It’s time to finally talk about it. Many – if not all – fellow travellers experience something that I call the Post Travel Depression (PTD) at least once during their life. This is an undoubtedly existing negative feeling of the nomad who arrives home after a great adventure. I honestly believe there is no one solution to get over it as we all work differently, but I will attempt to help most of you to at least grasp a better understanding of it.
When it hits you
Simply put, you just finished a potentially life changing trip and now you are back at home trying to find the old or a new routine. You can’t find your place where you used to feel comfortable, you don’t seem to connect with people anymore and for the first time you experience loneliness in the environment you grew up in. You feel lost, a little confused and down some days.
Cause – During travelling you expose yourself to constant, very intense and brand new stimuli. Each day is different, every place is new, the people you meet are the most wonderful and surprising who you have ever met, you suddenly increase your learning pace, your mind opens up, you talk about topics you never discussed before and just when you are on the top of your emotional and intellectual Mount Everest it all comes to an end.
Well, congratulations! You just began the most important journey of your life; self discovery. No wonder why some of us feel hugely overwhelmed, lost, depressed. Travelling is like a mirror repeatedly asking you what the hell do you want to do with your life? You can no longer ignore the fact that you have some inner work to do. It no longer feels comfortable to follow your old routine because it wasn’t making you happy. Why else did you leave at the first place?
Olympic gold – You don’t seem to find common ground with your people anymore. Well guess what, it is because in the Olympic games of self-discovery, you just broke the records of everyone you know. Imagine how all your friends and family were more or less running neck to neck. Exposing yourself to all the stimuli travelling brings you, basically you have taken steroids. Of course it will be hard to be understood when they have never taken these substances.
Loneliness – This is tricky because you are actually never alone, but you feel this way. Good news here, that sooner or later you will discover the people like you who share your feelings, subsequently you are not alone. That is your community. That is where you belong. It might not be a physical place, but rather a mindset and occasional encounter on the road. Your home is the world and your neighbours could be countries away.
Recipe to avoid PTD
Don’t. Can’t. Shouldn’t. Why? PTD is the ultimate indicator when your inner work begins. Recognise its presence and understand this is crucial to start asking the hard questions like; What is my life all about? Where do I go? What do I want? What makes me happy?
The aim is never to avoid PTD but rather to go through it.
Life after PTD
As I said, it is hard to generalise as not all of us experience it and those who do, do it differently. My personal experience is that I always did. Each time I arrived home – wherever it was at any given time – I felt down because the magic and the freedom was gone. The realisation that my otherwise ‘normal’ life is boring was hard to digest, especially because it wasn’t. So what to do when an exciting life starts to feel boring?
What I concluded is that PTD never really went away because I was always at the wrong place. The wrong relationship, the wrong job, the wrong apartment – the wrong mindset. Only just now I came to connect the decisions with emotions: I was not happy. Seriously have you ever experienced the following: when your relationships are going well, you just expect work collapsing on you. Or the otherway around when work is terrific, getting a promotion and dummmm your car breaks or your mother flips out and ruins your day. You must have thought you can’t have it all, when one area of your life is up, the other is down. Does it have to then follow through?
We are all too scared of facing the truth, to investigate the roots of our unhappiness until subconsciously we do. Traveller after traveller reports the exact same thing. Once they left, they started fresh. It is when they were free to dream and to think, is when they understood they desperately needed a change. When the nomads are on the road there is no mom, dad step sister and best friend to second guess your every thought and dream. You also meet the right examples who dared, who dreamt, who did and who achieved. On your return falling back in your old routine is almost impossible, but definitely unnecessary.
Starting from scratch
When society tells me to go to univeristy, obtain my degree, get an entry level position and work my way up just to be able to afford bricks that I will pay for over 20 years don’t mind me if I ask, hmmm? I did try this paved path and failed. Never finished university, quit all my jobs, 4 of them which my parents loved bragging about, dumped my plans on ever investing in my own bricks and cleaned the canvas. Old plans by a world that does not suit me scrapped.
Of course you feel lost, you have been drawing on this canvas since early childhood and now it’s empty. The best thing about a clean canvas is that you can draw whatever you want and having gained wisdom, you will draw the right picture this time. The work of art that suits you best. Your mom wouldn’t necessarily hang it in the living room at first, but when she sees you being happier than ever, she will hang it outside to everyone to see. At least if you check my mom’s Facebook, that is exactly what happened.
Welcome to …….. (insert your first name here)
The post travel depression is the start – I believe – to something much more wonderful and rewarding as travelling the world. Visiting places in your inner world is not well advertised in our society. You can’t take breathtaking pictures to brag about on Facebook therefore it’s a less known and visited destination, but impacts your life on a level no London bridge will.
Not everyone who goes through PTD dreams about becoming a full time nomad, but adventuring is a door opened in your inner self. The more you see of the world, the more you realise it is a small place and perceptions start shifting. Prepare for an earthquake as the physical world shrinks and your inner expands.
I believe each tool is intended to do great things and you choose what you use them for. Travelling is a tool that can cause a little damage first before it heals you. PTD is one of the damaging experiences until you understand why you are going through it. Instead of looking for a solution to get rid of it, enjoy the transition, the learning, the self discovery.
Are you hooked?
On a side note, I would like to address the phenomenon of getting seriously addicted to travelling. As you might have noticed, that includes me, so speaking from a personal experience I learnt a few things; don’t fight it, you want to go? Go. If you don’t go, you will be miserable. If you have a constant need to go, but you have obligations like a job, maybe it’s time to transform your overall lifestyle, explore digital nomad work opportunities. It is never too late for a career change and to educate yourself in something new that better accommodates your travel addiction.
Always having to go back to a life you no longer enjoy just to be able to finance your true life will lead you to find an exit one way or another. It is like hoping your boyfriend will change, will start to listen more and become attentive. No he won’t and the sooner you accept that the better.
Cause and effect
To generalise my takeaway from travelling, watch out for patterns in emotions, behaviours and decisions. They play key importance in your understanding yourself better. You deserve the best, the life you always dreamt of, the money you always wanted to earn and the happiness you always craved, but you must recognise the signs all around you and link them to your inner world.
Remember the story I told you about me being in the wrong place? That means moving countries and consequently changing jobs each year over 6 years. I used to misidentify it as the adventurous spirit. Bullshit. That was a pattern screaming you are not happy. Now think a bit about your life. If you feel it could be better try to find patterns.
On final note, I asked my good friend Lisa, from Australia – who is also travel addicted – to tell you what it means to her to live from a backpack even though she had the life most of us hope to live:
“I’ve secured a career in my chosen field, live in a great country and I’m financially stable, yet I’m not satisfied in that routine and continually yearn to travel. Many people think I’m crazy for quitting good jobs and continually hopping on a plane – they don’t understand the need to travel.
Travel makes me happy and transforms me into the best person I can be. I’m brave and more confident, independent and strong. I don’t seek anything else when I travel. I have no need for material possessions – only the need to pursue new experiences and challenge myself.” – Lisa Owens, The Little Adventurer travel blogger and PR specialist who travelled over 45 countries in 8 years, currently preparing for a 6 months trip.
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