It hit me like a ton of bricks. Without warning I was knocked on my ass. Travel burnout. Whether you are traveling for a week or a year, we all can experience it. We spend countless hours planning, get excited, and then try to cram so much into our travels, we finally just reach out limit and burnout. Usually, if traveling for a week or two, it comes, you go home, get back into your normal routine, and life is good again. When traveling long term, it is not quite that easy.
The Build Up
Looking back, I now realize that my burnout was a slow build up and finally everything just blew up. I think it was a combination of many factors and overall fatigue. I have been able to pinpoint some of the things that contributed to it and now that I am aware of these, I hope I can do things to avoid it in the future.
- Lack of Planning – For the last six months, I have booked one way tickets to every destination I have traveled. This gave me the freedom to stay longer if I really enjoyed a place or to take off if I was done. It has worked out quite well, but there are times when it sucks. This was one of those times.
I hadn’t made any plans on where to go once I was done with Borneo. I had just finished up some amazing scuba diving in Semporna and made my way back to Kota Kinabalu to fly out to wherever I was off to next. I had thought I would go to the Philippines to dive more, but quickly found that a huge typhoon had just moved through and another was threatening the area. Boo. The flights were expensive and complicated (leaving at 2a with several connections). I was given some recommendations on islands to visit, but with 7,000+ islands, I had no idea where to stay, who to dive with, how to get anywhere, etc. Combine all that with the desire to leave Kota Kinabalu ASAP – I had already been there for 2 nights when I started my journey and there was nothing to do. When I am done with a location, I am DONE.
Long story short – my lack of planning, not knowing the country, weather, and money were all working against me. I just wanted someone to make a decision for me, unfortunately, I was on my own.
- Lack of Sleep – I had not had a restful night’s sleep in nearly two weeks. I had been opting for dorm rooms in order to save some money, but I would be shocked if anyone can sleep well in a dorm. People coming and going, late night chats, snoring, karaoke from the bar next door, packing at all hours of the night/morning (sidenote: plastic bags are the devil!), and alarms are all added bonuses when you sign up for a dorm room. Good deal, eh? Even with ear plugs, it is a tough go.
- Sick? – I had felt like I was running a fever the last few days and of course my mind starts wandering. Could I have malaria or dengue?? Arghhh….I know the chances are slim, but when you are stressed out (and not taking anti-malarials), these are the thoughts that flood your mind. PLUS, I managed to contract some type of rash on the top of my foot. At first I thought they were mosquito bites because they were itchy and resembled the millions of others I had, but then I realized it that was spreading. Awesome.
- Lost Debit Card – I carry two debit cards with me so that I could have a backup should I ever lose one. The primary card I use is linked to my Charles Schwab account (no ATM fees!) where I transfer money periodically from my main accounts with another bank. The system works really well…when you remember to transfer money.
A few days prior to my meltdown, I realized I hadn’t checked my Charles Schwab balance in a while. Upon doing so, I saw I had $287 available, whereas I like to have no more than about $1,500 in that account. Shit. I was in trouble because the transfer of money typically take 5 business days! I made a transfer and didn’t really panic because I knew I had my back up card I could pull money from the other account in the meantime. Or so I thought…When I went to find it, it was nowhere to be found. I searched my bag (as well as I could in my only free space, my bunk) and checked every hiding spot I could think of. Nothing. I sometime get “creative” and come up with new hiding places that I am certain I will remember, ha! Alas, no debit card. Shit.
- Missing my family, dog, and friends – Facebook is great to keep in touch with everyone while I am traveling, but it can also be hard for me. I see all the amazing things that everyone is doing and I really want to be a part of it too. I realize I am having grand adventures, but it is different when you can’t share those with the people that mean the most to you. I have met some amazing people along the way and we have shared some awesome adventures, which is what I love about travel, but there are times I wish my family and friends could be with me.
With all these factors thrown together, my mini meltdown ensued. I questioned what I was doing and if I should just pack up and go home and get back to normal life. Those thoughts didn’t last long though and I did realize that I could get through it. So, I decided to start over and formulate a NEW PLAN!
- New Destination – Frankly, the Philippines overwhelmed me and I felt like I was rushing into booking something just to leave. I decided instead that I will be heading to Cambodia! When I started this journey Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos were on my wish list. I have spent the last 3.5 months in SE Asia and I decided that I will finish my time here with these 3 countries. Plus, I have some diving friends that I know would be done to plan a trip to the Philippines or Indonesia in the future and I can always join them 🙂 So, I am guessing about another month or so in SE Asia – I realize that is quick for these 3 countries, but I want to hit the highlights and move on explore some different scenery!
- Private Room – I’ve decided that it is better to spend a couple more dollars on private rooms so I can maintain my sanity. I have a beautiful room with comfy bed AND swimming pool waiting for me in Siem Reap. Yahoooooo!
- Staying Healthy – I think stress contributed to my not feeling well although I do still feel like I have a bit of fever (update: temp is 101° – reason for concern??) I stopped by the pharmacy and showed them my foot rash. I was given an antibiotic cream that she thought would take care of it.
- Debit Card – I still haven’t found the elusive card, but the good news is – it hasn’t been used since I last used it about 2.5 months ago, so I am not panicking. I plan to do a real through search once I get to Cambodia and have a room all to myself. If I still can’t find it, time to move onto Plan B: cancel card and figure out how to have the bank mail me a new one. Hmmmm…..
- FaceTime is awesome – I love staying connected and seeing my family and friends. I need to be more consistent with this, but the time differences are sometimes difficult. There is an open invitation to anyone to give me a call, write me emails, or even better COME VISIT ME 🙂 I am thinking that Eastern Europe may be next on the agenda!!
The good news is I am feeling much better now after realizing what was causing the burnout. I imagine it will linger for a while, but I am confident it will go away (and probably sneak back up on me again too eventually). I recognize how fortunate I am to be living my dream and this is just a bump in the road. Years from now when I find myself slaving away at a desk (hopefully not), I will be wishing I could go back to this point in my life. Thank you for all the words of encouragement and helping me with ideas on how to get through the burnout. Today is a new day and a new adventure awaits!
Any other suggestions on how to deal with travel burnout?