At first thought, the travelling blues don’t make sense.
I mean, travelling the world’s sold as a life-changing, positive experience!
And yet there you are on a tropical beach, with a coconut in one hand and a book in the other, feeling utterly forlorn.
How does that work?!
It’s a bit like when you hear about depressed billionaires. Somehow, it just doesn’t fit with our preconceptions (…or misconceptions) on money and happiness.
In reality, though, I reckon the travel blues are far more common than you’d think.
I know for a fact that I’m no stranger to them!
So, if you’re going through a bout of travel depression right now, the first thing to keep in mind is that you’re definitely not alone.
And second, this unexpected state of affairs doesn’t have to ruin your trip.
Want to learn all about the travellers’ blues, what causes them, and how to get through it?
I hope the coming guide helps!
What Are the Travelling Blues?
One thing that’s worth pointing out is that I’m not talking about post travel blues here!
These are just as (if not more) common, and no less debilitating, yet strike at the end of a trip.
You’re basically gutted to be back home after such an awesome experience.
By contrast, travel blues hit when you’re on the road.
No matter how beautiful your surroundings are or how epic your daily activities might be, you feel sad, lonely, and generally a bit crappy.
But it’s worse than the usual low mood most people experience at some point in life.
You get this double-whammy of badness.
Not only do you feel blue, but you’re also vaguely ashamed of feeling that way when you’re on the road, in stunning locations, doing awesome stuff…on a trip you may have dreamt about for months, saved up for, and boasted to your friends about!
Ultimately, the travelling blues can sour the experience, sap the joy from your days, and make you question how you could feel this way in the first place.
What Causes the Travelling Blues?
I’d say most people (myself included) see travel through rose tinted glasses.
We glorify it in our minds and expect it to be wonderful from start to finish.
And how couldn’t we?!
Just look at the travel snaps on Instagram.
When every other photo is of someone sun-kissed and smiling in an infinity pool, you don’t necessarily picture yourself crying into a cocktail.
In reality, though, the actual experience of travel can be very different.
There are genuine disadvantages to going away.
You get lonely and tired. You feel out of your comfort zone. And life at home moves on without you. All told, there’s a lot to be sad about!
Getting the travel blues along the way is 100% understandable.
Here are a few specific (but by no means exhaustive) reasons that may explain how you feel:
1. Travel Isn’t a Cure-All
One of the biggest lessons I’ve had to learn the hard way about travel is that:
Flying halfway around the world doesn’t magic away your emotional baggage!
It might provide a temporary reprieve.
And it’s definitely an invaluable chance to get a break, unwind, and regroup.
Yet, no matter how far away you go, changing locations doesn’t suddenly turn you into a different person.
You carry your internal struggles with you, like unwanted luggage.
So, if you’re sad, depressed, melancholic, irritable, or anything else in everyday life, there’s a good chance you’ll be those things on the road too- especially if you don’t do anything different when you’re out there.
Heads up, you might like this post about the different types of travelling!
2. You’re Far from Home
You may be excited about what you’re doing, but it sucks to feel so far away!
You miss hugging your mum. Or attending family get-togethers. Or going out for drinks with your best mates.
Alone on the other side of the world, surrounded by folks you don’t really know, it’s easy to grow a little lonely sometimes.
3. You’re Outside Your Comfort Zone
Everything about travelling takes you outside your comfort zone too.
Now, this is one reason why you do it in the first place! You want to experience new cultures, see new things, and immerse yourself in a new way of life.
But you have to push against millions of years of evolution in the process.
Your ancient brains wants you to survive! So it loves comfort and hates uncertainty. That’s why stepping into the unknown is unsettling.
In some cases, it may even be enough to push you into a bout of travel blues.
4. You’re Tired &/or Sick
It’s hard to overstate how tiring travelling can be.
You’re on your feet a lot, making non-stop decisions (what to see, how to get there, when and what to eat, where to stay…), surrounded by novelty, and getting sensory overload from everything new and exciting going on around you.
Everything about it’s exhausting! And what happens when you’re tired?
Your mood dips!
You feel sluggish, slow and lack the energy that’s required to be upbeat.
Throw some sickness (another likely outcome of exhaustion) into the mix and you’re on a one-way ticket to feeling gloomy.
Heads up, you might also like this post about the advantages and disadvantages of travel!
5. Your Relationships Are Suffering
Travelling with friends or a partner is awesome. It’s always special to have people to share the experience with!
Yet it’s often difficult as well. Why?
Because you can’t just think about yourself anymore.
You have to sacrifice and compromise, which can be a bitter pill to swallow when you have different ideas on what to do.
And you’re tired too, right? Everything’s harder when you’re tired.
These kinds of factors can put the travel relationship under strain. There’s tension and conflict and guilt mixed in for good measure.
It’s hard to feel high on life in these kinds of situations!
6. You’re Comparing Yourself to Others
Thinking about your peers can get you into a pickle when you’re travelling.
It’s even worse when you start stalking them on social media.
You see everyone getting jobs, climbing the corporate ladder, earning mega-bucks, getting married and having kids.
…And you’re off gallivanting on the other side of the world!
It’s easy to start questioning your decisions. You can feel like you’re falling behind and doing nothing of value.
But comparison’s the thief of joy, right?
Spend too long thinking such thoughts and you’re on a one-way ticket to the travelling blues.
How to Overcome Traveller’s Blues
It’s always helpful to understand why you might be experiencing the travel blues.
I mean, it sheds light on the situation!
You realize you’re not just “broken” or “being stupid”. There are legitimate and justifiable reasons behind the problem.
That alone may take the sting from its tail.
However, the real magic happens when you combine this realization with some tricks, tools and approaches to overcome the travelling blues once and for all.
And, thankfully, there are many effective ways to go about exactly that.
Here are a few of them:
1. Calling (or Visiting) Home
Staying in regular contact with loved ones at home is really important- especially when you’re susceptible to feeling homesick.
I’m awful at this.
I get so absorbed in what I’m doing that weeks can go by without me sending a single message.
Then I start feeling lonely, forgotten about, and have only myself to blame!
Try to schedule a regular video call- particularly on big family occasions at home (such as Christmas or birthdays) that you’re missing.
It’ll never be the same as being there in person, but it’s the next best thing.
Travelling often involves lots of walking from place to place, so you may feel like you’re getting lots of exercise on the road already.
However, as good as it is for you, walking doesn’t give you the same kick of endorphins that you get from more intense exercise.
As both prevention against and treatment for the travelling blues, getting your legs moving and heart pumping on a regular basis should help too.
3. Eating Right
Maintaining a healthy diet while you’re travelling can be a challenge.
For one thing, you might not have access to a kitchen.
For another, it’s often cheaper and more convenient to eat out!
And when the local cuisine’s full of oil, sugar, salt, carbs, you can end up consuming all sorts of unhealthy (yet delicious) food!
It’s amazing how much of an impact this can have on your mood- especially over weeks and months of travelling.
Your body may be lacking the nutrients and fuel it needs to keep you energized and in high spirits! Combine that with the tiredness that always accompanies travel and you can soon slip into a negative place.
That’s why I find diet to be a good starting point whenever I’m feeling low.
I might not be having an existential crisis! I may simply need to skip the sugar and saturated fats for a while and eat more fruit and veg.
4. Sleeping Enough
How’s your sleep been recently too? Have you been getting your 7 to 8 hours in each night?
It might be worth making some changes if not.
After all, the quality and quantity of our sleep are crucial to our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. It’s hard to feel happy when you’re sleeping awfully!
Anything you can do to improve the situation could make a big difference.
If you’ve been staying in noisy hostel dorms each night, for instance, you could try paying extra for a nice private room every once in a while.
5. Slowing Down
It’s tempting to rush from place to place when you’re travelling.
Desperate not to miss anything, you hurry between attractions, keeping to a tight and exacting schedule.
It makes sense too. I mean, there’s a lot to see in a limited amount of time!
Unfortunately, there’s also a danger that you never spend enough time anywhere to really take in and enjoy the experience. Moreover, being in a constant rush is a recipe for stress and burnout.
If you can relate to this hurried way of travelling, then why not slow things down?
Take your time at each place, enjoy the journey, and reassure yourself that less is often more when it comes to appreciating the experience.
6. Taking Breaks
Try taking regular breaks as part of your bid to slow down too.
We all need periods of rest, right?
You can’t go flat out all the time without doing some sort of damage!
It’s like letting your muscles recover after a big gym session. Or stepping away from the desk every few hours at work.
When you get back into the gym, or sit back down at your desk, you’re far more likely to perform well.
And it’s the same with travel.
Taking a morning, afternoon, or entire day off every now and then will help you stay fresh and engaged.
So give yourself permission not to go sightseeing for a change! Have a lie in. Read your book all morning. Go for a swim in the sea…
Relax and recharge and you’ll be far more likely to keep the travel blues at bay.
7. Avoiding Drink and Drugs
Drinking and partying can go hand in hand with travel- especially when you’re on your first big trip.
I mean, the booze lowers your inhibitions!
It becomes easier to get all silly, strike up conversations with strangers, and make cool new friends as a result.
Try to go easy though.
A whole lot can go wrong when you’re on the road, surrounded by folks you don’t know, and alcohol &/or drugs are involved.
Yet one of the more certain outcomes is the hangover or come down to follow!
And neither are ideal when you’re already on the verge of travelling blues.
8. Travelling with Friendly, Likeminded People
Being around good people can make a major difference when you’re feeling low.
They can cheer you up, offer their support, and provide a much-needed distraction!
You don’t even have to know them! Sometimes, even a simple conversation with a stranger at a bar or hostel can help.
It’ll get you out of your head and give you something new to focus on.
On occasion, you might get on so well you decide to travel onward together!
And that, in turn, can alleviate any loneliness that could’ve been contributing to your travellers’ blues.
9. Practicing Mindfulness and Journaling
Specific tools for reducing travel blues don’t come much better than mindfulness and journaling.
Mindful meditation has been used by people for millennia to stay present, reduce anxiety, and improve their mood.
You focus on the hear-and-now, watching your thoughts as they come and go, without judging yourself throughout the exercise.
As for journaling, writing things down can shed light on how you’re feeling.
You can process what’s going on internally and, by getting it out of your head and onto the page, improve your emotional state. Of course, keeping a journal is also a perfect way to immortalize your experiences on the road!
Why not give both a try to see if they’ll reduce your travel blues?
Remember This Guide to the Travel Blues
Given the image of travelling that most people have in mind, the notion of travelling blues might seem crazy.
But it’s actually really common!
As I talked about above, exploring new places is both harder than it sounds and opens the door to all sorts of difficult emotions. So it’s totally natural to come down with a bad case of travel blues at some point on any trip.
The silver lining? They definitely don’t have to spoil your adventure!
With any luck, the insights in this post will help in that regard.
Keep them in mind and you should have a better understanding of a) why you feel the way you do and b) how to come through it unscathed.
Got any questions or thoughts about travellers’ blues?
Drop a comment below and I’ll try my best to help!
In the meantime, you might enjoy this post with 100 affirmations to alleviate anxiety.