[Photo by: Anam Merchant]
Being on tour and returning home afterward both present varying levels of distress, but for very different reasons. Everyone is at least somewhat aware of the mental and physical stress causations that accompany being on the road for long periods of time. The psychic ramifications of returning home from tour are often less documented. I should prelude with the fact that many people offhandedly refer to this state of disillusionment as “post-tour depression.” I’d like to make clear that depression is a very serious medical condition that affects people in varying degrees. It’s a taboo that many people quietly suffer from. The nature of touring no doubt exacerbates many sources of distress that cause depression. I have experienced anxiety, stress and general sadness both during and after tours, but I would be remiss to label my struggle as “depression.” I have many friends, both on tour and at home, that battle with depression of varying degrees in different ways. I’m sure there are more that don’t disclose their struggles. I can only speak of my own personal experiences.
“When you step back and really think about it, touring is kind of insane.”
One of the most profound and gratifying experiences of being on tour is the camaraderie that is often shared between all the bands and crew. When you step back and really think about it, touring is kind of insane. It primarily consists of driving hundreds of miles in a cramped van and eating garbage food everyday just so you can play a few songs in a different city every night. I think this understated level of insanity is an unspoken bond that spiritually tethers tourmates together. While living in that microcosm on the road, friendships seem to develop even quicker and more intensely than in “real life.” You will definitely not vibe with every single person from every band on every tour, but the connections that are made are truly enduring. This is a big part of why coming home sucks. Usually around the last show or two, a certain realization starts to set in. You admit to yourself: “I don’t know when I’m going to see these people again.” A lot of our past tourmates are from different countries. Even for our domestic friends, attempting to determine when we will all be in the same vicinity again is an arduous task.
Touring can also be a suspension in reality. We (the members of Sleep On It) do not make enough money from music to support ourselves yet, so we all work full-time day jobs when we are not on the road. We often work right up until the day we leave for tour, trying to save as much money as possible. Through all its tribulations, traveling and touring can be a lot of fun, so we like to make the most of it. Although I try to be somewhat responsible with my money, the “avoid your bank account and cross your fingers” method usually results in a crash landing back to reality once it’s over. I’m not here to cry “woe is me,” but riding that tour high straight back to your day job really sucks, too. It’s hard to shake that post-tour blues when the contrast is so stark.
However, the biggest contributors to my post-tour blues is social, mental and emotional fatigue. This headspace is sometimes hard to articulate, especially to friends and family who want to see me as soon as we get home. As much as we all love and appreciate their support, sometimes all we really want is to isolate ourselves and decompress for a day or two. I know that I could not pursue this dream without the selfless support of those closest to me, so the guilt of wanting to isolate after tour often weighs heavy on me. A band our size cannot afford a driver or wagon with bunks yet, so we spend most nights dipping out after load-out and driving a few hours to the next Wal-Mart Supercenter so that we can catch a few hours of sleep in the parking lot. Couple that with an inadequate diet and free beer on the rider, and it’s easy to understand why the physical toll often parlays into mental fatigue. I personally suffer from a bit of social anxiety, so being around people all day every day is already exhausting. What I personally find is that while on tour, it’s easy to fall into a rhythm for dealing with these things. You push it to the back of your mind because there are more pressing tasks at hand. Only once I get home does the full weight of that fatigue sink in.
“Ultimately, you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else.”
Ultimately, you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. Take the time to rest and heal yourself after tour. It might take a couple of days, but that’s okay. I find that keeping my mind and body occupied is crucial. Many of my friends wince at the word “exercise,” but I’ve found that even a small amount of physical activity can help combat anxiety. I think it is also important to make an effort to stay in contact with the friends you make on tour. Always be looking ahead, but make the most of your time.
The journey is what’s important, not the destination.