Surviving The First Week Travel Blues

Surviving The First Week Travel Blues
Solo travel | What's it like to travel alone | Travel blues | Scared to travel | Nervous traveller | Confident traveller | Happy travel. Have you ever felt unhappy whilst travelling? You may be suffering from a case of backpacker blues.

I hate to break it to you but the first week travel blues are a thing.

Now, several of you may already be nodding sagely at this statement and rolling your eyes in a girl, I’ve been there, fashion. However, some of you may scoff at this statement. Absurd, you may declare, why would I feel anything other than contended happiness on the first week of my travels?

Well, I am completely convinced that the first week travel blues exist.

And that’s ok with me.

Today I am going to tell you why I think that is and what you can do to overcome them.

What are The First Week Travel Blues?

Solo travel | What's it like to travel alone | Travel blues | Scared to travel | Nervous traveller | Confident traveller | Happy travel. Have you ever felt unhappy whilst travelling? You may be suffering from a case of backpacker blues.

If I’m to be pedantic about this, I believe that the blues strike somewhere at the end of the first week and beginning of the second.

In the first few days of arriving in your new destination you are usually wired on adrenaline, jet lag and the task of navigating your brand new surroundings keeps you going. Then, after several days of keeping yourself afloat on an ocean of glorious euphoria, a few niggles usually kick in.

BAM. Suddenly, the first week travel blues hit and you’re left reeling.

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The niggles have turned into mountains you fear you can’t climb. Everything seems difficult, like you’re being held back by invisible hands.

The doubts creep in; the naysaying voice in your head has begun to shout and it’s all you can do to keep swimming against the tide that’s suddenly pulling you adrift on your once calm ocean.

Hmm, this is unexpected, you say to yourself. Here I am on my trip of a lifetime and I feel… crappy.

Maybe I’m not cut out for this travel thing after all. I Feel. Like. A. Failure.

Where’s that return plane ticket when you need it?

My Experience Of The First Week Travel Blues

Now I wouldn’t be very honest if I didn’t admit that as a seasoned solo traveller I still suffer from the first week blues. Landing alone in Perth, Western Australia, a month before my birthday and without much of a plan was definitely an invitation to let the first week blues in.

And come in they did, which saw me lying on my bed eating crisps and bemoaning frankly nothing. This prompted me to think about all the ways I was probably neglecting myself and I vowed to pull myself back into shape.

But even when I acknowledge I am destined to suffer a tinge of the blues, I don’t let it stop me. I dig my heels in stubbornly and decide that it would be ludicrous for me to give up after the first week.

Because, yeah, my pride or some such nonsense gets in the way…

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Enjoying Rotorua, New Zealand

The First Week Travel Blues Spectrum

The trouble with the blues is that they are un-quantifiable in number and nature. Because our blues affect us in truly personal ways, the spectrum can be vast.

Here are a few general categories that I believe the first week blues fall in to. See if you can recognise a few of these yourself.

Getting Established

Travel – especially long-term travel – has a practical underbelly that we cannot avoid. Getting the essentials established – money, communication, accommodation and food – are critical to settling into your first week. If something goes amiss here you can quickly feel like you’re unable to cope; such as realising your phone is not unlocked to work abroad and is about as useful as a lump of metal can be.

Bad Luck

When bad luck strikes in your first week it can feel awful. Lost luggage, stressful journey, accommodation not as expected; unfortunately all manner of things can go wrong. Hopefully you have remembered to pay for travel insurance before you left home and can use it if you need to. For everything else, here’s when you have to take yourself by the shoulders and learn how to adult.

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Jurien Bay, Western Australia

Physical Blues

There are times when you travel that you are definitely not feeling your flashest. I remember my first couple of days in Cambodia; sweaty, covered in mosquito bites and with swollen ankles due to the heat, I was temporarily miserable. Your body, like your mind, has to acclimatise to travel in those first few weeks. You’re removing yourself from your familiar routines and subjecting it to long-haul flights, a different climate, unusual food: it’s going to take a little while to adjust.

Emotional Blues

You’ve woken up in a strange bed in a foreign country that is thousands of miles from home. Everything is new and incredibly daunting. You feel alone, perhaps a little vulnerable, and life as you knew it has changed completely. You could be tired, you could be homesick and you could be suffering a little from culture shock. Wow, of course you’re going to feel a bit strange. Give yourself time to come to terms with how you’re feeling; none of it is wrong.

How To Deal With The First Week Travel Blues

Enough of the negativity!

Ok, so you’ve held your head up high and realised you’re suffering from the first week blues. That’s totally ok. What’s not going to fly here is if you wallow in your current mood and let it get the better of you.

Luckily, just as there are many different varieties of the blues, there are also a plethora of coping techniques. Here are seven of my favourite to get you started off on the right track.

Which one resonates with you?

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1. Refocus And Remember Your Travel Goals

Take a deep breath and try to remember why you are here. The answer is probably along the lines of you wanted to experience a new country, new culture and meet new people. There are things that you have wanted to tick off your bucket list for years. There are sunsets and beaches, cities and countryside your heart has yearned to discover for the longest time and now you’re here. You’ve made this happen because of that passion. Now re-harness that power and use that energy to pull you through these tough few days.

2. Refer Back To Your Pre-Travel Planning

Your pre-travel checklist comes into its own right about now. Before you leave home, make sure you have considered how you will set yourself up in your new destination. Have copies of important documents emailed to yourself. Check details such as mobile phone networks, plug adaptors, currency and visas. Map out a rough itinerary and take note of useful phone numbers, addresses and any translations you may need to help you out in your first week orientation.

3. Get In Touch With Home

By all means, get in touch with your loved ones back home. Allow yourself to miss them. It’s only natural that you should. But then refer back to the point above: why are you here? It’s because you wanted to travel and look at you now! Share your concerns and your frustrations with your family and friends but allow yourself to recognise your achievements. Use their words of love and encouragement to keep going, but don’t hide behind them.

4. Plan A Few Fun Activities

As the tide of panic continues to rise try to ebb its flow with diversion tactics. Plan a few day trips, join a walking tour, research some great places to eat nearby and go off to find them. By filling your time with fun and celebrating some of the good things your new surroundings have to offer you will slowly begin to leave your negativity behind.

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5. Reach Out To New People

If you are staying in a hostel then use this social environment as a support network. Try reaching out to your fellow travellers and be honest that you’re struggling with X, Y or Z. You will be amazed to find the wealth of empathy that will greet you. Most travellers will have fears and be able to recount their own personal experiences. A problem shared is a problem halved and you will find comfort knowing that you are not alone.

6. Be Realistic And Remain Optimistic

I’ve learned a lot over the past five years of travel, and its mostly been because of the navel-gazing I’ve had the opportunity to do during that time.  Travel has made me understand that I am a realist. I’ve long since done away with the notion that living a life of travel is going to be a constant succession of joy and wonder. You’re going to have your good days and your bad days. Nobody is perfect and your trip may not be perfect either, but it’s your journey so leave a little room for positivity to take hold and soon it will bloom.

7. Remember You Will Weather The Storm

You can – and you will – get through your current shit storm. The rough has to be taken with the smooth when you travel. As long as you are not physically hurt or in danger yourself then chalk up the rest to the new challenge you have set yourself and put a recovery plan in action.

How Do You Cope With Your Blues?

Do you agree that the first week blues are real? Have you ever experienced them? I believe I am not alone as I’ve talked to many new (and not-so-new) travellers over the years who were clearly exhibiting symptoms of the blues.  It would be good to hear what your coping techniques are for the next time I have a wobble!

Over to you!

Share your opinions in the comments; do you have experience of the first week travel blues and how did you overcome them?

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Solo travel | What's it like to travel alone | Travel blues | Scared to travel | Nervous traveller | Confident traveller | Happy travel. Have you ever felt unhappy whilst travelling? You may be suffering from a case of backpacker blues. Solo travel | What's it like to travel alone | Travel blues | Scared to travel | Nervous traveller | Confident traveller | Happy travel. Have you ever felt unhappy whilst travelling? You may be suffering from a case of backpacker blues.

29 Comments

  1. November 16, 2016 / 1:19 AM

    This is so interesting, I never thought about travel blues but think I may have experienced it before! P.s. love the pictures in this post too 🙂

    • November 16, 2016 / 2:12 AM

      Thank you for reading, Michelle! I think it’s more common than people think, and whilst I don’t want to bring people down and make them focus on the negativity, I think it’s important to be honest about the emotions you may face during your travels.

  2. November 16, 2016 / 1:40 AM

    I remember getting the travel blues when I was in a boat going from Italy to Greece – we only had deck tickets, it was freezing despite being early summer, I had no warm clothes and I was homesick. I went down to the bar to console myself with some wine but I didn’t have enough money on me. A lovely Greek gentleman at the bar felt sorry for me and bought me a bottle of wine which I took back to the deck to share. The travel blues were gone 😊 Great post thanks for the tips

    • November 16, 2016 / 2:25 AM

      Oh the trifecta of being cold, homesick and broke would definitely bring on a bout of the blues, Julie! So glad there was a lovely Greek gentleman there to save the day!

  3. kathymarris
    November 16, 2016 / 1:51 AM

    Yes I agree totally. Travelling to a foreign country or destination can be rather daunting initially until you find your way. I always miss the comforts of home, because I do have such a comfortable life, but after I get through the initial culture shock, sleeping in a new bed, acclimatising to different weather and getting my belly used to the food, I start to unwind and relax into my new environment.

    • November 16, 2016 / 2:31 AM

      Exactly, Kathy, those hurdles of the first few days can be overcome and then the appeal of your new destination takes over. I’m so glad that I am not the only one who feels like this.

  4. November 16, 2016 / 2:07 AM

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I have experienced anything quite that bad but I do find that it takes me about 24 hours to fully ‘arrive’ in a new destination (even if I have been there before). My best antidote is to get out and about as soon as possible then follow that with an early night and a good night’s sleep.

    • November 16, 2016 / 10:01 AM

      Good tips, Jan. I definitely agree with you that sleep is the key to keeping a clear head and enjoying yourself!

  5. November 16, 2016 / 3:19 AM

    Definitely went through this when I went to Australia and I did not know what to do with myself. Great post and great advice!

    • November 16, 2016 / 10:04 AM

      Thank you, Kristie! I suppose it’s a strange feeling to suddenly have all of this extra time on your hands to do exactly what you want and it’s overwhelming!

  6. miadayy
    November 16, 2016 / 4:56 AM

    Nice!!! Really traveling can be overwhelming sometimes. LOVE your blog!!Kudos!!

    • November 16, 2016 / 10:04 AM

      Thanks for your lovely comment – I’m so glad you like my blog!

  7. November 16, 2016 / 2:13 PM

    First week travel Blues? I had the travel blues for….ummm… Maybe 2 months? Not 100% of the time, but at times when I’d find myself alone in a new city….BAM! I was emailing my flight attendant to get me home, the changing my mind 24 hours earlier.
    I find that regular exercise helps and trying to keep to a routine. Which is hard when you’re travelling, as most people think travelling equates to non-stop partying and self-care falls away. So my tips:

    + establish a routine
    + allow yourself to stare wistfully at the Ocean and cry, cry, cry
    + be alone. Like, really alone. And learn to like it.
    + don’t turn on roaming and get distracted by Facebook activity back home.
    + get involved with group things! Retreats! Co-working spaces! Find a digital nomad group! Hostels! Couch surfing!

    Great post 🙂

    • November 20, 2016 / 8:56 AM

      Love your tips, Camilla! Definitely the one about turning off your Facebook feed and focusing on yourself to truly learn how to feel comfortable on your own. Glad to hear that you find all of these superb ways to overcome any doubts you have and carry on travelling.

  8. November 19, 2016 / 1:03 PM

    Great tips! I definitely know this feeling! Thanks for sharing

    • November 20, 2016 / 11:56 AM

      Thanks so much! It’s good to know we’re not alone!

  9. November 20, 2016 / 4:08 AM

    YUP. Been there 😛 I also find very predictably that the end of the second month of long term travel I get the travel blues as well. I find that your tips are very helpful, and what I do as well. Just getting outside and taking a walk with my camera gets me out of my funk usually. But I’m not above sitting inside for a day and watching TV like I would do at home, either! Especially when you travel non-stop and don’t have a home base, it’s important to do little self care things that you would normally do at home.

    • November 20, 2016 / 11:59 AM

      I agree that this feeling is often heightened when you travel for a while and don’t have a home base. Love the tip to sit and have a movie day – nothing can beat that!

  10. November 20, 2016 / 1:58 PM

    This is very recognizable! I’ve had this one time before and that was during a long-term trip: I went to France for 5 months to do an internship. Before the trip, I was very excited and that stayed for a couple of days when I arrived in France. Everything was new, so I loved to explore everything. After, like a week, of working, I got the travel blues. I felt alone, I didn’t know anybody and I found it hard to communicate with people, since I couldn’t speak fluently French yet by then. Luckily, the travel blues went away a few days after, because I met some nice people who I did nice things with. 🙂 At the end, I had a great 5 months in France!

  11. November 20, 2016 / 6:01 PM

    I didn’t call it travel blues (however, good wording!!) but it is kind of what I meant when I wrote my post on how to beat homesickness.

    • November 28, 2016 / 10:37 AM

      Hey Eva, glad you liked the post. I’m sure that homesickness does play a part in the travel blues as well.

  12. November 22, 2016 / 8:01 AM

    Awesome post lovely! Funny I only did a draft post on this yeaterday as I’ve just got back month ago from a 4.5 month trip! Some of my ideas are similar but also love your insights. Lovely blog you have too by the way!
    Kristie x

    • November 28, 2016 / 10:34 AM

      Thanks so much for reading, Kristie! I’m glad it resonated with you too. A 4.5 month is a great length trip – you must have covered a lot. Will check out your blog 🙂

  13. February 3, 2017 / 3:36 AM

    awesome blog. Great advice. LOVE the photos! Rather enjoy my visit here! 😉

    • February 3, 2017 / 7:04 AM

      Thank you so much for your comment, I’m so glad you found it helpful!

  14. Danielle
    May 22, 2017 / 11:50 AM

    This is amazing! I have always experienced this, literally every trip I take and I consider myself a seasoned traveller. I’ve always thought I was just over-stressing or over-reacting to certain situations, but I completely agree with first week travel blues being a real thing. Because sure enough, another few days of pushing through and it’s gone. Thank you so much for writing this!

    • May 22, 2017 / 5:03 PM

      Aw, Danielle, thanks for your comment! I am so glad that you can relate and it’s great to know that we’re not alone! Happy future travels.

  15. May 23, 2017 / 2:18 PM

    I am not sure I have had the first week travel blues during my two trips abroad, but I just always need a few days to adjust into the ‘travel mindset’ and get used to all of it. The first few days of my trips are never the best LOL.
    x

    • May 24, 2017 / 8:56 AM

      It definitely takes me a couple of days to get into the travel mindset! Happy travels, Stephanie, thanks for reading!

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