How can we overcome the post travelling depression? What does it feel like to come home?
And how we can bring the lessons we learned with us.
Note: I received some very intense, worried, but also beautiful responses. Please take this article with a bit of salt. I am not really depressed. 🤓
Over a year ago, I left my country (the Netherlands) with my backpack to go and live the vanlife in New Zealand. I have been travelling for thirteen months. Three weeks ago, Air Asia brought me back to Amsterdam.
After this amazing experience, I was looking forward to seeing everyone again. Friends, family, places. My nephew was born. So exciting!
I read a lot about coming home after travelling, so back in New Zealand, I had mentally prepared myself. ‘I know who I am and what I want’, I thought. The new me was ready to be home again.
I had a plan, sort of.
It was amazing to see my friends and family again. I was happy, they were happy, everybody was happy.
After a couple of weeks, the post travelling depression kicked in…
The jetlag was brutal, but apart from that, something else happened. I was lying on the couch for no reason, got nauseous for no reason, had no energy for no reason…
Until I realised, ‘the reason’ was some sort of post travelling depression.
‘How will I ever be happy here?’, I suddenly thought.
Long term travelling is amazing and I would recommend it to anyone.
What excites me the most, is the learning and growing that happens every day. When you leave all your so called certainties behind and force yourself to use your brain in the real world, instead of in school, where tests are standardised, you grow like weed.
During my travels, I felt happier and healthier than ever. The question is, when you come home, how can you stay as happy and healthy as you were on the road?
I enjoy quality time with family and friends.
The last three weeks, I spend with the people I love. As I mentioned before, I totally enjoyed it. I met my new baby nephew, which was amazing. I went to Groningen, Amsterdam, Delft and other places in the Netherlands to visit friends. I played music with one of my best friends. Being away for so long, makes me appreciate these relationships more.
But then what happened…?
Nothing changed, but me.
Though it is amazing to see everyone again, everything and everyone is exactly the same. They live the same life, have the same job, live within the same routine.
Is that a bad thing?
Maybe not, but it’s hard, because I changed.
I still love my family and friends, I might even love them more, but sometimes I feel so different. It’s like our brains are living in two different worlds. For example, last week, someone said to me:
‘But a job isn’t always fun. Sometimes you have to accept that you just have to do things to earn a living’.
Of course working is not 100% fun and easy. But if you only work for money, when you hate going to work and when you are lacking energy on a regular base, you are doing something wrong.
Actually, Some people are proving that it can be different. I met a lot of digital nomads, who earn their living while travelling.
Some don’t work full time, because they choose to. There is nothing wrong with that, in my opinion. Back home, most people think it is weird.
Last year I lived my dream, and I survived. I was happier and healthier than ever. But when I explain this, people think I am naive. Because ‘you can’t live this life forever, what about your pension? what about building something, gaining possessions?’.
I don’t care about possessions, I don’t care about a pension. I don’t even believe a pension will still exist when I’m 68.
Being happy = being surrounded by likeminded people.
While travelling, I found out that one of the most important things in life, is to be surrounded by likeminded people. People who get you. People who inspire you. People who care about similar things.
For me, this was easy in New Zealand. Likeminded people just fell out of the sky.
I found likeminded people almost every single day. I found people to look up to, people who I can learn from, which is amazing.
Travellers don’t only care about travelling. That is a total misconception.
Ok. Maybe some 19-year-olds who just finished school only care about travelling and partying, but even they change, their minds shift.
In general, travellers care about the world, the environment, about being happy, about expressing themselves creatively, about making a difference in the world, about helping each other, connection, finding a purpose in life. They care about community, health, about learning and growing.
They (we) care about things that really matter, in my opinion.
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How people back home have a different mindset and care about different things.
Back home, in the city I live, people spend most of their time in offices, behind a desk, to pay mortgages and build on their pension. A lot of people contribute to the consumerist society we live in, while working for companies who sell products that don’t make us happy and instead kill the environment.
I don’t blame anyone for this.
This is the system we grow up in. We don’t know anything else, until we explore the unknown.
We go to school, then university, and then we find a job. We build a career. We climb corporate ladders.
It wasn’t until I experienced different cultures, that I knew that how we live in the Netherlands is not the only ‘right’ way. It might even be the wrong way.
Fulltime office jobs and mortgages might make us unhappy, burned out, disconnected and numb. Four of my closest friends already had a burn out, and I did as well, three years ago.
How people worry about ‘nonsense’.
When I was living the vanlife in New Zealand, my biggest worries were finding water, something to eat and a place to park my home. The weather, the condition of the tracks or the road.
When I talked to fellow travellers, we talked about practical things, or about things that really matter in the world. How can we live more sustainable? How can we be less materialistic? How can I eat better so that I have more energy? Which track is your favourite? How can we be more happy, healthy and less burned out? What is your purpose?
Back home, I’m having conversations with friends about problems with colleagues or family members. Jealousy, people being mad at each other, hurting each other. Money, a new television that is not working. Gossip. Not to mention politics. Games, manipulation, fear, the media…
Again, I don’t blame the friends. I totally realise that those worries are very real for people.
This is, I believe, a result of the society we live in. Our basic needs are provided for, and because we are not completely happy and relaxed, our minds are looking for other things to worry about.
Because imagine your televisions is not working.. what do you do? We need a television for our entertainment, so we don’t have to worry about ourselves, about the world.
Imagine your friend is not treating you the way you want to be treated? Well, let go of that friendship, I would say… Easy. Why is that person still worth your energy?
Not so easy for many.
I can listen to these things, but it all seems so irrelevant to me. ‘What do you stress about?’, I think. Breathe and let go. Focus on things that matter.
It all sounds so stupid.
And then I feel like I’m a bad friend. Because it isn’t stupid, because I used to worry about things like these as well. And I might even fall back into that pattern again, if I’m not cautious.
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How I feel alone, back home.
You return home, with all those experiences, adventures and new views on the world.
And then, when I hear people talk, I’m screaming inside. ‘I don’t want to talk about these ‘irrelevant’ things. I don’t worry about pension, because I don’t want to start living a happy life after my pension, at age 70 (I guess this is where we are heading), I want to live now! I don’t want to spend 70% of my daytime in an office, working for a company who doesn’t contribute to the type of society I want to be a part of. I don’t want my life to pass by just like that’.
I want to talk about my new dreams, about the way I perceive the world differently, the way I think differently than before, about the new things that are important to me.
Sometimes, when I have those thoughts, with no one around me who feels the same, I feel incredibly alone.
How can I even explain my travel experience to my family and friends?I’m very lucky that six of my friends visited me in New Zealand. We all traveled in campervans. With them, I can easily talk about my experience. They understand the adventure. They lived the adventure. Briefly, but still.
How is your situation?
With other friends and family members, I have no clue how to explain my last year. They ask me to tell stories, but I don’t know where to start. Their lives are so different. They have no clue. So what do I tell?
The stories fade…
The first weeks, everybody is so excited about the fact that you are home. They want to hear your stories. After that, people are used to you being home and everybody continues with their lives.
How people don’t realise I wasn’t ‘just on holiday’.
I can say without doubt, that I felt much happier in New Zealand than I do here. ‘Sure you were, you were on vacation’, is how people respond.
What they don’t realise is, that I wasn’t. I had different jobs, created three websites for companies, did online marketing (Google Adwords, Facebookmarketing etc.), started my own blog and I did a lot of Wwoofing (working for accommodation and food).
I did a couple of courses at Coursera, learned a lot about gardening, permaculture, building, cars, the environment. I spend time in retreat centres, like a Buddhist Centre, Chandrakirti, where I wrote the article “Can Buddhism make you happy?” and learned a lot about being happier.
No. I wasn’t just on holiday. I spend as much money in 13 months as most people spend during a 3 week vacation.
I was doing a Working Holiday, where, in my opinion, you learn more than in school. I earned money. I helped farmers, a retreat centre and a holiday park to get more visibility for their products and services and attract the right customars.
I wasn’t taking a break from building a career. Celebrating all day. Actually, I was working on finding a new career, a career in which I can be happy and contribute something.
I found my values, I had a plan.
A ‘coming home plan’ is not always so easy to follow up, back home.
As I mentioned before, I was prepared. I had a coming home plan, sort of. In New Zealand, I found my values. I know what is really important to me. I know what I want to do, or more importantly, what I don’t want to do.
My ‘sort of plans’ are not so well-received back home, as they were during my travels.
When you tell other travellers, open minded people, that you wish to have a bed & breakfast, earn money with your blog, write a book, be a digital nomad or live in a tiny house, they respond with full enthusiasm. They immediately start helping you by asking questions, by giving advice and by talking about their experiences or the experience of someone they met on the road.
Their minds are open, positive and free.
A lot of people on the road, believe that you can accomplish anything in life. This positive mindset is very helpfull.
Back home, where people are all in the safe and security mode, people respond with doubt, a lot of questions and weird faces. ‘How about your pension?’, ‘But what if you find a partner, what if you want children?’, ‘What are the rules and procedures, to be able to live in a tiny house?’.
BAM, dreams are hammered into the ground (is what this can feel like).
I don’t blame anyone. This is what they care about and this is the society we live in. There is nothing wrong with that. It’s just a bit hard, because I don’t feel like I care enough to even think about this.
Life will work itself out, I believe.
That is not naive. That is trusting the process. That is being realistic. That is realizing that there is no such thing as certainty. The only certainty we have, is that we are born and die alone.
Anyway, I thought I was prepared for this. I thought I was prepared for not being surrounded by people who understand your dreams, who motivate you and who are enthusiastic.
I figured out, I’m not. Apparently, I still care about what other people think.
So, life sucks after returning back home?
I realise that I’m being very dramatic here. Honestly, the situation is not that bad. I’m exaggerating.
Here you go… I’m home for three weeks and the drama mindset already kicked in, haha.
I do feel happy, being with friends and family. I do trust that I will find my new happy life here.
I just miss the adventures, the lessons, the people, the talks. I miss the minimalistic lifestyle, I miss the time for reflection, without people around you asking ‘did you find a job yet? When will you buy a house and get married?’.
There’s light at the end of the road. What can we do?
Allthough I can sometimes feel the depression, I am optimistic. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, like always.
I don’t feel like leaving again. Immediately leave for a new adventure in this situation will be for the wrong reasons. I don’t want to walk away from difficulties.
Our job is, as ‘ex-travelers’, to keep doing things we love and to find people back home who love the same.
If you can find likeminded people on the road, you can find them in your home town as well.
You can find a job that suits you, find new hobbies.
Actually, I’m lucky to already have a lot of likeminded people in my life. Friends and family members who are open minded. Who like to think about different lifestyles as well.
Our additional job as ex-travelers might be, inspiring other people to reflect on their lives. Inspire people to be happier and healthier. To make conscious decisions, instead of getting caught up in systems. To work on a better world.
My wish for the world, would be a world with more happy and healthy people. Less war, more peace. Less health issues, more positive energy. Less boredom, more adventures. Less entertainment, more creativity.
What is your view on this? What would make it easier for you to come home, after a long trip? Or to be happy at home in general, to live at home?
What is home anyway?
Please share your thoughts, and clap if you support me :)
Jose Schrijver is a Dutch writer/blogger/traveler, who had a burn out at age 28 and in that phase of her life, got diagnosed with ADD. With her blog, as a non-conformist and promoter of natural health, she wants to inspire people to live a happier, healthier life.