You’ve got a major case of post-travel blues. Now what?

February 12, 2024

Travelling can have an enchanting allure like no other. Visiting far-flung places is a way to transport yourself into an alternate reality where worries seem nonexistent and responsibilities fade into the background. You may feel momentarily on top of the world as your days are packed with all kinds of adventures and new experiences.

But that high doesn’t last forever. In most cases, travel is temporary and the return home can bring an uneasy feeling. The back-to-reality moment can feel like a sudden jolt as the rose-tinted glasses come off. The euphoria many of us feel while travelling comes to a grinding halt and one question lingers: Now what?

I remember the bittersweet feelings that flooded over me after my first big solo trip to New Zealand. Returning home after six months of exploration brought its own set of challenges. It wasn't only that I had to find a job and a place to live, but I also had to readjust to a life that I’d temporarily left behind. I had a heavy sense of regret for booking a return flight and that inner struggle was compounded when my return home was met with a sense of disconnection. I felt like a whole new, worldly young lady, given the international friends I made and the rich cultural experiences I witnessed like seeing a Māori Haka dance. When I shared those with friends though, it seemed as though they couldn’t quite understand the gravity of my experiences nor did they seem to relate.

I felt like a wanderer amidst a sea of familiar faces. There was a stark contrast between my adventures abroad and returning to a place that didn’t seem to have changed while I was away. The disconnect was partly my fault, driven by youthful immaturity and a self-absorbed mindset, but despite it all, I felt different. I believe anyone, regardless of age or circumstance, can feel a significant comedown after unpacking that well-travelled backpack after a transformative journey.

Do you relate? If you’re nearly at the end of your travels or have already snapped back to reality but are daydreaming of far-off lands, these tips to navigate post-travel blues are for you.

Travel bags

1. Preserve memories by keeping a journal

Reflecting on my travels, I’m grateful that I kept a journal. From daily entries to sporadic venting sessions, it served as a therapeutic tool in the moment and now the pages are filled with memories I may have otherwise forgotten. Writing became a practice of capturing not just grand adventures, but also the beauty in simple observations—like passing by an elderly man singing to a giant macaw on his shoulder on a bustling, colourful street in northern Colombia. Writing was my therapy while away from home and now my journals are small capsules preserving special moments that might have otherwise faded away.

Of course, that’s a practice to commit to while travelling. But what about afterwards? If your travel journey has already concluded, try reflecting back on some of your favourite moments while they’re still fresh in your mind. Or, start journalling as a way to appreciate your home. The ability to find beauty in the mundane doesn’t have to be exclusive to exotic destinations. These precious moments exist in your everyday surroundings if you look closely enough. This practice can feel like a lot of effort when things feel dull and unnoteworthy but soon you may notice yourself finding joy in seemingly ordinary experiences.

2. Create a photo album

Instagram grids and story highlights are great, but there’s something about a physical photo album. (Does this make me sound ancient, or… am I right?) I’ve been harbouring the idea of creating a travel photo album for roughly eight years because I think it would be amazing to have tangible, physical documentation of the incredible memories I created abroad. I’m still holding on tight to this dream so let’s hope that I can make this goal actually come to fruition.

Despite not having a physical photo album (YET!), simply scrolling through my digital trove of 20,000 photos from the past decade often gives me the nostalgic escape I need. Like the time a group of friends and I followed two street dogs as they led us to a turtle sanctuary in Koh Tao, Thailand. Plus, with the cloud, preserving a great deal of images is far less stressful compared to back in the day when I guarded my external hard drive like it was a precious gem. Much like a written journal, this is a solid way to remember dates and places that I may have forgotten otherwise. Still, the thought of the cloud going *poof* goodbye one day makes me anxious. Hence my intention to print the best of my photo collection.

Photo travels

3. Keep in touch with fellow travellers

Leaving a place can be tough. That’s especially the case when your departure is intertwined with farewells to special people you've met along the way. Tearful goodbyes can feel far too frequent, and the thought of possibly never seeing someone again can make you feel gutted and forlorn. However, these bonds—forged through a shared sense of wanderlust—can transcend physical location. For this reason, social media and instant messaging or calling apps are a beautiful thing. I feel so fortunate to be able to message a friend living across the globe within seconds. I mean written letters are great and all, but could you even imagine relying on those as a main mode of communication?!

While the thought of never seeing someone again can be emotionally taxing, the shared sense of adventure often makes the possibility of reuniting very achievable… or even likely! From personal experience, I can attest that making the effort to see someone again is indeed possible, no matter the distance. When I moved to Revelstoke in 2018, I shared a house with a friend I made in Australia three years prior. Sometimes it really is a small world.

4. Cultivate a savings mindset

To satiate the ever-persistent desire to travel (whether a grand backpacking trip is on the horizon or not) channel that energy into planning or saving for future trips. When another trip is still in the distant future, these actions can be like the light at the end of a tunnel. Start by creating a detailed plan or initiating a savings fund for future adventures. This will help you stay focused on travels and adventures to come. Your future self will thank you, plus this is a way to make travel part of your lifestyle even when you’re not boarding a flight or checking out new destinations abroad.

5. Play tourist at home

If international travel seems far off, becoming a tourist in your own country offers a refreshing perspective. Plan a road trip, a weekend getaway, or indulge in outdoor activities like hiking, camping, cycling, or rock climbing. Embrace new hobbies to expand your horizons, ensuring that the wonderment of discovery remains alive, even in the familiarity of your present surroundings. How might a foreigner see your neighbourhood? Can you try to see it through their eyes?

When the post-travel blues threaten to overshadow your daily life, remember that the journey continues even when the destination changes. Make an effort to avoid sinking into a lifestyle that doesn't feel fulfilling. Embrace change with an open and curious mind. By writing little memos to yourself, staying in touch with distant friends, planning for future fun, connecting with new people, seeking out different experiences, and approaching life with curiosity, you can navigate the lull after the grand adventure by making a conscious effort to enjoy the present, not just the past.

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