Post-vacation blues. Ugh. Who doesn’t feel that disappointment when a vacation or travel experience has finished and real life ensues? Those feelings of risk-taking, excitement, and escape fade, replaced by the weight of daily life.
Some suggest that sharing stories about your adventures can reduce those blues, but that technique falls short if you’ve been on a round-the-world trip, and there are a year’s worth of stories (and a less-than captive audience). How does a round-the-world traveler — or any travel-lover for that matter — maintain and recapture those carefree feelings as he or she shifts back into daily life?
Here are 6 ways to keep the feeling of travel going, even when your budget leaves you stuck at home.
1. Give yourself a shot of dopamine, ie. take a risk or do something new
Studies point to the neurotransmitter dopamine for the reason why we take risks, and why some people are more prone to daring behavior than others – why some people travel, and why some people choose to stay at home. Dopamine is the reason we feel good or even high after we’ve accomplished something risky.
Whether you’re a thrill seeker looking to sky dive in every country, or whether you’re shaking with anxiety at the thought of boarding a plane to Hong Kong, travel brings with it risk and the adrenaline rush of traversing into the unknown.
Risk-taking novice or veteran, take these ideas as a starting point to create your own risk-list.
Take a new route home
Yes, perhaps this is an obvious choice, but when was the last time you took a new route home? After a long day at the office, the idea of taking the road less traveled is as appealing as a trip to the dentist. You’re tired. You’re hungry. You want the quickest route to relaxation. But what better time than commuting home — a time normally spent cursing in traffic or standing uncomfortably close to a stranger on the subway — to venture into a world unknown right in your own town? A new route home leads you to unexpected finds – parks and trails to try on the weekend, a new tennis court, a boutique shop, or a rock climbing gym – finds that are bound increase your excitement and happiness level.
Traveling can produce some major anxiety. You could get lost. You could get hurt. You could find yourself at a rave where you’re the only one who speaks English. Though at the time of the experience, you’re probably so uncomfortable you’re close to running away or peeing your pants (or both). When you have survived a wild adventure, you’re too pumped up on adrenaline to be scared.
So when you’re at home, kickstart the dopamine by scaring yourself.
You know your fears. Face one of them today. Whether it’s conquering a fear of heights or asking for a raise, set a goal to scare yourself silly, and go through with it – the sooner, the better.
Learn something new
One of the best feelings from travel is that combination of pleasure from taking risk and combining it with the light bulb moment where you learn something completely new about yourself or a new culture.
As you should already know, learning something new doesn’t have to be restricted to when you’re traveling. There are plenty of learning opportunities available to you at home – you just have to take the leap and do it!
Try learning a musical instrument, a new language (that can help you on your next big trip), taking an art or design class, attending a drum circle, or even creating a robot to compete in the robot wars. Whatever you decide, place yourself in a situation where you are completely new to the experience.
Take a mystery road trip
Life at home usually lacks the element of surprise. We know what we’re going to do most of the day, every day. So when you can, ask your travel buddies to plan a small hour-long mystery road trip for you, where the destination is not revealed to you. Not only will it help you enjoy your journey more, it will give that sense of surprise and wonderment that travel can bring.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”
Facing your fears and taking risks can have positive implications on your life (traveling or at home). It can only boost your confidence and strengthen your character to face head on what scares you, what excites you, and what moves you.
2. Escape! Have an irresponsible day
Ah, travel for escape — what a delight! There’s nothing better than a travel escape to relax from the stress and worry of daily life. But how can one possibly escape from daily life while still remaining at home (and within a reasonable budget)? You declare one day an “escape” or “irresponsible” day.
Take a vacation day if you can afford it. If not, create an “irresponsible” day on the weekend. On this day, slough off any and all responsibilities. If you have a family, see if your spouse/parents/in-laws/siblings will take the kids for a few hours. And then create an oasis of relaxation in your bedroom (or any place where people you love won’t bombard you with anything like responsibility). Do what you love to do and plan to do it for as long as you want.
If you often use TV for escape, look for alternative escape routes. As much as TV is a common escape mechanism, it doesn’t provide as much relief as people think. Studies show that TV gives a feeling of relaxation…but only temporarily. As soon as you turn the TV off, the stress returns.
Instead of a temporary fix, find activities that have a more permanent positive impact on your stress level. Read or meditate in your room. Or if you’re a restless type, go for a hike, go rock climbing, be active, and be creative. Head to the beach or the mountains or any place in nature. Escape those responsibilities for a few hours at least.
3. Notice — and create — as many magic movie moments as possible
Travel creates magical movie moments — times when you’re filled with wonder at the infinite possibilities of the world. Maybe it’s seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time, or taking your first tuk-tuk ride in Indonesia, or going to the salt flats in Bolivia. It’s a situation that seems so perfect it belongs in a movie.
But how do you create magical movie moments at home when most days are as familiar and homogenous as a glass of milk? It’s easier than you think.
All you have to do is take notice. When you’re singing at the top of your lungs with your friends in the car, when your kid throws strike after strike in the little league game, with a kiss, a hug, or a handshake, notice those moments. They only last a second, but they give our lives depth and meaning.
Record the best moments
Anthony Robbins, motivational coach and speaker, recommends writing down your daily magic moments, so that you have a record of the most important instances in your life. Take notes on your smartphone, write it in a book, do whatever is most convenient for you.
Create new ones
Most magic movie moments happen with friends and family members, so throw a party, invite people to dinner, hang out with friends as often as possible. (My personal list for creating new movie moments includes participating in flash mobs, going to shows in hopes of being part of a standing ovation, telling stories, joking around with friends, and singing in the car).
Be grateful for every little thing
Cultivating a sense of gratitude for the blessings in your life, all around you, can give you that movie moment. It’s like waking up to the great life you live and saying “Wow, I’m really lucky!” Recognizing abundance in your life is a great technique to create that magic feeling!
4. Surround yourself with past and future travels
If you haven’t already done so, decorate your office and a space at home with travel. Put up photos from trips you’ve taken, friends you’ve made, and souvenirs that hold special meaning. Buy a world map and mark the places you’ve visited, along with the places (and dates) you intend to visit (once money and time allows).
Subscribe to travel magazines and rip out articles or photos of places you want to visit and post them on your walls.
Travel has to stay at the forefront of your mind. When you’re seeing magazine cutouts of that Caribbean island you love or the coolest infinity pool you’ve ever seen, you’re more likely to turn that dream into reality.
[suggest links to other articles – you can decide which ones]
5. Give yourself culture shock – embrace new cultures at home!
You can’t travel without learning about new cultures. But when you’re home, you’re more likely to stay within your group of friends and what is known to you. That’s why it’s important to embrace what is foreign to you.
Host an international party
Celebrate a country by hosting a party. Declare a theme like “Everything Italian,” “Chilean Night,” or “The Peruvian Party.” Ask your guests to come prepared to celebrate everything about that country. Dress up in the colors of the flag, read up on their best customs and foods, and learn some of the language.
Listen to international music and watch foreign films
Take advantage of Internet Radio and listen to the best of foreign radio stations. From Brazilian Samba to African Soukous, listening to foreign radio stations gives you an idea of a locale without ever having been. In the same way, watching foreign films can give you a feel for a country’s landscape, its people, and the language within the span of two hours.
Learn a language
Web sites like livemocha.com offer free language lessons. Pick a language you’ve always wanted to try, and get started. With a microphone, you can also get help on pronunciation from native speakers.
Talk to foreigners in your country
Don’t miss the opportunity to learn something new about a culture. Talk with tourists and immigrants about where they are from and their experiences in your country and theirs. Everyone has a story, so get to talking!
Get a taste of a new culture
Food is a doorway to new cultures. Head to your local ethnic restaurants. Sample some Ethiopian cuisine or Korean barbeque. Select a new restaurant with different foods than your country’s cuisine. You’ll certainly get a taste of a new culture.
6. See life as an adventure
Possibly one of the most challenging suggestions is to look at life through travel-colored glass. Find within the mundane routine your adventurous life and spirit.
Many travel to foreign countries and volunteer there. So why not volunteer in your spare time and help your local community?
Find an adventure mentor
Hang out with people who already see the world with wide-eyed amazement. They will make the most commonplace activity into a safari adventure. If you have children or nieces and nephews, you know that kids can be ambassadors of adventure. No one is more wide-eyed as a child learning something for the first time. Take a cue or two from them. It’ll be the first time in a long time that you look at dirt, rocks, or chalk with a new sense of fascination.
Life — and travel — is what you make it
There is nothing like travel and the excitement it creates. Just remember. It is possible to make your home life filled with the magic you felt while traveling. It only takes a little bit of effort and the best of intentions.
Read the following articles about coming home from a trip and dealing with reverse culture shock:
- Coming Home from a RTW Trip: Adjusting Your Expectations
- Coming home from a big trip? Click here to share your story with BootsnAll or get some help planning that next trip.
- Check out the Coming Home Page in BootsnAll’s RTW Section
- Read The Worst Part About Reverse Culture Shock
- Submit a Traveler Profile to help others out with their trip planning
- Read How Canned Peas Changed the Way I Think About Travel: An Essay on Returning Home