more. Sound good? Start by checking out Couchsurfing.org. You can opt to host visitors, show them your city, or simply meet up with them for a drink.
This is my best tip to beat the blues. Having things to look forward to will distract you from your desire to be back in a foreign country. Honestly - it doesn't matter how big or small the distraction is.
I like to keep myself busy every weekend by planning trips to visit friends, attending local events and going on nights out.
This doesn’t have to involve spending shedloads of cash - just have a look at what’s on in your area and you’ll probably find there are several things taking place that are free of charge.
Find the Time Out page in your city to discover what options are available and get a group of friends to go along with you. The more you fill your weekends, the better!
I was always a bit reluctant to start up a blog, as I didn’t think it would necessarily be of interest to others. But after a while I decided to go ahead with it, as I had so many stories I wanted to share.
You don’t have to write down every aspect of your travels – just the parts that you think are worth telling others about. Here's a collection of my tales from Argentina, the last country I visited, which I wrote in an attempt to inspire others to travel. If you travelled with The Leap, then we’d especially like to hear all about your trip, so feel free to share your blog posts with us!
You can also share your experiences on travel forums like the Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum or forums.nomadicmatt.com, where people seek help, advice and inspiration on worldwide travel. Or you could leave reviews on TripAdvisor for places you recently visited.
By speaking to and helping others that are visiting the place you’ve just come from, you can recreate the excitement by living vicariously through them.
Well this one is easy. Transform the post-travel blues into pre-travel excitement by planning your next trip.
Naturally, you won’t have the money to book anything right away (does anyone come back from backpacking with lots of money left?!) but that doesn’t mean you can’t at least think about where you’ll go next. A fun way to do that is to start building a bucket list of places you’d like to visit and adventures you’d like to have - I recommend tripbucket.com (it’s completely free, although flying all the new places it inspires you to visit could set you back...).
Doing this will not only will this lift your spirits, but also help motivate you to get back into the working world and start saving those pennies.
Finally, to put a positive spin on your negative feelings remember that you’re only feeling so blue because you had such a fantastic time.
If you felt nothing but relief at being back home, wouldn’t that be a shame? So be grateful that your journey was a success and as everyone’s favourite author of children’s books - Dr. Seuss - put it:
Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.
What’s your advice for getting over the post-travel blues? Let me know in the comments.
on 10 / 11 / 2014