How to adjust to a normal life after an amazing gap year

Ever heard of reverse culture-shock? I hadn’t either until I came back to Brisbane after spending a year living, working and travelling abroad. I was really excited to come home, but after spending so much time in different countries and experiencing so much, it felt weird being back in Brisbane. I was also struggling with a bad case of the post-holiday blues, which is one part of a  gap year nobody talks about.

It’s actually a little hard trying to come down off such a high, especially if you ended your lease, sold your car and all your junk, packed your life up into a few boxes and stored them at your parents’ house. So, how do you adjust to life back home after having an incredible time travelling the world? These are my tips to adjusting to life after an amazing gap year.

1. Save that cash!

You’re going to need money to set yourself up when you get home, so it’s important to budget, set some aside and resist the temptation to spend it all while you’re enjoying your last week of gap year freedom in Mykonos!

It’s easy to forget about all the things you’ll need to pay for when you’re trying to find a place to live, things like bond and rent in advance and maybe even a removalist to help you move your stuff into your new pad. You may need to get some furniture from Ikea or buy household items like a mop and bucket, cling wrap, salt and pepper grinders and ice-cube trays. It sounds silly, but those little things really start to add up and they’re the day-to-day household items you’ll really need.

Try to arrange to view some open houses or meet potential share-house flatmates shortly after you get back, you really want to hit the ground running. It’s all too easy to get into the routine of living back at home, so keep the gap year momentum going and pre-plan some inspections.

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2. Go after your dream job

I’m sure you will have gained some new life perspective while you were away, so channel that into how you approach your day-to-day life. Don’t put any pressure on yourself to resume your old life and be the same person you were before you left. Use your newfound passions and interests to guide you toward a new career.

Maybe you’ve always dreamed of becoming a hairdresser or a chef or finding mining or construction jobs? Maybe you had a great idea for a small business or, like me decided to follow your childhood passion and become a writer, photographer or artist.

I always find clarity and perspective while I’m travelling and if you do too, don’t ignore it. Use this fresh start as your launching platform for your dream career! It’s what I did.

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3. Make plans

If you hole up on your parent’s couch with a box of Cheezels and a PlayStation, you’ll definitely slip into an existential crisis and start wondering what you’re doing with your life. Combat this by making lots of plans. Plan to see your friends and catch up with people you missed while you were away and plan to spend a weekend at a friend’s house.

A few weeks after being back in Brisbane I was already planning my next trip, I didn’t know exactly how I was going to pay for it, but I knew I would work harder to get myself set up if I had a reward at the end of it. You’re more likely to be motivated to find a job if you have something you’re working towards financially, which can be as simple as a few nights in a hotel at the beach or something a bit more grand like a week in Thailand.

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4. Rediscover your hometown

There’s a good chance you’ll find your hometown pretty dull compared to the amazing places you’ve visited, but it’s a good opportunity to fall in love with your city again. I didn’t have a car and had to do a LOT of walking around Brisbane to see my friends and family. It was a really great opportunity though because I saw so many places I never knew existed and would never have seen if I’d just driven past them in my car.

Walking around Brisbane, taking photos and looking at it with my tourist eyes gave me a new appreciation for it. Sure, it doesn’t have the same history as Rome, but it does have its own history which is pretty cool when you take the time to notice and appreciate it. It might sound lame, but try to explore your hometown like you explored the places you visited during your gap year, you’ll see it in a completely different light.

Have you felt the post-holiday or post-gap-year blues? How did you cope readjusting to a ‘normal’ life after having so much freedom and so many adventures? I’d love to hear your story, please feel free to share in the comments 🙂

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Little Grey Box Phoebe Lee ProfilePhoebe Lee is a travel writer and award-winning blogger with a love for storytelling. Phoebe creates practical, fun and engaging written content designed to inspire and energise travel-lovers and dreamers. Follow her and Matt’s adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box, InstagramFacebook and YouTube.



Little Grey Box

I'm a writer and presenter and my husband Matt is a videographer. Together, we run Little Grey Box; an award-winning travel blog and YouTube channel.

14 thoughts on “How to adjust to a normal life after an amazing gap year

  1. Its certainly strange after coming back from a while of travelling. I somewhat look forward to coming home, to have western food, home comforts and to see family and friends. After about 3 weeks I am then booking my next trip away. Its an addiction.



  2. Great post – I wish I’d read this before returning from a year working abroad. Such a difficult transition, in many way harder than moving abroad.


  3. So much of the post, and what was said in this comments seem to reflect exactly the feeling I’ve been having post year abroad. It’s kind of reassuring!


    1. I’m so glad, Emma! It’s reassuring to know those feelings are normal. One of my best friends is moving in with us for a few weeks after her gap year, cos she knows she’s going to have bad post holiday blues when she gets back and wants support. It’s tough!


  4. Great read. People often overlook the going home part, I think it is the hardest part of travelling. When I returned home after a year travelling the world it was like being sucked back into a vortex where time had stood still. Life was the same, people were the same and I quickly got back in line with my dull 9-5. I was so happy to see my friends and family but as soon as that part was over the low point was very low. These are great tips to try and overcome this. Planning my next trip soon perked me up, now i’m travelling with no return date home and couldn’t be happier.
    Jodie x


    1. I felt exactly the same way, Jodie. You described it absolutely perfectly! Planning your next escape is essential, it’s so easy to get sucked back into the regular routine and rhythm… before you know it years have passed by!


  5. I’ve just gone through my ‘readjustment stage’ after returning to Brisbane after 3 months in the Maldives as a Dive Instructor. I havent so much adjusted, as I have a new adventure to look forward to now. I didnt realise how hard it was to adjust being home, especially in winter, with no car, no cash and no prospects on the horizon. I was determined not to get sucked back into “normal” life. I had to laugh at “If you hole up on your parents couch with a box of Cheezels and a PlayStation” as that was me, just with a bag of Twisties and Candy Crush. When a gig came up out of the blue and I would be gone in a week, I got some real perspective on how much of a downer I was while home. Then I started living like I do when I travel. Going out, meeting people, exploring, having a blast! Thats the key to adjustment. It’s all in your attitude. Be happy, and even if you are unhappy, be happy with being unhappy! After 4 weeks at home, i’m now off to Greece for the summer. I’m not regretting quitting my day job to travel the world and live the dream!


    1. I really liked reading your comment Kassie, my husband felt exactly the same way. In fact he read your comment and said “That’s exactly what I was thinking too.”

      Nobody knows how hard it is to feel like you’ve somehow ‘failed’ by coming back, it’s hard to go back into an old life. Sounds like you’re kicking ass now though 🙂 Greece sounds incredible, I hope you have the best time – safe travels. Stay in touch!



      1. Thank you Phoebe. And I wanted to say it was your blog on what your grandma thinks about travel which led me to you. I give the same advice to my friends which was handed down to me also! (Just quietly, you can follow my journey at I’ll be in touch! xx


  6. Great tips. While I haven’t had a gap year, I’ve lived abroad long enough to find my hometown dull and home activities a bore. Before we go back, I’m trying to focus on the interesting stuff in my hometown, like a new Ramen Noodle food truck, for example! Your tips are definitely good ones to follow.


  7. Great post. I really enjoyed ready this and your last post. Having just packed my life in Brisbane and moved to the UK for a gap year or two it’s great to see someone else’s perspective. It’s good to know others are in the same boat and I’m not completely crazy to give up everything at home.


  8. LOVE this. i took a gap half of year, and i could not believe how my perspective on so many things changed when i got back. what people who haven’t travel extensively don’t know is that going back to “real life” after so long away can be really hard. your tips are great!


    1. It’s so true, you feel like you’ve landed on a different planet huh. It’s a mix of excitement to be home and sadness because your awesome adventure being over. I couldn’t deal with the ‘over’ bit, so now we just keep booking more trips and travelling as much as we can 🙂


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