I boarded a plane from Cambodia, headed for Bangkok. The first flight of 6 that would eventually land me in my home of Oregon. I was seated in the very last row in an aisle seat. I wished so badly I’d had the window seat so I could turn away from all the eager faces around me. As we taxied the runway I felt everything become real, I was really headed home and I was not at all ready. The wheels left the ground and tears streamed down my face. I Pinched my eyes closed and tried not to alert my seat mates of the internal meltdown I was hiding. Que the eye mask and headphones. That’s when it hit me, after months of research and preparation, how had I not read a single thing about the post trip blues? Why had no one spoken about how hard this would be, put words to my feelings that weighed heavy on my heart.
After 36 hours of traveling home, alone, I was exhausted on every front. The time change and jet lag alone were enough to warrant some serious recovery; but I spent one whole week in a serious daze and slight depression. Eating was hard, sleeping was hard, talking was even harder. Everyone asked, “How was the trip? Are you happy to be back home?” I didn’t quite have the words to explain the trip yet, nor explain the difficulties I was facing from returning. I so wanted to share everything I had experienced but I was stuck in my head, questioning everything. Over the next few days I spent time reflecting on the experiences I had and the transition back into my everyday life. I wanted to write a post about this experience because I truly feel many travelers experience this state of confusion upon returning home, where everything is the same but somehow entirely different.
I pinned it down to a three key feelings and where they stemmed from for me:
1.The melancholy that came when nearing the end of an extended trip when knowing the experiences have so heavily impacted me. Having met so many people, faced and overcome challenges, grew and adapted so quickly and then all of the sudden it’s all going to be over. I will be returning to the same life at home but will be full of new perspectives and views.
2. The fear that comes from knowing I have changed and now being faced with seamlessly slipping back into my life and that I may forget how significantly my travel experiences changed my views and perspectives.
3. Having my eyes opened, so quickly, to vastly different styles of living and working, lead to moments of overwhelming confusion when trying to describe the trip to friends and loved ones.
All of these happened to me, and many people I have traveled with. These came during the first 3 weeks home which were so much harder than the 4 weeks I spent abroad. This is solely my experience and some insights I’ve had with other travelers. I wanted to share them because I think it’s important to talk about the bookends of travel that often get left out.
What I learned from these post travel blues is that discomfort is important to work through. It is a reminder that my experiences abroad were important, and they left a lasting impact on my life. I wouldn’t be able to sum them up in a highlight reel but over time they would slowly come together and push me to live a more meaningful life focused on kindness. It did take me a few weeks to understand my trip and talk with my friends and family about it, but that’s okay! I used the souvenirs I brought home as an ice breaker, allowing me to talk about snipits of my experience I was ready to share.
If you’re headed out on a big trip abroad, here’s my reminder to take it slow, let those experiences leave impressions on your life. Make connections and meet new friends, don’t just focus on seeing all the sights.
And if you’ve just returned from a trip and are experiencing the post travel blues, you are not alone! Your experience was important and your bound to have some melancholy. Its important to take it slow, be patient with yourself and reflect on your travels. When you’re ready, share them!
Through this post I came to an understanding of one very important part about travel and fear: it’s far scarier to never leave the life you love to go explore the world, than it actually is to go explore the world.
Be brave my fellow travelers, and tell us all about it!