I remember the first time I truly experienced post-travel blues — I was in college and had just spent five months living and studying abroad in Ghana, West Africa. It was, and continues to be, one of the best experiences of my life.
To go from fast-paced, assertive New York City to an environment that was so different from what I knew was jarring, challenging and ultimately amazing. When it was time to return to New York, I remember sitting on the plane staring out the window while the man next to me asked where I was off to.
“New York,” I mumbled despondently.
“Wow, you must be so excited,” he replied with what I saw at the time as an unnecessary amount of enthusiasm, but I know he meant well.
I wasn’t excited; I was sad. I knew those last five months were over and could never be replicated again. And when I returned to New York, the sadness continued. Everything moved too quickly, no one took the time to say hello and chat like they did whenever I would walk down the streets of my Ghanaian neighborhood, I could no longer ride my bike down the street to meet a friend and I no longer saw the same 34 faces on a daily basis.
That’s the thing about travel: every time feels amazing but you’re also aware those moments with those specific people won’t ever happen again in the same way.
I secluded myself from most people who had not been with me in Ghana because I knew they could not understand why I was so distraught. It took a few weeks for me to get back into the swing of things, but eventually I did. Before I knew it, I was off to study abroad again, this time in Paris, where I had another unforgettable experience.
That’s the thing about travel: every time feels amazing but you’re also aware those moments with those specific people won’t ever happen again in the same way. For me, that knowledge means that every time I return from a vacation, I am grateful for the experience but always a little sad that another adventure is over.
To combat that sadness, I have found there are a few things I do to help me readjust to daily life and look forward to what’s next:
Start Planning Another Trip
Research has shown that the anticipation of something — whether it's a trip, get together with friends or some other activity — makes us happy. I can say from personal experience that I love the anticipation of a trip, and I love planning my next adventure. Some people would rather not be bothered, but for me planning another trip, even if it's a day trip out of the city, always fills me with excitement, purpose and, yes, anticipation. From looking up a destination online to talking to someone about a place you're interested in visiting, planning a vacation or outing will help you remember that life is full of many adventures and we should look forward to each one that comes our way.
Be a Tourist in Your Own City
Too often we think we need to go far to discover new things when truth be told, there are ways to be a tourist in your own backyard. I live in New York City, so I'm aware there's always something new to do, even after 11 years of living here. But for those who live in small towns, there are still ways for you to discover hidden gems you never knew about or even revisit local attractions that you often take for granted. These days of discovery and wandering are what help you remember to stop and enjoy the little things, whether they're a five-minute drive away or in a completely different country.
Create Something Visual
A good friend of mine used to create these really beautiful, detailed scrapbooks after each trip she took. Another friend who is passionate about photography puts up online galleries of curated and edited photos. Me? I have this website as well as the 10 billion photo albums I love posting on my personal Facebook profile. Whatever you decide to do, put your energy into creating something visual that will help you remember how great a time you had on your trip. One of my favorite things to do is look at old travel photos, not with sadness but with a happy nostalgia and gratitude that I got to experience those moments.
This may go without saying, but if you're sad and suffering from post-travel blues, you should not isolate yourself for too long because that's not going to help anyone. Instead, meet up with your friends and, if they want to hear all about your trip or they've been to the same places as you, it gives you the opportunity to reminisce while still enjoying the company of a friend. Getting back into your social life will also help you remember what you love about being home.
Though I don't look forward to post-travel blues, I think these feelings reaffirm my love of travel and desire to always explore. I also know that, while I can never recreate what I've experienced so far, I can make room for more great travel experiences along the way. These moments are what I will look back on and be grateful were such an integral part of my life.