Dealing With PTF (Post-Trip Funk): My Return Home

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It’s been over a week since I arrived back here in North America, switching hemispheres, jumping from Fall to Spring — yet again. I’m sure most, if not all, can relate when I say it’s been surreal.

Even when reading Jon’s post on the PTF (Post-Trip Funk), I kept saying to myself: “that could never happen to me.” Well, it did, and with a great force. I think that my somewhat-recovery after just a week is pretty good. Nevertheless, there are some observations and recommendations, the quirky and the practical, that I would like to share with globetrotters everywhere.

It was incredible to come back and realize that the small idiosyncrasies you do throughout your day are actually habits. For example, my first experience with a Toronto streetcar was humorously embarrassing. Without hesitation, as the streetcar rumbled up the street, I impulsively stuck out my arm to “wave” it down — a necessary reality with buses in Buenos Aires. The other people around looked at me, stared, and continued to stare, even when I climbed up and took my seat on the streetcar. I think they were trying to figure out where I was coming from. I looked like a Torontonian, but there was something a little off. I giggled.

Another interesting experience, and obviously common symptom of PTF, is the continuous existential questioning and comparing of cultures. Obviously you notice the differences, but what is more striking is that you will start seeing the similarities. When reminiscing about tuk-tuk rides while riding your bicycle through your old neighborhood, it will make you smile, thinking about how people are inherently the same with just a little splash of different cultural practices.

You may weigh the pros and cons of staying and leaving. Usually commitments to a new apartment or replenishing a bank account will outweigh all, but you will try to rationalize your way out of both. Personally, I am using this moment to learn to “go with the flow”; to sooth my impulsivity.

You may want to get a puppy, get a normal career, or invest in a house the day after you return, just because you want to feel a little stability. I recommend giving any decision a couple of months, just to see if your travel clock begins ticking again.

I recommend staying with friends or family in the middle of nowhere for a time. It gives you the ability to be alone, to sulk, to crawl into your suitcase. It gives you time to digest the change, subduing the impulsion to go out with friends and make their ears hurt with too many stories.

What is most important to keep in mind is that any decision you make or obsessive-compulsive rituals that you do to deal with PTF are, as Jon said, painful, but necessary.

By Brit Weaver


About the Author

Toronto born and based, Brit is an avid leisure cyclist, coffee drinker and under-a-tree park-ist. She often finds herself meandering foreign cities looking for street eats to nibble, trees to climb, a patch of grass to sit on, or a small bookstore to sift through. You can find her musing life on her personal blog,

  • Love having you stay with your parental units. PTF's depends on the person I think. Some can get over it in a day, others take forever, and most are probably up & running "normal" in a few days to a few weeks. Depends on how anal-retentive they are, & how quickly they learn to enjoy whenever they are. It's not always about living within the box, your travels, should give you experience to live outside of the box (or at least the possibility). Yes, people have to put a roof over head, clothes on your back and food to sustain yourself, for some that is returning to the world they left behind, Therefore they were on vacation, but found living & working in different places, coming home to find work, there is very little PTF. It's sad to have the vacation over, so now its back to your world that does give you food, shelter, clothing & hopefully enough money for your next vacation. Having lived & worked abroad, I guess I found no PTF for me, just relief to be home, because there is no place like home because whether you like it or not coming from a place of conveniences, its hard to give into not having the luxuries, like a full size fridge, washer & dryers (living with washing hanging up in the apt.every day, good reason to be out while drying). Living out of a suitcase, backpacks for couple of years is not fun either. So its about appreciating the opportunity to see the rest of the world & bringing some of that wonder home, look forward to next time you go travelling & the possibilities offered by travel that can be incorporated into life at home.

  • brit

    I wonder what kind of timeline PTF has? Like one day of recovery for each week gone? Someone should research this!

  • I will always remember walking my dog, a week after I returned, and offering up a deep bow– from the waist, of course– to a passerby across the street. It was the strangest look I've ever gotten, and lasted the entire rest of the block. That was the prompt for some PTF soul searching. Good luck to you, sister.

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