The five stages of the post-backpacking comedown
You’ve done it. You’ve found yourself, you’re spiritually awakened and you’ve destroyed your liver.
Despite the changes you’ve experienced over the last few months backpacking, somehow everything is exactly the same at home. The comedown from an extended journey can be a rough one, but coming to terms with the stages you might experience can help you get back to reality comfortably.
The first few days at home can feel like a brief stopover after bouncing through dozens of cities, hostels and beds for months. It’s completely normal to leave your bag packed next to your bed on the off chance you’ll suddenly have a bus to catch.
Unfortunately for you, you’re not going anywhere. Coming to terms with the fact that you are physically home, even if not psychologically, is the first step to becoming a contributing member of society again.
$8.50 for a sandwich?
I have a class at 9am?
People don’t find my accent sexy?
These are all completely normal outrages that can take time getting used to again. Unsurprisingly, uni and work don’t quite compare to wandering the streets of a foreign paradise, sharing in new cultures and forming lifelong friendships with strangers from completely different contexts. Who would’ve thought?
To emerge tranquil from this stage of backpacker re-integration, try redirecting your anger from the bartender asking $10 for a beer or your lecturer making attendance compulsory. You’re really angry at the structure of society making it near impossible to travel forever and almost necessary to have basic responsibilities.
You know you’re home, the anger has subsided and all that is left is the sad realisation that your trip is over and summarised by some photos on Facebook, some rubbish souvenirs and a dumb piercing.
Welcome to the backpacker blues.
Barely being able to afford welcome-home drinks and being unable to effectively explain your experiences can be a depressingly frustrating time. Fortunately for you, every person you catch up with will indulge you in reliving every moment that “changed you”.
You might find yourself living in the past to get through this dark period, but there’s only one true cure for the backpacker blues – acceptance.
It’s time to accept what you’ve secretly known since you first got on that plane home.
So you may as well make the most of it.
Appreciate the beauty of where you live, how lucky we all are to have been born in a developed nation and that you had the opportunity to explore the world. To dwell in any of the previous stages of returning home is an insult to your travels.
You can finally flush toilet paper instead of putting it in a bin, your showers are hot and have perfect water pressure and the people you love live here.
This is the last step to truly coming to terms with your new reality. You’re home and it’s not that bad.
Planning your next trip
PSYCH! You’ve got to start planning your next trip of course!
The travel bug is the most infectious disease in the world and there’s no way you’ll be staying any longer than necessary at home before you head back out into the big beautiful world of backpacking.
With friends now scattered across the globe and amazing sites and experiences that have been recommended to you, it’s impossible to stay put for too long.
Now that you’ve come to fully accept where you are, it’s time to squirrel away some money and start stalking Instagram travel pages. The lengthy process of acceptance is worth it – so get out there and force yourself to go through these five stages again next time you come home.
Darcy is a Journalism student at UNSW who can be found either watching American sport or '90s sitcoms. He dreams of one day anchoring at ESPN with enough downtime to re-watch Scrubs for the thousandth time.