My friends and I recently returned from a five-day vacation in the Smoky Mountains. Our cabin was located in Bryson City, North Carolina. It's less touristy than Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge with much more affordable rent. Between splitting the cost of the cabin and gas and groceries, each of us spent only about $200, which is very reasonable for an out of state vacation. While there we enjoyed hiking through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, watching the sun set at about 5,000 feet elevation, playing mini-golf in Gatlinburg, tubing through whitewater rapids, touring one of the nation's last living caves, browsing through automatic knives at Smoky Mountains Knife Works and eating at our first Bojangles' (Popeye's is still better). We even got out of a speeding ticket with a warning because the sheriff said he had himself "a good time" while visiting Louisiana. The trip was an unforgettable experience.
Upon our arrival back in Louisiana, I was welcomed home with mosquito bites, suffocating humidity and torrential rains to the point of flooding. As a Baton Rouge native, these are all local phenomena I am accustomed to. However, this time around, they added to my post-vacation depression. I think it is safe to say that all people experience some version of post-vacation depression, but this one, in particular, has hit me hard. Do not fear, though, because there are things you can do to combat post-vacation depression.
Dreaming about my next vacation has helped pull me out of the dumps. As a college student, even saving up the $200 for my Smokies trip took quite a while, so I understand that my next vacation may not take place for a long time. However, it is encouraging for me to not only think ahead to my next one but to start saving now. I know I want to return to the Smoky Mountains again, but I also want to make a return trip to California next summer. The beach is also on my list, and, thankfully, my aunt and uncle live in Pensacola, Florida. I have bigger goals, too, like visiting the Rockies in Canada and the Himalayas in Nepal, but those will take place years from now (fingers crossed).
Lack of sleep can make a bad mood worse, so it is important to get back on a good schedule. North Carolina is in the Eastern time zone, one hour ahead of my own Central time zone. The time change caused less stress to my system than my erratic sleeping schedule on my trip, since we were staying up well past midnight and sleeping in till noon. Even now I have not yet gotten my sleeping schedule back to normal, which may be playing a part in my recent tendency to crankiness. I am more of a morning person, in truth, so I know fixing my sleep schedule should perk me up.
This step will probably take a little longer since it involves shifting perspective, but enjoying the experiences you had rather than mourning their loss can make a big difference. I am sad that I am not in North Carolina anymore, but I have so many positive memories that came out of it, and I enjoy that I forged even stronger bonds with my friends. I am also grateful that I was able to go on the trip at all, since many people cannot afford to travel.
I miss the mountains, so I changed my computer's wallpaper to the mountains (the ones in Canada specifically, since that is a vacation goal for me). Do you love the beach? Decorate your apartment in a sea theme. I visited France last summer and fell in love with the food, so I try to enjoy my own versions of French food at home, which is usually expensive cheese and authentic champagne. This can help expand your own identity. Be cautious with bringing home some elements, though, since culturally appropriating is usually viewed as offensive.
If you are doing positive post-vacation things for yourself and still feel blue, it may not be post-vacation blues at all. It could be actual depression. Make sure your mental health is always as high of a priority as your physical health, and seek professional health if needed. You know yourself better than anyone else. If you aren't there for yourself, no one else can be.