Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The highs and lows of post travel depression - 5 things to look out for

Coming back from any trip overseas or travel even just within your own country changes you and for better or worse when you come back you will be different. Whether it's a gap year, a two week vacation, a summer camp or volunteer work, you leave one person and come back another. Personally this has happened to me every time I've come back from travel, with a different mindset and mild depression when the old reality sinks in. Having come back from Darwin, an experience I believe everybody that can do, should, I've decided this post-travel depression is a serious affliction and needs to be addressed! Here are 5 things to look out for, tell tale signs you have post-travel-depression...

1. You begin every sentence with 'When I was in...' or 'In ..<place of travel>..'. You relate everything back to your travels, whether it be the weather, an anecdote and especially things with obscure or tenuous connections (Example: Your friend is eating talking about lunch, 'When I was in Darwin we had lunch with...' Example 2: Your friend is talking about the weather, 'When I was in Darwin it was so hot, and the weather was... etc.') Your friends will quickly tire of your stories, roll their eyes, sigh and the once polite listening will turn into them telling you off about always talking about *said place you had been*.

2. Only the people who went with you will understand, you quickly turn to them on skype, on facebook, on the phone, via email reliving the stories over and over without getting sick of them. Your conversations revolve around point number 1 and you all compete to tell the stories over and over, they never get tired and you end up in tears or laughing or both.

3. You continue on with the things you used to do while you were overseas. Whether it's phrases you picked up in South America or international drinking rules you used to play in a hostel in Europe - they've become second nature and you carry them on in everyday life (the supermarket, at dinner, at home with family or friends). You become confused when people don't share your enthusiasm which leads back to point 1 when you are trying to explain your actions to people because 'When I was in....'.

4. You avoid shopping centres, movies and snub everything that previously seemed normal and socially acceptable. You feel out of place doing things you used to, like buying clothes and watching TV for hours or sleeping on a bed (as opposed to a hammock, sleeping bag, the floor, a street in Italy etc.).

5. You begin planning your next big epic adventure, however ridiculous and unrealistic. You will go back, you will go somewhere new, you will go and go and keep on going. The travel bug has bit you, hard. You are now a hopeless case and must surrender to your higher calling of being awesome on an international scale.

It's difficult treading the line between the world that has just been shown to you and the world you used to know. For me it's always been a struggle to maintain the mindset and mentality that I've gained from being overseas. Whether it's the value of simplicity or the absolute clarity that comes with knowing exactly what matters in life. Readjusting to everyday life is when what you thought you knew and would know forever can get muddled, cluttered and blurry. It can get swept up with bills to pay and friends relationship issues, with cleaning up and house chores, with university assignments and the millions of things that made up your life pre-travel. 

The important thing is balance, being able to reconcile who you were pre-travel with who you are post-travel and not alienating either of them. It's easy to become irritated or even hostile towards things you can no longer see as part of your frame of mind; things that used to seem so big can seem so small and petty. As one of the managers I worked with said it's important to remember not everybody else has had the experience you have had - something to keep in mind so as not to alienate yourself from your friends. There's often the danger of believing your mind has been opened so wide that it can too easily snap shut when it comes to things that were always there. 

Going to Darwin has toughened me up, with goodbyes and with having to readjust. It's put going to Spain in perspective and given me more purpose than I know what to do with. Coming back I'm trying to keep busy, to plan, to reflect and to redraw where to from here. (To infinity... and beyond!!)


  1. Yet another fabulous post! Buzz Lightyear would be SO proud of you for turning his mantra into a veritable triumph.

    I always feel so inspired and can relate heavily to each of your posts. I remember when I first returned from being abroad and literally every other sentence started with "When I was "---and it's true, people can really start to tire of your stories.

    I read a post on the API Study Abroad Blog I think you would enjoy (http://www.apistudyabroad.com/blog/argentina/reentry-tips-whohowwhen-talk-trip) that gave some fantastic tips as to how you should share your stories, depending on who you're telling them too.

    You've got so much still ahead of you and it's a testament to your maturity and insight that you'll do great things :) SO excited for you haha

  2. Thankyou Tiffany I always love reading your comments :)Buzz Lightyear is my hero (along with Woody, of course! ahah)

    Just finished reading the article you posted about travel reentry and reverse culture shock - it really hit the nail on the head!

    No rest however I'm going to have some more culture shock in about 2 weeks when I'm in spain, no doubt I'll let you know how it goes :)

  3. Yes, you can't forget Woody as well as Buzz. Those two are great heroes to have. I have no doubt they'll be helping guide you along every adventure that has yet to happen! Lucky girl :)

  4. Wow, this couldn't describe what I'm feeling any more to the point. My brother, best friend and I just traveled around SE Asia for 3 months and Sydney doesn't feel like home anymore. Snubbing normal activities is so true. Partying isn't partying anymore.. it's like, drinking with people you know who don't have any crazy ass, near death stories to tell you. I guess I'm just hella nostalgic atm. I have to finish my diary for my travels and looking back through the photo's led me to your blog. What's random is that my mum is actually filo too. Anyways, I liked this post a lot so thanks!