Have you ever felt a pang of sadness as you're sitting on your flight home after traveling to awesome places? Maybe I'm just describing my current situation, but I'm pretty convinced that post-travel depression is a real, and very serious thing, and that you're bound to get your heart broken no matter what if you travel.
My heart feels broken, and at first I had no idea why. I travel all the time, yet for some reason yesterday I felt like I was sub-consciously kicking and screaming because I wanted to stay in South America instead of catching my flight back to the U.S. for the holidays. Ironically, and much to my amusement, my flight last night out of Lima was cancelled, which made me mischievously happy, yet once again heart broken this morning when I was re-scheduled on an early flight.
But why am I heartbroken? I didn't end a relationship or lose someone I love. I didn't find out the person I like cheated on me or is in love with someone else. I did see a dog get hit by a car, but for the most part, that was the most realistically detrimental thing to really happen to me during my two week trip. So why on Earth do I feel so sad about going home? It took a few glasses of wine, but I think now I know why.
1. You Fall in Love With a Place, Then Have to Leave
Have you ever traveled somewhere so amazing that you fall in love with it and never want to leave? That happens to me in most places, which means towards the end of the trip, I get really, really sad. Time flies, and suddenly a week feels like yesterday, sending your heart into a frenzy when you think about leaving the beloved place you've only just discovered. It's like falling in love at first sight at an airport, having a drink, then getting your name called three times on the loudspeaker to hurry the f up and board your flight.
2. You Have No Idea When You Can Go Back
The one question that without fail always breaks my heart when I travel is, "So when are you coming back?" It's the only answer I ever semi-lie about due to money, time, and a quest to see new places; "I don't know." And I really don't know. I know that there are a lot of places I'd like to see in the world, and I also know that I don't have the money to just go anywhere, especially twice. But what is most heartbreaking is not only that the majority of the time I really would like to come back and can't, but the people I meet actually want me to too.
3. There's so Much More You Wanted to Do
Although I am a master at ambitiously adventuring, and doing and seeing as much as possible in the amount of time I have, there's still always more I wanted to do, and it breaks my heart to leave without experiencing everything. In this past two week trip I did a ton of awesome activities. I saw the Sacred Valley, hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, took a bus from Cusco to see the floating islands in Puno, then crossed the border to Bolivia to see Lake Titicaca, bike down Death Road, and take a tour of the famous Uyuni Salt Flats.
But after all that I was literally pouting, and feeling an extreme urge to just jump on a bus to continue exploring South America. Now my poor wanderlust little heart is broken because I'm on a flight home instead of a bus driving down Chile or across to Argentina.
4. You Make Fast, Meaningful Friendships
One thing I absolutely love about people who travel, is how quickly you form meaningful friendships with them, no matter where they're from or what stage of life. On my Inca Trail hike I made friends with a lady who was solo traveling now that her kids are grown (and my age), and we were buddies the whole four days. Her name was Brenda, and she's originally from the Philippines, she was in the military, and now lives in Philadelphia where she works for Olympus electronics, and was nice enough to always lend me her sunscreen after I got sun burnt AF, and her extreme portable battery for all of my various electronic devices.
Then, in Bolivia, someone asked how long I'd been friends with the people I was with from Holland, Canada, and Australia since we all seemed so close, which to all of our surprises after thinking about it was the answer, "Since yesterday." That's when my heart broke again. I had literally just met and made friends with these people from all over the world who happened to be on the same bus as me, who helped me when I didn't have all the requirements to pass the Bolivia border, and who even came with me on an adventure that they weren't planning.
I miss them, and it breaks my heart that we all live in different countries, and I don't know when I'll see them again. I think that if I were ever super rich, after helping as many impoverished areas as I could, I would fly every single person I've made friends with while traveling to one place, so that we can all hang out again.
5. You Develop Severe Travel Crushes
Don't even try to tell me that you haven't developed a random, sudden, immediately severe crush on someone while traveling. We are humans, not only is it impossible not to, but it's a lot easier to when it's in an unexpected place and time. Travel crushes are awesome, but what's not awesome, is when one of you have to leave. Especially if you live in other countries. Then comes the heart break again, that's bound to happen when you travel.
6. You Know it Won't Be As Awesome Back Home
Christmas is literally in five days, but all I can think about is how in the heck I'm going to afford my next plane ticket back to South America. I don't want presents, or holiday cheer, I want to be on a bus or plane to Patagonia, and possibly figuring out how to sneak on a last minute sailing to Antarctica out of Ushuaia. When I get back home, no one is going to have any idea what I'm talking about. I'm going to be in Florida and there's going to be no where for me to explore, or hike, or hang my feet off a cliff, just work, and more work, and people talking about work or babies.
7. You Know It'll Be Hard to Travel Again
Last night while I was still in Peru, I was searching for the cheapest flights out of LAX or FLL to "worldwide". My heart broke and my face cringed when I saw that the places I wanted to travel to that were at the moment so close (Chile and Argentina), costed so much to get to if I were to go all the way back home. Not only does each trip take a huge chunk of money just to get to, but also a lot of time to plan and save for, which is altogether a very heartbreaking process.
8. You'll Miss Everything You Got Used To
Although my Inca Trail hike was only four days long, I felt like I had the same routine forever. Each morning I'd be woken up with hot coca tea, get dressed in my tent, pack, go to breakfast in the "dining tent", chat with the group and tour guide, set off for a day of hiking, have lunch, hike some more, get to camp, have tea time "happy hour", have dinner, chat more, then go to sleep in my tent before it all started over again. Aside from the strenuous hiking part, I really miss my little camping routine! And I'm sad that I no longer have my little tent, or crew, or cute tour guide guy that I obviously had a crush on.
9. You'll Constantly Wonder "What If"
The number one thing on my mind right now is, "What if I would have just pushed my flight back two days and gone to Chile after Bolivia instead of flying back to Lima early." Or more drastically, it's "What if I just stayed in South America, took the bus all down Chile, crossed over to Patagonia, then went either to Ushuaia to attempt Antarctica, or up to Buenos Aires then to Punta del Este to meet my new friends." Then of course there's the more heartbreaking "what if's", like "What if I said yes to having dinner," or "What if I just went with them to Argentina." Real life travel problems. It's heartbreaking.
10. You'll Suffer from Post-Travel-Depression
In case it isn't already obvious that this recent travel trip has broken my heart for not viable or justifiable reasons, I'll reiterate that I am literally heart broken and extremely sad that I am on my way home right now instead of continuing to travel, continuing to see my new friends, and continuing to meet new people and experience new places. I believe this feeling is also referred to as "Post Travel Depression," which is a very serious disorder that can only be cured by more travel.