Self-Care is Essential to Transformational Travel
Taking care of yourself after your travels is a vital aspect of the transformational travel journey. And while many people at home will feel excited for you to immediately return to the pace of life, you may be surprised to find that you’re not ready.
A traveler never returns home the same person. And it’s important to honor that.
You’ve been through a lot. What most short-term vacationers or tourists don’t realize is that long-term transformational travel can be physically, spiritually and emotionally exhausting.
Yes, it was probably an incredible journey.
Yes, you are privileged to have had the opportunity.
But long-term travel is hard. It’s work. It can create massive, internal shifts. And just like any experience that depletes us, it’s important to take care of yourself so you can fully process the experience and engage in the transformation.
Here are some tips and ways to nurture yourself after you return from long term travel.
Take a couple of days to take it easy, if at all possible. (Plan ahead to allow yourself this buffer.)
The best way to experience full-on reverse culture shock is to jump right back into your work and home routine. That’s also the best way to lose your grip on the lessons you’ve learned through your travel experience. Those lessons are hard won! So it’s worth taking a breather before you go back to everyday life to process.
When you get home, take time for the basics of self-care, particularly those that may have been neglected in travel. Have a long, hot shower, pamper yourself a little. Exfoliate, put on a face mask, give yourself a manicure. Drink loads of fresh, clean water (you’re probably dehydrated from the travel) and eat nourishing foods. Sleep for as long as you need to, but gently try to nudge yourself back into your home time zone.
If you need comfort food, go for it, within reason. Put on your favorite comfy clothes. Wrap yourself in soft blankets and watch a beloved film. Try not to take on anything too big for the first few days back. Finding comfort is a big part of the return home.
2. Realize that you have transformed and are transforming, and the people around you at home may not.
This can come as a shock, because transformation can seem subtle at the time, and you may not even notice it. But you cannot see what you’ve seen in the world and not come home changed, especially if you’ve been to developing nations and are returning to a first-world nation.
When I returned after an intense cultural immersion trip to El Salvador, BackpackMr and I went to a standard American mall. And I remember feeling overwhelmed by the absolute wastefulness of it all, the gaping chasm between the haves and have nots. The idea that we could spend $4 on a coffee without even thinking about it (made with beans from first-world countries), while whole families in those countries are surviving on $1 a day and living in tin shacks with dirt floors…it was all too much to take.
I was completely overwhelmed, and said, “I…can’t do this.” BackpackMr understood what was happening and whisked me home.
It’s important to remember this at the workplace as well. If you work with people of privilege who are hardened against the suffering in the world or have not learned about it or experienced it first hand, it may be even more challenging. If you are an empathetic person who was deeply touched by a recent travel experience, being in a corporate environment may be challenging for a while.
Be gentle with yourself and know that it will become easier over time. Or you may see more clearly the type of people you want to work with and the type of work you want to do moving forward.
3. Pay attention to the feelings that arise.
You may feel elated…or even angry. Exhausted. Blissful. Sad. Cracked open. Overwhelmed. Scared. Or ready to make some big changes. All of the feelings are real. All of the feelings are valid.
Your journey is yours, and no one can tell you what you will experience emotionally after long-term travel. Welcome the feelings and observe them.
Do some soul searching to find the source. It’s possible that your experiences have taught you some changes are in order for your life: maybe a new job, the end of a relationship, a big lifestyle change, or a move. Or maybe they’ve given you a renewed sense of purpose. Then again, maybe you’re just tired and jet-lagged and your emotions are heightened as a result.
Take time to examine your feelings and be present to them before you take action.
4. Surround yourself with people who are willing to listen.
This is important!
Let’s be honest here, most people want the 1-minute summary of your life-changing journey. And they’ll probably check instagram and text messages three times while you’re talking.
When you’ve been through a lot and are still having ah-ha moments, that can feel dismissive.
So, intentionally surround yourself with good, empathetic listeners. People who truly care about you and will walk with you as you continue your journey, without judgement and without interjecting their opinions. (Unless you ask, of course!)
Save the meaty, soul-searching stuff for those friends who are the best listeners. But also be sure to prepare your 1-minute summary for the short-attention-span masses. Feel free to drop in a little info about how the journey changed you or is changing you, but don’t feel it’s necessary to go deep. If they want to know more, when the time is right, they’ll ask.
5. Take time to process and remember.
It’s natural to miss a place when you’ve had a profound experience. So download your images and videos, look through them and savor the journey all over again. Process your experiences in whatever way works best for you: write about them, share images and thoughts on social media, paint or sing or just meditate on the journey. Wear a memento of your journey to help ground yourself in its lessons throughout the day. You may even want to cook some of the delicious foods you had while traveling. The senses of taste and smell are so evocative, it can be heartwarming to taste a favorite new dish again and share it with loved ones.
Realize that this beautiful, paradigm-shifting experience is now a part of you and your story. And that’s incredible.
6. Stay in touch with those you connected with in your travels.
Travel births intense relationships, and fast. Be sure to stay connected with those who shared the journey with you, even if it’s only in the short term. You have this remarkable experience in common, and your reentry into the default world may result in parallel experiences as well.
And if your travels resulted in the end of a relationship, make peace with it, and with the journey that brought you to this moment. Sometimes we can only see things clearly when we have distance, and that includes friendships that are out of balance. Find gratitude for how those relationships enriched your life, and let them go.
7. Move with intention toward the new person you’ve become.
You may have experienced some epiphanies in your travels.
Or perhaps things have come into focus once you arrived back home.
Whatever the case, embrace the new clarity you have and move with intention toward the new person you have become.
Has your journey inspired you to give back in some way?
Do you want to explore more opportunities to gain greater understanding about our world?
Are you moved to take a more active role in a cause?
Or have you discovered a new passion and want to incorporate changes to your lifestyle or professional world?
Honoring these shifts is important, even if it just means getting a tattoo or wearing an item of jewelry everyday to remind you of what matters to you and the person you want to become.
In time, you will get there. After all, you are already on the transformational journey.
Charish Badzinski is an explorer and award-winning features, food and travel writer. When she isn’t working to build her blog, she applies her worldview to her business, Rollerbag Goddess Global Communications, providing powerful storytelling to her clients.
Posts on the Rollerbag Goddess travel blog are never sponsored and have no affiliate links, so you know you will get an honest review, every time.
Find Charish on Twitter: @rollrbaggoddess, on Facebook at @rollrbaggoddess, and on Instagram at @rollerbaggoddess. You can also read more about Charish Badzinski’s professional experience in marketing, public relations and writing.
Rollerbag Goddess travel blog by Charish Badzinski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.