You arrive home after a lengthy trip — maybe you’ve been living abroad for a year or two — and everything is familiar, welcoming, warm, and kind of exciting again.
You spend a week lounging, hanging with friends, binge-eating all your favorite things, clinging to your family dog. And you keep it up for a while.
A month or two goes by. And slowly, all those familiar things start to seem kind of sad.
You’re missing the excitement of what was once routine in another land. You miss the thrill of meeting new people, spending every night out in a new environment. You miss the elation of immersing yourself in a culture and vibrancy of a city far, far from home.
This was something I found myself struggling with for quite some time in the months after I arrived home from living abroad. I was Macaulay Culkin, and travel had completely abandoned me. I felt extremely useless, childish for being so upset, and terrified of what my next step would be — and how I would feel to take it.
And social media definitely didn’t help, with a feed full of colorful travel pictures, and last minute flight sales constantly filling my inbox.
Looking back now, I realize how crazy I must have seemed. I shut out my mother, my boyfriend, my friends. I silenced every phone call. I dismissed every invitation. I was constantly thinking of ways I could make a few quick bucks and just go again. Nothing compared.
I would rather sit and look through photos of myself in foreign places or cry in the shower than reveal to loved ones what I was going through.
I could have let it ruin me.
I could have hopped back on a flight and continued the joyride that was bound to run out of gas at some point once I realized that long-term travel wasn’t what I wanted forever. I felt safer avoiding the problem then facing it, and it didn’t just sabotage my life for a few weeks — I was an emotional wreck with anger ready to set off like a firework if anyone tried to help.
But I didn’t. I found the strength to push through. And here’s how you can, too.
Explore your passion.
What’s your dream job? What is something you could see yourself doing, possibly for the rest of your life? There is no time like when you first get home and still have few big responsibilities (plus lots of time) to make it happen.
I wanted (needed) something innovative to keep myself busy when I returned. My first thought was to revisit the nonprofit I’d started in high school. But with a twist — I wanted to fuse it with a social enterprise coffee shop.
I didn’t end up starting my own cafe.
But I did somehow become the Programs and Events Coordinator, as well as General Manager, for an amazing youth empowerment organization that runs out of a social enterprise cafe called Studio.89!
The happiness and passion I have been able to put towards my career have completely reshaped the way I look at things. Having something to grow and care for — and make a difference through — has shown me that I’m right where I need to be.
Volunteer, network, and connect.
Something we all suffer from when returning home is not being able to express how we feel and what we’ve experienced with old friends and family who haven’t had the same — or at least similar — experiences we have. Whenever I come home from traveling, I actually find that I completely ignore the topic when around friends and family, as they can never really connect to my stories.
To help bridge that gap, I started hanging out with travelers in my city who could understand me and the things that I was feeling. I did this not to replace my old friends, but to help myself transition.
In the early stages of my social enterprise coffee shop ideation, I also began to connect and network with Toronto-based traveler groups and old acquaintances on Facebook. In doing so, I discovered that there were literally hundreds of other people in my new old home city who were suffering similarly from “Home Alone Syndrome.” I wasn’t the only one dealing with post-travel depression.
It was such a relief to know that I wasn’t alone.
I think that was the hardest part for me in all those times crying on the bathroom floor. I felt like what I was going through wasn’t real, so how could it be upsetting me so much? I had been telling myself that my feelings weren’t valid, even though my heart was in so much pain.
Next thing I knew, I was volunteering and hosting my own events, connecting with amazing people who shared my passion for travel and social good, and finding exciting opportunities that have led me to where I am now.
Take advantage of a daily routine.
No matter where you are or what you’re doing in the world, you’re bound to have some type of routine that helps you get the day going.
Whether it’s a morning coffee overlooking the water or midday meditation in the park, a smooth way to make the transition from travel to home is to combine some of your old routines with new ones.
One in particular that I found that really helped ground me was making the same daily breakfast I loved so much while living abroad. I’d share it with my friends and family, and enjoy it outside in the backyard of my family home. It merged the home in India that I had just left with the sights and sounds of the home in Canada that I was adjusting to.
Reconnect with old hobbies, and find new ones.
After that first month-or-so of intense emotional mishaps, I wondered if maybe the one thing that would make me happy would be getting creative again. The arts were always a big part of my life growing up, and especially while traveling. I was constantly drawing, dancing, singing, and writing.
My new hobby came to me out of the blue: I took up aerial silks with my mother!
My mom had recently discovered a small circus school around the corner from our family home, and wanted to stop by to see what it was all about. We took our youngest golden retriever with us for a walk one afternoon and by the time we got back, we were signed up for our first class that following Sunday.
Learning this new skill made me realize that finding something that makes me happy — and putting the time aside to work on it — increased my mood a lot. It made me thankful that I had come home, because doing so allowed me to discover something so thrilling and exciting.
I also gained some serious muscles and abs.
Give yourself time.
Time is so valuable, especially when you’ve just had the most amazing experience wandering the world. It really does take time to adjust, relax, understand, imagine, and implement.
Something I really valued with the time I took to relax was traveling within my own city. It was a thrill to discover all these incredible restaurants, local bands and artists at hidden little venues, and breweries that had popped up in the last two years. It was new, exciting, and exactly what I needed to put a smile on my face.
Coming home doesn’t have to mean that your life ends, or that you never step foot out of your hometown again. In fact, I’ve explored more of my home city in the last three months than in all the years I lived here before I left.
I’ve now been home for eight months, and couldn’t be happier with where I am in my career, my social life, and and my mindset.
Being near my partner for more than a few weeks at a time — I totally forgot what that felt like! I’ve even done some amazing and inspiring short-term trips to help ease the travel bug that still lingers, and am able to drag him along with me.
Travel will never be behind me, and I’ve learned to remind myself that there will always be opportunities to indulge in this passion in my future.
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Have you ever dealt with post-travel depression? We’d love to hear your suggestions for survival. Share in the comments!