My eyes slowly open and I let my sight adjust to the sun beaming through the bedside window. For a few minutes I lay there, basking in my obliviousness of what the time is. My phone sits on the table next to me, but for one of the first times in 11 months, I don’t reach straight for it. Whatever hour of the morning, or afternoon, it is does not matter. Today we have nowhere to be, no town to ride to and no clock to abide by. I never thought I would look forward to settling down. To begin to appreciate being static. For years I have run away from these very things. But for this brief moment, for the time being, I am content.
Being on the road constantly for almost a year is not groundbreaking or revolutionary. We don’t even consider it to be that great of an achievement, as it is basically the only thing we know. A nomadic lifestyle is demanding in its persistent motion, searching for whatever it is that we are looking for. For many out there life is travel. In our opinion, not a bad way to be.
When Lesh and I set off on our overland adventure nearly a year ago, we envisioned the way the trip would play out very differently to how it has so far. Looking at a world map in a cafe in Perth, with a calendar in front of us, we tentatively planned the journey to take us 3 years to reach South Africa from Thailand. A decent amount of time, but still somewhat rushed compared to our normal pace.
One year later, we are sitting in Vietnam. By the most direct route, only 2000km from where we first set off. However in our typical roundabout, sporadic style, we have travelled over 20’000km just in Southeast Asia. We’ve been distracted by far-flung destinations and tempted by the spontaneous purchases of our motorcycles. We ditched the plans long ago and went back to our perfect mind frame – just letting things take their natural course.
If we had of strictly stuck to our original plan, we would be sitting somewhere in India right now. Our journey would have seen us traverse China, Tibet and Nepal by land. We would be jumping between countries, collecting stamps in our passports and spending every other day on a bus or train. Living life in a perpetual cycle of hostels, transport, temples and touts.
Instead our plans were thrown out the door, and we are completely happy with how things have panned out. But something else has changed inside us. Less than a year in, we are exhausted.
Not exhausted from the travelling lifestyle, or from the thousands of incredible experiences we have already had (both from this current trip, and the previous 4 years we have spent travelling the world). We are tired from the simple act of moving.
Rather than push on, leave our new favourite country of Vietnam and enter China for the next assault on the mind, body and senses, we have decided to stop moving. We don’t want to risk burning ourselves out so relatively soon into our adventure. The more tired we get, the more frustrated we become at small things that are out of our control – and that is a surefire way to start getting travel burnout.
Surrounded by striking karst mountains and rural villages, we have decided to make Phong Nha our temporary home. A place where you are more likely to be run down on the town’s one main street by a cow rather than a scooter. 2014 has been a massive year for the both of us, both travel- and career-wise, and we are looking forward to having this quaint destination to relax in for a while. With a bunch of writing projects on the go as well (who would have thought this simple blog would actually gain momentum?), we’re hoping this will be a productive break.
With our new 3 month visa extensions in our passports, we will likely hang out here in Phong Nha until March. From then it will be time to tackle the next leg of the adventure. We will cross into China, and then see where we end up before we make it to Central Asia sometime next year. Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Japan, North Korea, Tibet, who knows? Only time will tell.
Although we are only a handful of days into our periodic travel break, we feel this is a worthwhile and beneficial decision. Travel is our life and passion, and we don’t want to lose that. But being stationary for a few months will also be quite a test, knowing how much more of the world is out there to explore. Let’s just see how long we last before we get itchy feet, pull out another map and start making plans to excitedly get back on the road again…
Have you ever experienced travel burnout? Let us know about your experiences below.
19 thoughts on “Extinguishing Our Travel Burnout”
It’s so refreshing to find such an honest post about long-term travel. We have been on the road for a bit over a year now and the burnout is definitely starting to set in. A little while ago we were somewhere that we had been looking forward to since we left on the trip but stupid things were definitely starting to get on our nerves and we just weren’t feeling that inspiration I guess. Although we have been moving more slowly we haven’t taken the time to just stop and be still for a few months which I think is exactly what we need. Great post!
On our trip, we made sure to take at least two weeks of stillness for every six weeks of travel. It gave our bodies and minds time to recover from the constant motion (and the physical strain of cycling). That was a huge part of being able to go so far.
Now that we are “home” and have been settled for more than two months, I am dreaming of being back on the road. Can’t wait for my next adventure.
I like that ratio! We might have to incorporate that into our own lives. Although being on motorbikes/buses/trains is far less intense than riding bicycles. You guys really are machines!
We can relate to all of the feelings you talk about in this post. We haven’t been on the road for nearly as long has you, but it is the reality of long term travel. Temples, churches and other iconic sites all start to look the same and we start to take for granted all of the incredible things we are seeing. Thank you for sharing and hopefully our paths will cross in Vietnam sometime in 2015! 🙂
That can be an unfortunate side effect of long-term travel – having all the spectacular sights merge into one. Thanks for reading, Jessica. If you end up in Phong Nha, Vietnam by the end of Feb, come have a beer!
I love your honesty guys, and also the fact that your original plans have completely changed. About the burnout, it’s totally normal and understandable. Me and Dale experienced it too few times. Once we were so exhausted that we accepted an housitting assignment in Spain for three months which was needed and great to recharge our energies and do some work too. You’ll feel much better by slowing down for a bit 😉
It happens to the best of us eh, Franca. I know you guys have travelled quite extensively as well. It’s bound to happen at some point, when you make backpacking your life. A housesitting assignment in Spain wouldn’t be all that bad though, right? Haha.
Life is not meant to too much of one thing whatever that is, ive been on several trips to know some things get boring , monotonous or just plan tiring. its good to step back re group (or in my case re solo) and think about what you want to do next or not even think about it at all. i have broken my travels up this time with trips home and it was my best idea overall. i have loved re connecting with family and friends and then find im ready to be off again, all i experience i view as an adventure even the rest times. we all need to take it slow, mix it up and change the state.
I love the way you think about this, Zoe. Slow travel, and periodic breaks definitely sound like the way to go! Thanks for reading. Happy travels. 😀
Just checking in since we met in Bao Lac. We are back in Wisconsin as of the holiday so we’re loving living vicariously through your blog posts when we can’t sleep at 4 AM. Enjoy your down time. We’re excited to read/see more as you make your way through China and beyond. We’ve only been back 5 days but we’re already planning for the next pin on our map. Good to have met you.
Rachel and Matt
Hey guys! Awesome of you to get in touch. Must be good to be home for a bit, especially during the holiday season. Cool to hear you’re liking our posts. It was a pleasure to have met you both. Where is the next pin going to be? Happy travels!
Lesh and Jazza
Good on you for making the decision to slow down. It’s so important to accept and be honest about how we feel, even when we surprise ourselves. I think it’s great you’ve decided to make Phong Nha your temporary home; it’s a good chance to build some new relationships, explore the surrounding areas and focus on your writing which is not only already fantastic but getting even better.
I wish you guys all the best and hope to see more of your work in 2015!
I think it’s definitely better to catch ourselves before we get too burnt out, lest we lose the passion for travel that we have deep inside us. So far we are loving being in Phong Nha, and definitely feel it was a good decision. Thanks so much for the kind words on my writing too, Natasha. That kind of encouragement helps push me to create more worthwhile content. Happy travels 😀
I love how sincere this post is! I have never traveled full time so my experience might be a bit different. However I have traveled quite a bit. This year I had 10 trips while working full time and studying in university. It was amazing, but in the end I felt exhausted. My problem is I want everything, settling down and discover the world. And it has worked out fine so far, but I guess that a slower pace is good idea sometimes.
Whoa, 10 trips while studying AND working full time? You are one crazy girl, Laura! No wonder you felt exhausted by the end of it. Wanting everything is good problem to try and solve 😉 Thanks for reading 😀
I read a bunch of blogs about traveling for long periods of time, some around the world trips, some are just nomads. I love how honest this blog post is. Sometimes I wonder if we could ever do that, to just keep traveling. It sounds amazing, but I definitely see how burn-out could happen. The idea of how many places you can see and how many people you will meet is so enticing, but there is something a bit refreshing to know when you will stop traveling too. Best of luck to you!!
Thanks Jessica. Those who pretend travel is nothing but butterflies and rainbows are either travelling with way too much money to easy countries, or they are lying. It can be tough, but to me the rewards far outweigh the problems. So happy to read that you liked this article. Best of luck to you as well. Happy travels 🙂
Great post guys!
You hit the nail on the head when you said that travel experiences become ‘hazy’ after too long.
When my Husband and I were travelling though Australia, Thailand and Vietnam in 2012…as brilliant as it was…we were exhausted by the end from moving every day or two, and really looked forward to a few settled months. Of course that feeling didn’t last long, but it was a well needed rest.
We now adopt a much slower pace to our travels…a couple of months here, a couple of months there. It really allows us to fully experience a place and not get so burnt out.
Hope you enjoy your rest time in Phong Nha – it looks great!
A slower pace of travel really makes a huge difference to our attitudes on the road. When we are constantly on the move we long for stability. When we are stable, we long for movement. It’s a catch 22, and something that has been a lot of fun trying to find a comfortable balance with. Glad to hear you managed to sort out your burnout before it became too overwhelming. Happy travels, Kirsty. 😀