The first time I was tired of traveling was in Paris in May of 2014.
I had been in Europe since January on a semester abroad in Rome, taking weekend trips and seeing iconic cities like Venice, Athens, and Istanbul for the first time.
When my semester ended, I met a family friend in Germany, stayed with my brother-in-law’s family in the Dutch countryside, and linked up with friends in Copenhagen before welcoming my sister to the other side of the pond for two weeks of travel in England and France.
By the time we got to Gare Du Nord station in Paris, I was done.
But I was in Paris! And my sister was so excited to be in Europe! And we had already paid for our trip!
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What Is Travel Burnout?
Travel burnout is a temporary combination of exhaustion and depression. It can happen to anyone on a trip of any length and is usually triggered by the consistent stress and fatigue that existing in an unfamiliar environment can bring.
Travel burnout can be embarrassing to admit, as it seems like such a first world problem. Oh, you’re on a vacation and it’s too hard for you? You’re on sensory overload, exhausted, and want to go home? Well, yes. That’s exactly it.
My sister and I had dreamed for years about taking a “Seester Trip” together in Europe and now I didn’t even want to be there.
I didn’t have enough energy to get up before noon. My skin broke out and I got cold sores on both sides of my mouth. I was irritable. My stomach hurt. I stood in front of the Eiffel Tower for the first time, seeing it sparkle against the Parisian sky, and I might as well been staring at a giant dumpster for all I cared.
And I felt so guilty about feeling this way on top of everything else. Like I was such a brat for not enjoying Paris.
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How Do I Know if I Have Travel Burnout?
Well, if you’re reading this post, I’d say that’s a pretty good indicator that something is up. But, travel burnout manifests itself differently for different people.
You might be tired of traveling if you:
- Put off planning the trip — like it’s two days out and you have no accommodations booked.
- Can’t get excited about an upcoming holiday — you regret even booking it in the first place.
- Don’t want to leave the hotel once you’ve arrived — it’s too overwhelming to think about going anywhere.
- Have an overall feeling of anger or apathy about your location and the people in it.
Tired of Traveling? 6 Ways To Get Over Travel Burnout
If you are tired of traveling, here is a list of ways you can begin to work through your feelings and begin to enjoy yourself again.
Realize How You Are Feeling Is Valid
The feelings of guilt created by travel burnout can exacerbate the problem far beyond its original scope.
When I was in Europe in the fall of 2017, I had a run in with bed bugs in Amsterdam. I also was shooting for a “cool Euro girl” vibe with my wardrobe, so I only packed two pairs of chic booties instead of good walking shoes.
That bit me in the butt. By the time I arrived in Prague 10 days later, I was covered in 70+ bedbug bites and had blisters the size of my toes on each of my toes.
I fell in love with Prague and had planned on climbing to multiple vantage points around the city for the most bangin’ Instas of all time, but instead felt like crying every time I looked at stairs because of how tired I was, how itchy I was, and how much my feet hurt.
I knew I was not in the best shape to experience Prague the way I wanted to, but after my experience in Paris 3 1/2 years earlier, I now had some perspective. I know that it’s okay to not always be having a good time on vacation.
I understand that I will have good days and bad days, just like I do at home. Because as much as it seems like a fairy tale cut off from the rest of reality, traveling is still real life.
To get over feeling tired of traveling, you first have to acknowledge how you feel and accept that it’s okay.
Do Something Familiar
I ate at McDonald’s in Istanbul and Burger King in Amsterdam. I sat in a Starbucks in Salzburg, Austria for over an hour playing Temple Run on my phone because I was lonely and wandering aimlessly around the city wasn’t appealing to me anymore.
And you know what? This behavior is okay! Sometimes you can find comfort in retreating to familiar spaces in foreign countries. I know that when I see the Golden Arches, or that little green mermaid lady that Starbucks has, I can expect a place to sit and rest, free wifi, and a familiar menu.
Travel burnout can manifest itself in the inability to make choices in an unfamiliar environment. You might get stuck in your hostel because you are just overwhelmed by the task of finding somewhere new to eat amid all the new choices.
So if you are tired of traveling, take a shower and go to McDonalds. You need to eat!
Check Your Nutrition
I’m not contradicting myself with the McDonald’s advice, I promise. When we travel, our schedules and habits are sometimes put on hold to experience the local way of life, but experiencing a sudden, consistent change in diet can often throw you all out of whack.
If you begin to feel tired of traveling, try eating more like you do at home. If you tend to eat junk at home, gravitate towards fresh vegetables and lots of water for a few meals while on the road.
Don’t drink alcohol as it’ll only make your feelings of being overwhelmed and isolated even worse.
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Avoid One Night Stands
If you are on a “short” trip (i.e. less than two weeks or so), it can be tempting to try and cram as much in as possible. This leads to being tired of traveling. A 10 day vacation can seem like an eternity when you’re exhausted. To avoid this, I always try to spend at least two nights in each location so I can settle in and take a breather.
Yeah, yeah okay, Emily you say…scrolling past this advice. Please. My “see everything at once and be constantly on the go” trips are the worst ones I’ve had. Sometimes travel burnout is inevitable, but you can put it off my allowing yourself some room to breathe in your itinerary.
Take a Day Off
It’s okay to watch Netflix in Paris. It’s okay to spend the day lying in the park in Argentina. It’s okay to spend a night soaking in a tub in Bangkok instead of going out dancing. When you start to feel apathetic about your travels, allow yourself one night (and one night only) to take a step back and fall into your familiar routine.
Sleep in. Take a bath. Do your laundry. Watch a movie.
After your day off, test the waters by wandering around a supermarket or chatting up the friendly girl in your dorm. See if you feel any better.
Sometimes it’s okay to abandon ship and go home early. You know yourself, so trust yourself to make the best choice for your health and finances.
Feeling tired of traveling, but your flight home is in three days? Weigh the pros and cons of the flight change fee and canceling your accommodation before trying to stick it out. Do you have four months left on your working holiday visa, but you are desperately ready to go home and get back to your routine? Go for it!
If you are traveling long term, it’s important to note that there will be some reverse culture shock when you get back to your hometown, but occasionally the return to “normalcy” can help you get out of your funk.
Final Thoughts on Travel Burnout, Anxiety, and Depression
This post is meant to help those who are experiencing a temporary combination of exhaustion and depression brought on by the sensory overload of traveling.
If your feelings of stress, anxiety, loneliness, or depression extend beyond your travels, or if you simply feel overwhelmed and want someone to talk to, I’d like to recommend Better Help. It’s an online counseling service where you can video chat, talk on the phone, or even just type to licensed counselors. It is $35 to $70 USD per week for unlimited access to your counselor and you can cancel at any time.
I’m not affiliated with Better Help and I don’t get any commission if you sign up. I just think it’s genuinely useful.
Feelings of travel burnout can also be heavily linked to homesickness and culture shock. You can read more about how to overcome that here.
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