You know how some people cry when they leave home? The opposite’s true for me. As an avid traveler, I’m the one getting teary-eyed in the back of the plane as I watch whatever far-flung destination I just experienced fade into the distance. It’s like moving away from your new best friend or a passionate lover, never sure when (or if) you’ll meet again. It’s not that I don’t want to go home—trust me, not even the penthouse suite in a five-star hotel feels quite as cozy as my own bed. The experience of traveling makes me feel more alive than anything else, and I hate when it ends. The thought of going back to work, taking care of everything on my to-do list, and just getting back into the swing of “real life” can make that vacation high evaporate all too quickly—and the post-vacation blues hit hard. But traveling is about learning, growing, and thriving in ways that enrich us back home. Wallowing in your post-vacation blues defeats the entire point of exploring at all. To combat that after-travel sadness, we need strategies to carry the bliss from traveling back to our regular lives. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to fight the post-vacation blues and keep that travel high alive. Here are some that work for me, along with clever suggestions from other travelers.
Go grocery shopping.
Arriving home to unseasonably chilly New York recently after five blissful days in Mexico was like a slap in the face—only to be made worse when I realized late at night that my fridge was empty. I went to bed totally bummed out (and hungry), wishing I were still traveling. But the next morning, I went grocery shopping, and things started to feel better. There’s something about getting reacquainted with your go-to foods than can help banish the post-vacation blues. No matter how good the food tastes abroad, digging back into the meals you know and love will remind you how good a taste of home can be. And if you’re still longing for adventure after filling your fridge, try making the food you ate on your last trip. Your homemade pad Thai might not taste quite as amazing as that meal from a street vendor in Bangkok, but it might ease the blow of coming back from vacation.
Unpack your bag pronto!
Are you guilty of leaving your suitcase in a heap on the floor when you’re suffering from the post-travel blues? Me too. But unpacking and settling back into your life can help you feel a lot better after a trip, says Natalie Tanner, travel blogger at The Educational Tourist. “Bite the bullet and unpack quickly. Everyone dreads unpacking, but there isn’t anything quite as sad as a partially unpacked suitcase lying on the floor to remind you that you are back in the real world,” she says. “That half-packed suitcase keeps you from being in the present. Put that suitcase away and focus on the good in the here and now.”
Dig in to a great novel.
Reading a book that’s set in a destination you’re curious about will give your mind a welcome escape, and you don’t even need to leave home. The experience can also help you reconnect with a culture you fell in love with and feel the vibe of a foreign destination deep in your soul. Plus it’ll take your mind off the post-travel blues. Where do you find books set in other countries? Goodreads has tons of thorough lists. Search the “shelves” section of the site for “books set in” and the country you’re looking for. The site has recommendations for stories in Cuba, South Africa, Italy, and tons of other fascinating places that just might inspire your next trip.
Share your experience.
I try to live in the moment (and off my phone) as much as I can when I travel. But when I get home, one of the best ways to fight off the travel-related blues is by sharing all my happy memories online. “Find an outlet to share your travel stories,” suggests Tanner. “If you feel like your friends and co-workers have heard enough, then head to social media and join a group that focuses on your vacation destination. Share your stories, favorite dining spots, and sightseeing recommendations with others, and you’ll get to relive the happy moments.” Come up with ways to share your experience off the screen too. Peggy Coonley, president of Serendipity Traveler, says she advises clients to fight the post-vacation blues by creating a memory book about their trip. “Creating a book of your photos is a fun way to review and relive the highlights of your travels,” she says. “Reflect with gratitude that you were fortunate to be able to travel. Recount the numerous details that gave you pleasure and perhaps write these down and read them from time to time to cherish the memories.” Mixbook, Shutterfly, and Blurb can all help you create vacation photo books. Or go old-school by picking up some scrapbooking supplies and doing it yourself.
Give yourself some TLC.
Post-vacation blues aren’t just confined to our mind—even our bodies can feel sluggish after we get home from a trip. Try to make time after your travels for some TLC, says Laura Hall, a formal travel writer who’s now director of communications at Kid & Coe. “Be clever about how you book your trip. Leave a day when you return where you can chill, do the laundry, hang out, and sleep,” she says. “Booking a trip to come home on a Sunday night with work at 9 a.m. Monday morning is not the way to do it, and I’m speaking from experience.” Have a little cash left over from your vacation fund? Consider booking a treatment at your favorite spa the week you get back home to ward off the post-vacation blues.
Meditate and journal.
Having unrealistic expectations about the ability for a trip to change your life is setting you up for experiencing post-vacation blues, says Christine Rosas, author of The Sensitive Edge: Learning to Trust Your Inner Voice and Thrive No Matter What. She recommends taking some time for deep personal reflection before and after your trip to help boost your mood. “Take a quiet moment to sit with the version of yourself that’s here now. Honor yourself through meditation and journaling,” she says. Sit quietly for five or six minutes and journal about your experience traveling, she suggests. Then practice peaceful, deep breathing for another few minutes. With every inhale, direct positive energy toward yourself. And with every exhale, send good vibes to your vacation destination.
There’s nothing like the thought of dealing with chores, bills, and work back at home to bring on the post-vacation blues. But being home has its plus sides, like being able to see your friends and family. Jen Ambrose, travel blogger at Passions and Places, says that filling her schedule with plans with the people she loves helps her forget about the sadness of ending a trip. “Organize brunch with friends, sign up for a spin class, buy tickets to a show, or plan to do whatever you love doing. Having things on the calendar you’re looking forward to will make coming home easier,” she says. If you’re really organized, make the plans before you even go on your vacation. That way, coming home won’t feel so hard.
Travel at home.
You don’t need to hop on a plane or drive long distances to experience the joys of travel. Checking out a local spot you’ve never been to can help keep your travel high alive. Think about what you love about taking a vacation. Maybe it’s dining out, or enjoying the outdoors, or just seeing a new place. Whatever it is that drives you to travel can be pursued back at home as well. Living in New York, I like to venture out to the outer boroughs when I feel the post-vacation blues. It makes me feel like I’m far away from home—even when I can’t take a bunch of days off from work. And when I lived in California and had a car, I’d spend my weekends driving up and down the coast, losing myself in the beauty of the cliffs and crashing ocean waves. It seemed to scratch an itch for a new experience. Try taking a bus to somewhere you’ve never been, tasting a cuisine that’s new to you, or going for a swim at a nearby lake. Any refreshing experience you can have back at home will help you recover from the post-vacation blues.
Plan your next trip.
After realizing how stifled I feel at home when I’ve got no escapes to look forward to, I now rarely plan fewer than two trips at a time. If you’ve got a hard case of the post-vacation blues, there’s only one thing left to do: Start planning your next big adventure, whether you have time next week, next month, or next year. The important thing is figuring out what your next vacation will be so you can have something to look forward to. Where do you get inspiration for a trip? I like to use Skyscanner, which can bring up a list of flight deals from your home airport to anywhere in the world. Just type “everywhere” in the space where you’d usually put in your chosen destination. Travel magazines, Instagrammers, and bloggers can also inspire some serious wanderlust. Finally, food can be another way to find your next destination. Love ravioli? Take a trip to Valletta, Malta, where the pillowy pasta is pretty much everywhere. Fan of fried rice? It’s the national dish of Indonesia! Or maybe you regularly crave beans and plantains. Nicaragua’s got you covered on that front, with some seriously addictive fried cheese on the side. The post-vacation blues are one of the toughest side effects of having the travel bug. But with so many remedies available at home, you can channel the energy you felt on your vacation back into your everyday life—and use it to fuel your next getaway.