How to beat post-holiday blues in one delightful day
Unlock the holiday mindset at home and see your own city in a new light to beat post-holiday blues.
Unless you’re lucky enough to travel full-time, living it up as a digital nomad, you’re probably familiar with this post-holiday situation: sitting on the floor of your apartment, gingerly sorting through a suitcase of dirty clothes, shaking sand out of shoes, tossing still-damp swimsuits into the laundry basket.
You look around the room, and somehow everything seems bleaker. The light isn’t quite as you remembered it, and was there always so much dust on that shelf? Your phone buzzes with WhatsApp messages from work. You let it buzz, stalling the moment when you have to check shift schedules and set alarms, officially waving goodbye to the holiday vibe. Did time somehow speed up in the last few days? How can it already be over?
Towards the end of any holiday, I usually feel a tiny speck of relief. Train journeys, gigantic restaurant portions, and constant vigilance for pickpockets can get exhausting after a while, and the thought of being in my own bed is just tempting enough to get me on the plane home. The minute I’m back in Dublin, though, I crave the excitement of travel, the promise of waking up in a new place, with no set schedule or responsibilities. It’s a classic case of ‘the grass is always greener’ – but I know that if I had untapped resources at my disposal, there’s no doubt that I would head to the airport and never look back.
Unfortunately, that dream opportunity has yet to present itself, and every time I get back home from a bout of travelling, I end up stuck deep in the post-holiday blues. I spend my days lining up nostalgic latergrams from my latest getaway or switching tabs between my bank account and Skyscanner, hoping for some magical communication between the two that will let me fly away again, sooner rather than later.
The thing about travelling is, apart from the places you visit and the people you meet, which can only be achieved by leaving home behind, there’s also a certain travel mindset. You’ll recognise it as the giddy excitement of doing something out of the ordinary, of taking time out to do things you enjoy. This mindset can be replicated no matter where you are in the world. All it takes is a couple of key elements, and you’ll be free of post-holiday blues in no time.
Temple Bar in Dublin, always full of tourists – but not without reason!
1. Take time out
Do you get weekends off work? Do you have a couple of awkwardly-timed holiday days left to take before the end of the financial year? Or maybe you can swap shifts and free up a day somewhere in the middle of the week?
No matter what your situation, schedule a day when you’re sure you won’t be disturbed, one that isn’t reserved for driving lessons, family dinners, or dentist’s appointments. Don’t choose a time when you know you’ll be tempted to tackle your pile of laundry or do the weekly shop – this time is entirely for you.
We all take evenings out to binge watch the latest show on Netflix, and spend lazy afternoons reading a good book – it’s part of the regular routine. Take this opportunity to do something different. You deserve a full day off – so choose one, and mark it in your calendar.
You can do it solo, or get a reliable friend or partner to join you – just make sure to sync your schedules.
2. Plan your day
One of my favourite parts of travelling is the planning stage, when I dive deep into review websites and Instagram hashtags, create dedicated Pinterest boards, and map out itineraries of places I want to see, activities I want to do, and food I want to eat. Naturally, it usually ends up being mostly about the food.
Planning is what truly gets me in the mood to travel. I often buy plane tickets and accommodation months in advance, and as life takes over, the initial excitement fades away. The next destination ends up tucked away in the back of my mind until I dig it back out again a week or two before the flight and discover all of its potential.
Not everyone might be a planning nerd like I am, but I think the build-up of excitement about an event you’re really looking forward to is nothing short of universal.
Once you’ve booked your day off, it’s time to plan. Meals, sightseeing, transport – all the cards are on the table. Do a little bit of research, and choose the most appealing options.
The perfect spot for some post-holiday relaxing — weather-permitting, of course!
Check the weather
The first thing I always do is check the weather. This is going to depend on where you live, of course, but for me, it’s always an essential. Maybe I’ve been conditioned by years of living in Ireland, where no one is truly surprised by hailstorms in mid-May, and the rare occurrence of a sunny day makes people shed as much clothing as is socially acceptable and immediately break out the barbecue (shirtless grilling is a perfectly normal activity on a sunny February weekday, thank you very much) – but checking does no harm.
For rainy or bitterly cold days, galleries and museums might be your best bet, but if it looks like it will be a nice day, I recommend choosing an outdoor activity as the centrepiece. For so many of us, modern life is lived almost exclusively in indoor spaces – we go from lecture hall to bus to shopping centre to office to car, barely stopping for fresh air in between. We also don’t stop to think about how it makes us feel – trapped and enclosed, stuck and uncreative. For me, those feelings are a huge part of why I book holidays in the first place, and why it’s so difficult to go back to a regular routine.
There’s nothing quite like a day out in nature to break the cycle and make you feel refreshed and renewed. Do your research: is there a local hike trail you haven’t yet explored? A lake or beach that’s just a short train ride away? Maybe even a park you never go to because it’s on the other side of the city? There are plenty of options to choose from, and many are more accessible by public transport than you might think. Search away, and you’re bound to find a place that sparks up as much excitement as faraway exotic beaches and ancient landmarks.
Keep your budget in mind
Budget might be a good thing to mention at this stage: we all know bank accounts have a tendency to run dry pretty quickly when we travel. Post-holiday blues can often go hand in hand with broke blues, and there’s no need to ramp up money anxieties even further by scheduling a bougie staycation, complete with fine dining. If you have the money, have fun with it! But if not, there are plenty of free or inexpensive activities up for grabs no matter where you are – you might have to pack your own lunch, take your bike out of storage, or pay an admission fee, but there’s always a way to reduce the costs of your mini getaway from routine. Remember: it’s about the travel mindset, not the hefty price tag.
Stuck for ideas? Here’s a tip: think about what you enjoy most in a trip away when you get to the planning stage. What’s the one activity you always suggest doing? Whether it’s looking at art, getting lost in a new neighbourhood, or finding the perfect coffee shop window seat for people-watching, prioritise what really makes you excited for a day of exploring, and start searching from there.
What I like best in a holiday — taking local hikes and nature walks.
3. Prepare the night before
Love it or loathe it, packing is a huge part of the travel experience. The good news is, you don’t need to pack much for a day out, and you definitely won’t have to look awkward lugging a huge suitcase around.
The night before, get a few things ready so you have nothing to worry about in the morning.
I like to pick out an outfit to avoid the inevitable mess of clothes that somehow manage to find their way all around my room when I get ready for any event. Pick something comfortable and appropriate for the activity you’ve chosen. There’s nothing worse than getting halfway through a mountain walk, only to realise that your shoes are going to give you blisters for weeks afterwards. It might be a good idea to pack a light layer – it might be my Irish experience speaking once again, but I’ve been caught out one too many times by the sudden appearance of a raincloud to not have an umbrella or a compact rain jacket with me most days.
Other useful things to bring: a reusable water bottle, a topped up travel card, a camera, a small notebook (for sudden inspiration or deep personal epiphanies), and a small snack.
The night before, I also like to tidy up my space, and if I’m feeling extra fancy, I also change the bedsheets. Hear me out on this one: is there a better feeling than waking up in crisp white hotel bedsheets with the sun streaming in the window? (Yes, there are probably lots of better and more rewarding feelings in life. But I stand my ground: this is one of the better ones.)
And another thing: switch off unnecessary notifications and email alerts. Treat this day as if you were out of the country, with limited service and no time for distractions. Don’t worry – if anyone needs you, they won’t be waiting long – it’s only a day! That being said, just a day free of alerts and messages can make the world of a difference to your headspace. So before you go to bed, turn them off – you’ll thank yourself later.
Ahh, the most important meal of the day. And, at least to me, the most luxurious when eaten out at a restaurant. Dinners, takeaways and gourmet donuts are a thing of the norm, an essential part of date nights and celebrations. Breakfast, on the other hand, is almost always a simple affair: a bowl of porridge eaten in passing while putting on mascara, or a slice of toast with peanut butter and banana finished off in three bites while checking bus times.
It’s enough to make me dream about stacks of golden pancakes drizzled over with maple syrup, and cloudlike poached eggs on top of avocado toast, with a side of deep-fried halloumi. In fact, I often do dream about breakfast food.
I’ve eaten some mean brunches (brunch being breakfast’s far more fashionable and higher priced cousin) on holidays over the years – enough to warrant an entirely separate article – brunch is hands down my favourite meal, and the one I end up researching the most when I’m looking for places to eat on a city break. It’s no wonder, therefore, that I would recommend going out for brunch on a post-holiday blues detox day – that is, if your budget permits it.
When I’m back home, it’s sometimes hard to justify paying steep prices for something I could easily make myself, such as glorified eggs on toast. But isn’t it such a simple pleasure? Starting your day off with something so delicious, and not having to deal with cleaning three frying pans afterwards? Unbeatable.
Spend some time browsing foodie Instagram pages for the most appetising breakfast dishes in your area. You’ll get hungry just looking at them, but such is the cost of finding a local hero among avocado toasts.
The perfect stack of pancakes is the best start to any adventure day in my books.
If your budget is stretched too thin to justify a brunch out, treat yourself (and your micro-travel companion, if you so wish) to a beautiful home cooked one instead. I find my mood lifts instantly when I start my morning with a beautiful loaded bowl of oats, or when I actually fry up my tin of beans with some onions and cherry tomatoes before I put it on my toast. The little things really do count. And the true beauty of breakfast foods? They’re actually not that hard to make* – so long as you’re willing to put in a little bit of extra time.
* With the exception of poached eggs. I cannot for the life of me achieve that perfect vortex in the pot of hot water, whether or not I use vinegar. If anyone has any tips for me, please do let me know. My brunch-starved soul will be immensely grateful.
5. Think like a tourist
When trying to recreate an idealistic travel mindset, the last thing you want is a vivid picture of the downsides of tourism: the lengthy queues for attractions, having to push through crowds, and ending up getting overcharged for anything you buy.
Sure, you want to think like a tourist, but you don’t have to get caught up in the touristy things your city has to offer – chances are, you probably think they’re overrated anyway. For example, any true Dubliner knows to stay away from Temple Bar, but they can list a dozen great bars and pubs off the top of their head when asked. Use your local privileges and insider knowledge, ask around if you need to, and find places to go that are off the beaten track.
If you’ve been spending a lot of time stuck in a mindless routine, chances are you haven’t taken in the atmosphere in your own city for a while. What are the things that a tourist appreciates about it? What do they notice first? What would strike you the most about your city if you were to see it again with fresh eyes?
I’m definitely guilty of forgetting the charm of Dublin when I spend my days stuck in traffic on my hour-long commute in the evening, or when I walk past the mess left behind at city centre takeaways after a particularly rowdy night. I forget all of the beautiful aspects of the city – its charming Georgian doors, vibrant foodie scene, and sprawling parks.
This charming pub is the perfect spot for some people-watching at golden hour.
Try to remind yourself of the things you appreciate most about your local area before you go out on your mini adventure. Challenge yourself to see everything with less judgement, through the eyes of a tourist. You’re likely to rediscover some local beauty, and fall back in love.
While you’re at it, make sure to do some people watching. Take a seat outside a coffee shop or a cocktail bar, and spend some time watching the world go by. Take a moment to appreciate the time you’ve set aside for yourself, and expect a healthy dose of schadenfreude to kick in for not being part of the hustle and bustle on this one day.
Return to reality
After a day spent out of the usual routine, filled with great food, nature, and local attractions, you’re bound to feel more relaxed, and hopefully even ready to get back to reality. Repeat this routine whenever you get a bout of cabin fever or feel stuck where you are. Taking regular time off to enjoy the place you live can certainly help combat inevitable post-holiday blues – but it will also keep you occupied while you plan your next getaway.
And if you are already planning your next trip, make sure to check out my guide to packing for holidays in a carry-on suitcase.
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