Post Travel Depression

Photo of Post Travel Depression 1/1 by Gautam Modi

Deciding to quit your job, pack your bags and say goodbye to a world that is familiar to you may seem to be the hardest part of traveling. At least that’s what I thought. Returning home was one of the most difficult experiences of my life till date.

I have been back in India for nine months now since my 2 months adventure through Europe. I felt that I was more than ready to come back home.  I felt tired and shaken up to embark on a fresh direction in my life back in India.  The last couple of weeks of the traveling went by fast.   Before I experienced it, I was on the last plane riding out of twelve headed back to India.  Arriving in India felt surreal.  Everything seemed so different, yet exactly the same.  Everything looked so modern and people were dressed so…. non-travellers.  Although, I do have to admit, I was extremely excited to open up my wardrobe and pick up more than four shirts and two pairs of pants to take from.  The first sleep in my own bed felt amazing!   It too felt real weird to wake up the following morning in a spot that used to feel so comfortable.  Wasn’t I supposed to be wakening up on a thin foamed mattress somewhere in India?  I definitely had a case of “where am I” syndrome.

The first run after 2 months was really difficult but I did it. I thought I will not be able to run but it was as simple as riding a bicycle. It felt really comforting to not have to worry about my belongings being left in my hostel room while I went out for the day.  It also felt great not to have to carry around my backpacks with me everywhere.

My first flight in India after coming back was a wakeup call.  Every single person had their head down, strongly concentrated on their Cell Phones. It made me feel very disconnected from everyone. Where was the human interaction?  Where were the kind smiles and friendly hello’s I received in the countries I had just visited?

At first I felt really happy seeing my family and friends, but I could not fight the feeling that I felt completely out of the place. I felt I was out of my comfort zone, which is funny because wasn’t the place I grew up in for the past twenty-four years supposed to be my comfortable place?  It no longer felt that way for me.  I felt disconnected and confused about every aspect of my life.  I still continue to feel that way from time to time.

O’er the past few months, I have experienced this horrible feeling inside of me that I have not been capable to totally read.  It’s a feeling of sadness, nervousness and uncertainty.  I have questioned and accused every aspect of my life for being the solution of these opinions.  I remembered that when I had finally blamed everything and everyone I could for these strange feeling, I would feel better.  The feelings continued to hang around.  Every time I began to recollect about my trip or people asked about it, I didn’t want to speak about it because it made me feel bad, and I couldn’t figure out why.  Wasn’t I supposed to love talking about my experience in all the places I visited?  It wasn’t until one day when I was resting in bed crying that a special someone reminded me that I have been done a great deal of changes in the last year and experienced more than most people manage in a life.  She told me I should let that horrible feeling just be, accept it for what it is, and tell myself it’s okay to feel it.  Since hearing those words of advice, I have felt a lot better.

I have figured out that traveling, especially for an extended period of time, does something to you that you cannot prepare for.  It changes your views on all aspects of life.  You see everything in a new light and like it did for me, may come as a huge shock.  This new view of the world is not a bad thing, unless you take it that way, as I did at first.  It’s a very great thing.  Traveling opens up your eyes, mind, heart, and soul.  It changes your world forever.  In a way, it makes you feel like you are constantly traveling and that one place you call home, never really feels the same again.  It can be a lot more overwhelming than you expect.  That was the case for me.

Although it has been quite a struggle returning home, I am so glad that I decided to take nine months of my life to leave everything behind and travel the world.  Nine months isn’t really a lot time, but it changes your whole world.  To all of you who are thinking about taking a chance, to quit your job and just go out and explore this beautiful planet, I saw don’t question this impulse.  Pack your bags, grab your passport, get a ride to the airport, and just…. go!  Don’t look back!  And when you return home, and you feel overwhelmed, just remember there are travelers out there who understand that you have just been through the biggest transformation of your life.

Post-travel depression is real. Anyone who has come back from a trip knows what I’m speaking about. We let the cat out of the bag about how awe-inspiring and life-changing long-term travel is but rarely address the idea that getting home is harder than going away. When the initial hugs are hogged out, the stories told, and the reunions over, many of us discover that coming back home isn’t really coming home at all. Our true family is being besieged by the unknown.

The road is where we belong.

And because of that, our gaze will always be on the horizon, looking, dreaming, and caring for another opportunity to go off once more.