In my travels I’ve realized that the first day back at work from a holiday is the worst. I’ve never been happy to be back from a trip. There’s relief, in finding my flat intact, or in confirming that yes, I did NOT leave the air conditioner on before I left (do you ever get that feeling before a trip? My paranoid self always does!). There’s relief in realizing that I still have my job. It feels especially nice and I’m always grateful to see friends and family and give them trinkets and souvenirs, and to hear them say they’ve missed me (and then I realize how terribly I’ve missed them too!). But to be immediately happy after that cab ride home from the airport has never happened to me. I go through a lot of separation anxiety after a trip, and it’s usually directly proportional to how epic the trip was. It would take a couple of days or even weeks to get me comfortably back into “the real world”.
Overcoming post travel stress disorder is still a work in progress for me, but here are some tricks I’ve found to be of help.
Document and share your favorite memories from the trip.
I love blogging about my travels not only because it’s a great creative outlet for my love for writing, but also because in some ways it helps extend the trip in my head. I don’t feel so bad about staying in the big boring city when I look through the photos I took or when i write about funny anecdotes from our time on the road. Documenting a trip feels a lot like prolonging a trip, but also bringing closure to it, a way to close a chapter of my adventures with a happy ending so I can move on to the next one.
If you don’t have the patience or the passion to write, you can post your photos on Facebook or Instagram, or simply tell your friends about your trip over a nice cozy dinner at your favorite restaurant. The point is to share your story to anyone who’s willing to listen!
The more you hold on to that backpack, the harder it will be for you to get over the fact that you’re not on holiday anymore. The ironic thing for me is that in the beginning of a trip, my backpack is a symbol of freedom, of independence, of not being weighed down by my usual responsibilities and tasks and to-do lists, so that my life can be confined to something I can carry on my back on the way to a great adventure. But seeing my backpack in the corner of my room after a trip, a little dirtier than it once was and deemed useless in the "real world", a remnant from a trip that's already in the past, is always a little sad. So unpack, and neatly tuck away your backpack somewhere in the depths of your closet, while you look forward to your next trip with it.
Just be a grown-up about it.
Sometimes, I need to just kick myself into getting back to my “real world” routine. There are, after all, bills to pay and a job (not to mention a virtual pile of emails) that demands my attention. Often after the end of a trip I get tempted to ask nobody in particular why, WHY I am back in the city, sitting in front of my desk at the office, when I could be at the top of a Burmese or Cambodian temple ruin, or eating awesome galbi in front of a steel barrel turned grill, or jumping off a boat and swimming around freely, not a care in the world. There is no answer to these questions that will satisfy me, so I just suck it up and bide my time in the office until I remember what I love about my work again.
Plan your next trip.
This happens to me often, way too often – I’m on the road, halfway done with a trip, and already I’m planning my next adventure. Also, “Where to next?” seems to be easier to answer than “What the f*** am I doing back here?” when I’m sitting on my lonely office desk, and it assures me that traveling is a part of my life, of my regular routine. I may not commit to a lot of things but I do commit to my traveling!
Remind yourself of what you love about home.
Lazy Sundays spent at home or at a coffee shop make me love being back home. Sometimes I don’t feel like eating out or ordering in, and would rather take my time preparing my own meal, and that spells home to me (regardless of how good or bad the food I prepare turns out to be). When I start missing a dish I had from one of my trips, I sometimes try to recreate the dish at home, and it gives me a good sense of balance between my life on the road and my life at home. Going out with friends and family also help a whole lot! I make it a point to do the little and big things that make me happy at home after I’ve returned from a trip.
Do you ever get post travel stress disorder, and how do you get over it? I’d love to hear what you think!