Overcoming Travel Fatigue
At first glance long-term travel may seem like the ultimate experience. You get to dictate your own schedule, activities and location and you have time to indulge in virtually any adventure you choose. For those who haven’t ventured off long term, travel fatigue might be difficult to fathom. On short trips it’s easy to schedule your time so you can see all the sights and take in as much as you possibly can. But what do you do when you lose the desire to see every tourist sight a country has to offer or if your budget limits the sights you can see?
When traveling long term it’s easy to find yourself stagnating and frustrated with your surroundings. For many people the lack of structure that comes with a traveling lifestyle breeds little motivation to learn and experience new things and they slip into a lazy and unproductive lifestyle. For me the biggest benefit of traveling long term is the endless free time it gives me to pursue my interests. Often the interests I spend time on are location-dependent like climbing in Thailand, but other times I can throw myself full force into an academic activity completely unrelated to my surroundings and structure a mini-lifestyle for myself around whatever my goals are for that interest.
While on Bali we had planned to spend three weeks doing a volunteer exchange. When we arrived to start work it quickly became clear that the situation wasn’t going to work out so we left. This left us with three weeks in Bali before our friends came to visit and virtually nothing to do. We had already done a cycle tour of the island and our budget limited our ability to go elsewhere for the short trip. Three months into tropical travel we both scoffed at the boring idea of holing up on some tropical beach and reading a few good books.
We sat down together and decided to brainstorm a constructive activity to undertake during our three week pause. When choosing what to focus on it is important to me that the activity is positive and allows a lifestyle that includes physical exercise. I suggested learning to surf and spending every day in the ocean, but Kyle was less interested. Knowing that we had friends in Ubud, we decided that would be the best place to stage our mini-life. What we arrived at was that we would do lots of yoga and spend several hours every day studying foreign languages. We were about to head to Europe for the summer and my French and Kyle’s Italian could definitely use the help.
Giving yourself a regimented schedule will help break up the down time and give you a sense of purpose for being there. In our case, our activities in Bali were pretty disconnected from local culture. If you can afford it, immersing yourself in classes typical of the culture will be a good way to connect with the place you’re in. Activities such as cooking, language, dance, and volunteering are all available in nearly every country. Engaging in something like this will help strengthen your connection with the place you’re in. It helps to foster a sense of community between you and the locals. You go from being a visiting traveler to a resident living and sharing daily experiences with those around you.
It’s really important to adjust your mindset and be flexible while living abroad. If you find yourself dissatisfied or stagnating, don’t let your expectations control your emotions. Recognizing that your expectations don’t hold any sway in practice will allow you to enjoy yourself more completely regardless of what you are doing. Most importantly remember why it is you left home in the first place and seize the world full of opportunities you have to better yourself and those around you.