Travelling the world. Living the dream. Freedom. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it?
So, what went wrong?
Every traveller, when they start out, has dreams of grandeur. Heading into the unknown. Discovering new cultures, foods, friends and places. Seeing the world from a different point of view for as long as the money holds out.
We did all those things. It was great. It was…
But, what you might not expect is how difficult it can be living outside of your comfort zone for a prolonged period of time.
The tiny things that you don’t even recognise in everyday life start becoming big things when they’re taken away. Eventually you realise – Shit. I think I want out! I need a taste of the familiar, to feel comfortable again.
The moment you realise that, you’ve burnt out.
The original plan was meant to be simple
- Save Money FAST.
- Quit our jobs
- Travel Asia for 18+ months
- Never stop as we will have become blogging superstars!
We achieved 1, 2 and well – we are still working on 4. However number 3 didn’t go quiet as planned.
Fast forward to Tommo and I being on the road for 13 months straight. Originally we had grand plans of heading off to Nepal then crossing into Tibet, China, Laos and Vietnam after India. Part way through our 2 and a half months in India we just ran out of steam. Big Time!
We found ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. We wanted out – and we couldn’t get out fast enough.
So what caused it? Why was it getting so impossibly hard to pack our backpacks up and jump onto another train to somewhere new? Why did we just want to stay inside and block everything out. Why were we tired of the journey?
Because, Asia burnt us out.
It’s funny. People think we lead the easiest lifestyle, being nomads.
But it’s actually far from it.
Having a few weeks travel here and there every year is a breeze. But 13 solid months visiting 10+ countries that are the complete, polar opposite of your own can start to fray the nerves. And hell, we are seasoned travellers. This was not something we had ever expected to affect us so severely.
I’m not saying that it wasn’t a grand adventure – it was. But the moment actually came when we said “That’s it, I’m done, I’m not a celebrity, but get me out of here.”
This moment hit us in India.
Now, the question does stand – was it India that broke us? Or were we already, after many months of travel too tired to take on India? This we will never know.
Either way, it all became too much. We found ourselves becoming people we didn’t want to be. We became rude, jaded, quick tempered, and my teary breakdowns were becoming frequent.
I usually have a teary at least once a month (yes, we all know why) but I was starting to cry over every day things. Ok, everyday things in Asia:
- Because there was no way we could fit on the train because it was so full.
- Because I didn’t want to eat deep fried food for breakfast and we had already walked around for an hour trying to find something different.
- Because someone, once again, had given us directions that were completely wrong.
- Because we were constantly being stared at, being scammed, ripped off, sworn at. Yes, sworn at! We found sometimes in India if we didn’t accept the taxi fare offered they would just say “fuck you, you can pay.” Bloody taxi mafia!
It was also the fact that we hadn’t experienced peace and quiet in a long time.
Asia has an air of excitement to it. I’m certain part of this does come from the hustle and bustle. The people on the streets going about their everyday lives, so different to my own. The sights and smells from both restaurants and street food stalls, offering delicious food I never imagined could exist. These are things I personally love about Asia.
But I don’t love:
- The constant honking of horns
- Street dogs barking
- Roosters crowing (and not just at dawn, all day. Is the dawn thing a myth or something – seriously?)
- Fireworks going off everywhere (also an all day occurrence)
Is travel really this hard?
I’m sure at this point there may be a divide in opinions among readers.
There will be some that may say “well that’s reasonable, I would go a little bonkers too.”
Others who think “oh poor baby, boo hoo. It must be so hard travelling round the world rather than going to work everyday” (insert sarcastic tone).
I get it. We are “living the dream”. I’m just saying – that “the dream” is much harder than you’d expect.
As you can guess we didn’t continue on in Asia after India. We’ve moved onto Europe instead. And I’ll be honest – It’s been lovely. Exactly what my shot nerves needed. The streets are clean, traffic makes sense (mostly). I’ve enjoyed silence – true uninterrupted silence. Most importantly there’s cheese, wine and OMG have you ever tried a french baguette, in France? Damn, these people know what they are doing!
Asia is an amazing, exciting place.
We made mistakes that caused us to burn out. We don’t want others to make the same mistakes.
Looking back now, even India had its nice bits. Sometimes it’s just easier to appreciate it once you’ve left. Kinda like how no one actually enjoys exercise, but afterwards you’re glad you did it.
So, after having many nice, long hot showers and with the beauty of hindsight, here’s my 3 golden tips on how we would do things differently.
1. Travel Slower
“Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.” –Eddie Cantor
It is more worth while to allow yourself to spend longer in a place. To get a better idea of how things work. How people work. How transport works etc.
It happened often that we were just getting used to a place and we had to pack up and leave again. We were trying to fit everything in, within the time our visa allowed.
Slow it down, take a breath and spend some time finding out the true essence of a place. Wander the streets, taste the food, meet the people.
You will have a much more rewarding experience, rather than just blowing through town like a hurricane. The life of a hurricane is ferocious but brief. Long term travel just doesn’t work like that.
2. Plan In Advance (kind of)
“I adore spontaneity – provided it’s carefully planned”
This is a bit of a double edged sword as it’s great not to have a plan and just go where the winds take you – or the hurricane. However, a lot of the trouble we had in India – and China – was that the train tickets sold out months in advance. This left standing-only tickets.
For those of you who have never experienced this, it is quite often that even though all of the seats have been booked, the trains will continue to sell “standing” or “general” tickets. It doesn’t matter if the trip is 1 hour or 18 hours there will be people with these tickets standing in the aisles, sitting on the floors. People moving into a spare seat for just a moments relief when someone goes to the toilet, then moving elsewhere once they return.
If we had planned better in advance, we could have avoided often being stuck with these “general” tickets.
3. Stress Less About Money
“Dear Stress – Let’s Break Up”
Being budget travellers we thrive off getting a deal. There is nothing better than scoring something for a great price. But when the cheap alternatives are tough, eventually, after months, they don’t seem quite as much fun.
We had set ourselves a budget of $42 total per day. Even though Asia is often extremely cheap, this budget was sometimes very difficult to achieve. Especially when you had been told that prices should be a certain price – and it turns out that the evil bitch, known as inflation, had payed a visit.
Travelling with the stress of money above your head is not a fun way to travel. You’ll find that on the road your main expense is accommodation and, in most countries, transport too – buses, train, planes, taxis etc.
If we had heeded our first point and travelled slower then we would have paid less in transport and could have got long term rates on accommodation (and spent less time searching for new accommodation every few days). We wouldn’t have been trying to see an entire country in a few weeks/months. This would have meant we had more room to manoeuvre on the money.
Honestly, these tips can be applied to travel anywhere in the world.
I’ve met people stressed out to the max and having an all round shitty time in Australia. They had tried to fit in too much, in too short a time, with too little money.
Travel burn out can happen anywhere at anytime. But if we just remember to stop, breathe and enjoy, hopefully we can all keep the teary breakdowns to the standard once a month.
If you liked this post or know someone who could benefit from reading this please share / like / tweet below.
Do you have any tips for avoiding burnout while travelling? Let us know in the comments