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Hi, Wander! I enjoyed your last Ask a Travel Coach column and I’m hoping to get some advice for myself. I took a vacation last year and while I had a great time during the trip, I came back worn out and jumped right back into my work and responsibilities. For my next trip, I’d like to make the most of it by actually taking the time to unwind and absorb the experience when I return. What are some ways to do this (without having to disappear for another week or two?!).– Naima in Toronto
Transformational Travel Coach
Once, while hitchhiking on sailboats across the Pacific Ocean, an old sailor told me, “I don’t like flying, because when you fly your body moves too fast, but your soul needs more time to arrive. If you travel on a boat, your soul is always with you.“ Since then, I always take care of my soul while travelling.
After arriving at a new location, give yourself time to actually “land”. Often, while on holiday, we try to see it all and do everything, and after that, we end up exhausted. I know we all have limited time for our holidays and want to get the most from them. But instead of rushing around until the last moment, I would recommend filling the last couple of days with more slow and mindful activities. Go to visit a small temple or church where the locals go, away from tourist crowds. Spend some time in the nature and special places you discovered and liked during your stay. Say “Thank you” to the land and the people, and reflect on your journey before you actually leave while all the emotions are still present. Try to absorb your new experiences, and if you like, write them down in your journal.
These small rituals help us to become more conscious about our journey and the places we visit. I hope this will help you to come back home with more energy, a new spark, and inspiration for future days.
First, it’s essential to recognize that feeling down after a vacation is normal. It’s called (PTD), Post Travel Depression, a type of mood that persons returning home from a long trip may experience. I have a few suggestions for you to get you going.
Take proactive steps before and after your trip to set yourself up for a smoother return. Prepare your home by completing necessary chores, packing in advance, and considering thoughtful arrival and departure times to overcome jet lag. Allow for a buffer day before you need to return to work.
During your trip, fully immerse yourself in the experience and disconnect from work as much as possible. Engage with the local culture, try new activities, and cherish every moment. Upon your return, resist the urge to jump back into your routine. Take some time to unpack, unwind, and reflect on your trip. Look through your photos, souvenirs, or journal entries to keep the memories alive and relive the highlights. Prioritize self-care activities such as rest, exercise, and healthy eating to rejuvenate your body and mind.
Lastly, I’d like you to consider your next travel adventure. Having something to look forward to can help alleviate post-travel blues and maintain a sense of anticipation and excitement. By incorporating these strategies, you can make the most of your travel experiences and ensure the positive effects of your trip after you’ve returned home.
Dawn Pick Benson
Self-Discovery & Post-Divorce Travel
It sounds like two questions might be hiding in here: 1) How do I return from a trip refreshed and not worn out? and 2) How can I process and integrate the experience upon my return and into daily life?
As a self-discovery travel coach, I encourage clients to think of travel as the opportunity to savour places—not just visit them. So I’d first encourage you to consider travelling at a pace that allows you to return more refreshed than worn out. Yes, this might mean seeing fewer places. But, it also opens the door for the places that you do visit to have a greater impact.
Then, when you return, consider giving yourself at least two days on the back end of the trip to integrate and process your experience. I find that if you have even a few days to rest and debrief, you can return to work more grounded and refreshed. This might look like spending a morning or two journaling or scheduling a coffee with a good friend who is ready to have a meaningful conversation about your trip and help you process your experience.
By doing this, you’ll likely find that some important learnings bubble up. For example, you might realize there was a feeling you had on your trip that you want to experience more of in your daily life. By simply identifying this feeling, you now can be intentional to look for ways to incorporate it more into your life at home.
Bucket List Travel Coaching
As a business owner, I often have to jump right back into my work and responsibilities as soon as I return so my top tip for you is to organize as much as you can for your return before you leave.
I always make sure I have work and leisure outfits hung up and ready to go, my apartment is clean and my pantry and fridge stocked so I don’t have to worry about any of that when I get home. I also make sure my shower is restocked so I can jump straight in as soon as I walk in the door and since that’s also where I do my best thinking, it’s a great place to start unwinding and reflecting on my trip.
If you can, book your return for a Friday, so you’ve got the weekend to relax and think back on all the amazing things you’ve just done. If not, book as close to a weekend as you can so you’re only at work for a couple of days before you can take the rest you need. Even better, work from home if you can! It’s also okay to say no to socializing if you need to.
Lastly, I always journal during my trip, so I book half an hour in my schedule every day in my first 2 weeks back, no matter what, to sit down with a glass of wine and read over my travels so I can really absorb the experiences I just had.
Travel Bug Tonic
The integration to “normal life” after travel is as important to pay attention to in your planning as in the weeks after your return! Saving the mental processing for re-entry can be exhausting and a heavy burden as you face old routines and responsibilities. By simply asking your question, you have already started to form a fantastic travel intention for a mindful return home!
As a travel coach who promotes the positive impact of travel on well-being, I’d encourage aligning your intentions to activities before, during, and after a trip! Everyone approaches well-being differently, so find what works for you. Here are some ideas to play with.
- Identify what you love to do that strengthens your well-being (consider mindfulness, physical activity, time in nature, connection, fun, and creativity).
- Get clear on how you want to feel during and after the trip.
- Build your itinerary with time and space for well-being activities to avoid getting worn out.
- Begin a travel journal, voice diary, sketch pad, or guided workbook before you leave to help make reflection a habit.
- Use your travel photos to process your experience through thoughtful social media posts, writing stories using photos as prompts or curating an introspective photo book.
- Schedule time to gently reminisce with cultural cooking, books and movies related to your destination. Reminiscing can stimulate and rekindle positive travel feelings!
- Maintain a travel mindset at home and continue to make time for your well-being.
Angela P Godoy
Serenity and Salud Travel Boutique
I understand wanting to take the time to unwind and absorb your travel experience. We can’t all take a vacation after the vacation! It will take intentionality, but I do believe it’s possible.
Some things to consider would be the ways you can prepare for returning from vacation, like having a pick-up laundry service come and get your clothes the day after you return. Or making a list of groceries you will need to place a scheduled order from a grocery delivery app. Better yet, order a meal prep delivery service and don’t worry about cooking for a week or two after you return. Tending to these things ahead of time, as part of vacation preparation can really free up your time to reflect on your trip throughout the week when you return.
If you work, take a journal with you to work and reflect on your travel experience during your lunch hour. Go for evening walks or work break walks and listen to some music from the place you visited. You can also have friends and family over, to view your pictures and videos from your trip. But most of all, remember that no one can take the memories or experiences away from you, they will always live on in your mind, and you can retrieve them anytime you need to go to a happy place!
Anita I. Jacobs, PhD, CSP
Jacobs’ Wanderlust Adventures
Vacations are like little pockets of paradise, transporting us away from the daily grind to explore new places, cultures, and experiences. But when that blissful getaway comes to an end, and you find yourself back home with a suitcase full of memories and a head full of post-vacation blues, it’s time to decompress and ease your way back into reality.
Take a moment to reminisce about the highlights of your vacation. Scroll through your photos, relive those memorable moments, and share your stories with friends and family. It’s a great way to keep the vacation spirit alive.
Don’t rush back into your usual routine immediately. Give yourself a day or two to readjust. Unpack, do some laundry, and gradually reintegrate into your daily life.
Treat yourself to a bit of self-care. A soothing bath, a good book, or some yoga can help you relax and find your inner balance. Physical activity can help combat post-vacation blues. Go for a walk, hike, or bike ride to release those feel-good endorphins.
Finally, having something to look forward to can be a fantastic mood lifter. Start planning your next trip, even if it’s just a weekend getaway or a day trip to a nearby town. Remember, the end of one vacation is just the beginning of planning the next. Embrace the memories, savour the experiences, and let your travels continue to inspire and rejuvenate you.
I completely understand your desire to make the most of your next trip while avoiding that post-vacation burnout. It’s all about finding the right balance between exploration and relaxation. Setting the right intention is the key to unwinding and fully absorbing your travel experience. Here’s how to do it without needing extended time off.
- Intentional planning: Craft an itinerary that prioritizes relaxation and immersion. Allow for downtime and flexibility in your plans.
- Digital Detox: Consider a partial digital detox during your trip. Limit screen time, especially work-related emails, to specific hours or days, allowing you to fully disconnect and immerse yourself in the moment.
- Self-care focus: Design your trip to include self-care. Indulge in local spa treatments, savour culinary delights or take leisurely walks. These moments of indulgence can bring a full connection with yourself.
- Micro-breaks: Incorporate small breaks throughout your day. Even brief pauses to savour a view or sip of local coffee can recharge you and make a significant difference in how you feel at the end of the day.
- Future intentions: Sometimes, having a future trip to look forward to can make it easier to transition back to work. It gives you something exciting on the horizon.
Remember, the magic of travel lies in your intention to embrace the experience fully. By mindfully planning and setting your sights on relaxation and immersion, you can make every trip a transformative journey.
I think a lot of people can probably relate to your situation. A way to avoid this is to get super intentional about every aspect of your trip, including the return home. I’m a big advocate for taking a post-travel recovery day. I think building one day into your itinerary for re-entry into regular life can be incredibly beneficial, especially if you set clear intentions for it.
If coming home a day early is not possible, then slowing down and taking some time for mindful reflection towards the end of your trip can give you the opportunity to fully savour and appreciate your experiences. Try to plan ahead so that your first week back home is a little bit less busy, with fewer activities and commitments than usual. Then give yourself permission to ease back into your regular rhythms and routines.
Set boundaries, protect your time, and honour your needs. Take some time to reflect on your trip with gratitude for your experience. Journaling is a great way to stay connected with your travels and how they impacted you. And it’s also a great way to dream about and manifest future trips!
In the end, I think it’s important to remind ourselves that while travel has a lot to offer, so do our day-to-day lives. So, embrace your experience, be fully present for it, and then release it so that you can create space for the next great experience coming your way, whether at home or on the road.
Transformative Travel Mentor
Your situation is super relatable—many of us return from vacations feeling like we need a “vacation from our vacation,” right? Here’s how you can truly unwind and absorb the experience without needing extra weeks off.
For the pre-trip as a work-buffer, try to clear your immediate workload before you leave. That way, you won’t dread the mountain of tasks waiting for you. During the trip, limit any emails and social media for a digital detox. Your mind needs the break to recharge.
Dedicate a few minutes each day to be fully present. Feel the sand between your toes or the wind on your face. Then, after the trip, you need a structured re-entry. Don’t jump back into work immediately. Plan your first day back to be a “soft landing” with minimal meetings and high-priority tasks. Take 15 minutes each day in the first week to relive your favourite moments. Maybe even sort through photos or journal entries.
Reflection is important. Use your travel experiences as a learning tool. How has the trip changed your perspectives? By integrating these strategies, you don’t just vacation; you grow and carry that transformation back with you.
I took every opportunity to travel when I was teaching. 3-day weekends, school breaks, I was on the road or on a plane. Then, I’d get back to work on Monday (after getting in WAY too late Sunday night) feeling completely drained because I didn’t rest at all. There’s this pressure to “maximize” every travel experience – to see as much as you can while you can, because who knows when you’re going back.
“Zero days” have been a total game-changer for me.
It’s a concept I’ve borrowed from the thru-hiker world. When you’re hiking a longer trail, a “zero day” is when you complete 0 miles. You explore near camp, enjoy a small town, or just relax. I’ve adopted and adapted it for all kinds of travel.
At the beginning of every trip, I take at least one zero day to acclimate. I overcome jet lag, let my body rest, and get a feel for where I am. I take things slow. As an added benefit, this often leads to me discovering places and experiences I wouldn’t have found otherwise! Near the end of the trip, I take at least one more zero day to reflect, recover, and ready myself for the return home.
To make the most of your next trip without needing extra time off, consider these strategies.
Plan Short Getaways: Opt for shorter trips, like weekend getaways or extended weekends, so you can escape without the need for a full week off.
Limit Activities: Don’t pack your itinerary with too many activities. Leave room for relaxation and spontaneity.
Unplug at Home: Before your trip, finish work tasks and prepare your home so you can return to a stress-free environment.
Buffer Days: Schedule a day or two between your return and resuming work. Use this time to unpack, reflect, and ease back into your routine.
Travel Slow: Explore one destination thoroughly instead of rushing through multiple places. This allows for deeper immersion and less travel fatigue.
Travel Off-Peak: Choose less crowded travel periods to reduce stress and maximize relaxation.
Create Memories: Focus on creating meaningful memories rather than checking off a checklist. Take photos sparingly to stay present.
Reflect: When you return, journal your experiences and share stories with loved ones. This helps cement the memories and keeps the travel spirit alive.