When you return from your first travel career break, you might find it difficult to settle into the old routine again. But here’s the thing: you don’t need to. Why do things the same as before when you’ve learned so much from travelling?
I’ve been back in work for three months since we returned home from travelling. I’m really enjoying the new job and we have a great flat in central London. But even being happy in my career and at home isn’t going to quench my travel thirst.
I’ve taken a few measures to keep that travel bug alive and curious. In this article I outline all the things I’m doing outside of my nine-to-five – starting with some small ideas and building up to some bigger ones – to keep my travel desires satisfied.
Experiment with cooking new food
One of the best things about travelling (in my opinion) is the daily opportunity to try new food and drink. I love sampling different things and embracing different cultures at mealtimes.
However, when you arrive back home, it’s very easy to slip into the same old routine. Cooking can quickly become a chore rather than a joy. When we travelled we attended cooking classes in Thailand and Vietnam, and since returning home we’ve bought Vietnamese and Peruvian cookbooks to make sure that we try something different at least once a week.
This helps us relive some of our favourite international flavours, plus it’s great for treating our friends when they come round in the evening.
Explore the local shops and markets
You’d be amazed at what you can find in small, local places, especially if you’re in a big city. This is helping us to try out new food and drinks even though we’re not travelling at the moment.
It’s much more interesting than shopping at a big brand supermarket. And it’s not just the imported produce; it’s also the atmosphere. Standing in the middle of Billingsgate Fish Market at 6am in the morning really took me back to some of the loud and hectic markets of South America or South-East Asia.
So head out with your shopping bags and come home with something you’ve never seen before – then try to cook it.
Watch TV shows that inspire you to (or remind you of) travel
After returning from a travel career break it’s tempting to get swallowed up in the latest Netflix drama or light entertainment of the day. Totally make sure you have spare time for that outside of work, but also watch shows that feed the travel bug.
Programmes like Planet Earth by the BBC or cookery shows that travel to different places in the world are great for getting new travel ideas. Even have a quick search for things that were filmed in some of your favourite locations.
Alex’s mum bought us a TV series called Trapped because it was filmed in Iceland, where we went for a shorter trip before our career break. As well as conjuring up some of your favourite travel memories, you get to watch an entertaining TV show you may have never thought to try.
Read some non-fiction, motivational books
Try reading some books that challenge you and ask the hard questions no one else is prepared to. Things like, are you actually happy where you are? What do you want to achieve in life? Do you really care about all that stuff?
Motivational books are a great way to give you a wake-up call if you get too complacent in your routine. We’ll be compiling a selection of our favourites soon, so look out for that.
Not only can this be a great motivator for planning your next travel career break, it’s great anyway for you to keep learning and asking yourself difficult, challenging questions.
Keep a mood board
Whether it’s on Pinterest or on the wall in your bedroom, gather some images from around the world that make you feel great. This can be memories from where you have been, or places you want to visit someday.
There are no rules to your mood board. It just has to create something visually appealing that will allow you those moments to reminisce about previous travels or provoke inspiration for new adventures.
Do a travel-related jigsaw puzzle
This one is a little out of the ordinary, but we love it! When we stayed at a campsite in a rural area of New Zealand, there was a common room that had some jigsaw puzzles. After hiking one day, we spent a couple of hours doing one. We found it surprisingly fun and relaxing, and when we got back home this gave us an idea.
We bought a second-hand 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle of a beautiful picture of Eib Lake, Germany. Whenever we had some downtime, we would do a little more work on it. What we’ve found is that jigsaw puzzles are a mindful and creative exercise that enable us to completely escape from the stress of everyday life.
It took us a few weeks to complete our jigsaw puzzle, but at the end it felt like an achievement. It was exciting to see the image coming together as we made progress. While we’re at home between travel adventures, we’ll be trying more puzzles of different places around the world.
Play music that reminds you of travelling
We moaned about it while we were away, but every time we hear Shape Of You by Ed Sheeran, I can picture myself anywhere in the world. Add some South American hits, and I’m back in Buenos Aires sipping on red wine and waiting patiently for my asado.
The music doesn’t have to be from the places you visited. It can be songs from years ago that just remind you of that moment you danced on the beach watching the sunrise, or drifted down the Mekong River on a slow boat.
It’s a good idea to keep a list of memorable songs while you travel, or start a collaborative Spotify playlist that your travel crew can add to.
Invest in an essential oils diffuser
Smells play a really big part in remembering different places. It can be from trying that food you’ve always wanted to cook from your favourite country, or incense that you get from a local Asian supermarket.
I bought myself an essential oils diffuser for our bedroom so I could make it smell like eucalyptus, and pretend I was on the Great Ocean Road trying to spot koalas.
Head to your local remedy store and take a look at the scents they have in stock. Will any of them remind you of places you’ve been? Give it a try at home.
Take a local walking tour
Making the most of your local area is one of the best ways to feed the travel bug when you return home. You can begin by taking a walking tour.
We’ve moved back into London, but we’re now living in a different area to where we were before. We’re lucky that there are many walking tours for us to choose from – round the corner from our flat we see groups of people on the Jack the Ripper tour every day.
Find out if there’s something near to your home you can try. It gets you out of the house, you meet new people, learn new things about where you live and – most crucially – you remember what it’s like to feel like a traveller.
Make a bucket list of things to do in your local area
Why stop at a walking tour? I bet there are loads of things you didn’t know about in close proximity to where you live.
Start by pretending you’re a tourist. What’s the first thing you do? Search on Instagram or Pinterest? Check out the top 10 things to do on TripAdvisor? Well, do those things, make a bucket list for your local area, and set a challenge to complete it in the next year or six months.
That’s exactly what we’ve done in London and we’re experiencing much more of the city than we ever used to.
Join a community that allows you to revisit your travels
When you get home, unless all of your friends have also taken travel career breaks, you will find there isn’t much opportunity to revisit your experiences because everyone is going about their daily lives and you don’t want to bore them with endless stories.
Finding a group of people in your local area who also have travel stories to share is a great way to relive some of your best times.
Try using a community site like meetup.com or searching for traveller groups on social media. Doing this can connect you with a new circle of like-minded friends.
Does the travel bug get you down because you still want to experience the world? Ok then, go somewhere. Just because you’re back at home and work doesn’t mean that you can’t still travel to new places.
I like to maximise my annual leave from work by booking a Friday and/or Monday off to give myself a long weekend every month. I’m using this time as much as possible to visit new places while still working a nine-to-five.
A bonus of this is that it has also allowed us to figure out the places we want to spend longer in future. Think of it as research for your next big career break.
Learn a new language
When we were travelling, I constantly felt a mixture of guilt and regret that I didn’t speak another language. How useful would it have been during our time in South America if I was able to speak Spanish?
I’m from the UK, and often feel humbled by how well other people around the world speak my language, and wish I could speak theirs. Now I’m back at home for a while, I have a chance to put that right.
The Duolingo mobile app is a great start for learning the basics of a new language. Give this a go – it covers 37 different world languages. Once you’re getting to grips with it, why not sign up for language classes in your area? You’ll be able to meet new people and develop a great new skill for the next time you travel.
Stay in touch with people you met while travelling
The chances are that you met loads of different people from all over the world when you travelled. That’s one of the best things about it. If you stay in touch with the people you meet, it gives you an amazing network of friends from all over the world.
Send them a postcard from your hometown and get them to do the same for you. You’ll have a collection of postcards with ideas of where to visit next – plus you’ll get the bonus of seeing your friend again.
Start planning your next career break!
Returning home and settling into new routines is much easier if you have some new big goals to aim for. And what could be a better goal than planning your next career break?
It doesn’t have to be straight away; you might be thinking five to ten years time. But that’s fine. Start doing some research into where you might like to go and things you might like to do. You might even find that you get ideas for a shorter holiday to take in between big trips.
Check out our guide to planning a round-the-world trip for some ideas on how to go about your planning.
Challenge yourself with new life goals
One of the best (and hardest) things about travelling is that you are constantly challenging yourself with new things. It’s how you learn so much from it. When you head home, back to the familiar, it’s very easy to lose the drive to continue challenging yourself.
Perhaps you’re not so sure about taking another career break. Instead, why not set yourself some new life goals to keep your mind active, and to ensure that you continue to challenge yourself?
It can be as simple as taking part in a book-reading or running challenge, or maybe taking a course, reconnecting with old friends or volunteering. I’ve taken up yoga while we’re at home, and it’s given me a refreshed focus. This can help you see that travelling isn’t the only way to experience and learn new things.
Become a Couchsurfing host
Couchsurfing is an awesome community of people all over the world who offer travellers free accommodation in their homes. We stayed with Couchsurfing hosts when we were travelling in Argentina.
If you can, when you return home, donate a room or a couch to people travelling to your own country. Even if you can’t offer accommodation, you can still go along to the Couchsurfing meet-ups in your area to make new friends.
This can keep you connected with the travelling lifestyle and meet great people. It also helps other people experience the same kindnesses you did while you were hopping around the world.
Find the right job
If you are on the hunt for a job when you return from travelling, you have a chance to find one that works for you. Think about the factors that will help you to continue a travel lifestyle.
How much holiday do they offer? Are the working hours flexible? Are you able to get home quickly so that you can still have a social life outside of work, and is the level of responsibility reasonable so that you’re not just going to stressed all the time? Is the pay enough for you to live the lifestyle you want? These are the questions you need to be asking.
Finding the right job that gives you the balance you’re looking for will be key to living the life you want. For some crucial tips, check out my article on finding a job after travelling the world: a winning strategy.
If you follow just a few of these tips, you will instantly feel rejuvenated. It will remind you that, even though you are at home working again, you never need to stop being a career gapper.
Don’t forget to look after yourself, too. Eat well, exercise and expand the mind! This is important at any stage in your life, but it’s especially crucial when returning back to the ’real world’ after having time out. It can be a very vulnerable time for both mind and body.
You will have moments when you feel sad that you are no longer on the road, but use that energy to become the best version of yourself, and everything else will fall into place.
Do you know somebody who is going travelling? Check out our ideas for practical gifts for travellers.
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