Here's a quick quiz. Which of the following do you do when you get back home from a spectacular trip abroad?
a) go to bed, even after you've recovered from jet lag
b) have a beer (or two or three) and ignore your pile of bills for a week
c) turn on the Travel Channel and leave it on (after you've gone back to bed)
d) look around your home with subtle disgust and distaste
e) two or more of the above
Let's be honest, if not dramatic: Bringing your vacation to a close can be a rewarding, emotional and slightly draining experience. You may feel euphoric, gratified, overwhelmed and like a different person. After you've seen and been a part of many incredible things abroad, it can be hard to move on -- and even more challenging not to slip into a major funk as you compare your vacation lifestyle with the realities waiting at home.
Here are some ideas for preventing post-trip doldrums from turning into a real bout of depression. While they're not going to make you feel as great as you did while dining in Venice or Tokyo, you might find yourself feeling as good or even better than you did before you left for your trip -- and with some energy left over to dream about your next getaway.
1. Manage your restlessness. Traveling comes with a certain intensity and compression that can be difficult to unwind from. It also has the effect of "slowing" time, since you often do more different and eye-opening things in a single day than you might in a week at home. When you return, the restlessness you get from not doing something "new and different" can be downright unnerving. This restlessness usually goes away within three to six weeks of settling back into your everyday life. If you have the time, try taking smaller day trips in the weeks after your return to wear it off.
2. Become more active. When you travel, you might realize that you're not in the shape you thought you were, and as you gradually increase your fitness level during your trip, you may notice how much better you feel. This can inspire you to join a gym or take up a sport (including one you tried on your vacation) when you return. Becoming more active will not only make it easier to be in shape for the next trip, it can give any mounting depression a cheerful kick in the face. You may also conveniently lose some of the weight you gained at that last round of restaurants in Florence.
3. Clean your house. Sound like an odd suggestion? Besides being obviously practical, cleaning your house can help you clear your head and reconnect with your usual surroundings. Your own home can feel unfamiliar and even strange after you've been through four or five hotel rooms in a row. Doing some cleaning will also help you find physical (and emotional) space for everything you brought home so you're not tripping over your half-unpacked suitcase every time you meander to the living room. Finally, you may start to redecorate with small things you bought on your trip, such as placemats, pottery and wall hangings, so that you're spreading the joy of your vacation around you, literally.
4. Clean OUT your house. Living out of a suitcase can make you realize just how little you need to lead a full life. A lot of people are inspired to unload a number of little-used items from their home after they return from vacation, and find it convenient to host a garage sale or sell items on eBay in order to make money for the next trip.
Having fewer possessions can also focus you more on your present life, and give you a far greater sense of freedom. And making a nice chunk of money to put towards Seoul or Hong Kong is going to do wonders for your mood.
5. Start a new hobby. During a trip you're exposed to a myriad of new and different things -- or the same things that you are used to, but in a different context. A common hobby you may take up after returning home is learning how to cook a certain ethnic food, or studying the language of a place you plan to revisit. Such things often need only a modest investment in time or money, and give you that exhilarating feel you get while on a trip -- of doing something for the first time.
6. Make new acquaintances and friends. To relive positive memories, you may be unable to resist telling others a lot about your trip -- even if you've never shared much of anything with anyone. Since people are generally curious to hear firsthand experiences of other places and cultures, your chances of being rebuffed are pretty minimal. To coworkers and people who don't know you well, you become known as "the traveler," which makes a great icebreaker every time you see someone that you didn't feel comfortable talking to before.
And last but not least...
7. Keep sharing! A lot of post on Facebook, Twitter or our own blog almost every day while they are abroad, and then wind down their posts or even come to a dead stop when they return home. Don't do this! Save some experiences and photos to share after you've started unpacking; not only will it "extend" your trip, but it can also take some of the pressure off your hectic touring schedule (let's face it, keeping up with your entire social network after a 12-hour day touring Paris might not be something you can stay awake for.) Remember: The more you connect, the less likely you are to get depressed.