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If you've ever taken a course in psychology, you likely recognize the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance (or shortened to DABDA). I'm here to tell you that there is a special kind of sadness that comes along with returning home after amazing trip. The post travel blues are very real and they can hit very hard. Everyone has experienced this to some extent, I'm sure - though coping with emotions is unique to each person.
So without anymore yammering from me, here are my five stages of post-trip grieving (and some tips to cope!).
1. Don't talk to me
I don't know if I'm alone in this, but I don't want to talk to anyone when I get back from a great trip. Sadness and a wee bit of anger sit just under the surface and by keeping my mouth shut, I'm usually able to suppress the impulse to lash out.
Yes,coming home from Coolplace, Somewherefar one would think that a traveller might want to spill their guts immediately, but generally I don't want to talk about it.
Pro tip: hide behind "being tired" or "jetlagged" to get out of basically any type of conversation.
In this instance, I can honestly say "it's not you, it's me." I just got back from somewhere I loved doing something fun with cool, brand new friends - and I just need a few hours/days to adjust to the reality that I am not there, they are not here, and I'm not doing those cool things.
Given space, I'm usually agreeable to conversations 48ish hours post-return. Unless....
1a. Wine and sad tv.
...there was a guy.
I hate to admit this- but it's true. I have gone on trips where I met some amazing guy and was totally emotionally wrecked when I got home. Sometimes you just need to drink wine from the bottle and watch that Grey's Anatomy episode where Meredith says "pick me, choose me, love me" multiple times. When the wine is gone, so must be the feelings.
2. I HATE my closet
I've talked to a lot of other travellers who have had this same issue, but the impulse to purge most of my wardrobe is very, very strong when I come home from a trip. I want to get rid of everything I own and have a micro-wardrobe (or do whatever it is that Jobs and Zuck do). If I lived out a backpack for X days- I should be able to pare down- right?!
The reality sets in and I know I can't get rid of much because (a) I have a full-time job and need an appropriate wardrobe, and (b) crazy, swinging Massachusetts seasons mean I need a varied wardrobe to survive the elements.
This tapers off after about a week back at work.
3. Ignoring my pictures
I have a hard time bringing myself to review and edit photos right after a trip. Its a big reminder that I'm home. Because I know they'll aggravate my post travel blues, it takes a lot to force myself to deal with them - to the point where I have some images from a few years ago that haven't really been dealt with. Returning from a trip is hard enough- looking at all the happy memories too soon can just make the feeling that much worse.
If I'm feeling motivated, I'll get it done within a couple of weeks.
4. Plotting my return
After the sadness, irritation, and utter denial over being back to my normal life have worn off - then comes the unbridled determination to go back to wherever it is that I just returned from. I spend way too much time on airline websites to see how and when I can get back to my beloved (destination). SkyScanner, CheapO Air, and Expedia homepages become basically burned into my retinas.
For those trips where great people are also involved, this step usually includes Facebook stalking them a little bit, too.
5. Recipe planning
The final stage of the return will probably be a little different for everyone, but is trying really hard to norm and do things I love. I love cooking, grocery shopping, and basically all things food. When I'm trying to cope with being home and in the throes of the post travel blues, I fight to feel normal - and normal for me is being in the kitchen. I will invariably wind up with FAR more meals prepped than can be safely consumed in a week; so I've started forcing myself to make at least one of those meals something that can be frozen.
All glibness aside...
Notice that there is no"acceptance" at the end like there is with DABDA. I don't really ever accept that I'm home. What I do do is I work. I bust ass to pay off the previous trip and start saving up for the next one.
Coming home is the hardest part that no one seems to want to talk about. It's a weird brand of depression; feeling as though you did come back refreshed and renewed, but also that you don't know how to move about your normal space and daily life any more. Though not being one for drugs, I would assume this might be something like coming down from an intense high.
How to cope with the post travel blues:
I've got a few tips that you can do to force yourself to do in order to try to keep the bad feelings in check.
- Unpack ASAP. Before I even start my journey home, when packing up, I make sure to keep it organized enough that it'll be super painless to unpack (to be honest, most of the stuff goes straight to the laundry bin).
- A good, long sleep. Either go to bed early, or sleep in - being tired and overwhelmed is an emotionally dangerous combination.
- Move your body. Especially after a long flight itinerary, I get back to the gym immediately. The session may just be me trudging along on the treadmill and stretching for 20 minutes, but at least I went. And I need all the endorphins my body can create.
- Treats. I don't like spending money when I come back from a trip - every dollar should be going to pay it off, right? Nah - not exactly. Again, I force myself to go out and get a fancy coffee or grab lunch at a food truck. It seems counterintuitive, but those little treats really make a difference in my mood (especially on work days).
- Have you experienced that post travel blues?
- How do you cope with "getting back to normal" after a great trip?
- What is your favorite "pick-me-up" treat when you're feeling down?