How to Come Back to Reality After a Solo Trip
After years of traveling to new places alone, I’ve realized that one of the hardest part of taking a solo trip is coming home and transitioning back to reality. Figuring out how to readjust emotionally and physically can be hard, especially with a full suitcase and all the memories playing like a mini movie in your mind.
It was hard to face my New York City life after walking along the canals of Amsterdam, riding the tube in London, exploring the lowlands and highlands of Scotland, and eating French pastries in Paris. Coming home and resuming everyday life always took more energy than I’d anticipated.
Here are some tips I’ve learned over the years to help transition back to everyday life after an amazing solo trip.
1. Unpack as soon as possible
A great way to readjust was to simply unload everything from my backpack or suitcase, throw the clothes in the washing machine and find a home for my possessions. All the books I’d taken with me went back onto my bookshelf or night table, the toiletries went back into the bathroom, and miscellaneous items like postcards and souvenirs went to a pile on my desk to be sorted through and given away later point in time.
2. Reach out to your friends and family soon after you come home
Even though I try to disconnect and not use social media as often when I’m traveling, I try to keep in touch for important occasions like a friend’s birthday. Asking how my friends and family are doing helps me reconnect and find my place when I’m back in town.
3. Go through your photos and videos
Once I get home from a trip, the last thing I want to do is sort through the hundreds (if not thousands) of photos and video on my phone and camera. It’s tempting to put this off until later. But after five years of taking solo trips, I’ve learned that it’s best to do everything within a few days of coming home.
4. Write down everything about your trip
Write down everything and don’t stop. After every trip, I tell myself I’ll remember everything that happened, but in the end… I forget. It feels like a sharp image going out of focus. I used to remember
everything, from what I was wearing to where a group of hostel friends went out for drinks. But then, as the days turn into weeks and months and years, the snapshot I had of the memory shifts until I don’t
remember the names of the people who I was with, and only remember where I was. I look back to my journal entries and notes, where I forced myself to write down concrete details.
5. Do things alone in your own city
Sometimes, when I return home, I think too much about where I’ve been and don’t take the time to see what’s around me. Take some time for yourself. Going on a long walk or making a meal from scratch is grounding.
When I returned to New York City from Iceland, I wanted to learn everything I could about Scandinavian culture. I couldn’t book another solo trip because I needed to focus on my finances, so instead I went to Scandinavia House: The Nordic Center in America and watched films and TV shows in Danish, Icelandic, Norwegian, Finnish and Swedish. Attending book talks and events helped inspire me to go on a solo trip to Copenhagen, Denmark.
6. Check your bank account and reassess your finances
Nothing brought me back down to reality quite like looking at my finances. Once I arrived home, I looked over what I had spent money on and why. Did I splurge on a last-minute excursion or remain entirely within my budget? I chose to take every trip and experience as a learning opportunity. After I reassessed my finances, I created a new budget and set in place a saving system to get my finances back on track and to save for my next trip, whenever that might be.
7. Look at your life and your choices
Completing the West Highland Way, a 96-mile walk through the lowlands and highlands of Scotland, inspired me to pursue other long-distance hikes elsewhere in the world. Through my travels, I also found the joy in stopping in a coffee shop and actually sitting down to enjoy my coffee, a new concept in my fast-paced lifestyle.
8. Start planning your next trip
After my first solo trip to Iceland I didn’t want to come back to New York. I realized that while I needed to save up money and budget for my next trip, I could still go to the library or bookstore and page through a travel book for ideas and inspiration. I made a list and worked on a vision board to figure out where I wanted to travel to next. Sometimes, being whisked off on another adventure was the motivation needed to help stay focused on the present.