The Post Vacation Blues
Khao San Road, Bangkok, Thailand – Two in the morning. Lights shining and music blaring from every direction. The air hot and humid filled with a thousand aromas. People from all over the world spilling out of bars and onto the streets. Merchants crowded onto the road selling suits, swim wear, tshirts, dresses, and jackets. Food carts packed with fresh pad thai, fried rice, and fruits. Little ladies selling buckets and deep fried scorpions. Kids running around trying to unload their roses and other knick knacks. There’s energy in the air, an indescribable buzz that can only be experienced in person.
A day and a half later…
North Beach, San Francisco, California - Ten at night. Devastatingly cold and cloudy. The streets are quiet and empty. The place is dead.
The miracles of air travel eh?
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I’ve always found the concept of stepping into an aluminum tube, sitting for a while, and stepping out to the other side of the world to be mind-boggling. And while the trip over can’t be short enough, the sudden return home always has me reeling for a few days, especially when the change is as drastic as the one above.
Of course, I’m not the only person to feel this. In fact, there’s even a Wikipedia entry. But for me personally, the loss of freedom, going back to routines, and the return to normalcy are what affect me the most.
Like I’ve said before, one of my favorite things about backpacking is having the freedom to do whatever the hell I want. Having everything contained in one bag means I have the mobility to stop and go at a moment’s notice. And once I’m there, it’s completely up to me to decide what I want to do. Go see ten temples? Sure. Walk around town and take in the local scene? No problem. Sit at a bar and drink until I pass out? Why not.
I sometimes feel like a kid in a candy store while traveling because instant gratification is only a few dollars away. Most people are in more or less the same mindset and won’t judge unless you’re being particularly obnoxious. This ability to do whatever I want and have it viewed as (relatively) normal behavior is something you only experience while on the road.
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Like the loss of freedom, the return to routine and responsibilities sucks. The days are no longer a string of weekends as things like work and life crawl back into your conscience. The biggest component is of course the day job.
Having to be in one place for the majority of the day means that you have to plan everything around it. Gone are the relaxing afternoons by the river, the 1pm happy hours, and the wake up at 10am plan. Instead, it’s back to the routine of waking up, going to work, heading to the gym/run/maybe happy hour, and sleeping. While it’s usually not bad to return to work and see friends, it’s almost a reverse culture shock to be dropped back into your normal routine.
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Perhaps the most striking thing about returning home is that you’re no longer amazed and excited on a daily basis. While traveling, it’s almost guaranteed that you see something new and curious every day. Home, even in the best city in the world, is dull by comparison. It’s not to say that the sights you see aren’t amazing, it’s just that because you see them all the time, you get used to it.
When I’m traveling somewhere new, I’m like a sponge soaking in every sound, smell, sight, and taste. There’s a high likelihood that right around a corner is something I’ve never seen before. It’s a sensory explosion and my brain is constantly processing something new. Whereas at home, half the time I’m on cruise control. This sense of discovery, of wonder, is tough to replicate unless you’re traveling.
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I find that it usually takes me a couple of weeks to be completely out of the funk. Seeing friends and staying busy helps a lot as it stops me from actively thinking about the paradise a world away. But let’s not be fooled here, post-depression blues is way better than no vacation at all. We should be grateful that we can take the vacations that we do.
Perhaps we should all be happy that we experience the post vacation blues…
It just means I need another vacation!