There is nothing quite like the anticipation high we get before going on vacation.
Carefree days, late (and alcohol-fueled) nights, and so many great adventures with friends and family.
But then a couple days before vacation’s end – cue the Jaws theme – that sense of dread and sadness starts to wash over us and it really sucks.
Yep, returning to our stressful, monotonous lives after tasting freedom and living without a care in the world is one of the worst feelings ever.
In fact, there’s an actual mental health label for it – post-travel depression.
Notice it’s not called “post-vacation” depression because, let’s face it, we still get kind of a break from the monotony even if we’re traveling for work.
Plus, there’s always the mini bar and someone to clean up after you.
It really sucks…
Medical experts say that post-travel depression can even bring on symptoms associated with long-term clinical depression – lethargy, sadness, lack of interest in activities, and loss of appetite.
It’s not that we hate our everyday lives, but they are our every–single–day lives – and most of us need more than a week away before we even feel a difference and begin to decompress.
Sometimes, we want to run away and never come back.
Although we may be generally happy with our home and work lives, this crappy feeling may last for days – or weeks – after returning home.
And since doctors actually identify post-travel depression as a real condition, they also have some tips for getting back to “normal.”
There’s a reason it’s called “wanderlust.”
Part of the reason we get depressed when we return home from traveling – especially after an incredible adventure or dream vacation – is that human beings generally like to learn and explore.
And most of us crave change once in awhile, and part of that change is not being our everyday selves and doing our everyday things all of the time.
Traveling allows us to explore, try new things, and lighten up a little bit.
We like who we are when we get away from the day-to-day. We don’t enjoy being overwhelmed and stressed-out all the time.
And we miss who we were during that brief moment in time while we were gone!
So it may come as no surprise that experts say the first thing to do to help alleviate post-travel depression is to….
Plan another trip!
Who cares if your bank account is drained and you don’t have any more time off until next year?
You don’t have to book anything yet, but looking online and making a mental commitment to yourself about where you’re going next gives you something to look forward to.
And on that note, you should also plan other small things to look forward to in the days after you return – lunch with a friend, a drive to the mountains over the weekend, or – if you’re me, the next household renovation project.
If you don’t want to get back in that everyday rut again, there’s nothing like a change of scenery.
Even going somewhere new in your neck of the woods (or walking into your no longer hideous kitchen) can boost the spirits.
Vacation is also a freeing experience because we aren’t as hard on ourselves when we’re away. Forget the diet… drink up… no workout today – you’re on vacation!
Vacation is the number one societally-approved excuse for giving up on your goals of practicing good habits.
When you do get back home, you’re cranky because you’ve got to be a well-behaved adult again. It stinks to go back to work, eat kale after binging on fried food, and go back to the gym.
Your routine was interrupted—and you liked it!
So another helpful tip is to give yourself a couple of guilt-free days while you readjust to the everyday grind. Take a short walk for a few days before plowing into your five-mile daily run.
And eat what you want until next Monday.
Another few days won’t hurt.
And while you’re at it (and if you can get away with it), give yourself a couple of days to decompress from all that happiness before returning back to work.
There is nothing worse than getting home late after a week away and having to get up at 4 am to commute to the office. That’s enough to suck the soul out of anyone.
If a tree falls in the woods…
Your friends and family won’t like me much for this, but it helps to share your travel stories.
Reconnect to those carefree days by sharing your photos and memories. Don’t forget to post every single moment on Facebook and Instagram.
Afterall, if everyone you know (or barely know) doesn’t see everything you did on your trip, did it really happen?
Keeping a travel diary or journal with thoughts and photos is also a great idea. I know, I know – you’re not into that hippie-get-in-touch-with-your-inner-self-by-journaling thing.
But looking back at what you wrote down when you were in a carefree and utterly blissful state of mind can inspire you to feel that way again.
It may drive you to make small changes about the things you really don’t like about your life.
And you know how most of us will pick up a cheesy souvenir or two on vacation, but then it just gets lost in the recesses of our homes with the lonely socks and spare change?
Well, put those souvenirs on display!
You’ll have a concrete reminder of all the great stuff you did on vacation, you’ll remember that person you were for those few precious days, and it will remind you that you will go on vacation again.
Sometimes, we love our “travel selves” so much that we start wondering if our trip really did happen. When you get home, you think, “Is that who I really am?!! Or was I just imagining that fun person hiding inside of me?”
If you truly feel like a healthier, happier, and much more fun person on vacation, think about why you felt those things.
Are there little things you can change in your daily life that will make you feel more like your “travel self?”
Sometimes, travel changes us so much that it drives us to make significant changes in our lives.
Some people discover so much about themselves when they travel that they’ll pick up and change careers or move somewhere new!
There’s nothing wrong with making some much-needed changes in your daily life, no matter how big or small.
So to help prevent post-travel depression, keep your travel mindset every day of the year.
Don’t willingly get sucked back into that brain-numbing routine. Try new things. Plan things that you will be excited about — and then get out there and do them!
The whole point of traveling is to experience and explore different places—but along with that comes discovering what makes us passionate and excited to live each day.
Look back and think about the things you can do that will make you want to look forward!