Post-Trip Depression– What It’s Like to Return Home After Long-Term Travel

post trip depression and what it's like
What it’s like to return home after long-term travel

Turns out that a year-and-a-half is a long time to be away from home. A year-and-a-half– that’s 18 months or 78 weeks or 547 days… I never thought I’d make it that far.

My decision to return home was on a whim as I had left a lot of unfinished business in America. If I wanted to continue a life of travel, there were things that needed to be tended to.

So I hopped on the next plane to the U.S. of A. and surprised my family and friends– I didn’t expect the post-trip depression to accompany it.

It’s all so exciting when you arrive: family and friends you haven’t seen, foods you haven’t eaten, luxuries like mom’s home cooking (by the way, have you ever realized how big the grocery stores are?)… but then it comes back to you like you’re remembering another life that you forgot existed, a flashback of a past suppressed by your need to fit in again. You realize that you don’t know what music is out and you’re behind on the times, that you don’t know what movies are popular or what new shows exist, that apps are developed for your ease of life and that you use Yelp to figure out what’s the best place to eat at. You forget what it’s like to lounge around on the couch and watch Rob Dyrdek show videos of people doing dumb shit, that body image is a big deal to people, that nice hair and nice clothes matter.Post-trip depression and what it's like

Post-trip depression, as it turns out, is a real thing and I was experiencing it. Nothing made sense to me. I spent $40 +tip on a haircut to make myself feel beautiful again, then I went and spent some more money on clothing that would be acceptable to walk around in. Not my beach bum dresses, my bum sweatpants, my tank tops, or yesterday’s clothes… I felt out of place and I needed to feel normalcy again. What was I doing before I left? How did I fit in before? Flashes of me motorbiking through Vietnam would come before my eyes; of me cheering the Japanese, meeting elders and learning their language; of skinny dipping in Koh Rong, playing chess, and having meaningful conversations. Did that happen? Did I do that?

Life after travel will eventually feel normal again, but the first couple of weeks it’s like I’m waking up from a coma. People have questions about what it was like, but don’t actually care to hear the full answer. I’ve gotten used to not giving it because it kills me to see the disinterest in the eyes of those who haven’t yet left their hometowns. The excitement of seeking out new places, the passion for meeting new people and engaging in conversation with strangers, the thrill of moving from place to place when you don’t understand the language being spoken around you, and the awe-inspiring moments that literally take your breath away and all you can say is “holy shit”… It lives deep inside me and I can’t express it because while I was out doing these things my friends and family were at home busting their asses to pay for their apartments, TVs, or new cars. I can’t talk about it because it sounds like I’m bragging, like the place that I had previously made home is no longer good enough for me.

While home will always be home to me, in short, it really is no longer good enough for me. When you realize just what you are capable of, you don’t want to go back to your old self that binge-watched Netflix, sobbed over boys, dressed up on weekends, drank shots after shots, endured a hangover. Rinse. Lather. Repeat. After 18 months away from my comfort zone and everything that I knew, I’m a changed person. There’s a fire in me and I don’t want to lose it.

Post-trip depression and what it's likeTwo weeks back in the States and I still haven’t lost that fire. I refuse to revert back to my old ways because if I do then my travels will have been for nothing. I will have learned nothing. 

If you’ve ever returned from a long-term travel, then you’ll understand that feeling of longing for the road again. All we can do now is count down the days until our next travel adventure, wherever the road is willing to take us.  

One thought on “Post-Trip Depression– What It’s Like to Return Home After Long-Term Travel

  1. This was a good post–and made me scared for my upcoming extended visit home this summer. Something that stuck with me was when you mentioned was that people ask about your travels, but don’t actually want to hear the answer. This was something I was told before coming back from a 2-month mission trip before: people will ask how it was, but don’t want the details. We were told to have a one or two sentence line about how it was to not get discouraged. Then, if people wanted to know more, we could share more.

    Hope that you get more used to things! But I’m imagining it’s hard to walk away from a life into another life.

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