People always say that the hardest thing about travelling is plucking up the courage to go. This is a sentiment that I wholeheartedly agree with…until it comes to returning home.
If I had my way (and the financial means) it is fair to say that I would not currently be living in my hometown. I was bitten hard by the travel bug and if I were able to afford a life of non-stop travel, that would definitely be how I would choose to live. However, as I am still searching for that lucky break, for now at least I have a 9-5 life.
When I returned from South East Asia with my boyfriend Tim, it wasn’t long before the pair of us started to get itchy feet. In truth, neither of us would’ve returned home from Asia had it not have been for the ultimate travel pitfall: we ran out of money. It took a grand total of about 4 hours before I wished that I was back in the place I’d just left.
I was once told that this feeling (coupled with all the others that go with it), was a sign of reverse culture shock. Broken down, this simply means the shock of returning home and readapting to a culture vastly different to that in which you have been living. Yeah, that sounds about right I thought. Upon more careful consideration though, I’m not sure that reverse culture shock is the best way to describe these feelings. This term implies a rapid shake up of your life which is surprising to you in some way. In my opinion, there is no shock factor about returning home. Quite the opposite, in fact, everything stays cripplingly stagnant.
Personally, I think the term Wanderlust Withdrawal sums up these feelings perfectly. Here are some more of the travel bug side effects:
People don’t want to listen to your travel stories.
You’ve had the initial “How were your travels?’ conversations and it is very clear that topic is done with, locked in a box never to be spoken about again. Okay, so that might be a slight exaggeration but you get my drift. People are sick of hearing about all the amazing things you did when you were abroad.
You’ve fallen in love with so many new foods… and now you can’t eat any of them.
Walnut milk, Steamboat, Pad Thai… Food is amazing. Food is even better if you eat it in its place of origin. I can put my hand on my heart and say pizza in Rome is genuinely one of the tastiest things I’ve ever eaten. And my pizza from Zizzi’s? Not even close. Don’t get me wrong, pizza is still enjoyable in the UK but once you’ve tasted the real thing, readapting is hard.
You don’t have much to talk about outside the realm of travel.
So you’ve realised that people don’t really want to hear about your travels. You’ve learnt to recognise the glazed look in their eyes and know to change tactics. Great! What else can you talk about? It is hard to come up with alternative conversations when all of your most recent experiences have occurred elsewhere.
You feel like all of the adventure has been sucked out of your life.
When you were travelling, life was so exciting. You were able to journey at your own pace, try exciting new things and overcome fears on a daily basis. Now you are back in a familiar place where everything is exactly the same as it was when you left. So now what are you meant to do to keep yourself occupied? Before you were reading your favourite book in a hammock by the beach, today you are reading surrounded by angry commuters on the tube. Sigh.
You literally can’t afford to live here.
So when I said nothing has changed whilst you were away, that applies to everything, except the prices. When did living at home become so freaking expensive? £3.70 for a pint?! That could’ve bought me a crate in Asia…
You are a different person.
Out of all of the Wanderlust Withdrawal symptoms, this one is the hardest to deal with. You might be coming back to the familiar sights and sounds of home but you are not the same person you once were. Travel teaches you and above all changes you. How will this new you be able to reintegrate back into a society that you feel like you have nothing in common with anymore?
So Wanderlust Withdrawal can actually be pretty soul destroying. Some people are able to conquer these melancholy feelings quite quickly, but for some of us, the mourning period lasts much longer. Here is how you can catapult yourself out of post travel depression and back into a happy and fulfilling life!
Keep in touch with your new travelling friends.
These are the people that you met on the road, you know the ones that you instantly clicked with that you feel like you’ve known for years? They will understand your struggle and can help you through it. Reach out to them.
Reconnect with your family and friends at home.
They might not have made the same choices as you, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t support you. Remember that whilst you’ve been off traversing the globe, they too have been busy with their lives. Ask questions and remember that not everything is about you. Other people have stuff going on as well.
Explore your hometown.
After a long period of being away, it’s easy to write off your hometown as a symbol of the captivity that you feel now you’re bound by the 9-5. Life doesn’t have to be this way though. Adventure is everywhere, you just need to break from your routine to find it. I would wholeheartedly recommend Alastair Humphrey’s writings, in particular Microadventures, if you feel like your home life is lacking excitement. Challenge yourself and start exploring! (For more on my first microadventure, check out this post.)
Make goals – and stick to them.
You have returned home for a reason. Maybe you ran out of money, maybe you broke your leg, maybe you want to start a career or are enrolling in university after a gap year. All of us travel and likewise, return from travel (unless you’re one of the lucky ones) for different reasons. Remember what you want to achieve from your life at home and make specific goals to get there. Check out this post for advice on setting goals to save for your next trip!
Go travelling again!
Personally, this is my favourite solution to Wanderlust Withdrawal. Some people are lucky enough to be born into the place where they belong, whereas others have to go out and find it themselves. Once you’ve been bitten by the travel bug, it never really leaves you. Maybe it’s time to book that next flight?