I was recently at a party, where I saw a friend who had just come back from her first trip abroad. Her normally pale Irish skin was pink from spending two weeks along the Italian coastline — a trip she’d been talking about for the last six months.
Since she’d gotten back a few weeks prior, she had been posting photos from her travels almost every day on Facebook with nostalgic captions.
But today she looked uncharacteristically dispirited.
“How was Italy?!” I asked.
She perked up for a moment. “Seriously life changing,” she said with a trace of sadness in her voice.
She blushed as she described to me the breathtaking vistas, the kind people she met, and the food that was so good she couldn’t resist squeezing in an extra meal at times just to soak up every last flavor before she went back home.
“Ever since I got back, though, I’ve been feeling kind of down,” she said. “My job, my neighborhood, even my social life feel …”
As she trailed off, her lower lip started to quiver.
“It’s just that I felt so happy, so fulfilled every day in Italy; now I feel like something is missing from my life.”
Post-vacation blues are a real thing
I assured her that this was totally normal; it’s affected me to varying degrees after all of my trips.
Post-vacation blues are nearly universal for good reason. When you’re traveling, every day’s twists and turns feel exciting. You come home invigorated as you tell everyone about your adventures.
But eventually that wears off. People do get sick of listening to stories they can’t relate to, and you are left alone, daydreaming about a trip you know is over — leaving a nagging emptiness where there was once anticipation and thrill.
For me, getting over this empty feeling starts with reminding myself that the thrill of travel largely depends on one thing: novelty. Whether it’s trying out new foods, new experiences, or simply seeing new places, the act of touching newness can be intoxicating. With that in mind, here are a few ways I extend the post-travel high once back in my day-to-day life.
Change up your daily routine
Most of us can’t avoid the monotony of following the same daily routine at work and at home, but you can infuse elements of novelty to make it feel less stale.
When I got back from Asia, my now-fiancé surprised me with a new-found mastery of curry dishes. “I thought you might have developed a taste for them while you were away,” he told me as he prepared our first together — a peanut coconut curry that was the perfect balance of familiar and exotic.
He was right, and drawing from memory to create new dishes can take you on a journey too.
Now, curries have since become a staple in our dinner repertoire — as has experimentation. We add to the exotic feel by visiting the Asian grocers he grew up with to pick out new ingredients and try new recipes. Besides that original peanut coconut curry, some of our most successful recipes include palak paneer, Korean rice cakes with bok choy gg, musubi, and homemade boba.
If you’re not much into cooking, try changing up your routine by taking a new route to work or biking there instead of driving, if possible. Just changing your route to a frequent destination is thought to improve happiness.
Write about your trip
Anais Nin said, “We write to taste life twice.”
One of my favorite things about writing is that I get to relive my best experiences over again. And when writing about frightening experiences I either find the humor in them or find some greater lesson from surviving the experience and feel stronger for having done so.
Putting travel stories to paper still has value even if no one else ever sees it. Reflection helps you acknowledge what you loved about your last trip, and prioritize the things that were most important to you to use to improve future trips.
Additionally, writing about your travels can give you a good self-esteem boost. When I was having a tough time getting started as a freelancer — when stories got rejected or money was extra tight — going back through my travel journals and reading some of the things I did helped me take some of the courage and risk-taking I had during my trip and use it to rally.
Stay connected to the people you meet on the way
Walking on water. @ajw342 @eirdizzy #TravelPics #GirlsTravel #DameTraveler A photo posted by Christina Garofalo (@c_gar8) on
Sometimes the hardest thing about coming back from a trip is that — after the initial weeks following — people stop wanting to hear you go on and on about a trip that they weren’t a part of. But it can feel isolating to have no one to reflect on and share those memories with. Happiness is only real when shared, right?
Having a group of people who experienced a place in time with you, who you can go back to and say, “Hey I saw this and it reminded me of that crazy hike,” or “Remember that hilarious bus ride?” makes the memories feel more connected to your real life. Luckily, social media makes this pretty effortless.
What are some of the ways that you combat post-vacation blues?