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.