A phenomenon experienced by many people but rarely expressed, post-travel depression has become a habit for me every time I return to France. Although it can be frightening, I can assure you that it has happened to all the travelers and friends I know, and that it’s completely normal. Here’s an explanation of the feeling and some advice on how to cope.

What is Post-Travel Depression?

Sad dog in post-travel depression post
Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Also known as reverse culture shock, it’s what many travelers feel when they return from a trip, whether long or short. It can be difficult to adjust to everyday life, and you often feel out of place.

Personally, I find it harder to integrate in my own country than abroad, and I know that many of my friends feel the same way. One of the reasons is that many people tend not to talk about it, mainly because their friends, family or acquaintances don’t understand or really care about them.

So you can sometimes suffer from depression, and that’s normal. If you’re wondering why you feel the way you do, the answer is quite simple.

After experiencing the famous saying “is the grass greener somewhere else?” as well as a different way of life, your values, priorities and way of seeing the world may have changed radically.
Travel broadens your horizons, makes you more open-minded and gives you a taste of true freedom.

Returning home is a real shock, because you’ve changed so much, and readjusting to a “normal” life can be a real challenge.

What are the symptoms?

Post-travel depression

Depending on the individual, you may experience different “symptoms”. These are the most common among the travelers I’ve met:

1. Loneliness

Even if you’re surrounded by friends and family, as I said earlier, you’ll often feel out of place and therefore very alone. It’s as if you were a stranger in your own country, and understandably so, because you’ve probably discovered a different culture and got used to a different way of life.

2. You’re the only one who’s changed

Since you’ve left your comfort zone and traveled to destinations sometimes the antipodes of what you knew before, your way of thinking and living has most likely evolved, for the better. But returning home can often be frustrating, especially when your point of view on so many things has changed. This usually leads to misunderstandings and sometimes arguments between you and your friends/family who don’t “recognize” you.

3. Nobody wants to know about your travels

This may be a bit harsh to say, but it’s true half the time. Of course, not everyone is like that, and people can be eager to hear your stories too. Just keep in mind that people can’t really relate to something they haven’t experienced themselves, so they sometimes prefer not to hear about it.
There’s also the fact that you may be afraid of sounding a little arrogant when you tell people about your travels, which sometimes prevents us from saying anything about it if we’re not asked.

4. Lack of understanding of your lifestyle

This is especially true when you like to travel for a long time or live in a different country for a while. People don’t understand why you leave your home country and your comfortable routine to try something else elsewhere.

5. Boredom

Tasting new dishes, getting lost in the streets of Hanoi, speaking a different language – all of this will lead to boredom when you get home. And what could be more natural when you’re used to adventures and discoveries every day?
Compared to this, your daily routine will seem boring, to say the least, and you’ll need time to adapt.

6. Difficulty of adaptation

Some travelers I’ve interviewed about post-travel depression have told me that it’s like a return to reality. Their trip was actually like a pleasant, fun dream, and now they had to go back to their less fun routine.
I think it’s mostly having to readjust to everyday life and the stress that comes with it (work, money, loans…).

7. You can’t wait to travel again

After so many adventures, you usually go home with the idea of booking another trip sooner or later, and can’t wait to explore another part of the world. And even if you’ve had a few mishaps on your last trip, you tend to forget them and remember only the good memories, because the urge to go again is stronger than anything.

Ways to cope

"You got this" sign on post travel depression post
Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

Remember that this is just a phase, that each person has his or her own rhythm, and that time will eventually take care of itself. Here are a few tips to ease the transition:

1. Don’t compare

This may be difficult, especially at first, but don’t start listing all the differences between the countries you’ve traveled to and your home country. This will only increase your feelings of depression and make your readjustment more difficult.

2. Keep busy

This is one of the most important things, if you ask me. To avoid reverse culture shock as much as possible, you need to keep your mind off your trip. The solution: get out, meet your friends, exercise, read…, as long as you stay busy.

3. Embrace your new self

Don’t try to fight the fact that you’ve changed, it’s a good thing and you shouldn’t try to go back to the old you just to please some people.

4. Surround yourself with like-minded people

If your friends understand you, all the better, but don’t forget that you’ve met some amazing people abroad, so keep in touch and share your stories with them. You can also seek out expats living in your city and hang out with them, as they’ll be more likely to understand you, give you advice and be interested in your stories.

5. Have a goal in mind

In any case, having a clear goal in mind is a great way of focusing on something else and fighting depression.

> My last words will be to remind you that you’re not alone and that the feeling of depression can seem like an endless black hole, but it’s not! You’ll get through it and once you do, you’ll know just how strong you are (if you don’t already). So be patient, confident and never give up!

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6 Comments

  1. Oh my gosh! Thank you for this. I always feel a sense of sadness when I return from a trip for many of the reasons you explained. This helped me feel validated and I will be putting these tips to use the next time I return from vacation

  2. Good reading. When I return from a trip I am ready for another trip lol…I always feel like I did not take enough pictures or I miss looking at more places!!

    1. Hi Elaine, I feel you 😊 As soon as I board the plane it’s like I already miss the place and I just can’t wait to explore another destination! Thanks for sharing!

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