Coming Home: Normal Life Post-Adventure
Coming home. Just those two words can raise a smile. Walking out of the airport gate, towing your suitcases, happy to be off the plane and finally home. Friendly faces, the familiarity of roads well travelled. Pulling into your own driveway. A house with all of your own things scattered everywhere. Coming home.
But what next? After you’ve unpacked your suitcases, after the initial rush of being reconnected to family and friends? Whether you’ve just been on a three-week mountain bike tour through a remote country, a week’s vacation in Bali, or six months backpacking through Europe, you may be feeling down, lost, out of place in your own life.
After two months travelling across the USA, experiencing a disruption of my usual thoughts and habits, learning new things, meeting new people, I came home to… everything as normal. The brightness of life on adventure -- free of the typical constraints of work, bills, commitments –– made home feel dull, uninspired. I wandered around my house in a slump of disconnected misery, recognising my surroundings but not my own place within them.
Surely, I thought, I can’t be the only person who feels this way after coming home. So I contacted a few of Travel Play Live’s fellow contributors to ask if they struggled to reintegrate to normal life. Sure enough, I wasn’t the only one. Em Esslemont is recently home from her own adventure and feeling exactly the same way. “Post travel depression; it’s a legitimate problem, and I am currently suffering a full blown case of it. Holidays always have this huge build up. There’s the initial excitement of actually booking your flight, planning your itinerary and researching how many amazing things you can squeeze into your trip. Then there’s the countdown: 6 weeks to go, 6 days to go, 6 hours to go. Suddenly you are boarding the plane to head home wracking your brain as to how on earth it all flew by so quickly. It’s really is a rather emotional experience that when combined with jetlag, and the thought of returning to the daily grind can leave you feeling a little deflated.”
Jess Douglas of MTB Skills says that her first experience of ‘post-holiday slump’ was after completing the Great Victorian Bike Ride as a teenager. “Oh for sure, I was really depressed, I could not put my finger on it but now I know it’s a feeling of losing what you loved so much and having to get back to reality.” For her, that feeling didn’t go away as an adult. “I have since felt that way after big races I have done as an adult, races I have won that have left me feeling lost and out of place with my purpose.”
Getting back to reality was also an issue for Wheel Women’s Tina McCarthy, who completed the Great Victorian Bike Ride in 2011, where she rode along as an adult mentor. “I certainly felt deflated when I came home. I never expected to ride 600km in such an event because I’d only ever done rides of around 80km in a day… After I returned home I remember that feeling of just getting on with life and walking through the supermarket and thinking ‘I just rode 600km … I want to tell everyone what I just did’. But when I did tell just a few people they didn’t really believe me, or didn’t see the reality of what it takes to ride that far.”
The difficulties of trying to explain what you’ve been through, who you’ve become, through the challenges of big personal adventures, means you can easily find yourself frustrated. You don’t want to sound like a bore, always talking about the amazing time you had away, and equally you don’t want to sit around moping. Life goes on: so how do you pick yourself back up and get back into the swing of things without losing the new perspectives you’ve gained?
Jessica knows the feeling of slowly getting back into the habits of daily life will take time: “When I do the big life experience things, I can feel a bit down and out for a couple of weeks, but now I know what’s going on. I just let it happen, acknowledge it and take action to allow myself to feel happy and motivated again.”
Tina finds her way back in through remembering the value of her experiences. “Now, I tell others who complete a ride like this that when you stand in the supermarket and know all the others around you who are looking for the potato chips, or the cereal, won’t know you rode an amazing distance. Hold that thought in your heart of what you did, even if it is a secret in the supermarket that nobody else knows… and realise how awesome you really are. Nobody else has done what you did and nobody can ever take it away from you. It’s yours for keeps and nobody can ever tell you that you aren’t amazing.”
So next time you come home feeling a little bit down, lost or lonely remember, you’ll pick yourself back up, and life will always be a little richer for the time you spent away. The most simple pleasures like going for a walk, reading a book, taking the time to really look at what you have nearby –– all help to recover from the post-holiday slump, and propel you into the post-holiday life. And if that doesn’t quite get you motivated, follow Em’s advice: “Start planning the next getaway of course! What faraway places can we explore next?”