Depression after travel: how does it feel like to live in one place after years of traveling?

People always give you advice on what to do when you travel abroad. How to stay safe and adjust to the different moral and cultural norms. Which things to avoid, which things to try… But no one gives you tips on what you should do when you return home.  How to deal with this emotional rollercoaster? How does it feel like to live in one place after years of traveling? Is depression after travel a real thing? These are some of the questions we’ll try to answer in this article.

After spending two years of unforgettable adventures on the road, I was back where I started. Sitting on the couch in my old bedroom; bored, anxious, and nostalgic. The people I knew are all the same. They still have the same jobs. Some of them got married. Some of them have kids. Other than that, there isn’t anything much different. The place is the same like before I left. Why doesn’t it feel right anymore? It’s because I changed. And they don’t understand the new me. They don’t get it why do I feel so uncomfortable being back. Some of them might even think that I don’t like it here anymore.

7 deadly sins of travel: Pride

Depression after travel- why is it happening?

Traveling is, indeed, the greatest teacher of them all. It starts by giving you this little thing called freedom. You’re far away from home and people here don’t know you. You don’t care about what they might say. You start doing things you couldn’t or were too afraid to do back home. Explore the world, meet new amazing people, fall in and out of love, see amazing places, live new cultures, go bungee jumping, go on high-altitude travel adventures, swim with sharks, pet elephants, experience danger on the road… And suddenly, it’s all over when you go back.

It’s this freedom that traveling gives you that enables you to do all these things. You feel freer because traveling shows you that you’re just one little piece of a big jigsaw puzzle. Traveling enlightens you by showing you what a tiny place you occupy in the world. But very few people realize this, at least where I come from. However, I believe it’s more or less the same everywhere. If you’re one small piece, your country is a part of the puzzle that is the world. However, most people you know see the country as the puzzle itself. They don’t look beyond it. That’s why you feel that no one understands you anymore. That you have less in common with the people that used to be your best friends. And that’s sad. It only makes you want to leave again.

travel tips: 14 Reasons why everyone should try solo travel at least once in a lifetime

What happens when you go back home?

In the beginning, everything is nice and smooth. Everyone wants to meet you and talk to you. Ask about your adventures. You feel like a rock star. Then everyone starts asking the same questions. And you’re giving the same answers. Over and over again.

For some reason, everyone must ask what was your favorite place/country? I literally started hating this question. Every country is gorgeous in its own way. Of course, all countries and the people living in them are different. Hence, it’s logical to expect that they will be beautiful in different ways as well. But to notice it, you have to be open-minded. When traveling, you need to carry the beauty inside you or find it you will not.

The question that normally follows is: “Yes, yes, that’s great. Now, when are you going to settle down? It feels like they didn’t even try to put any effort into listening to what I was trying to say before. It was really frustrating in the beginning but then I realized that most people just don’t understand this because they didn’t travel as much as I did. And that’s one of the reasons why I feel like I don’t belong here anymore.

As I said, chances are everything will be more or less the same when you come back home. But it will still feel difficult. There’s something inside of you that you can’t express to anyone because people don’t understand you anymore. Every time you try to do that, words fall flat. And that’s frustrating. In the late-night hours, or early morning hours when you can’t sleep overthinking things and trying to understand what happened, this thing called wanderlust strikes again. This desire to see new places, meet new people, do new things…

The travel tax and why nothing feels right

Every time a friend comes back from a trip, they always ask me: “How do you go through this every time”? Going back home is difficult and a lot of people don’t understand this depression after travel syndrome. It’s the end of your life-changing experience. And even though most of the things at home are the same, they just don’t feel the same. Because you’ve changed.

live in one place after 2 years of traveling, Kashmir travel

Time passes by. It’s been a few months and this is the longest time you’ve been settled for a while. Depression after travel can easily turn into an existentialist crisis. You still feel like a bird trapped in a cage but also you start wondering is it worth it to continue? Is it worth it trying to get out of the ‘cage’? You realize it will never be the same because the people you love and care about are scattered across the globe. Parts of you are scattered across the globe. That’s what you get for leaving a small piece of you behind. In all the places to go to. In all the people you meet along the way. That, my friend, is what I like to call the ‘Travel tax’.

Sure, you will have the time of your life. Sure, you will grow as a person, become wiser. You will be amazed by the beauty of the world. You’ll meet amazing people. But these things come at a price. After some time, you start asking yourself: “what’s the point”? What’s the point of going to new places, meeting next extraordinary people just to say goodbye and probably never see them again?

So how to deal with this?

Some people just keep on traveling. Others become expats in countries with a completely different culture than their native countries. Some decide to hang up their travel boots and settle. There’s not really a ‘one size fits them all’ solution. And when this time comes you need to follow your gut. All human beings possess a gut feeling. You just need to find yourself in the right situation to actually discover that you have it. And traveling gives you plenty of such situations.

live in one place after 2 years of traveling

Use the lessons learned to keep growing in the right direction. I know that chances are, you feel like you don’t fit anywhere. You bounced between cultures so effortlessly that you no longer know where you belong. Travel is a part of your life journey. But it’s only a part. A great teacher? Yes. A solution to all of your problems, including your mental health? No. Your personal growth takes place within. And a large part of that transformation is due to traveling.

But there’s another large part that involves finding out who you are and where you come from. A sense of direction. A sense of community. People that understand you. A place that you can call home, wherever that might be. Don’t travel just to run away. Don’t travel just to find yourself if you see that that’s not working. Travel to learn, and remember: new destinations are not a mere place, but rather a new way of seeing things.

Did you ever experience depression after travel? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

depression after travel
depression after travel
depression after travel
Share it with your friends!

17 thoughts on “Depression after travel: how does it feel like to live in one place after years of traveling?”

    • I’m not saying I’m not fortunate. I’m grateful that I got the chance to travel so much. I just wanted to point that it’s not so easy like some people think 🙂

      Reply
  1. Hi,

    Cool share here. I’ve had a neat experience with traveling, and going home. I love home more after each trip abroad. And I love abroad more after each trip home. I love where I am, no matter where it is. I love fam and friends in the US, and friends, and new folks I meet, on the road. Wasn’t always this way; at the beginning of my trip, I felt depressed returning home. But it had nothing to do with home really; just had to clear some fears and stop resisting stuff I had buried for a long time.

    Ryan

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment Ryan. I still love every trip no matter where I am, it just home doesn’t feel like it did before for some reason. And I’ve seen a lot of people facing the same problem. I hope it’s only temporary like it was with you 🙂

      Reply
  2. I can echo a small “Yep, I agree” after reading this post. When I was growing up my parents traveled frequently as missionaries. I was in multiple towns, cities, and states for usually just one or two days at a time. When we were in a location for a longer period of time, friendships were formed but there was always that nagging “I won’t ever see you again”.

    But just like you realized, I too know to treasure what is happening right now. I learned to enjoy the here and know. And not worry about the future. As an adult, it has been neat to see some of those friendships rekindle themselves. Social media is always expanding and I have been able to catch up with those friendships from the last 25 years. ~ Johanna

    Reply
    • Johanna, absolutely. We should enjoy the here and now. And also agree on the social media part. I just wanted to write this post for people that feel in the similar way after being abroad for a long time. And I’m glad I’m seeing people relating to the article. It honestly makes me feel better 🙂

      Reply
  3. Beautiful diary, as if a traveler screaming his cry out aloud which happens to most of us even if we come back from as short as two day break. I can totally feel the pain every time I join back work after an awesome days of travelling . This bit absolutely sucks .. Ok lets say planning to go for next excites but here the question is how to deal with it. I think a true traveller who finds joy in none other than travelling faces this bad.. I love the way you scripted your own as well as many minds and their agony too.

    Reply
  4. This is something which I always fear. The fear of settling or getting stuck at a place after years of moving around. I can completely relate to the post travel getting stuck dilemma, coz I have been there but eventually found my way out again.

    Reply
  5. Such an important share. I can understand how depressive it may get when you travel for long and then have to stick to one place. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on how to deal with such depression. I have been away from my home and been living in different countries for different amounts of time. I am scared to go back home and stay there for long. But I know I may have to do it shortly. Your tips may help me then.

    Reply
  6. Such an interesting article. I always get a holiday hangover and as soon as I am back, I start looking to pack my bags again. However, depression after travel is a serious issue and I am so glad you shared the reasons and how to deal with it.

    Reply
  7. I think there are two basic drugs in society – wanderlust and nostalgia. Who you are as a person revolves around how you feed your core happiness with each of these drugs. Wanderlust is the quest for the while nostalgia is the remembrance of the old. Nostalgia’s power has been proven again and again by science. The problem with being a nostalgia partitioner is that the power of a memory gets reinforced with each repetition. After a while, new experiences no longer compare the your memories.

    I am 47 and still get a creeping panic when I am back at on my parent’s farm. Too many memories. Too many expectations. I am not the person who I want to be or the image of myself I strived to create in my life. I am back to my childhood self, wrought with the familier fears and anxiety. This happens to me if I have just returned from the road or I am on a weekend visit from home.

    Reply
  8. Well said. While I’m not a full-time traveler at this point, I can relate to this feeling. Traveling changes you in a way that can’t be taught by books or anything else – you have to experience it. I grew up as a third culture kid and every few years I still get the urge to move to a new country. I’m glad you addressed this feeling in a very relatable way.

    Reply

Leave a Comment