Travel burnout. It’s a real thing.
It may sound privileged, but who cares how it sounds, travel burnout happens to many people out there. No matter if you are on a year backpacking adventure or are on a week-long business trip, you may fall susceptible to the travel blues.
It could take many forms, such as:
- –Checking in and out of hotels is now completely draining and you just don’t want to do it anymore
- -Every beach or monument starts to look the same. You get stuck in the “a beach is a beach” mentality.
- -Food is no longer exotic but just strange and you crave hamburgers and french fries
- -You’d rather sit on Skype chatting with family and friends than go walk around town
- -Your schedule is go-go-go and you don’t feel like you are seeing anything but just checking off destinations
- -You reach your bucket list destination and have no desire to see anything. You just want to sit at a bar and drink.
- -and I could go on.
Since leaving the boat we have been going non-stop. Three spots in Mexico, then Disneyland, a week in Canada, 9 days biking through 4 european countries, Barcelona…next London, then Canada, then Mexico.
Just saying that list and the next three destinations made me shutter. I had hit a wall. Exhausted, sensory overload, Fear Of Missing Out, wanting to do it all, and wanting to do nothing at all.
Years and years ago I had been to the other side of Spain. I loved it and looked forward to returning to this romantic country one day. But as the days on our bike trip dwindled down and it was time to buy plane tickets, I was almost ready to throw in the towel, not do Barcelona as planned, and just buy tickets back to Canada where I could sit in our travel trailer and do absolutely nothing touristy.
However, we figured, while in Europe (with plane tickets that were generously bought by my in-laws) take advantage of it.
We bought the tickets to Barcelona.
Once there however, I was still in “Burnout Mode”.
Yes Barcelona home to Park Guell, yes the Sagrada Famila is here, but do I care to see them, “not really”. These spots didn’t sound exciting, they sounded like spots that would be full of tourists taking the exact same pictures of the exact same things on their phones, just with different selfie faces in each. Not my cup of tea.
Wandering the neighbourhood around our lodging (a blog follower’s sailboat!!!) sounded much more appealing.
But it all worked itself out. We found a happy medium between rest and sightseeing, between family time and solo time, and we feel extremely happy with the way the is trip going.
Tips For Overcoming Burnout
Slow it down.
It is way too easy to get caught up in the fear of missing out. Of course you want to see everything possible while visiting somewhere, even if it is just on a one day layover. But you need to give your body, and mind, time to relax and adjust to the surroundings.
When we flew to Europe we had three days in Munich before the start of our bike trip. This was our first time in this city and we wanted to take it all in. But we had to take a step back and remember, “We just got off an international flight. We are jet-lagged. Now is not the time to hit the streets running.”
Instead of going everywhere, we started with one spot, Hilton Munich Park. The hotel is central in the city, right next to the famous English Gardens, and has great access to public transportation. With what we felt was the perfect location, we could relax and enjoy the luxuries of the hotel in the morning, go spend the afternoons exploring the city, and retreat to our hotel once again in the evening for an extremely comfortable night’s sleep. check availability.
Speed It Up or Change Locations
Sometimes the blues come from feeling stuck in one spot for too long. Easy solution, change locations. You could even drop the plans and go in a completely new direction of travel. Throwing your plans to the wind might just been the change you were needing to feel like you are adventuring again.
I lived in Thailand for seven months where I was teaching English as a second language. I was 1 of 3 foreigners in my town (the other two being a couple, talk about 3rd wheel). A lot of my time was spent alone, which travelling alone I didn’t mind, but sitting in an apartment alone, in a foreign country, that is way less cool.
I needed to escape. So that is what I did.
Every weekend I would leave my small Thai suburb town and head to a new location. Either to Bangkok to hang out with friends, or to Chang Mai to discover a new city, or to any number of the islands to sit on the beach and get a healthy dose of sun & sand.
Go Be Active
Even you feel like being a blob in front of your hotel tv, put your shoes on and go for a hike. Checking out a new trail or spot in town will benefit your brain, fresh air will benefit your lungs, and endorphins (your body’s natural “happy drug”) will definitely benefit your mood.
If you are staying anywhere long enough, get settled in. Make new friends, get yourself into a routine, get to know the locals.
Eben and I agree that you can’t really say that you’ve “been somewhere”, unless you have been there for at least a month. During a longer stay you can get to know the feel of a place, where the local hot spots are, the cool hangouts and the cheap grocery stores.
It can give you are whole new perspective on a place.
When we first arrived in St Thomas we didn’t love it. It was busy, the people felt cold, it was full of tourists…we deemed it “not for us”. But we ended up there for two years and now love it. What changed that, creating roots. We made a solid group of friends there, we had our routines, we knew where to shop, and we knew the good hangouts. It became home.
You may not be burned out, you may just be lonely. Seek out others like you.
In this day and age, with technology and the means to find people online so easily, look on Facebook for any travellers or groups in your area. Or go sit in the lounge area of your hotel (or the bar) and strike up a conversation with some. Some human contact may be all you need.
Feed Your Brain
Learn something new. Stimulating your brain may flush out the blues.
Learn the language, a new hobby, brush up on your photography skills, you name it.
In Antigua, Guatemala I definitely started feeling like I was just floundering. I needed something to keep me busy, happy, and moving. So I took Salsa lessons!
One day I was just wandering the streets of town when I came across a small dance studio with a teacher that was beautifully whirling his student around the floor. I wanted to do that.
I started with one lesson and wound up taking three lessons a week for three weeks. These classes gave me something to look forward to, where I could work on myself while doing something super fun.
If you’ve got too much time on your hands and don’t know what to do with it, put it to a good cause. I doubt you will feel bad about volunteering; meaning it will help your mood. Go do good.
Splurge and Pamper
Even if you are travelling on a budget, if you can afford it, some new clothes or a new haircut could make a world of difference in how you feel.
When in Thailand I would go for a weekly massage. They were cheap, they felt amazing, and I would walk out of there a new person. Although this was not a “necessary” expense, it definitely helped chase away any stress or sadness that I would have, and it would leave me looking forward to the next appointment.
Choose a Different Means of Travel
Sure travelling cheap is good on the budget, but it can be draining on the body and mind.
As Eben and I sat for somewhere near 10 hours on a chicken bus, making our way from Honduras to Mexico, I was flipping through the pages of our Lonely Planet guidebook, only to come across a small blurb about how a charter plane company does the same trip, same distance, in a tenth of the time, for only $50 a person.
Eben has never trusted my travel judgement since! hahaha
Kill The Guilt
It’s called FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Don’t let the guilt of not seeing EVERYTHING be a downer on your entire trip.
We’re in Barcelona, did we see the inside of the Sagrada Familia, no just the outside. Did we visit every museum, no I feel that would have been too much for the girls, did we get to stay out till the late hours of the evening sipping wine on an outdoor terrace, no…we have kids that need their sleep and disrupting their sleep schedule for a week-long vacation is not in our interest.
But we did really get to know Badalona, the district we are in. We have walked the boardwalk extensively, we have visited every play park possible, we have enjoyed our afternoon tapas, we’ve made a new friend, and we saw the sights that we wanted and could afford to see. We will be leaving Barcelona happy.
Don’t Be Afraid To Call It Quits, but really think about it first
There is no shame in just wanting to go home. If you are miserable you don’t need to “force the trip”. But REALLY sit and think about it before buying your tickets. You don’t want to feel like you made a bad choice in the end.
Maybe try out the above tips before throwing in the towel. If you do choose that going home is genuinely the place for you, we’ll understand.
Live In The Moment
It sounds super cheeseball, but try to remind yourself to appreciate everything that is going on RIGHT NOW, because it can and may all change in the blink of an eye.
Try and not focus too much on what you are missing from back home, or what you are stressing out about returning to, instead let the wine dance on your tongue, the sand stick to your feet, the breeze mess up your hair, it’s all part of the trip.
I’ve found it easy with getting caught up in “what’s next” as our “next” is pretty big. We’re moving our family to Mexico and starting a business. But before that we are going to our land in Canada and building up the next phase of our house there (whatever that means). I find myself in bed at night thinking about laying the cement foundation rather than appreciation the fact that I am sitting on a sailboat in Spain.