Post Travel Depression: The Good, Bad, & Ugly

post travel depression

Post travel depression (PTD) is a term commonly used amongst expatriates and travelers referring to the low energy and dark mood felt after returning home from a trip. Though it’s not an official clinical term in the field of psychology and psychotherapy, it’s still very real and should never be ignored. However, there’s no reason to get overly concerned unless it seems you just can’t shake it.

Post travel depression (PTD) is a very normal experience, which most of us transition out of relatively fast. Though it can feel dark and hopeless, it can be seen as a good sign that your trip might have brought some significant value to your life, as well (it’s just hard to see at the moment).

Many inexperienced travelers assume the personal insights that are often sparked from traveling, happen during travel only. This isn’t always the case. In fact, some of your most major insights can come years after a trip. They can also come during post travel depression, as well. So, don’t ignore or try to avoid your feelings. It can teach you a lot.

Post Travel Depression (PTD) Symptoms

• Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping.
• Loss of appetite or increase in appetite.
• Crying for no apparent reason.
• Difficulty concentrating.
• Regret, feeling you didn’t do or see enough on your trip (here’s a good related blog post).
• Feelings of being isolated or misunderstood

Please note that post travel depression (PTD) is a mild condition that often passes on its own. More serious symptoms (e.g., suicidal thoughts, deep feelings of hopelessness, etc.) should not be taken lightly. If you feel like you need help, seek professional help immediately.

Post Travel Depression (PTD) Symptom Story

Matt explained the frustration he felt when he returned home after being away for a year; he wasn’t able to understand his friends in the same way he used to and vice versa. His writing is very honest.

Post Travel Depression (PTD) and Expectations

Unreasonable expectations can add to the heaviness of post travel depression. Just how we build up our travels before leaving home, we do the same before coming home. And just how those expectations pre-departure weren’t met, the same will be true for our post-return.

Expect your friends and family to connect on the same level as you when you show them photos and tell your stories? Think again. They weren’t there. Some may not even ask to see your photos or ask for details. Even if they do, their facial expressions and responses might leave you yearning for deeper connection.

Your travels have changed who you are and you feel different. However, if you expect others to recognize this and treat you the way you want to be treated, you’re in for some pain as this is one of the biggest hurdles after returning home. And perhaps the biggest contributor to post travel depression because it leaves you with a deep feeling of being alone; a feeling that the only people who understand you anymore (your fellow travelers) are in a foreign country. It leaves the feeling of, “Where is home?”

Post Travel Depression (PTD) Isn’t Forever

This is heavy stuff. But, remember, nothing lasts forever. Be aware of your symptoms and don’t let them pile up. Pay attention as they’ll expose your hidden expectations and assumptions, and show you what to take away from your adventures overseas. Believe it or not, post travel depression is part of the experience and you can get a lot of positives from it.

If ever in doubt seek professional help right away.