post travel distress and culture shock

The holidays are over. You have returned home and now reality bites. Post travel distress is about to attack.

The symptoms are vague but disabling. People you thought were friends don’t ask how the holiday went, or if they do they don’t  want to stop and listen to your hour long discourse on the rooms with a view, the wonderful (or  terrible) food you ate, the funny train you travelled or the boat you fell from. About the only thing that whets their appetite is talk of a fabulous French lover.

The memories start to fade with the suntan, work acts as though nothing has changed despite your new skills you have added to your CV while teaching English in Tibet, waited tables in Athens or negotiated your way through the London A to Z and learnt how to use the subway system.

Those back from a sabbatical in London or New York wonder why on earth the pedestrian crossings say WAIT when they only car seems miles away and you know it would be easy to nip across in front of it. The city they left has become a village.

The weather – now there is a topic that is bound to bring on an attack of post travel distress. Last week bathing in sunshine under some tropical Pacific or African sun – this week in NZ’s winter-imitating-summer. It’s all enough to send you back to examine your CV to see if you have the credentials that could get you a job with the VSA (volunteer service abroad) in some exotic location.   Some WARM exotic location.

Culture shock is something you are supposed to get when you go away – not something that happens in the place you were born or live. However its a real symptom of post travel problems. I recall feeling a real shock when after 3 months among African people i arrived in Perth, Australia and was amazed at all the white faces. It’s fascinating how quickly we become accepting of the current  situation or place as the norm.

So how do we counteract the distress, the feeling that we haven’t been away at all, that everyone else has stagnated while we have changed tremendously.

Firstly many of you will want or need go to your GP for a  check of the various ticks, itches and tummy upsets are not some unwanted souvenir of a great or lousy holiday.

Others will ignore health issues and start a saving routine that will ensure another trip will happen. Soon. I check my frequent-flyer-points hoping for a reward trip that will tide me over until the savings manage to reach a level that will allow me to consult my travel wish-list and travel agent.

A friend in the UK tells me that already they are settling into a boring and overworking routine and their 18m months of travel seems a pipe dream.  To counter this they have started reading their travel diary every Friday night to keep memories alive. A good antidote to their post travel distress symptoms.

So if you are suffering from some form of post travel distress find other travellers who want to talk about travel with you; read travel pages and books; write travel stories and submit them to newspapers and magazines; pour over your photos and save to do it all again.