When It Stops Being Fun:
If you do something for long enough adventure eventually becomes routine. When your birthday comes once a year it’s a reason to celebrate, bust out the cake and make not so subtle hints about the presents you want. If you celebrate your birthday every day then cake, parties, and presents will probably turn into “oh hey, it’s uh, cool you exist. I got stuff to do today though. Later.”
I didn’t want to believe it myself but when you travel for long and hard, you fall into the routine of it all. As humans, we start to go a little mad when we are stuck doing the same thing for too long.
Don’t get me wrong, traveling is wonderful. You get to experience new cultures and discover things you would never have seen or experienced in your own home. You meet amazing people and form a worldwide network of friends. It’s not that every place is the same, it’s just what we do starts to become too uniform.
Fly into city, see Museum One, eat at TripAdvisor Restaurant, visit Museum Two, go back to the 45th Hostel you’ve stayed in, chat with people you’ll probably never see again, do this for three days, pack up, roll out of bed way too early in the morning, board another flight and get ready to do it all over again.
Now, I’m a museum person. I like that they are air-conditioned, usually have cafes and show off the culture and art that whatever country I’m in is particularly proud of. So above is what my travel routine usually looks like but you can put in whatever your travel activities are. Hiking, tours, shopping, whatever tickles your fancy but the point is when you plug that into the backpacking schedule up there and do it pretty much every day for seven months you just…want to do something else for a bit. You need a break.
And that’s okay.
If you reach a point where you’re getting burnt-out and you’re not having as much fun as you were, it doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong or that your trip is a bust and it’s time to go home early. It just means you need a break from the routine.
Backpacking burnout hit me two weeks into my trip to Europe. I know, two weeks is pretty early but as an introvert spending two weeks always on, always moving and socializing and never having a moment to myself in a dorm full of people! Two weeks might as well have been twenty years. By the time I reached Amsterdam, I needed a break and some time to recharge.
If you’re at this point in your trip you might be feeling frustrated with yourself. You might want to just push through it and stick to the routine because you came all this way. It’s okay if you want to do that but just in case this is what you were waiting for: “Relax! I give you permission to take a break for your vacation. Use this post to give you ideas on what to do besides make yourself miserable.”
Here are a few things you can do:
Retreat Back into Your Shell
If you’re an introvert then you need time to yourself to recharge. Denying yourself that isn’t going to change who you are or result in a very enjoyable trip. When I reached the point of needing to go back into my shell I was about to leave for Amsterdam. I had this massive list of all the things I wanted to do there and a day trip to close it out. But then I got there and that list just made me feel…tired. Not excited or happy. Just tired. And that just wouldn’t do.
So I sat down, looked at my list and went crazy with the red ink. I whittled that list down to only the things I had to do while I was Amsterdam and surprisingly all I was left with was the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House. So, I decided to only do one a day and make them morning activities so that I would have the afternoon to myself.
And you know what, those three days in Amsterdam ended up being some of the fondest memories of my trip. I thought, and maybe you’re thinking this too, that I would regret not getting to all the things on that original list, but far from it. For the last two weeks, I had just been rushing from place to place all over Europe trying to “see it all” and “make the most out of my trip.” But in Amsterdam, I slowed down and just enjoyed the city. I spent hours in the Van Gogh Museum, reading all the info and taking in his talent, hard work and learning about Van Gogh’s difficult life. Not having anywhere I had to be meant I was able to experience the museum that way it was meant to be experienced.
I had all morning for the Anne Frank House and believe me you need all morning. That line is long! I was on it for 2 ½ hours. Yep, you read that correctly. But it was worth every minute. My time there was thought-provoking and sad and afterward, I lingered over my lunch, writing in my journal, and taking some time to appreciate my life.
I needed that. I needed to spend a few days writing in my journal, drinking my weight in tea, binge-watching Dance Academy and turning down invitations to go out. Sometimes I need shell time and, dear Traveler, it’s okay if you do too. When this happens:
- Take a few things off your list and whittle it down to just your must-dos. Maybe even take everything off your list and just spend the day wandering through the city with your journal. Find shady spots in the park to stretch out. Put TripAdvisor away and eat at whatever restaurant looks good to your hungry belly.
- Book a single room in a hostel or stay at a hotel for a night. It may be more money than you planned on spending for accommodations but every good traveler takes more money than they need for their trip. I once again give you permission to dip into it for a little time to yourself.
- Don’t be afraid to say no. Don’t feel bad about needing a night in or not wanting to join an all-day tour. The travel police will not cart you away for not torturing your liver every night or daring to sleep-in.
Day of Self Care
If you’re a camping, hiking, roughing it kind of solo female traveler who conquers the trails all day and sleeps in a bag on the ground all night then that’s great! I don’t care what you do when you go, I just want you to go! But if you should ever get to the point where you need a break from the bag then its time for some self-care.
- Spa day. Get those aching feet a foot rub. Massage all those kinks out of your back that have been forming under the weight of your backpack.
- Write in your journal. Every traveler, especially us solo female travelers, should carry a journal. Memories fade and the time we spend exploring the world are the ones we will definitely want to hold on to. When every day is packed with tours and attractions we push the journal writing to the side. Your day of self-care is the perfect time to sit in a cute café with a pen and some tea.
- Do something normal. Go to the movies, eat food that reminds you of home, binge-watch something on your Netflix queue. Pick something you would probably do on a self-care day if you were home. Try to do that something on the road.
Take Care of Your Body
Staying healthy on the road is hard. You tend to eat out more often than you would at home. You’re also most likely not hitting the gym every day. After a while, you can just feel weighted down and in desperate need of something familiar and healthier. You don’t get burnt-out on traveling but your body does. Some tips to get you get through this situation are to:
- Head to the local market, get some ingredients, take over your hostel kitchen and create a culinary masterpiece. Your masterpiece might end up being a salad with some feta cheese but after weeks of eating everything else, it will certainly taste like a masterpiece now.
- If you don’t have access to a kitchen you’re out of luck! I’m kidding. You’ll just have to search out restaurants that specialize in healthy food. Or you could be more specific about how to prepare your meal when you do go out. Ask if they can grill instead of frying or if they could switch out the heavy dressings for lighter vinaigrettes.
- You may not be able to go out to the gym every day when you’re on the road but you can still take care of your body. You can opt to walk instead of taking public transport. Pack good shoes and some workout gear and go for a run in the nearest park. And if you’re lucky enough to be staying in a hotel or hostel with workout equipment then commit to waking up a bit earlier and carving out exercise time.
Backpacking burnout is a real thing and it can hit us all anywhere and at any time. You can ignore it and push through. Or you can stop holding so tightly to that itinerary and listen to what your head or body is trying to tell you. If you start feeling weary of the backpacking trail then a little self-care and alone time will go a long way. Don’t think about what you’ll miss if you’re not on and moving all the time. Instead, think about how you want to look back on your trip. You want to say that you enjoyed every day in whatever way you needed to. You enjoyed your museums days, your tour days, your foodie days and your days relaxing by the pool with a book.
So happy travels, ladies!