Post Travel Depression – is it really a thing?

November 21, 2017

Amy Trumpeter

Post Travel Depression – it hit me within 24 hours of my return. The overwhelming negativity that follows you around like a black cloud. The invisible lead weights that appear to be dragging your limbs down, with every step feeling like walking through water.

Then I started to hate everything – the house, the job, my life. Everything is shit. Why is everything so shit?

But, lets look at this rationally – things aren’t really that shit at all. I have a nice house, a nice partner, a nice job. It’s just the returning to that same stressful and monotonous life after an amazing 48 hours in Edinburgh that is the problem.

This is then exacerbated by the fact that it’s October, SAD has sent in along with the cold and dark evenings, and the fact that when I open my diary…..there are no more trips planned!

Is Post Travel Depression Really a Thing?

I recently asked around, and found that a lot of travel bloggers seem to suffer from this kind of ‘post travel depression’. It seems actually quite normal to have a ‘come-down’ after a high on a trip.

No-one else you see back in your home town or usual working environment (unless you are 100% digital nomad!) understands where you are coming from when you go on about the spices of the Marrakech Souks, or the amazement of seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland. They stare back blankly. ‘They just don’t get it’, you think to yourself.

 

I’m pretty sure that ‘post travel depression’ doesn’t affect everyone. Many people look forward to their family and their home comforts when returning from an international trip. But people do report ‘post travel depression’ or at least depressive symptoms, particularly following extended periods of international travel. Flippin’ heck, I get it even after a weekend away, it seems!

What is Post Travel Depression?

Although the ‘holiday blues’ is extremely common, post travel depression for some people can be so severe that they find it almost impossible to return to what society classes as ‘normal everyday life’. By this, I mean running a house, having a 9-5 job, being in a stable relationship with a long term partner. Although I recognise that these things aren’t ‘normal’ for everyone, they are often what society labels as ‘normal’.

Post travel depression in a nutshell is depression or a depressive episode immediately following the return from a trip. This could be longer term than just a day or two, and echoes symptoms of depression including tiredness and lethargy, aching muscles, negative thinking and even other physical symptoms such as difficulty eating or sleeping.

 

So why do we get post travel depression? It’s clear that return to reality is an issue for many of us. Maybe the root of the problem is not coming home after a trip, but coming home to a life that has been forced upon you, doesn’t suit you, or that you just down right don’t want?

Whilst I’m not saying that coming home from travel causes depression in everyone, I do recognise that if someone was returning from an international trip to a life that is, well, shall we say, not quite what you want on a daily basis, this can certainly be a trigger for a major depressive episode in people prone to depression.

How can we deal with Post Travel Depression?

Most depression is caused by suppressing feelings or not moving towards what you want. This can be compounded by past traumatic or unstable events in your life. Post Travel Depression could simply be short term, and subside after a few weeks or months as things return to normality.

If the post travel depression is temporary and soon subsides, you may simply be re-adjusting to a different rhythm of life. Sometimes, you just need to give things time and get back to a routine.

However, if it is longer term or recurring, you really should explore whether there are any issues beneath this that need exploring with a counsellor or therapist.

My top tips for dealing with post travel depression are:

  • Remind yourself of the good things that you are coming home to., Maybe your house, a special friend, or your favourite coffee shop.
  • Get up and have a shower and breakfast first thing – it will have a positive impact on your day.
  • Keep on doing things, even when you feel like you don’t want to. Empty your bag and do your laundry. Load the dishwasher. When you are ready, catch up with old friends, but only when you know that you are up to it.
  • Talk to people you relate to. For me, it helps to talk to other travel bloggers and share ideas or future plans.
  • Get a counsellor, even if it’s just to talk things through every now and again. You will be surprised about how it gives you head space when you offload.
  • Explore the issues that are really at heart when you come home – relationships, finances, family, home situation. There could be something underlying that you need to solve.
  • It may just be that you are meant to be on the road. My top cure for post travel depression? Book yourself another trip! Having something to look forward to always adds meaning to your life, whether that’s something at home or away.

Retro Travel Planning

Have you ever suffered from post travel depression? How did it feel? How did you cope? Please share your comments so that we can support each other.

If you are interested in issues to do with travel and mental health, you might also like to read about airport anxiety and Limiting Travel Anxiety – my pre-travel check list.