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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.

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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
  • indecision
  • dissatisfaction with life
  • restlessness
  •  ‘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.

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overcoming post-adventure blues

7 thoughts on “overcoming post-adventure blues

  • Lib I’m sorry to read that you’ve experienced such a slump upon your return home. All of your advice seems spot on, and experience has taught me that the key to overcoming my depression is to be present. Avoiding worrying about the future, or looking back with longing or regret at the past but instead being mindful and relishing each present moment. Your blog whilst on your adventures reflected how you noticed the beauty in your surroundings, the simple pleasures of good food and small comforts, your love of Raisin. Your challenge now is to sustain that enthusiasm and appreciation for even (especially) the little things every day. Gratitude equals contentment. Much love as always x

    1. Thank you Keri, wise words as ever. I still feel bewildered by each bout of depression and seem to forget everything I have learnt.

      I will do as you say. X

  • I can understand where you’re coming from with this. I’ve never had such a huge adventure but I certainly would feel very low after staying away from homing just for one night! I feel it is coming back to the well trodden path of routine. Some are happy to sit content and procrastinate, but some crave goals in life. That’s not a bad thing – life is for living, right? If you could find something, a goal you could aim for? Sadly, all the mundane rubbish will still be there, but you mentioned to me about running? Why not set new targets – 10k, a half marathon? Since I’ve been running more I’ve felt more relaxed than I have in years. It’s a big push to get out of the door but you can turn your back on the mundane for a while, and the runners ‘high’ is very real. I hope you can work something out.

    1. Thanks Tracie, you are right: I need goals – or some structure to guide me at least (am missing bat care so much), and running would be a great help. It is so hard getting out the door though. If only I could crack that.

      1. I can’t cope without structure. I think it’s a help and comfort to know what you’re doing any given day but be prepared to deviate! You know where I am if you want to talk about it.

  • Libby, I so enjoyed reading your adventure blog each morning. Beyond seeing the new places, I liked your writing style, your unique take on the world and your descriptions of the people you met. Each morning I looked forward to getting my coffee and catching up with you & Raisin, I don’t know, kind of like reading a serialized novel I guess. Have you ever considered continuing with the adventures of Batgirl and Raisin in everyday life? Like maybe taking up running (or some other project) and blogging about your progress and the things you see each day? Or even writing about your experiences saving the bats? I think you have a real gift, and the structure and routine of sitting down to write at a specific time each day might be helpful. By the way, I always thought that “The Adventures of Batgril and Raisin” would be an excellent title for a children’s book! But no pressure. 😉 Hang in there!!

    1. Julie thanks so much for your encouragement to write. The adventure blog was an unanticipated pleasure for me during my trip – I loved doing it and funnily enough have been thinking it would be good for me to get into the habit of writing every day. I do have something in mind…will keep you posted.

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