This post was to be about the marvellous effect travel and adventure has on depression. About how my own recent six week cycling/camping trip-with-dog changed my outlook on life and boosted my self-esteem. About the research linking leisure travel and adventure to improved mood.
But I can’t get past the post-adventure blues. The five or six weeks since Raisin (the dog) and I returned home have seen some of my worst days in years. The symptoms include:
- disturbed sleep
- low mood
- loss of concentration
- feelings of hopelessness and despair
- dissatisfaction with life
- ‘numb-brain’ (where nothing seems to be happening in my head – no thoughts, ideas, observations)
There’s no way I can write about the positives of adventure until I have overcome its surprising, depressing aftermath.
get back in the saddle
Apparently it is common to be down after a big holiday, and the solution, well-travelled friends tell me, is to plan another. Perhaps that would help, but not if another big trip means more blues again at the end of it.
Why should anyone get post-adventure depression? These seem to be my reasons:
- the old, pre-adventure, helpful routine (eg exercise, sleep, diet, socialising) has gone and needs to be reinstated upon return
- the fit body craves exercise it’s not now getting
- commitments and responsibilities come crashing in suddenly as soon as you get home – you are no longer just pleasing yourself
- feeling of detachment from others – they can’t understand what you have experienced, and there is a period of their lives and news that you have missed. It happened without you. It distances you.
- sadness that the adventure is over
- fear that you will never have such an adventure again
- fear that nothing has actually changed as a result of the adventure, when you hoped it would be transformative
I think the worst thing is that last one. Having done something extraordinary (for me), the prospect of settling back into my dull old ways is awful. There are so many interesting paths I could take with my new-found self-confidence that the choice is paralysing, and I am rooted to the dull old spot. A friend, who has for ages done at least one big scary trip a year, even into her 80s, encapsulated this for me, saying:
It’s dreadful when you are home from your travels and you’ve experienced such wonderful things. You feel like you’re only half living.
Overcoming post-adventure blues
What then is the best way to ameliorate post-adventure depression if you are in its grip? Clearly, I do not know! In theory, these should help:
- get straight back into helpful routine (ie exercise, diet, sleep, socialising)
- don’t fret about the ‘what next’ – just let things settle, be in the moment. There is no hurry
- be there for others – and enjoy the company of friends (who you missed, remember?)
- day dream about other adventures but don’t make any plans for a while
- take time to recall the adventure just gone and relive the good bits in your mind
- do some micro adventures – spend a night out in the wild, or just visit new places and try new things to flex your adventure muscles a little
I should take my own advice.