TRAVEL

How to Come Back to Reality after Traveling

Welcome back.

If you found yourself to this post, I’m gonna assume you’re struggling to get back into your everyday. So first, welcome back. And second, you’re not alone if you’re feeling the post-trip blues.

You’ve had an experience that completely shattered your routine– an experience that other people could never understand, because they weren’t you. Travel can be transformative and impactful, and it’s no surprise that arriving home after a big trip can be a rough landing.

Anyone who has traveled has most likely dealt with the dread of the aftermath– you are no longer on your trip. You are no longer studying abroad, or teaching English, or on your wilderness trip. Wherever you went, coming home can somehow feel harsh and uneventful at the same time.

However you feel, it’s OK. You are not the first or last person to feel the way you do.

However you feel, it might be a bummer or less than ideal. But the fact is, you are now home. And you have some options. You can marinate in your misery, or you can try to move through and eventually out of it. Which one sounds better?

Here are some tips from my experiences coming home from big trips or stays abroad.

FIND YOUR HOME GROOVE

When I got back from nine months in Portugal, waking up in my own bed felt foreign but mildly familiar… like a dream that I could only barely remember. Getting back is going to feel weird– you’re not heading to your usual café for breakfast, you’re not greeted by the same smells or sights as you were on your trip, and that can be underwhelming and just plain strange.

Trust me, sitting inside in your anxiety cave is not going to make you feel better. You have to get out.

Find things in your home country that speak to your highest excitement. Explore the places you haven’t explored yet, travel domestically, make it a goal to meet new people. Find things that you are excited to build into your routine– force yourself to get up and get into that groove. The hardest part is getting yourself out the door.

SHIFT YOUR FOCUS

Instead of focusing on what your home country lacks, focus on what you loved so much about your trip and incorporate more of it into your home life. Nope, you’re not going to get the *exact* pastries you used to get in Paris, but maybe you’ll discover a new bakery or even learn to make them yourself.

Instead of, “Man, it really blows that I don’t have the same view here as I did in Florence,” can you shift to, “My view in Florence was gorgeous and I’m so thankful I got to experience that”?

Don’t let your fond memories drain you. Let them inspire you instead. Watch the language you use and the story you are telling yourself about being home. Choose to rephrase the story to one coming from a place of abundance instead of a place of lack.

APPLY WHAT YOU LEARNED

If a part of your heart misses your trip, it must have meant something to you. It must have taught you something.

Your trip most likely taught you how to be more independent. It probably forced you to be friends with different types of people. It probably got you outside of your comfort zone. It probably put you in situations where you had to order food in a different language, or ask for directions, or communicate in a new way. And you can apply many of these takeaways to your life at home.

You had an amazing experience abroad, and that is noteworthy. Now how can you bring some of the learnings into your day to day life? Ask yourself this question and take it seriously. Build upon your newest foundation.

PLAN SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO

If you can’t seem to get out of this funk, if the black hole of boredom seems never-ending, plan something that truly excites you. Maybe it’s a creative project. Maybe it’s a trip with friends. Maybe it’s some solo time to do some soul searching. Maybe it’s a big move. Whatever it is, let it be something to look forward to.

Mix it up and sprinkle your weeks with fun activities, You time, and things that interest you. You’re not going to get through this lull by keeping everything the same.


If you are feeling like you want to escape, can you view your everyday with the same amount of curiosity as you had while you were traveling? Can you challenge yourself to see it with new eyes?

Whatever blues you may be feeling, I totally get it. But you have to look back on your trip fondly without dwelling on the negative stuff. You are the only one who can make this shift. Love the memories and the relationships you made. Take what you learned and use it. Although it’s hard to come back, it’s far more important that you went in the first place.

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10 Comments

  • Reply
    Michael
    September 3, 2017 at 5:51 pm

    I have never experienced what you are describing but I totally get it. I think your advice is solid and helpful. You seem to have a knack for that sort of thing.

  • Reply
    Michelle
    September 3, 2017 at 6:00 pm

    I really needed to read this post. This summer, I lived in my van and traveled full time and it was such an awesome and transformative experience that I really crash landed back home. Thank you for your encouraging words and the reminder to be intentional about how I think about this transition back to civilization. I hope your upcoming adventures are amazing and your journey back home is safe and smooth.

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      September 4, 2017 at 10:13 am

      Thank you for sharing, Michelle. That sounds like a special summer and transformative indeed–– what a blessing. Remember what it taught you and let it make you strong. xo

  • Reply
    Chris Gargala
    September 4, 2017 at 5:14 pm

    Loved reading the post! I look forward to the post next week, based on the instagram sneak-peak!

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      September 6, 2017 at 5:15 pm

      Thanks Chris! Sorry I’m making you wait 😛

  • Reply
    Kristen
    September 13, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    This was necessary to read. The funny thing is, my trip didn’t make me feel like I am LACKING anything back at home in the US – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. I’m left feeling like we have TOO MUCH. I was in Tanzania, Africa, where daily stresses are vastly different than the ones we create for ourselves. I’m stuck here recognizing now how much we have access to in the US, and how others may not even have access to water – let alone clean drinking water. I’m aiming to simplify my life and mindset to reflect the Tanzanian culture and life I embraced over the last month. Thank you for writing this, Erin! :)

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      September 29, 2017 at 2:10 am

      Hi Kristen! Great reflections. When we have these experiences it can be hard to come home to our communities because our friends and family members can never “get it” because they have not had the same experience. It’s not their fault, but it is frustrating sometimes. I totally get it. Here’s to implementing your reflections into your life back home!

  • Reply
    Jillian
    October 3, 2017 at 8:52 am

    Hey Erin,
    Thanks so much for this post! Just found it today, right when I needed it. I recently got back from a month in the mountains of the Southwest (nothing like your nine months in Portugal), but coming back to the East Coast has been more than a little difficult. Thanks for all your tips!
    -Jillain

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      October 6, 2017 at 9:27 am

      Hi Jillian! Thanks so much for sharing your story. Glad it helped. xo

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