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Cures for Post-Trip Depression

Is there anything more depressing than the trip home from the airport when you’ve just arrived back from a vacation? Besides the likelihood that I’m jet-lagged—and the fact that my homecomings always seem to coincide with midnight and rainstorms—for me, this leg of a trip marks the beginning of what friends have termed my “post-trip depression” period: two weeks of grouchiness characterized by statements like, “I think I want to move to [insert most recent destination here].”

It’s not that home doesn’t have its draws; of course it’s nice to see family and friends (and push trip photos on them). And I like reclaiming a schedule that includes adequate sleep. But I find it hard to make the jump, usually overnight, from a freewheeling, out-of-pocket, on-the-go week or two to my old routine and responsibilities. So, wallowing in a bout of post-trip depression, I mourn the steady stream of non-routine thrills that unfamiliar accommodations, food, and activities bring. Beyond the return to the familiar, coming home also means trading in 24/7 travel buddies for an apartment empty of people and food but full of laundry and junk mail. Luckily, post-trip depression is ultimately short-lived (and tends to pass soon after the laundry is folded and the refrigerator stocked), so I generally push the feeling to the back of my mind and get on with things until I return to pre-trip levels of contentment.

The next time a bout of post-trip depression sets in, though, I’ll feel a lot better—or, at least, normal. A Google search of the term returns thousands of hits, and it turns out that not only has many a traveler diagnosed himself with the post-trip blues, the phenomenon even warrants a Wikipedia entry. (A search also reveals various forms of the condition, including post-hike depression; post-Vegas depression; post-holiday depression; post-Harry-Potter depression; and, of course, tropical depression.)

Mainly, though, my Internet search led me to travelers sharing experiences and tips on dealing with the post-vacation blues, and they all describe feeling the same sense of loss when forced to give up the freedoms and hyperawareness of globetrotting for the predictability of everyday life. Advice on handling this unfortunate side effect of travel ranges from exercising to using souvenirs you bought while away. But many travelers seem to have reached the same conclusion I did when it comes to a cure: start planning your next adventure. Get a new email chain going with prospective fellow travelers or order a new round of guidebooks from Amazon.com. And remember: coming home is not the end of a trip; it’s the beginning of the next one.

If you have more ideas for curing PTD, I’d love to hear about them; I plan to be immersed in it come mid-July…

michelle_doucette

My name: Michelle Doucette

How I earn my keep: I'm an editor at IgoUgo.com.

Favorite way to get around: Some of my favorite trips involved renting cars in foreign countries and driving through the countryside, stopping on whims. You get a feel for the culture away from the big cities and meet interesting people on the road, including, I must admit, an embarrassingly high number of local policemen. I suppose it would be prudent to learn all of the traffic laws ahead of time.

Best meal I've had while traveling: Since a succession of gelato cones probably doesn't count as a meal, my favorite must have been a fresh crabmeat lunch prepared by a St. John sailboat captain while we took a break from snorkeling in the Caribbean. Sharing baklava as the sun came up over Paros, Greece, (while, once again, not technically a meal) was also memorable.

Travel ambitions: Since climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, I've figured out that I'd like to keep trekking while traveling. I've got my eyes on epic hikes in Nepal, Bhutan, and Peru.

Comments

Cam
Reply

I am definitely prone to a wallop from the post-trip depression fairy when I return home from a vacation. I’ve found that taking a day between my return and my full return to my normal routine (work) helps, but any more than a day seems to exacerbate the symptoms. I’ll find myself wandering mournfully through my apartment, unsure of what to do with myself (besides the laundry and grocery-shopping, of course) and wishing I’d just gone back to work sooner. Another sure-fire antidote is planning something fun back home for a few days after I get back. It gives me something to look forward to and helps me to get back into the swing of things quickly.

Anne & May
Reply

I have this, but only with two destinations. For some reason early in life I decided that I wanted to live in Atlanta or Paris. (Yes, I know they have little in common.)

But life hasn’t worked out that way.

And so now, I visit both as often as possible. But I’ve been known to burst into tears the moment the plane home takes to the skies.

Sigh. At least I’m not alone.

How to Deal with Depression
Reply

I like to look through my vacation photos on my digital camera during the trip home.

I recommend you take as many pics as possible so you can reflect on the great time you had as opposed to the monotony you’ll be returning to.

joe hill
Reply

I just got back from vacation and I am really depressed about it. It is raining out and dark. I was in a nice warm and sunny climate. I feel miserable though. This is the one bad part about vacations you never think about until it is over. I know I will get over it soon. I always do but it sure is tough to get through it.

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