Adventures in Post-Travel Blues

We had just been delivered the news: after missing our connecting flight by 30 minutes, we would have to wait two days (!) for the next available flight home from Dallas Fort-Worth. “You were informed by the agents in Toluca that you would miss your flight here, were you not?” asks the unkind face behind the Spirit Airlines desk. It was true; at 4am the night before, another unkind face advised us that we would either have to stay in Toluca another two days, get rebooked and spend one night in Chicago, or take the ever-slimming chance we’d make the connection in Dallas. My stomach churned when given that choice. I wanted to stay in Mexico. But I got on the plane. And the next morning, faced with the prospect of spending two days in Dallas when I could have spent an extra two days eating tacos, I collapsed under my own grief. And that’s when I turned from Amanda Elsewhere, Experienced Traveler into Amanda Somebody, Ridiculous Person. “Please, can you just put us on a plane back to Mexico, and rebook us from there?” She looked at me, stone-faced. “No.”

That was one week ago. Since then, I have suffered from the full gamut of your run-of-the-mill post-travel blues. Eating? Impossible. For one thing, all food tastes like cardboard. For another thing, if I eat, my stomach immediately knots up. This knotty feeling, while we’re at it, emerges with the tiniest trigger. Someone speaking Spanish on the subway? Knots. Having to sit in stop-and-go rush-hour traffic? KNOTS! (I mean, you know it’s bad when you miss even the traffic in Mexico City!) At least the crying stopped, after the second (or third) day. It’s still hard to get out of bed and fall back into my old routine. Routine is the Devil’s deed, anyway.

In Pico Iyer’s brilliant and affirming essay “Why We Travel,” he remarks far more poetically than I ever could: “…after my first trips to Southeast Asia… I would come back to my apartment in New York, and lie in my bed, kept up by something more than jet lag, playing back, in my memory, over and over, all that I had experienced, and paging wistfully though my photographs and reading and re-reading my diaries, as if to extract some mystery from them. Anyone witnessing this strange scene would have drawn the right conclusion: I was in love.” If traveling is love, then coming home is the ugly breakup you never want to have.

I’m always struck by how long it takes me to adjust to coming back home, which isn’t to say that anything has changed about home. Quite the opposite, in fact. That first step back into my house, I’m immediately slammed by the utter sameness of everything. It’s me that’s changed. And New Me, she doesn’t want any of this shit. She had a taste of the world. She wants more.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this most recent trip is that I experienced the post-travel blues days before I even departed. These breakups are getting harder and harder on me. All the while I keep thinking “Why?” Why put myself through this? Wouldn’t it be easier to just… never leave home? Well, I think I have an answer for that, finally. And the simple answer is that falling in love, well, it feels fucking great. And maybe one day, it will last forever. Or at least a little longer than a week.

In the meantime, I’ve found that this picture makes me feel okay about my country:

2 responses to “Adventures in Post-Travel Blues

  1. I love this line: If traveling is love, then coming home is the ugly breakup you never want to have. I also have a really hard time coming home from traveling. It helps if I begin planning my next one and know there’s another one to look forward to.

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