How to Deal with Travel Burnout
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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Great post – I feel like some travelers almost see it as a weakness when you’re not always super happy to travel, but I can’t imagine how you can travel for such a long time and never ONCE feel like you described in your post. I’ve definitely felt it, sometimes after only two weeks of traveling, sometimes I went months at a time without feeling burnt out once. I think I am pretty good with coping and avoiding it right now, but honestly, I never know when it hits me. I once spent a whole day at the hostel watching Netflix because I just couldn’t deal with going outside anymore. I was fine by the morning – so who cares if I missed out on a day in the city when I wouldn’t have enjoyed it anyway?
So so true. I forced myself to go to Sorrento just after finding out my grandfather was in the hospital because I was afraid of wasting my time in Italy. I didn’t have a good time at all! I should have stayed in and let myself feel bad for a bit.
I really liked your line about “feeling guilty” while traveling, as if we have to somehow prove to others that we are having this crazy, fast-paced adventure all the time. Travel shouldn’t be about showing off to anyone but yourself, and only you know when you need to take a break. I was plagued by this a bit in Thailand, but then I stayed on one tiny island for a full 12 days and it was just what I needed. I also agree that us introverts have it a bit easier 😉
I think us travel bloggers especially get that travel guilt a lot. 12 days is a great length of time to spend in a small place!
I really enjoyed this! Travel burnout is so common on a longer trip and I agree it can leave you feeling like you are doing travel ‘wrong.’ But the longer you are on the road the more you come to appreciate that there is no right or wrong way, just your way. Loved all the tips. A very encouraging read!
I was actually a little surprised by how common it is. Some bloggers make it sound like it only happens once or twice over the course of an entire RTW trip. I feel like I burn out, albeit to varying degrees, at least once a month!
This post is so appropriate for me right now. I’m feeling totally burnt out after 3 months on the road. We devoted our next month to only 2 places: 2 weeks home visiting family (YAY!) and 2 weeks in Valparaiso, Chile. Then we’ll pick back up our crazy week-to-week backpacking schedule. Hoping that’s enough to shake the burnout!
Valparaiso – great choice! It’s a smaller city in Chile, no? Devoting a longer chunk of time to a smaller place is an excellent way to combat burnout. You can really get to know the area!
So glad to read this blog post! Right timing after coming back from my Indonesia trip. I feel damn travel burned. This would be helpful .
Glad to be of help. It’s very easy to feel burned out after a busy holiday.
Great tips! I’m not really a good long-term traveler as I prefer shorter trips where I pack in a lot–but then go back to my normal life. It’s funny since I’m a travel blogger, but I’ve definitely experienced travel burn-out and my favorite way to prevent it is do shorter trips. When I experienced, I also took some time just to relax, go to the movies and read at a cafe. 🙂
Good insights. It’s true – long-term travel is not for everybody and sometimes the best way to avoid it is to admit that you prefer a different style of travel. You do you!