Post-backpacking blues. It happens even to the best of us. After an incredible few weeks/months/years away we touch down on home soil and suddenly the reality sets in that those carefree days of beaches, streetfood and hostels are well and truly a thing of the past. You’ve swapped chicken buses for the London underground and jungle treks for an office job. Sure, it’s nice to be reunited with your family and friends but in the back of your mind all you can think about is going away again. The weather isn’t exactly helping either and those extra thick tights seem like an alien concept after months of shorts and bikini bottoms. This, my friends, is the curse of the travel bug. You can throw yourself into your job, make plans with friends every night and party every weekend but NOTHING is going to make that urge to fly away disappear. Once a traveller, always a traveller.
As a long term sufferer of PBB (post-Backpacking Blues) I have found ways to cope with the utter misery that follows returning from a trip of a lifetime. I cannot, by any means, guarantee you won’t still feel like shit every time you scroll through your iPhoto, but the following tips should help you numb the pain. Heads up before we start, under no circumstance should you be trying to forget, dealing with PBB is all about accepting and moving forward.
This might seem an odd piece of advice. Why would I want to remind myself how great it was by writing about it? Well it has been proven (by me) that writing is extremely therapeutic. You don’t have to be the next Bill Bryson and you don’t have to make your writing public, but sitting down and trying to put down in words what exactly made your trip so amazing is a fantastic way of coming to terms with it being over. It might be the psychology behind seeing it referred to in the past tense, I’m not sure, but it works. It also makes you realise just how much you accomplished while you were away. If you do fancy making your writing public then let your friends read it, let them recommend it to people they know who are about to embark on a similar journey and you’ll start to feel like a bit of a travel expert, which is always nice. In brief, in my opinion writing is the perfect way to reminisce whilst concretely accepting that your trip is over, and moving on.
Always Have Something To Look Forward To
This could be something a small as coffee with a friend, a trip to the cinema or starting a new TV series. Little things like this make the whole world seem a lot softer, especially if you blew all your money on your travels and you’re now begrudgingly working as a wage slave just to pay the bills. You’ll still sit and watch the time tick past while you work, but knowing that you have something exciting planned for the evening/weekend makes 5 o’clock all that much sweeter.
Guess what? They really missed you while you were gone. Your mum probably didn’t sleep properly the whole time you were away and your siblings are all desperate to hear stories of your adventures. Make the most of being home by spending some quality time surrounded by people that love you. The fact that they are happy to see you should make you a little less depressed about being back in the motherland. Find out what they were doing while you were gone, have a catch up and try and persuade Grandma to cook you some home comforts.
Plan More Travel
You don’t have to do another round the world trip to get your foreign fix. Weekend trips are tons of fun, cheap and incredibly easy if you live in England. With Europe on our doorstep and budget airlines like Ryanair and Easyjet constantly adding new flight routes, the world (or continent at least) is your oyster. Dublin, Amsterdam, Berlin, Budapest, all of these cities are cheap to fly to, affordable to enjoy for a weekend and, most importantly, filled to the brim with culture and excitement. You could even hop on the Eurostar and nip to Paris! Stay in a hostel while you’re there and mingle with the inter-railers and you’ll be able to relive your traveller experience even if it’s just for a night or two. You will come home feel rejuvenated and you’ll slowly start to realise that just because your big trip is over, doesn’t mean you’ll never travel again.
There is never a point in your life where you should consider your learning as ‘finished’. Even though you might be done with formal education, keep filling your head with new knowledge. This will keep you from feeling like your brain is rotting away and could open the doors to a lot more opportunities. What makes us love travelling so much? Every day on the road you learn about culture, food, people, history and so much more but now you’re stagnating. Read. I cannot stress this enough. Read novels, historical acounts, newspaper articles, literally anything. Did you love India? Read a book about the Mughul Empire. Did Colombia blow you away? Learn about Escobar and his cartel. As they say, knowledge is power. Learning about the world from the comfort of your home is a close second best to travelling itself.
This doesn’t mean do a masters or a PHD or something. Get qualified in something practical that will open some new doors for you. Become a yoga instructor or do the TEFL course or learn First Aid. You are never going to regret it. Immersing yourself in anything is a good way to live in the present and not dwell on the past. It also helps you scope and plan your future. If you are desperate to travel again there are ways to do it sustainably. Getting a practical qualification, particularly one in teaching if your native tongue is English, will open up the whole world to you. English teachers are, universally, in high demand so take advantage of that. You won’t get to backpack much but at least you’ll be abroad.
Love Your Life
This is the one I have struggled with the most. It’s so hard, after having the trip of a life time, to see the positives in your mundane 9-5 life. You know how privileged you are to have a roof over your head and food in your tummy but that doesn’t make you feel any better. It is very easy to cast a “my life is shit” vibe over everything and wallow in PBB and self-pity but it is important to break that cycle. Don’t focus on how boring your job is but instead how much fun your weekends are. Don’t panic about how poor you are but see getting out of your overdraft as a challenge. Look for excitement and adventure on your doorstep, go to a gallery, check out a new restaurant, curl up in your bed with a favourite book and be grateful you’re not covered in mosquito bites and sweat.
It is hard to move on. I know this. But it is possible as long as you always keep in mind that every day brings something new. Who knows where you will be in 2/5/10 years time! At 15 you probably never imagined you’d be watching the sunrise somewhere in the Orient. Relish in your past, but don’t let it consume you. Keep your mind on the present and your eyes to the future.