Travel is one of the most magical experiences that anyone can have. Experiencing other cultures, seeing famous historical, cultural, natural and architectural sites, eating new foods, experiencing new cultures, meeting fascinating people are all things that make every day on the road exciting. Getting away from home, work, stress and mundane normalcy rejuvenates the spirit and reminds one how fabulous this world is.
Travel can also be utterly exhausting. Struggling with foreign languages and script just to order food, haggling over prices all day long, spending endless hours day in and day out cramped in tiny minibuses with travelers who haven’t showered in a week, searching for accommodation in 95 degree heat with a 40 pound bag on your back , arranging transportation, battling bed bugs, cockroaches and rats, squat toilets when you’re sick, crappy beds with a bad back, and simply just being constantly ‘on’ to make sure you aren’t getting completely screwed, etc. Traveling, especially on a tight backpacker’s budget, isn’t always the fantastic adventure that we all dream about. After 3 months of practically non-stop travel I was beyond exhausted. No, I’m not looking for sympathy at all, I have had an absolutely incredible journey, but I have become well acquainted with the concept of travel burnout.
What is travel burnout you ask? After an extended period of time on the road, suddenly things aren’t so wonderful anymore. The food goes from being tasty and exciting to something that you can’t imagine eating another time; meeting new people turns into the same forced small talk conversation you’ve had a thousand times; the room you wouldn’t have cared about before now just looks like a jail cell; the idea of the boring schedule you ran away from at home now seems like the most amazing way to spend a day; getting up for another day of walking until you drop to see random sites makes you tired just thinking about it. For everyone that ‘while’ on the road before travel burnout hits is different and depends a lot on your pace of travel. For me, 3 months of frantically fast paced travel put me over the edge.
After about 10 days of doing as little as I possibly could, unfortunately prolonged because of a 5 day scare thinking I was dying of dengue fever, I have managed to stave off the travel burnout blues and hope to be back to blogging and excited for my fabulous mother to get here tomorrow and our exciting adventure in Vietnam. I have had a number of people e-mailing me lately saying they are hoping to get to SE Asia in the coming months and asked if I have any advice. Here are three tips that I knew before I left, but find I need to remind myself about once in a while.
- Go slow. This doesn’t mean that you have to spend a week in every spot you plan to visit, but realize that you’re probably not going to be able to see everything you have listed on that to do list. Traveling is supposed to be fun not just ticking off sites on a list! If you’d rather sleep in one day than wake up at the crack of dawn again, do it! If you don’t see everything, just think of it as a reason to come back.
- Throw away the clock and be flexible. Unless you’re in the fabulously punctual areas of Europe, like my beloved Germany, things will be late. This one is really difficult for people like me who are obsessively early for just about everything, but if you are irked by transportation being late, you’re pretty much always going to be wound up like a top on travel days. You will have to wait around, you will be late, you will not have any explanation, or if you do, it’s not a good one. Use this as a time to relax – read a book, write in your journal, just breathe.
- Treat yourself every so often. If you are traveling on a budget you are going to have to constantly make choices about what to spend your money on and where you’re willing to skimp. Sometimes you need to splurge and make yourself happy. Go to a nice restaurant, buy a new outfit, sleep in a nice bed, take a hot shower, get a massage. Money comes and goes so enjoy it when you need to and cheer yourself up on the road. You can always make more when you get home.