We've all experienced them, we all expect them, we all know they're going to come, yet somehow we're never quite prepared for just how real post-travel blues are.
I'd love to be able to write a post on exactly how to deal with them or how to avoid them altogether but, unfortunately, I have no idea. Having had a quick scan of the blogosphere I can see there are a few people out there who can give you some tips (this one from Hostelworld is my favourite), but that's not me. Instead, I'll simply tell you what I've learnt about the over the years, how they've affected me and how I've tried to channel them into something positive.
The jist of it is this: the high of returning to your friends and family is ALWAYS bigger then the low of leaving travelling behind. You just can't see it right now because your head is too clouded with job applications, apartment viewings and trying to remember where you left that great pair of jeans before you left.
So that's exactly what this post will try to do for others in similar positions; simply help channel that post-travel feeling into something positive and help you remember that, actually, you're bloody excited to be back. Yay!
"Wait, I thought Sally and Joe had broken up?!"
One of the things that makes you so unsettled when you first return home, especially if you've been away for a while, is that you won't be as in-the-know in your friendship group as you were before. Relationships will have broken up with new ones formed in their place, people will have had promotions or changed jobs entirely, there will be new faces in the group and private jokes you just don't get. Sure, it feels a little strange at first but, come on, did you really expect your friends to sit around and wait for you? No, they've obviously moved onwards and upwards, just like you have. Remember, they'll be struggling to keep up with all the weird and wonderful adventures you've been on since you left. Organise a night to catch up with everyone, celebrate their achievements and console their losses, laugh and cry, listen to the crazy stories you've missed and share your own. Soon enough you'll all be back on the same page. Shout out to my amazing girlfriends for this night a few weeks back, I loved it.
"It's not anything to do with you, we've just decided to go for someone with more experience"
Ugh. Post-travel job hunting. THE WORST. You've been off exploring the world and now you have to commit to that oh-so draining task of searching for a new job. This is hard at the best of times, not to mention if you're also trying to sort out a million and one other areas of your life. You'll most likely feel a little behind all your friends who've been working their way up the ladder since you left, and chances are you're not wrong. Although travelling and working abroad are great experiences, and as much as employers still recognise this, they will still be aware that you've not had the chance to really progress in a role if you've been moving about and that does mean you might be a little further behind those that have. That being said, you can absolutely talk up all the life skills that travelling has developed for you, how you're now much more culturally sensitive and aware of both yourself and the world you live in. Absolutely, employers nowadays value this experience a great deal, it just might not be enough to land you a job on the same level as your mates back home. What to do? Allow some time to really think about what it is you want to do, especially if this is the first time you've applied for a permanent role rather than a temp job or job in a country you know you're only going to be in for a year. It's OK to take that time and you will come out with a job that much better suits you and your skill set. Once you've done your soul-searching, think realistically about what level you're at and apply away. Chances are, all that travelling and developing those sought-after life skills will mean you can shoot up the ladder pretty fast anyway, if that's what you want.
"Sorry, we will need to see information from two previous landlords in the UK"
House-hunting. On par with job-hunting for how much it can suck the life out of you. If you're lucky you have friends or family you can stay with but, even then, the feeling of being a visitor in someone else's home can be even more unsettling than being on-the-move, especially for people who feel most at home when they are travelling around. You absolutely will find somewhere to live and feel at home, it might just take a little time. Enjoy the time staying with friends and family and, just like with your job, don't rush into renting a place just because it's there. Take some time to consider location, budget, travel links (all the usual grown up stuff) and allow yourself to get excited about your new home! From a practical point of view, keep track of contact details for your landlords, be that at home or whilst abroad, so you won't be stuck when agents need all this information before renting to you.
"But what if I never shake off this need to travel?!"
I'm a massive worrier. There, I said it. I overthink, I overanalyse, I stress unnecessarily. About everything. It seems the only time I don't do this is when I'm travelling. Even when I'm down to my last penny and don't know if I'll be able to afford any more accommodation, something about life on the road just soothes the anxious part of my brain. Coming home, it was in full throttle. As happy as I was to be home I just couldn't stop worrying about everything and anything; jobs, friends, family, money, you name it. It's all part of just learning who you are and how to deal with these kinds of feelings. I really can't stress this enough but, for me, it was about focusing on the positive. I miss my friends and family so much when I'm away so, when I came home, it was about trying to counterbalance that voice in my head saying "oh my god, are you sure you'll be able to handle staying in one place this long?!" with the (actually much louder and more intelligent) one saying "oh my god, how absolutely amazing that you can actually spend all this time with your friends and family. You can hug your mum as often as you like and not just hear her voice over FaceTime, you can have a giggle with your sister at literally any time of day and not wait for the time zone to be just right, you can chat with your dad over a cuppa and not over Skype, you can go out for drinks with your friends and not have to simply like their Facebook photos from afar…. this is actually pretty great!". You can appreciate home and still appreciate the big wide world at the same time. I think some people are just wired to need to move around a little more than others. This might not be forever, but they just have that impulse that they can't shake off and that's ok. That's just how we are, us wandering souls. And anyway, coming home from travelling doesn't mean it's the end, it just means it's the end of that particular chapter. Onto the next one…
"Tell us all your stories! We want to hear everything!"
Although not the only format you'll experience them in, one of the biggest elements of post-travel blues is the feeling of reality hitting you smack in the face after living so adventurously for so long. This isn't helped by how often you will recount your adventures to your friends and family. It goes with the territory of being wanderlusters (is that a word?) that you always seek new adventure and new experiences. Coming home, it can feel a bit like that part of your life is put on hold. This is so not true. Although I grew up just outside London and have lived here in the past, this is the first time I've come back to live permanently and, boy, is there a lot out there I've not experienced. I've not even scratched the surface. My friends have all been living here since I left to go travelling about 3 years ago so, guess what, it's now their job to show me all the adventures we can get up to in our home city. I now know that I can still keep that adventure-seeking part of my personality well and truly alive even though I'm staying in one place. There is so much out there to experience right on our doorsteps. Make plans to try something new in your area, even just a new restaurant or a new exercise class, and you will feel that part of you shine again, I promise. Bonus tip: if you're still broke from your travels, invite your friends over and cook them something you ate on your trip, you'll be able to feed your sense of adventure and indulge in a little nostalgia while you're at it!
All in all, coming home is one of the most emotional, daunting and amazing experiences any traveller has. Of course, there will be days when it feels strange that you're no longer away and days when that feeling of strangeness turns into sadness, but we all know that home offers us so much to be thankful, grateful and happy for. It's all about embracing that excitement, infusing some adventure into your everyday life and taking a little time to figure out what home now means for you… now put your positive pants on and go make the most of being home!