They perform exploits, they cross Quebec, Canada, Antarctica, they spend months in difficult conditions on foot, by canoe or on skis. Then, they return to society, they find the routine. After the intensity of the expedition, many adventurers experience a slump.

“I had put almost two or three years of my life into the expedition, preparing, doing research, getting the crew together, gathering the equipment, doing the website, doing the [fundraising] », says Nicolas Roulx, from the AKOR Expedition.

In 2021, Nicolas Roulx and Guillaume Moreau crossed Canada from north to south on skis, canoe and bike, 7,600 kilometers in 234 days.

“I invested everything in this expedition,” continues Nicolas Roulx. I sacrificed my romantic relationship. When I came back, I had literally 500 dollars in my account, I had no investment, I was poor, I had no secure job. »

Worse still, he shattered his leg in a climbing accident shortly after his return.

“I was in the best physical shape of my life, I was a machine, to find myself in my bed for two months, with my brother to help me do everything we do in our intimate life, he recalls. It was really tough. I was depressed for a couple of months. »

Martin Trahan, who has carried out major expeditions crossing Canada and the United States by canoe, speaks frankly of depression. “It really hit me hard. I had put a lot of time, energy and effort into planning my long expeditions, but I had forgotten to plan the return. »

He tells how the first weeks following his return go rather well: family and friends are happy to see him, invite him to dinner, he talks about his trip. Journalists request interviews.

Samuel Lalonde-Markon, who has just crossed Quebec from south to north in winter, explains that the adventurers identify enormously with their expedition. “It’s so important to us that when it goes away, there’s no afterlife. There is a part of us that disappears. And then the feeling of satisfaction fades very quickly. »

For Caroline Côté, who has just achieved a speed record in Antarctica by skiing solo towards the South Pole, there is a huge shock between life on an expedition, made up of survival gestures, and returning to society. “You quickly find yourself in an urban flow. There are ambient noises, shops, restaurants. It’s so different from what you’re used to on an expedition that you feel like you’re out of place. »

And then there is the sudden deprivation of the beneficial hormones stimulated by sport, such as endorphins and dopamine, which were omnipresent during the expedition. “At some point, you feel aggressive, you don’t know why,” notes Frédéric Dion, who multiplies expeditions on several continents. “Sometimes you just feel like bawling, you don’t know why. »

He tries to write to the adventurers who come home to tell them to watch out for this phenomenon. “I tell them to keep exercising. Those around you need to know this, that it is normal for you to be emotionally unstable, that you need to get back into sports and activity. »

He himself had planned a marathon shortly after returning from a kite-skiing expedition across Antarctica. “You have to give yourself a goal. For me, it wasn’t an extraordinary goal since I had run around fifty marathons before that, but it forced me to a training plan, to almost daily outings. It was just getting dopamine and endorphins in smaller doses. »

Many adventurers emphasize the importance of planning a transition period upon return, of not going back to work right away. Caroline Côté suggests coming back very quietly, taking the train rather than the plane, maybe even walking home.

“Everyone has their own little miracle recipe to get through it,” says Martin Trahan. In my case, it’s being occupied by other projects, even if it’s just in thought. Have dreams, something to hold on to in the long term. It’s also about taking small moments to take care of myself. »

For his part, Nicolas Roulx insists on the importance of anchoring in time and space. “It’s having a place where you live, where you feel good, a little cocoon which is your base camp. It also means having a date on the calendar, a return to work, a conference, obligations. Otherwise, it can be heavy metal. »

He notes that you have to be careful not to become a junkie, an expedition bulimic. “It’s tempting to keep coming back to that because it’s addictive: always going further, harder, longer, further north, more reckless. But you have to go about it sparingly. »

With experience, adventurers develop strategies to reduce the slump. Many turn to writing, making documentaries or presenting conferences. “It’s work that feels good, that makes you ask questions about yourself,” says Nicolas Roulx.

Laura Ducharme, general director of Maïkana, a small organization that offers nature and outdoor intervention services, knows the post-expedition blues well.

“I make my speakers and participants very aware of this phenomenon, which is completely normal. Intervention strategies can be put in place with the group to alleviate the symptoms because we cannot go on an expedition every weekend. »

In particular, you have to prepare well for the end of the expedition, do a little ritual to make sure you come full circle. “As soon as I come back, I close the expedition in the sense that I take the time to unpack, wash the laundry, finish the related emails, and create a photo album. Psychologically, it sends a clear message that the adventure is over. »

Then, it’s about taking the time to make a written assessment: the strong moments, the more difficult moments, the learnings, how to transpose these into daily life. “You see how far you’ve come through all of this. »