Post Travel Blues: 5 Stages of Returning from a Trip

Just a heads up that this post contains affiliate links. Affiliate links are great in that you can grab the product at no extra cost to you, but I get a teeny-tiny percentage of that sale (its like getting recognition for advertising services  I already love!)

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.

More reading:  To Myanmar, With Love

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?
Posted in Budget Travel, How To, Personal - null, Story, Travel, Trip Planning and tagged , , , , , , , .


  1. I def unpack asap, BUT I also dont do the photos for a while! Been back from Cali since the first week in Sept and need to get the photos off my camera. Last year we went to Hawaii for 3 weeks. Coming back was rough on the jet lag and the return to normal life!

  2. If only I could learn the skill that is quickly unpacking. For some reason, I always wait until the very last minute to pack and then live out of a suitcase for weeks after getting home. But when I finally do unpack, it’s usually followed by attempting to plan a drivable weekend trip to absolutely anywhere else. LOL.

  3. Oh I hate post trip laundry! I’m such a shocker at unpacking! It’s not unusual
    For me to unpack when it’s time for a new trip

  4. There is less sadness, when your ‘ordinary’ life is great too. When I have great friends at work, which I also enjoy, it’s not as bad as when there are fewer friends there. It’s like you’re coming back from a great life to also a great life. You just have to accept that travel bliss by its nature, is transient. Everyone goes back to their lives. Occasionally, sometimes, maybe, someone might choose to stay in yours. And that would be the best thing ever (I’m also the kind who loves to ‘keep’ people I like).

    I cope with the transition period by having a well-run house. It does help, because you basically drop in, and everything works – you have clothes ready to go for work, you have a grocery shop timed just right to get your kitchen going again. And all of that sort of thing. And then the photos – I like looking at the photos and sharing them on FB with the people I met.

  5. THIS IS THE MOST RELATABLE POST I’VE READ IN A REALLY LONG TIME!! I legit go through all of these stages – especially not being able to edit my photos right away. (To combat this, as it often aids in lack of productivity – I’ve been trying to edit as I go on my trips, easier said than done). I also don’t typically watch sad TV but I’ve definitely gotten in the habit of hibernating with the “don’t talk to me attitude” and netflix for at least two days after a trip.

    • Gah thank you! Love your stuff, so fangirled little here lol. Yeah, I need to edit a bit more as I go… I just got into using Lightroom and all the options are a little overwhelming (which really just means that I need to prioritize creating presets and*then* work on photos probably)

  6. Withdrawal symptoms! Yeah! Coming back from a vacation is tough to deal with. I know, it is hard for everyone, but for some, it is harder than usual and admittedly, I’m one of those people. It is the hardest when we come back from a vacation that is so meaningful and powerful that it essentially changes our lives.
    I know I’m officially coming out off withdrawal when I can begin to get excited about my next trip. Why wallow when I can busy myself counting down to my next big adventure?
    Coping strategies are more or less same like yours – unpacking as soon as I get back, gymming, buying groceries and fresh fruits and vegetables from farmers market and of course indulging in good sleep 🙂


  7. I totally agree!! Photos are a horrible way to remind me I’m home but it’s also a great way for me to look back and reminisce about the good times! I usually skip the fancy lunch or coffee because I’m too broke from my holiday! ?

  8. I love how you described the feeling of coming home after a trip. It is exactly on point. I wrote a post about post-travel depression (that’s what I call it because it actually does mimick depression) and how to deal with it. But it’s still hard until you get to stage 4 and plot your return! Hahaha

    • Absolutely… its such a weird feeling that I feel like other travellers understand,but trying to describe it to friends/family who don’t explore often, it goes right over their heads. Feel free to share the link to your post- I would love to read it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.