For the last three months of my RTW trip, I had returned to Tanzania – a place I dearly love – but now it was time for me to say my goodbyes. And after almost ten months of being away, I had somehow managed to convince myself that I was ready to go home.
As much as I loved the freedom of being on the road, I was starting to crave some creature comforts – my own bed in my own bedroom, warm showers, a normal flushing toilet, a wardrobe full of clean clothes, a fridge full of food, friends that I don’t have to say goodbye to time and time again. Hell, I was even looking forward to going back to work so I could earn some money and have some sort of routine! All in all, I was longing for a place I could call “home.”
Leaving Tanzania – my home away from home
At least that’s what my brain kept telling me so I could find some way to deal with the looming reality of leaving. But how wrong my brain was. Tanzania had been my “home” for a good part of my trip.
As soon as I checked in at the airport, I knew something in my head had changed. I wasn’t ready at all. And as I handed my passport over the counter, I felt an overwhelming urge to make a desperate run for the exit doors.
A young man was totally freaking out next to me because he had lost his passport, and instead of thinking “poor guy, that must really suck,” all I kept thinking was “I wish that was me” – problem solved – “sorry mum and dad, I won’t be coming home just yet, my passport seems to have gone AWOL. Oops!”
Throughout the flight, I wept, slept, and took full advantage of Kenya Airways’ free wine while rambling on to my concerned (slightly scared?!?) neighbours about my time in Tanzania.
Fifteen long hours later, as our plane started to descend over England, a horrible feeling started to stir in the pit of my stomach. I was finally home. SHIT!
As I made my way through arrivals, I kept telling myself to get my act together. I didn’t want my parents to see my like this. Muttering under my breath while probably looking like some deranged, sleep-deprived lunatic, I kept saying “come on Nikki…look happy….you ARE happy to be home…YOU…ARE…HAPPY!”
My dad was outside with a beaming smile waving me to come over; my mum was nowhere to be seen as she’d made a quick dash to the toilet in the hope she wouldn’t miss me. But by the time she returned, my face couldn’t hide how I was feeling anymore and the waterworks started all over again.
I was home. SHIT. What the hell do I do now?
A couple of months have passed now, and I am slowly starting to feel more settled. It’s been great catching up with friends and family and I was fortunate enough to get a job quite quickly which has been keeping me busy.
However I still find myself thinking about my travels every day. While most people probably won’t have a lot of sympathy for you when you tell them you’re experiencing a very severe case of “post-travel depression”, I’m here to say that I think I’ve shed my fair share of tears to tell you it’s real.
The following are probably the three biggest culprits in instigating the “travel blues” in my opinion – and here are some tips on how I tried to overcome them.
“Normal” life suddenly seems quite lacklustre when you compare it to the countless adventures you experienced as a nomad. No more adrenaline-fuelled activities, random night-outs with complete strangers, long journeys into the unknown, or spontaneous trips to off-the-beaten-track places.
While you’ve been longing to catch up on all your favourite shows, the idea of vegetating in front of the TV for the evening now gives you a nervous twitch. You feel guilty for not being outside seeing the world.
Not only that, if like me, you have temporarily moved back in with the parents, you can start to feel a little isolated as not being constantly surrounded by a hoard of backpackers suddenly feels very strange.
The trick is to keep yourself busy. Find a new hobby and surround yourself with friends. I’m sure they’ve missed you like crazy and you’ve probably accumulated a good few hours of air time to catch-up on what happened while you were away and tell tales of your adventures before they get bored.
The worst thing you can do right now is fill those boredom gaps by wallowing in self-pity, looking through your travel pics wishing you were still there. Remember that what makes travel so special is that it is out of the ordinary and different to everyday life. While easier said than done, approaching your life at home with the same sense of adventure can make it feel a lot more interesting on a day-to-day basis.
Money (or lack of)
Most backpackers come home with very little to their name, or maybe even some debt. In my case, this was particularly true (£4,000 worth to be precise!) and it can be difficult to deal with when returning home to no job.
Everyone needs money for their basic needs and a lack of cash can also make you feel a certain loss of independence. This is not an easy change, particularly when travel gives you such a huge sense of freedom.
Ok, so I was quite fortunate in the sense that I managed to find a job quite quickly and my parents took me in, giving me a roof over my head, an ample supply of wine (and food!). With their support, I’m slowly, slowly managing to pay off that credit card and get back on track. But what made this transition slightly easier, was having a plan. About a month or so before coming home I started applying for jobs, and by the time I left, I had three interviews lined up.
Of course interviews are always an anxious experience, and there’s the added concern of how your potential future employee may view the gap on your CV (if, like me, you took a career break). The truth is, whether you were on a gap year or a career break, most employees generally see long-term travel as a positive thing (as long as you’re not gallivanting off every six months of course!).
The important thing is to get across that you weren’t just on your jollies for months and months on end, but relay what you wanted to gain from the experience and how the life skills you learnt while away can be applied to the role (if getting drunk every night of the week was your plan, then maybe you need rethink a few things!).
Also known as the “Travel Bug”. Now this isn’t something that is particularly new to me having been on a few backpacking trips. But what I have found this time around, is that the level at which you experience it, can often equate to the length of time you have been away. For me, it seems like the longer you are away from home, the harder it is to know what your idea of “home” is and this only fuels your ever-growing desire to wander even more. As much as I love my life, my friends and my family here in England, I can’t seem to shake the feeling of wanting to be elsewhere.
But experiencing this is no bad thing in my eyes. It gives you that hunger to see more of the world, and this can only be a good thing. So get planning that next trip, whether it’s a weekend city break in your home country, a two week holiday somewhere exotic, or another year hopping across continents. So what if you’ve only just got back and won’t be able to take off again until next year?? Don’t just sit there daydreaming of faraway places. If you really, really want it, then make these dreams a reality! Having something else to look forward to will make it a lot easier to deal with this terrible, terrible “condition” 😉
Have you ever experienced the post-travel blues? What are your tips for dealing with it?
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