Struggling with Post-Travel Depression

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As I write this article it has been exactly 48 days since I got home from my one-year trip around Central America. I’m lying here, on my bed, with a million thoughts running through my mind.

These thoughts started one week before my return flight from Bogotá to Paris. I wanted my last week to be memorable. I wanted to dance until 6am, I wanted to take a two-day trip around Bogotá, I wanted, I wanted…

I did none of the above. It turned out to be a horrible week. One of the worst. My mind was turned off. I was cheerless. I didn’t want to talk to anybody. I wandered aimlessly back and forth through the 7th Avenue in Bogotá, passing by churches and buildings which didn’t have any meaning to me. I was waiting for something to happen. Like a miracle. Guess what, it didn’t happen. My life’s not a movie. I only had to accept my fate, and it had a name: flight LH543.

So like a cow calmly heading towards the slaughterhouse, I boarded the plane. I wasn’t actually sad, I just didn’t realize what was happening. Or rather I pretended it wasn’t happening. My brain was on autopilot the whole journey home. No thoughts, no feelings, nothing. The autopilot guided me through gates and signs, until I saw my family.

That’s when it struck me. I was home. And I started to have feelings again. It was happiness. My family, my house, my friends, my dog, they were all there. At the same place, doing the same thing, looking the same way, just like in my imagination when I felt homesick while traveling. It felt home, it felt easy.

But then, suddenly, it felt terrifying. I mean, I still loved my family, my house, my friends, my dog. But I didn’t fit anymore. Home felt small and sort of unrelatable. Whenever someone asked me about my trip, I had this flame in me that I couldn’t express to anyone. I wanted them to know about the thousand feelings and thoughts I experienced during the trip, but I couldn’t; I tried, but words made the stories seem lame. And it frustrated me.

Frustated Guy

Frustrated. Credits Francisco Gualtieri.

After some days the hugs were hugged, the stories were shared, the beers were drunk. I wondered what was next. I noticed I had the same little habits as before the trip, I was going to the same bars, I was sitting in the same position on my couch, I was discussing the same old topics with my friends because they didn’t want to hear how I hitched a boat across the Caribbean sea. I was back to routine.

And again, it felt terrifying. Terrifying how easily I got back to routine. The “normal life” absorbed me in less than a week. I was back to exactly the spot I left. I wasn’t the traveling Amaury anymore. I became the normal Amaury once again. My year of life-changing experiences, my new lifestyle, my plan to learn macramé and juggling, all these ideas seemed like past. Like a memory. Like a dream. 2 months ago it was my life, my everything, and I believed in it; today, it all seems so far and insignificant.

And this is really depressing.

I began to ask questions, to question who I am. Filling my LinkedIn profile for job finding seemed so useless some months ago, but then it sounds like a great idea as soon as I got back. One month I am a diehard party animal, the next night clubs bore me and I have no idea why. Yesterday the traveling Amaury with his unconventional ideas was totally convincing; today the normal Amaury’s arguments seem wiser. Which one is the true Amaury anyway?

Questions like these pop up 24 hours a day. And the result is that I’m entering into a form of subtle, long-term meditation. Permanent questions, non-existent answers. I can only accept whatever is happening to my life, because I don’t know. I don’t know if I like Eastern European culture. I don’t know if my career path is the best for me or not. I don’t know if I really miss my friends or I like the idea of missing my friends.

That’s why at some point, I just stopped asking questions. I started letting it be.

Cover photo credits go to Pedro Ribeiro Simões.
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