5 ways to get over a travel hangover

This is an article I wrote for Convergemagazine.com. Enjoy!

There are two types of travel hangovers. The first is the sluggish feeling you get when you return to real life after a vacation, and the second, the type I am more concerned with here, is the overwhelming feeling that you get when you realize that you do not have a “real life” to return to. Traveling or living abroad has become your life.

I presume that people become life travelers because they are either running from something (responsibility, the past, the future) or running after something (a dream, a conviction, a calling). Most of the time, it is probably a little bit of both.

But, regardless of whether you have good reason to travel for an extended period of time, you will eventually hit the lows of a transient life. At some point, you will be stuck in a foreign place with foreign people who don’t understand you, or you them. You will not have the comforts from home to lean on or the energy from family and friends to draw from. You will feel, in a word, hung-over.

My wife and I felt our travel hangover one month after we arrived in rural Uganda – right on schedule according to many cultural training programs. We had traveled enough to know that some things were going to be harder than we could expect, but up until that first month we had no complaints. We didn’t get sick, the weather was nice, the culture and language were still exciting and new, and the isolation from being in a rural setting was still liberating. But after one month, the rainy season came, traveling became difficult, solar power became sparse, our jobs were no longer new, and to top it off we had to deal with my wife being sick for two days without running water or a toilet. Our travel hangover was in full force.

But thankfully, and expectantly, it did not last. And that is the most important thing to remember about travel hangovers – they do not last. Travel hangovers, after all, are simply part of the process of adjusting to change. Adjustment takes time and sometimes time is all you need, but at other times we need more than that, we need surefire ways to combat the travel hangover.

So here are 5 ways to help you get over a travel hangover.

1.     Do something fun.

Whenever you do something fun, something that gives you joy, you are actively choosing joy over despair. At times this can be difficult, or even impossible, but doing something you enjoy – like playing a sport, watching a good movie, eating a good meal – is an essential part of traveling and why so many people are able and willing to put up with so many difficulties along the way.

2.     Slow down to reflect.

Traveling over a long period will almost certainly afford you one thing: time. Make sure to use your time reflect on the things that are going on in you and around you. Keep a journal, write a blog, go for long walks for no particular reason, and talk to people you would not normally talk to, which leads to #3…

3.     Make new friends.

This is probably the most difficult thing to do on this list because you can’t force friendships, but if you have traveled extensively before then you are well aware of the collective openness that travelers share toward new people. When you are traveling, not only do the rules change, but so do you. Be open to new people and try not to see new people as “intruding” on your already full social circle, as we too often do when we are home.

4.     Keep in touch with old friends and family.

It is important to make new friends and new connections, but it is just as important to keep up with old friends and family. Today, with the accessibility of phone networks and the Internet (well, not all of the time), there is little excuse to not stay connected with the people that mean the most to you because when you are traveling it is important to remember where you came from, which leads to #5…

5.     Remember why you went in the first place.

In the wake of struggles and difficulties, it is easy forget why you decided to travel or move abroad in the first place. In this way, traveling is no different from “real” life – we too easily let the difficulties or distractions of the present cloud our convictions from the past. So, in order that we do not lose our way along a road that usually does not come with a detailed road map, we must continually reorient ourselves towards the goal that we set for ourselves from the beginning, and one only hopes that the goal we have set for ourselves is worthy of the prize that Paul speaks about in Philippians 3. For even though Paul forgot what was behind in order to “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of (us),” he did not forget the calling or the goal that Jesus placed on his life. May we, with equal vigor, press on toward the goal that Christ Jesus has set for us, whether at home or abroad.

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One thought on “5 ways to get over a travel hangover

  1. Thanks Paul. The line “the overwhelming feeling that you get when you realize that you do not have a “real life” to return to” really resonated. I think it also helps to remember that other friends are doing the same thing and having similar feelings and adventures! Thanks for also having travel hangovers. Ps. we made it safely to Zambia after going to Kenya, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe… a bit of a run around, but we’re here now!

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