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?
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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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