Making friends at Giraffe Manor, Nairobi, Kenya
Wow, this blog sucks right now.
Yeah. Not a great way to start a post, I know. But seriously, this blog sucks right now. And not in the same way that I wrote about a few months ago, where I proclaimed how bad I felt about my blog (update on that post, FYI: still no design change, still no Pinterest VA, still nod and smile whenever discussing anything remotely technical to do with blogging). No, this blog sucks in an entirely different way.
I always knew that I was going to take a digital break while on holiday in East Africa; those six weeks in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania deserved all the time they could get, and I was going to be damned if I was going to spend any time in front of a laptop during the adventure I felt I had been preparing my whole life for. But then I wasn’t on holiday anymore, so the excuse wore thin.
And then… YES! Here it was! The explanation for this blog going dark for a while, the proclamations that I’d be back with a vengeance, yada yada yada, that old chestnut. But despite trying to turn my mental state around by focusing on my physical state (update on that post, FYI: red wine and pasta 1, me 0. I’m surprised my jeans still fit after these weeks of gluttony), I just can’t help it.
I feel like shit.
Just chillin’ in Rwanda
“Hang on a minute,” you might be thinking. “You just got back from an adventure of a lifetime – one that most people could never even dream of taking – and you feel like shit? Why you privileged piece of…”
Yeah. I get it. And I have to acknowledge that my life is pretty fucking amazing, and I don’t take it for granted one bit. I am humbled and honoured that I have been given the opportunities in my life so far, and that I am fortunate enough to not only have a roof over my head and bowls of pasta to eat, but also the means and the career that allow me to travel frequently. I’m also surrounded by loving family and friends, people who are hilarious and kind and generous and caring.
But our feelings don’t always do what we want them to, do they.
Because to reiterate… I feel like shit.
I’ve said it a few times on this blog already, so I won’t dwell on it, but these past few months have been intense. I packed up my beloved flat in East London in May and then took off on the aforementioned adventure. The result? A crazy mix of emotions, ranging from sadness to joy to whatever you’re supposed to feel when a lion brushes up against your safari vehicle, the vehicle with no roof and no windows.
That exact lion… in Maasai Mara, Kenya
While I’m beyond elated that I got to experience that adventure, the overwhelming emotion I’m feeling these days is sadness that it’s over. Combine that with the fact that leaving my flat feels worse than any breakup I’ve ever been through (and combine that with the fact that I know my time in London is coming to a close unless the UK government suddenly decides to start granting visas to single, 30-something Canadian entrepreneurs with no ties to British ancestry, leaving me in a horrendous state of flux where I have no idea what I’m going to do next year, and oh God, I’m going to miss London so much, and wait… I’ve lost the plot again, haven’t I) and it doesn’t seem to matter how many episodes of Orange is the New Black I watch while consuming entire bags of Oreos… I still feel like shit.
Years ago, sitting in the very house I’m sitting in again right now, I wrote this post, a guide to dealing with the post-vacation blues. It appears I am pretty familiar with this feeling; I’ve definitely felt it before, these post-adventure waves of sadness. I’ve felt it after every major trip I’ve taken in my lifetime, and usually after the small ones, too.
So what gives? Why do we almost always feel so miserable after returning home after a trip?
Loving life in Stone Town, Zanzibar
Well, first of all, we have the build-up. Most of us, I imagine, start planning or at least dreaming of our trips months and possibly years in advance. Unless it’s a quick long weekend away or a spontaneous road trip, in many cases we’ll have bought our flights a few months before, planned our accommodation, and thought about what we’d like to see or do while we’re away. We all do that little countdown, don’t we? “Three weeks until Morocco” or “Four months until I’m in Trinidad”.
All of this means that our trips don’t just last the amount of time that we’re actually away. Sure, maybe you’re only gone for a couple of weeks, but the build-up and the anticipation have been present in our lives for much, much longer.
For me, I had been dreaming of East Africa since I was a little girl. I used to think I’d be the Jane Goodall of African elephants, I kid you not. I was so obsessed with going on safari in Kenya and Tanzania that I did extra homework projects on animal species in that region of the world and would ask my teachers to grade it for fun (yes, I did indeed remain single for my entire school career, why do you ask?).
The build-up for this trip was so intense that sitting here, thinking back on it, it feels like it was all a dream. Did I actually go to Kenya?
He sniffed us and was like, “Not today” (to be fair, we’d been camping for days) in Maasai Mara, Kenya
Next, we have all of the emotions that take place while actually on the holiday itself. If we’re speaking of travel as a luxury and as a pleasurable experience that you choose to have, it means that you’re spending your time away doing something you love and want to do. Climbing a mountain. Wandering through a new city. Relaxing on a beach. Trying out local cuisines. We’re being constantly stimulated, perpetually thrilled, and generally overwhelmed in all the very best ways. It’s a chance for us to see something new, experience something different, and perhaps even be someone else for a while, someone – I’m speaking for myself here – more curious, more laid-back, perhaps even more fun.
When I was travelling around East Africa, I was basically having the best day of my life over and over and over again. In those six weeks I experienced six safaris (where I saw the Big Five many times over), stayed at Giraffe Manor, went hot-air ballooning over the Serengeti, camped under the stars in the Maasai Mara, trekked with gorillas in Rwanda, trekked with chimpanzees in Uganda, spent days in the sun in Zanzibar, and made out with a super hot dude (just had to throw that one in there *humblebrag*). And that’s only mentioning the big tickets. That doesn’t even cover everything else: the people I met, the day-to-day life I experienced, the lodges I stayed in, the food I ate, the museums I visited, and so on.
All told, I dare say it was the best trip of my life. I was on such a rush of adrenaline every single day that it’s no wonder I came crashing down shortly afterward.
And that’s the phase I’m in now: the afterward. The afterward is the product of the long build-up and anticipation followed by the high adrenaline of the trip, followed by the often painful realisation that it’s over (there were definitely tears on that plane journey home). And it’s in the afterward that you can very confidently proclaim… I feel like shit.
None of my old “get over the post-holiday blues” tricks are working. Thinking “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” makes me want to side-eye myself, if that’s possible. Looking at photos and video of the trip only makes me sadder, which is why you haven’t seen any posts about that trip on this blog yet (and why I’m only slowly adding them all to Instagram). My mum, who was my travel partner, is in Macedonia at the moment with my sister, so I can’t call her up to reminisce. Even planning my next trip – ten days in freaking Italy, my favourite country in the world – isn’t getting my spirits up, which is really saying something (“That you’re a spoiled brat?” you may be saying, and I wouldn’t disagree).
And again, I know I’m incredibly lucky and privileged to have been able to experience that trip – I believe that all of us should acknowledge how fortunate we are if we’re able to travel. But I bet this happens to almost all of us, too. Maybe we know it will be a while before we can take time off work again, or maybe we know that extenuating circumstances mean we won’t be travelling anytime soon. And unless we have one of those money-growing trees in our backyard (or have, like, a super popular Instagram account #goals), we might not be able to afford another adventure until we’ve saved up again (East Africa drained my entire savings account, so I’m definitely having nightmares of an Italian hotelier cutting up my credit card and forcing me to work on a vineyard in Tuscany in order to pay my dues, where I meet Fabrizio, a local winemaker with soft eyes, tanned skin, and an uncanny ability to look like he’s riding his horse in slow motion… hold up. This might not be so bad).
Um, yeah, I miss this (in Zanzibar, Tanzania)
Bottom line, perhaps a large chunk of feeling miserable in the afterward is the fear that we won’t be able to experience another great adventure again. That might be a foolish or pessimistic thought (perhaps even more so for a travel blogger) but it is definitely a fear of mine, especially when I know with certainty that I am addicted to travelling. This feeling combined with the come-down after such an adrenaline-filled trip, perhaps the biggest high of my entire life? Well, I guess feeling miserable kinda makes sense after all.
I think too often we’re told that we have to be happy all the time, that we have to constantly seek and maintain happiness, and that we have to perpetually look at life as if the glass were half full, even if there’s something that’s really messing with our heads. I say fuck the glass (um, not literally, c’mon now). If you want to feel bummed out for a while because you’re coming down off of an amazing adventure – whatever that adventure may be – go for it. Being sad and having a good old cry now and again is part of human nature, and I dare say it helps us acknowledge the problem, figure out our emotions, and lay the groundwork for future plans. Besides, at the end of the day, I’d much rather feel sad because I had an awesome time and I miss it rather than either a) sad because it was a terrible time and it didn’t live up to my expectations or b) happy because it’s over. That applies for everything in life, I think, as much as that thought can be difficult to accept.
It doesn’t matter if we’ve travelled the world many times over or if we’ve just taken our first trip away, it doesn’t matter if we go away for a long weekend or for a year, the reality is that the post-holiday blues can hit any of us. And while I probably won’t be back in East Africa anytime soon – though life is funny, and you never know what’s around the corner – I understand that these feelings of malaise will pass soon. Even writing this out makes me feel better (I’m genuinely sorry if you thought I wasn’t a naval-gazing narcissist who uses this space for her own cathartic release. Whoops).
So today, yeah, I feel like shit. But who knows? Tomorrow, I might just be able to look at my photos and smile.
Looking ahead to sunnier skies (in Manitoba, Canada)
Do you feel down after you finish a trip? How do you combat feeling sad after a great adventure?