This is something every backpacker will struggle with over the long term. It's something really easy to overlook because before we leave and when we're planning it all, we're just so excited to delve into our adventure.
We often times forget that we're not a machine and that even if we're having all the fun in the world, it can still get exhausting.
You'll start to feel fatigued or burnt out sometime after that initial excitement goes away and you start feeling the effects of doing the many things that you were excited to do.
You'll eventually have 3 thoughts that are a clear sign that you're fatigued.
- You're having a bad time or you're "over" traveling.
- Feeling guilty that you're not enjoying yourself or aren't "doing anything."
- Second guessing your current/next destination or travel goals.
Sometimes these can be an indicator that you might not like your current destination, and that you'd have fun somewhere else. This is the case if you have a clear idea on where you'd rather be or what you want to be doing.
But if not, if everything seems vague, you're definitely fatigued. You don't want to do anything, but laying around is making you feel guilty. You try to think of things to do, but nothing seems appealing. You wonder if you're done with traveling, and second guess your next destination.
This is completely normal.
When you're only on a 2 week trip, it's easy to go-go-go and hit as many attractions, locations, and activities as possible. You're trying to fit everything into a short period of time.
The mistake that people make is to have this same attitude when they're on longer term trips. I'm talking 3-6 months, or a year.
If you try to hit every temple, waterfall, museum, or party, every single day for an extended period of time - not only will you be physically tired, but you'll get super bored, and all the experiences will mesh together.
So when you're feeling run down, fatigued, and over your travels - there's a few things you can do to get yourself back on track. These are the tips to avoid fatigue, correct your outlook, and enjoy your long term travels without burning out. Hope it helps!
1. Stay at the Destination for Longer
The whole point of long term travel is to stay at destinations longer and really take in the scenery, food culture, local lifestyle, meet people and make connections aka. not give a f*ck about time passing.
It really isn't about having a checklist and plowing through things to do.
So if you're feeling run down, you may be putting too much pressure on yourself to check everything off on this imaginary list, finishing it, and leaving.
This will get old, and exhaust you. So the remedy is to book a place in a cool location and have no plans. See where the day takes you, and don't be afraid to do menial or 'regular' things. Do as the locals do, walk around, relax, read a book. You have plenty of time.
2. It's OK to Do Things That You Do at Home
Just because you can go see a movie, watch Netflix, eat a burger, or go to the gym at home, doesn't mean you're not allowed to do those things when traveling.
People wrongly assume that there's an opportunity cost to doing those things. Why eat a burger when I'm in the capital of ramen? Why go see a movie, when I could do this amazing hike? Valid concerns, but again, misguided.
You're traveling because you're seeking freedom. Restricting yourself for the sake of freedom is a paradox. If you feel like doing something, it doesn't matter if it's something you'd do at home, you should absolutely do it.
Not only will you be in a better mood, but you'll feel energized and realize that you're not over traveling, you just needed some down time because those things are your creature comforts, or your down time antics back home.
3. Don't Go to a Place Because You're 'Meant To'
FOMO is a real thing, but you can definitely conquer it. You can be in Florence exploring the architecture and opt to not take the hour trip to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, in Pisa. You can be in Paris having a great time, and opt to not see the Mona Lisa because you're just not a fan of that type of art.
It's OK and you shouldn't do a thing, if you don't want to do a thing. Seeing a thing or visiting a place, just because it's popular will make your experience feel dry and forced. It'll lead you down the path of travel fatigue and general exhaustion.
Remembering point 2, it's OK to do things we want to do rather than checking off things from a list. So not only should you be OK with doing things you want to do, but you should also avoid things you just really don't care for.
4. Don't Get Stuck in the Party Trap
When traveling you'll quickly realize that partying, especially for backpackers, is a staple in the experience. It's super fun to go out, blow some steam, and enjoy yourself. The problem becomes when partying becomes all you do.
All the alcohol, lack of sleep, constant sound, and socializing can exhaust even the most extroverted backpackers out there. So make sure you limit the partying and be prepared to let it go for a while so you don't get to that point.
I talk about party hostels and the party trap in the article below. I go through the pros and cons of these hostels, and more. It might be worth a read if you're looking to understand how they're set up and what to expect. Especially if you're planning on taking up residence at one for a while.
5. Have a Small Routine
You're constantly on the move, constantly experiencing new things - day in, day out. This contributes to the exhaustion and leaves you feeling fatigued and wanting the comforts of a routine.
Back home, you're sick of routine and want some adventure, but once you're adventuring, there'll be times that a solid routine looks really appealing. This is why having a small routine will make sure you've got a foundation to work from.
And it really does need to be small.
I'm not saying treat your travels like your daily home life. What I am saying is that if you keep a journal that you fill out every night, or your morning is a coffee and 15 minutes reading a book - this will give you that nice layer of routine so your travels aren't chaos.
6. Recall Your Previous Adventures
Going through pictures, writing a paragraph in your notes on gratitude, and really reliving the adventures you've had on your travel so far will light you up like a firecracker.
It'll be impossible for you to not smile when you recount the fun times during your travels leading up to this very moment.
Gratitude is the ultimate cure for dissatisfaction with the present. If you're fatigued, you've obviously done a hell of a lot during your travels and sometimes we forget to recall and relive these moments.
The simple act of going back to those times in your mind, or even better, going back physically by looking at old photos and videos will help immensely. It'll help with your level of excitement, energy, and mood for the present and the future.
7. Call a Friend Back Home
A layer of travel fatigue or burnout can always be attributed to constant change. The chaotic atmosphere, constantly being on the move, lack of routine will all lead you down to a feeling of being a little home sick.
Not a lot, but enough that you'll feel lonely at times, or you'll miss aspects of home - your friends and family being one of them.
Don't underestimate how rewarding and positive it can be to call up a friend and talk about what's going on, life back home, traveling, and more. Sometimes listening to others' problems help you more than telling others your own problems. Talking with a friends will ensure you get both.
At some point you'll feel tired, and you'll second guess whether traveling is for you. When this happens, understand that it definitely is for you - you've just been making some common mistakes that are easily reversible.
So when you catch yourself feeling like this, follow the tips and recommendations outlined above, and you should be back on track in no time at all.