As I settled into my bunk at a hostel in Split, Croatia, the college-age girls sharing my room were proving friendlier than the last dormmates I’d had. They asked about my plans and reached the telltale question: How long are you traveling for? I was only six weeks into my trip, and had already gotten a variety of reactions to the news that I would be on the road for a full year. Theirs was a new one though. “Wow – I would never be able to travel for that long!” one girl exclaimed “We get strung out enough after a few weeks.” The clique devolved into girlish chatter and I thought it best to refrain from launching into a lecture about the differences between vacationing and traveling long-term. Because the fact is, every traveler feels burnout at some point.
Each traveler will probably deal with burnout in their own way, but I suspect as an introvert I’m well-equipped to handle it. Extroverts, who can tolerate and in fact enjoy lots of activity and socializing, likely stumble into foreign territory when they feel overwhelmed. We introverts have plenty of practice at feeling overwhelmed, which means we have just as much practice at overcoming it. When I feel burnt out, I typically follow these four steps.
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I most often feel burnt out when I’ve had a long stretch of active or fast-paced travel. Taking bus ride after bus ride with just one night stopovers. Or lugging my backpack around multiple airports on a long series of connecting flights. The most important step you can take toward curing your burnout is slow down. Give yourself longer than you think you need in a particular destination. Many recommend seeing Athens in just three days. I booked two weeks in the Greek capital after two months of traveling the Mediterranean coast overland. Give yourself time to recover at your own pace. Devote time specifically to getting over your burnout.
Weather the storm
Many advise using activity to get over travel burnout. I think this can wind up exacerbating the problem. When I feel burnt out, I settle myself down in one place, and then just embrace it for a bit. It’s so easy to feel guilty on the road, to get the sense that you’re not doing enough or you’re somehow traveling ‘wrong.’ But travel burnout can sap your energy and your motivation, and simply powering through, denying the problem, doesn’t solve things. So go ahead. Spend a day lounging around watching movies, order a pizza. Or skip the museums and tours in favor of spending the entire afternoon in one coffee shop, just relaxing over a cuppa. Find what helps you relax and recharge. Indulge in a comfort that reminds you of home. Indulge the burnout. If you’re not enjoying travel as much you usually do, forcing yourself to do more won’t fix it. Sometimes a little time off is all you need.
Make a plan
When the time does come to move past burnout, it’s important to have concrete plans. Book a guided tour, buy tickets to a show, or hop on Couchsurfing’s new Hangouts app and make plans with a new friend. Book with as much or as little time in advance as you like, but ultimately, have a plan with a firm date and time attached. As important as it is to give yourself time to recover, it’s equally important to have a deadline. Without one, it’s all too easy to fall into a rut of lackadaisical days.
As you reenter the realm of active travel, consider what may have triggered your burnout. Do you typically visit museums or go clubbing with new friends from your hostel? The beauty of travel is the lack of routine and the underlying cause of most burnout is the introduction of a new routine. After a bout of burnout, you have to get creative to revive your interest in travel. I rely pretty heavily on Pinterest to find blog posts about unique things to do in my next destination. If you rarely hang out in bars, look for recommended watering holes and particularly for special events. I typically prefer quiet nights, but in my most recent shaking up of my routine found a London gin bar that runs monthly curated tastings and a bartender tournament. If you typically go out every night, spend a few nights in your hostel and enjoy more active mornings instead. Plan a sunrise photo shoot, take an early morning hike, or visit a market you might have missed while sleeping off a hangover. Tours, museums, cooking classes, art galleries, parks, wineries, cafes… get creative and find something different to do.
Introverts may be more likely to experience travel burnout. Learn more about what other challenges I’ve faced as an introvert on the road.
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