It’s been 3 months since I got back from my Eat, Pray, Love adventure - and I feel depressed

Credit: iStock
Credit: iStock

There's something that happens after a holiday, you pretty much need another one just to recover and settle back into everyday life. This is sort of like that, only I didn’t go on a vacation, I decided to pack up and leave my normal life in Cape Town behind for a year.

I decided I needed to be more than a digital copywriter with myasthenia gravis. I needed to wake up to differently polluted air, Thailand air. 

Fast forward to a little over a year later, and I'm home. Feeling very much out of sorts. 

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Sometimes the reality is, coming back is harder than leaving. You plan a trip with the excitement of getting your first car, you invest a great deal of time anticipating future adventures and making sure you have everything you could possibly need to make sure those adventures are everything you made them out to be in your mind. 

Then, splat!

I spent my time abroad teaching English at a primary school in Bangkok. But, it wasn’t all lesson plans and school newsletters, I ventured out almost every weekend, emersed myself in the culture and I generally had a great time! Some days weren’t the best, but most days were fantastic. 

The first month back I tasked myself with ticking off all the things I’d thought about when times got a little overwhelming while I was abroad. I’ve seen all the loved ones and the acquaintances I thought I was okay with never seeing again. I’ve reacquainted myself with all my usual spaces. I’ve had enough Hunter’s Dry to dub myself their official ambassador and I’ve had all the food that I used to dream of while abroad. But after the pap and isibindi settled, I was left, unsatisfied.

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I spent nights planning the ideal way back into my previous life and I knew adjusting back to the normalcy was not going to happen overnight. But I didn’t think it would have kicked in after only three months. I Googled what happens after living abroad for a while and most of what I found paralleled with what was happening to me – post travel depression. 

My body and mind have detached from my current reality. I feel anxious when I leave the house. I watch myself putting in effort when I mingle (so not old me). I count the seconds till I can utter the excuse I thought of the moment I sent that “on my way” text. 

Initially, I just figured it was jet lag. However, my regulated eight hours of slumber got longer, and meals soon became optional. I started ignoring calls and making excuses as to why I couldn’t leave the house. Conversations with people I once missed were something I’d rather, well, miss. 

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I think I have underestimated the amount of growing I did. I’ve seen how I reacted to situations and old me was not as open-minded and accepting. I have become highly selective when it comes to what I now choose to invest and believe in. 

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Although post travel depression (PTD) is an unofficial term, psychologists have advised that it’s something that shouldn’t be ignored as the symptoms could escalate.  After consulting a few blogs and articles about PTD, I have found a few ways to help cope through the transition:

  • Ease yourself back to your pre-travel activities. Understand that reverse culture shock is real and you shouldn’t put any pressure on yourself. Everything should be taken at a self-timed pace. 
  • Drink lots of water! Yes, water. This will help the body feel less strained as you introduce a new diet after a year of being an experimental foodie.
  • Travel more, this seems a little “I have no finances, so, uhm?”, however small trips in and around your hometown will do, this includes day trips too. Take advantage of your new-found adventurous streak and get creative with your spaces and places.

Post travel depression is part of the experience as it helps you figure out what we enjoy about our current way of life while opening your eyes to what you’re truly passionate about and want out of life.

It may have taken months, but I’m starting to spend an appropriate amount of time in bed and meals are becoming regular again.

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