It took me weeks to find out what was wrong with me. In between cries, loss of appetite, mood changes, insecurity and wanting to leave everything behind once again, I finally read an article that was describing exactly how I felt. That was putting words on feelings and things I couldn’t explain.
I didn’t know there was such thing as post-trip blues (that can turn into a depression). I knew that mixed feeling of sadness and anger but it never lasted long because I always got to go again. This time it felt different. This time I felt trapped in a place I didn’t want to be, doing things I didn’t want to do. All my feelings were a blurr and I couldn’t think straight. All I could think about was how to get away once more, how to find a way to come back to normal (that is to be on the road again).
But sometimes, we just can’t. Sometimes, we have to wait. There are a thousands of excuses to go, to not go and as travelers we are used to fighting false reasons and excuses. Traveling is simple. In two words, it’s packing and leaving.
But sometimes, you really can’t. Or better said, you know you shouldn’t. And you have to deal with this thing that we, travelers, dread and that we call: Post-trip depression.
As I read on and on about post-trip depression (PTD), talked to other travellers that were in the same situation or that had gotten over it, I realized everything I’d done so far was a compilation of errors and everything you have to NOT do when you need to stay put for a while.
I guess I just forgot how to have (and bear) a sedentary lifestyle. And no one tells you that coming back “home” is harder than leaving.
Finding this kind of info on the web is not easy so I’ve decided to share my experience with PTD, in the hope yours doesn’t last as long as mine…
1. I came back for the wrong reasons
I thought I’d come back to refill my bank account and get going again. But finding a satisfactory job in your hometown is not the same as finding a job elsewhere. Somehow, when you’re on the road opportunities are everywhere, and much more appealling than here. In your hometown it seems like people make it difficult for you on purpose. Then I noticed I was being difficult on the kind of job I “wanted”, to finally realizing I wasn’t there for the money at all (after all, five years travelling I know how to travel for almost nothing). I just needed to be with my friends and family, to find support and to enjoy being with people that really know me. First mistake: wasting negative energy looking for work instead of enjoying the moments with my people.
2. I listened to my friends.
“Don’t leave so soon, stay with us for a little while, we’ll find you a job here you’ll see, you’ll be happy“. I love my friends. I love being around them, I love them as much as I love my family and I would litterally do anything for them. So I listened. And I chose to believe that I could settle down again.
The road is where we belong. Make it easy for you and accept that you’ll never be able to live like your friends do. Find a compromise and go to a new city, somewhere close to them (if that’s what you need), somewhere you like or somewhere you don’t know and find a job there. Live with your travel bug instead of fighting it.
3. I stopped going to the gym.
When I was living in Bratislava I used to dance three hours a day every day of the week. I know, it’s a lot and I had my reasons to do so, but the change was brutal when I went from that to nothing. The thing is, excercising generates all four happy hormones (you can read more about that here) and going from that to nothing is just… unbearable. But if, like me, can’t find what you love doing in your hometown go to a gym anyway and get moving. You’ll figure out later where to find your hobby.
4. I planned my next trip
Which is something I never do. And I believed it would make me feel better, but it made me feel worse instead. Not only was I dreaming about a travel I couldn’t do, but I was trying to fight against the idea of leaving so soon. I had to stay, and that’s that.
5. I spent most of my days on the internet
Lost connection with life and real people. Surfing on the web can be addictive, and when you have post-trip depression you need to make time to focus on your aims, not to look for ways to escape reality. People kept telling me to keep busy but for me that was just postponing the problem.
6. I didn’t reach out to other travelers
Mainly because I didn’t know what was going on, but I was extremely relieved to see that I wasn’t the only one with these symptoms. I took me some time to participate to discussions and forums about post-trip depression. I got angry because I couldn’t relate to any of the situations. Many persons were coming back from an Erasmus semester, or just coming back from a regular holiday. The ones that had the same profile I do (traveling for years and not intending to go back anywhere) solved the problem by going away again. After a few weeks I finally participated and got a lot of support and understanding out of it. It helped a great deal!
7. I didn’t set aims
Because I kept drowning in pain and nostalgia, I didn’t make the effort to set goals in my new life. I was just waiting for the universe to send me away, to send me a good reason to leave. Something that woulnd’t make me feel guilty about going back to my normal life. Setting aims (and achieving them, one at a time) was a huge relief. Figure out why you “came back”, what it is that you need to solve and put all your energy into solving it.
8. I forgot it’s all temporary
Of course it is. This could never be my life, even if I had kids and a husband. But as you go down the post-trip depression slide, time becomes infinite, hours become days and days seem like years. As I achieved one of my aims, I suddenly realized it had only been two months and that it wouldn’t last much longer. I realized I was angry at those around me for making me stay, and I saw that I wasn’t making the most out of my time with them; at all. It’s now time to change that!
Do you relate with any of this?
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