The travel comedown is no joke

Image Source: Zoe Kassiotis

By Zoe Kassiotis | @ZKassiotis

The highs of travel are out of this world.

The comedown, however, is a very big low.

More Australians are heading overseas than ever before thanks to increasingly affordable access to travel and the rise of youth-targeted tour companies.

Whether it’s stories from a student exchange, Contiki tour or a solo backpacking trip, we’ve all heard about the highs and lows of an experience abroad.

We frantically talk about the anticipation prior to leaving, as doubts and nerves bubble on the surface of the unknown, but no one really talks about the return, the comedown, and the gaping hole that is the aftermath of travel.

That comedown is an entire trip of its own, and it’s not a good one.

Simply put: it sucks.

We know about the post-holiday blues, but the reality of those negative emotions is often compartmentalised as we resentfully go about our mundane, yet demanding, daily lives.

It doesn’t help that the first weeks back are deceptively pleasant.

The farewells to new families made abroad sting, but they’re quickly soothed by the reunion with loved ones at home.

Having them gush over your photos and the stories behind them is wonderful.

Who doesn’t love sharing a wholesome travel tale?

Fast-forward a week or two and you’re no longer the shinynew toy.

Everyone is doing exactly what they always did, just how they have always done it.

The only problem is that you’re not the same.

Beyond your new, hostel-living inspired style and cheeky memento tattoo, your mind is a melting pot of ideas and culture.

After travelling, you don’t want to go back to this whole living to work nonsense because you’ve experienced what it’s like to work to live.

Whether or not you picked up any exotic vocabulary, it’s like you don’t speak your own language anymore.

The language of home suddenly seems foreign, and to be frank, irrelevant.

This is something that university student Charlie Rhodes grappled with after he spent eleven-months on student exchange in Norway and backpacking through Europe.

I came back to a strange place where I don’t really relate to anyone and its rough,” Charlie said.

I spent a summer in Norway with midnight sun. There was no sunset the sun would touch the horizon and come straight back up, and I watched it happen from mountain tops.

No one here understands that,” he said.

Ironically, travelling is about finding joy in the small things, but part of the comedown is comparing these monumental joys to the seemingly bland ones back home.

“The grass was greener and the trees were greener – there’s no argument, they actually were,” he said.

Seven months after returning home, the travel comedown still affects Charlie in terms of maintaining the friendships he made abroad and finding the will to finish his studies.

We keep in contact because it’s like, ‘a year ago today‘ we were there together’, but you don’t get two years ago today in your notifications, do you?”

“I haven’t been able to do anything since coming back; I can’t focus on my uni work and it’s just not going well.

Travelling is like an itchy disease that you can’t get rid ofit’s just not going to go and I’m ready to leave again,” he said.

It’s that time of year where the ground beneath our feet is cold and still, and it’s harder to be happy as seasonal depression sets in.

Charlie summed it up hauntingly well when he said, Now the winter is here, it’s like,oh here it comes, here’s the rain and the tears, but the tears are falling from the sky and the rain is falling from my eyes”.

Autumn left us, and took the leaves on the now permanently damp ground.

My feet are itching for some warm sand.

With mid-year break approaching, my internal body clock has struck Europe though I don’t think my dust-blanketed suitcase knows it’s not going anywhere this winter.

I actually don’t think its fully unpacked either.

But, a lot like my bank account, I can’t quite bring myself to check.

Whether it’s a heavy nostalgia of your own travels or the highlight reel of what seems like everyone else’s mid-year Contiki, it’s nearly impossible to escape the longing to… escape.

We’ve all heard the Euro tour stories: monument trawling by day and bar crawling by night. 

If you’re lucky, you’ve been the one to share your globetrotting tails.

You know, like the time the token 18-year-old from country New South Wales decided it would be fun to backflip off a bar into a sea of no one. 

It’s been eight months, but the memories from my semester abroad still hang over me.

I even long for the alcohol-induced injuries in foreign lands.

From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows: I miss it all.

The aftermath of travel got me good.




2 responses to “The travel comedown is no joke”

  1. Wow Zoe. So relatable to so many and so succinctly and entertainingly written. You’ve released “the elephant in the room”, and explained “the holiday blues”, the post holiday disassociation that so many have felt and struggle with and have difficulty firstly to realise it and then to try to understand it and survive it and also to try to explain it to their family and friends. I hope that just by sharing and discussing your article, many, (mainly the inflicted and those poor loved ones affected by the inflicted’s moods), everyone will be much more enlightened and understanding of this difficult condition.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: