Any kind of travel, but especially solo travel, leads you to see things differently. It teaches you things about the world and yourself that make you feel different than before you embarked on your journey. This means that upon returning from a solo trip, some people can’t help but feel as if they just don’t fit in their home lives quite like they used to. Some simply dread going back to reality while others feel fired up about life in general- as if their trip was the catalyst they needed to begin to make changes in their daily lives. No matter where you are on the spectrum, it’s important to understand that solo travel can be both transformational and taxing, and it is completely normal to experience a flurry of emotions upon returning.
Initially, you might feel simply happy to be back in your own bed, but once the jet lag wears off, other emotions may develop. You might feel 1) overwhelmed by the many tasks you have to catch up on 2) sad to have ended a vacation or trip 3) reverse culture shock and 4) post-trip depression. In this post, we’ll discuss how to prepare yourself for these feelings (specifically the post-trip depression) and readjust to life post-vacation.
It is possible you might have either a positive or negative reaction after travel:
A positive experience will leave you feeling:
Happy to be alive
With a newfound sense of expanded consciousness
A negative experience will leave you feeling:
Like you might spontaneously burst into tears
Whether you feel good or bad following the conclusion of a trip, it’s important to remember that, ultimately, you are in control. It is up to you to approach your post-trip emotions with thought and wisdom. Whether you find yourself feeling up or down, there are a few things you can do to help you get back into the swing of things.
Here are 8 tips to help you get back to into real life:
1. Give yourself a few days to get back into a routine
Be smart about when you schedule your return flight. Imagine spending the entire day traveling, getting home at midnight and having to wake up at 5am the next morning for work. This is a recipe for disaster.
Try to end your trip on a Friday if possible. This will give you the weekend to decompress.
Get enough sleep. Fight the jet lag as much as you can and try to get back into a regular sleep routine by getting into bed at your normal time. Avoid exposure to blue light (like from the TV or your phone) prior to winding down. I personally enjoy taking a hot bath and reading a good book to help me relax.
Unpack at your own pace
Go on a clothes-washing spree
2. Reconnect with loved ones at home
After you’ve spent some time away from home, you might feel disconnected from the people you left behind. After all, life kept on going while you were away.
Be aware that you might have thrown your spouse, children, close friends or family off of their normal routines as well. Work with them to get back to normal.
Schedule coffee or dinner with your loved ones and catch up, this is also an opportunity for you to share your experience. However, be mindful that these people couldn’t be on your trip, so take note of their reactions and please, don’t brag.
Don’t forget to ask your friends and family how they were doing and what went on while you were away.
3. Reflect on Your Trip
Your photos are like a pictorial history of your trip. When you look back, you might see things you didn’t even notice when you took them.
Organize your photos. Print them. Paint them. Make videos or put them in a photo album.
Journal! How has this trip changed your life? Has it changed the way you want to do things? Do you think differently? Do you want to eat differently? Do you have new interests? Write them down.
Consider the preconceptions you had and how your experience held up to those notions. Astrid admits that she was a bit apprehensive about visiting Russia, but once she visited, she realized how kind and compassionate Russians can be. It takes a little bit of effort to break through the ice, but once you do, you have friends for life.
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting to learn even more about where you went. Find answers to questions that you didn’t even know to ask before you went. Stay curious.
When you travel, you learn to live with less, and when you come back, you might want to de-clutter. You might begin to evaluate your life from an objective standpoint. You may begin to ask yourself, “What’s not working in my life and what do I need to get rid of?”
4. Organize Your Trip Mementos and Souvenirs
When you buy souvenirs, buy things you might actually use in your daily life like jewelry (even if it’s inexpensive), ethnic clothing or kitchen goods.
Place these little reminders someplace you’ll see them.
Eventually, you may have the desire to give some of these souvenirs away as your way of sharing the joy of travel with others
5. Take Care of Yourself
Exhaustion leads to a weakened immune system and potential sickness. Don’t let yourself get burnt out.
Drink water. More than you think you need.
Exercise! Get back into your workout routine. If you don’t have one, get into one.
Go to the spa or get a massage
Sleep, as much as you need (can).
Note: if you’re going someplace far away, like multiple time zones far, be prepared to feel completely spent. Give yourself ample time to recover.
6. Take Care of Business
Start with small tasks: Restart your mail, go to the grocery store, etc.
Go through your credit card charges and make sure you haven’t been double charged and there aren’t any unauthorized charges
Cancel your international cell phone plan
If you had experienced an incident, file a claim with your travel insurance company ASAP. (Here’s why we believe you should get travel insurance.)
Note: If you’ve taken 5 vacation days, dare to take 5 full vacation days, don’t check your email on Sunday night, it will only exacerbate the “Sunday night before going back to school” feeling of dread. Wait until Monday morning (or the next full work day) to go back to work.
7. Start Planning Your Next Trip
Believe it or not, this can be a very therapeutic exercise.
Gives you something to look forward to, even if it’s 2 years away.
It’s part of the travel cycle. Start seeking inspiration!
8. If Feelings of Depression Persist, You Might Have A Bigger Problem
Travel is sometimes like peeling back the first layer of an onion in that it reveals something hidden beneath. This something might be a deeper issue that requires considerable care and attention.
There might be some things in your life that you have been avoiding, and time spent alone has a way of revealing things in our life that need to be dealt with.
Do you just not want to go back to work, or do you truly hate your job? Take a few weeks to really ponder this question. Perhaps you need to make a change. Share your feelings with those you trust and seek professional guidance if needed.
Note: if other people are making you feel guilty for taking time for yourself, perhaps it is time to critically evaluate your relationship with these people. If this guilt is self-induced, take time to think about the life lessons you have learned from solo travel. Think about what it has taught you about the world and yourself. Recognize that solo travel is an invaluable experience that I personally believe everyone deserves.
Your post-trip experience is just as important to personal growth as is the trip itself
There are so many wonderful things that happen to you when you travel solo. You might surprise yourself by stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things while on vacation. Embrace this travelers mindset and keep adopting new habits, hobbies, foods, friends, etc. Take your post-trip time to evaluate what exactly it was that made you so happy while you were away, and how you can bring that happiness to your daily life. Perhaps you need to take a closer look at what is life-giving in your life and what is not. What do you need to get rid of? What do you need more of?
If the post-vacation blues have brought you down, try combatting these feelings with some of these tips. If you’re still feeling down, consider the possibility that solo travel has stirred something within you that needs attention. Solo travel altered the course of my life, perhaps it will do the same in you.
Finally, don’t forget to practice a little gratitude.
After all, the ability to travel is a privilege, and it is something that we should be thankful for. Reflect on the positive experiences you have had while traveling. Stay a traveler at heart, foster a spirit of wonder, and search for the novelty in every day.
What is your post-travel experience like? Share with us below.
Note: this blog is a transcription of Astrid’s Solo Travel Talk Podcast Episode 85: Post Trip Tips for the Solo Traveler with my personal commentary added. Listen to this podcast and others on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, Stitcher, Spotify, or with your favorite podcast app.
Author: Madeline Freret
Madeline joined the Astrid Solo Travel Advisor team as a Content and Digital Marketing Manager in 2018. She believes that traveling is an essential aspect of life that allows you to see yourself, other people, places and things in a new light. She is passionate about trying new things, having a curious mind and seeking joy wherever she goes. To read more about her and each one of our Solo Travel Advisors, head over to the About page!