An abridged version of this post appears in Thought Catalog, click here.
It has been all of three weeks since my escapade in Europe has come to a close. Since then, it has been an agonising three weeks of endless corporate drudgery, interspersed with wistful reminiscences and reveries. Whilst I have fallen back into a routine and everything has regained a semblance of normality, I know that deep down my outlook on life has been forever transformed and that I am no longer the same. It is as if a cloud has been lifted before my very eyes, blinding me with the sheer light of day.
As much as I loved my family and the feeling of being worshipped as a Messiah by the family unit, I have come precipitously close to losing my sense of self. The lines between the dreams I once harboured and the obligations to the greater good have become deliriously blurred over time. Against this backdrop, the need to “escape” had suddenly become all too poignant to ignore. I don’t know why it has taken me 30 years for this moment of epiphany to dawn, but I do shudder at the thought that it would have evaded me completely had I not taken the leap of faith. As it turned out, I could not help but savour the rare moments of liberation and welcomed wholeheartedly the journey to self-discovery.
The trouble is, I now have a surplus of energy which has no hope of finding an outlet in the quiet monotony back home. As Newton’s Law would dictate, what goes up must come down. And despite my best efforts, I am firmly in the clutches of post-travel withdrawal (or PTB, for short).
As I battled through the phases of nostalgia (I must be staring at that photo for the thousandth time), to denial (surely it was only yesterday that I landed in London / Copenhagen / city of your choice), to anger (why has it ended before it has even begun), to jealousy (here she / he is travelling again!) and acceptance (life must go on), I have stumbled upon a pattern of behaviour which is perhaps more conducive to overcoming PTB than reaching out for the “self-destruct” switch.
The 6 lessons are simple; and readily executable.
1. Spend quality time with your inner self
There are pitfalls of being a solo traveller on tour (such as the exorbitant single surcharge fees which can quickly chew into your holiday budget), but the rewards can be just as saccharine sweet. I am not one to feel uneasy in my own solitude, but mental quietude is an elusive state with bosses / partners / parents / friends and acquaintances jostling for time and attention.
Which is why nothing could beat the supreme beatitude of spending quality time with your inner self (if only once in a while).
Of course, this is no mean feat in today’s hustle and bustle. Learning to say “No” to everything and everyone around you would be a good start (and the more strategically or sparingly you use this, the more effective it becomes). It also works wonders to schedule in “me time” on a periodic basis to unwind, reflect, and gear up for the next chapter.
It isn’t hard to re-assess and reprioritise your centre of focus if you take the time to listen to the inner murmurs of your heart. Things that weighed heavily on me in the past, whether that be stagnating career prospects or recent discord with a loved one, at once lost their potency. I am not suggesting that such matters are no longer important; it is only that their ability to wreak havoc in my life has significantly diminished. The landscape has not changed, but my perspective has.
2. Rejuvenate the body and soul with a healthy diet
As a full-time professional slave in a high pressure cooker environment, too often have I let my health fall to the wayside in the thankless pursuit of the next deadline. It wasn’t until this trip that I realised how discomforting comfort food can actually be. Jam packed with processed glucose and saturated fat, I had booked myself a one-way ticket to premature listlessness. (The fact that I had gained no visible weight despite it all provided the perfect guise that all was kosher).
However, with time now on my hands and no external demands to cater to, I found myself constantly foraging for the next feed of fresh fruits and greens (I acquired a taste for exotic fruits including berries of all denominations, star fruits, cantaloupes, and even physalis). If I was a burst of energy before, I am a turbo-charged atomic nucleus now. And I won’t be looking back.
3. Pursue a new challenge or activity
If there is one thing that my travels have taught me it is this: I am way more inquisitive and adventurous than I have given myself credit for. With an almost insatiable appetite for the new and unknown, I have set my sights on compiling a comprehensive bucket list as a way of burrowing out of the perennial PTB.
I have finally learnt to cycle since returning home (which has always ranked high on my agenda but somehow misjudged the commitment required). My bucket list is already a mile long, decorated with all of the challenges I have prescribed for myself: horse-riding, parasailing, abseiling, quad-bike riding, hot air ballooning (and the list continues).
4. Embrace holiday hopping
As the adage goes, there is no better way of recovering from an old flame than to launch yourself into a new relationship. So too applies to beating PTB.
There is an undeniable element of spiritual salvation in poring over glossy travel brochures in search of the next destination (whether that be somewhere similar or somewhere fancifully different). Most of my travel companions have dived headlong into this endeavour and I know I won’t be long behind them. Time and resources permitting, holiday hopping is arguably the sure-fire way to nurse an aching wanderlust. Most importantly, it has all of the upside and none of the unpalatable aftertaste that goes with experiencing relationships on the rebound.
5. Meet new people (or reconnect with old friends)
Humans are ultimately social beings. We crave to forge new relationships, whilst at the same time retaining meaningful, fulfilling relationships with the old. It comes as no surprise, then, that the key common thread in the enjoyment of our travels is the people with whom we have had the fortune to bond en route. I am under no illusions that I will reunite with my travel companions again one day, but what we have shared during those finite moments together will be remembered and cherished for eternity.
An eventful adventure has further lent me the courage to explore the possibility of new beginnings back home. In addition, old friendships have been rekindled, with the promises of keeping in touch being pursued with vigour. In short, I have become the story-teller I never was, and am now keen to find a like-minded audience.
6. Discover the Writer in you
If to travel is to live, then to write is to re-live. It is not writing which ignited my passion for travels, but my travels have undoubtedly been one of the most therapeutic influences in reigniting my passion for writing. If I loved something less, perhaps I would be able to talk about it more. But I have poured every ounce of my soul into chronicling the otherwise unspoken and unspeakable, in the mere hope that I could carry the memory of you for just a little longer…
After all, don’t we all wish for Time to be gentler sometimes, to pause for a while and allow us to revisit the moments which brought us the greatest joy?
* What has worked for you in beating post-travel blues? I would love to hear your thoughts in the Comments below! ☺️*
“Everybody Dies, But Not Everybody Lives” – Inspirational Short Film by Prince Ea
It is not Death which most people are afraid of; it is getting to the end of Life only to realise that you never truly lived.
There was a study done – a hospital study – on one hundred elderly people facing death, close to their last breath. They were asked to reflect about their life’s biggest regret. Nearly all of them said they regretted not the things they did, but the things they didn’t do, the risks they never took, the dreams they didn’t pursue…
…What idea, what cure, what skill do you have inside to bring out to this UniVerse? “Uni” meaning One, “Verse” meaning Song. You have a part to play in this song. So grab that microphone and be brave; sing your heart out on life stage.
You cannot go back and make a brand new beginning, but you can start now, and make a brand new ending.