Before I started this long trip and while doing research for it, I would occasionally find an article on post-travel blues, a kind of depression long term travelers face after their trip is over. Having moved a lot through three countries in my first 20 years of life, I thought I was very adaptable and that something like this would never affect me.
Arriving in Sydney, Australia 732 days after the start of my trip, I was definitely weary of traveling and in need of an extended break. In my few months in the Middle East and Africa leading up to that moment, I had always paid extra for a private room instead of staying in dorm rooms. I didn’t feel like socializing much, preferring to travel alone. While I still enjoyed interactions with locals very much, I tried to avoid other travelers. This was not something I was proud of or happy with. I had met countless other travelers who I had very rewarding experiences with during the first year and a half of this trip.
Things didn’t change much once I arrived in Sydney. While I’m always very comfortable around Jenni and it never feels tiring to spend time with her, I dreaded having to meet other people. I also avoided doing things outdoors. I had no motivation or desire to go out for walks or explore nearby places. I’d instead prefer to stay in my apartment and edit pictures or do other stuff on my computer.
As far as I know, I wasn’t depressed or anything. I just had no motivation to socialize or do outdoor stuff. These things didn’t bring me much satisfaction or joy anymore. In other accounts of post-travel depression that I read online, the writers almost always wished they were still traveling instead of being home. I didn’t feel that way since I didn’t have any strong desires to visit other countries. While there are still many amazing ones I haven’t visited yet (India, Nepal, and China for example), when I looked at pictures of faraway places they didn’t elicit many emotions in me. I didn’t feel like buying a plane ticket and going to those places.
If all this sounds very whiny and out of touch with most people’s reality, that’s because it is. I sometimes see friends on facebook getting excited about their 1 or 2-week long vacation that they have been waiting for all year long, and I’m not proud of not appreciating the freedom and opportunities that I had and still have.
I can think of an analogy to try to explain to people what I was going through. It’s the same feeling that one gets at a buffet restaurant. Imagine eating at the best buffet restaurant in the world, with all of your favorite foods. You’d indulge and be extremely happy for a couple of hours, eating until you are absolutely stuffed. But after that, all the food that looked so appetizing a while ago won’t be anymore. Over two plus years I had stuffed myself with travel experiences. I was full, and I needed time to digest everything. And my way of doing that was to be alone at home.
Luckily, things started to turn around after four or five months. As I’m writing this, I have been in Sydney for over ten months. I started thinking again of places I want to go to. Looking at pictures and videos of exotic places started to make me excited again, and I’m now planning to start traveling again in a couple of months.
I’m still not very social, and this is a change that I don’t like in me. Remembering how social I was in the first year of this trip, I much prefer that version of myself than the current one. I hope that with time, this will change too.