(I feel a bit unoriginal for referencing another World Hum piece to aid in my static writer’s block, but until my next adventure, I seem to be living vicariously through the adventures of others.)
In Eric Weiner’s recent contribution to the award winning travel blog World Hum (is that something brown on my nose?) he discusses the serious and often overlooked condition of Post-Trip Funk or, as he’s coined it, PTF. Weiner’s piece is a light-hearted account of a relatively serious malady, pointing out that much advice is given to beginning a trip (where to go, when to travel, what to do, etc.) but very little is given to the return from a trip.
While Weiner focuses on the sun-screened and money-belted tourist’s battle with PTF, I’d like to acknowledge the voluntourist (yes, “voluntourism” is an actual thing) struggle with a more intensified form of PTF known as Developed World Residential Guilt, or DWRG. Symptoms of DWRG include:
- Wearing only two or three outfits and one pair of shoes, despite stains
- Donating all other clothing to charity
- Refusing to spend more than $10 on any item
- While still considerate of personal hygiene (ie, showers and deodorant), complete ignorance of hair products, makeup, nail polish and perfume
- Feelings of guilt when turning on faucets and light switches
- Adoption of orphaned pet from animal shelter, especially if time in developing country was spent caring for children
- Sudden obsession with being “green” and minimizing waste
- Tendency to spend countless hours alone, ignoring phone calls, emails and personal invitations
Sufferer of DWRG. Notice adopted puppy coupled with
complete lack of fashion sense, make-up and hair products.
The problem with re-entry is that you don’t expect it to be as difficult as it is. Going from home to somewhere new, one mentally prepares for the changes they will experience, new foods they will eat and new cultures to which they will adapt, excitedly embracing all of this “newness” as an outsider. But the idea of going home is supposed to be comforting, familiar and natural which is why when a voluntourist returns home he or she is thrown off by the shock of it all. It is important for sufferers of DWRG to recognize that home is unchanged. Family is unchanged. Friends are unchanged. It is only the traveler who has changed.
While symptoms of DWRG will subside with time (recovery time varies largely, often related to time spent away), it is rare that one will go back to a completely symptom-free life. Most victims of DWRG will forever bear the scar of their disorder, though many will ultimately block out the months of suffering and, again, set themselves up for a repeat episode by continuing their volunteer work and travels.