Categories: Travel Thoughts

This Sucks: Travel Burnout & How I Dealt With It

I didn’t think that travel burnout was real until I experienced it myself, and when I did, I hardly thought it was a burnout. I just thought that I wasn’t in the mood and that maybe I’d feel better the next day.

But then the next day came, and the next, and the next. Still, there was no excitement.

To give you some background of what was happening, I was set to travel overseas. But while I was waiting for the trip, I was organising another holiday abroad for the following year with a friend. I was not enthusiastic for either my upcoming trip or the one I was going to plan for. I didn’t have any serious problems at that time, nor was there anything pressing on my mind. I didn’t know where the detachment was coming from. All I knew was that as much as I love travelling… I was sick of it.

Before I go further into my experience, let’s delve into what travel burnout is.

What is burnout?

We often associate burnout with being overworked in our jobs and sometimes home life, but it can come in many shapes and forms. Burnout is clinically defined to be the state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion whenever we’re overwhelmed, drained or underperforming. This state of stress leads us to become disinterested and unmotivated to get anything done.

Also read: How You Can Find Simplicity in Travelling

How does that relate to travel burnout?

Many people will say that travellers are so lucky to be travelling because not everyone can afford the time and luxury to do so. While others are at home stuck in their daily grind, we’re out exploring the world, eating local cuisines, and interacting with different cultures. Ergo, what gives us the right to complain?

I think this is where people misunderstand.

Although those who question the idea of travel burnout have valid reasons, we need to look at it from another perspective. While travelling does have its perks and can look quite gratifying on the outside, one of the ugliest truths to travel is that it can be completely and utterly exhausting. Yes, travelling can be mentally exhausting too. Don’t believe me? Think visas, savings, schedules and itineraries, bookings, packing, map reading, coordinating, adapting and taking in new cultures, only to name a few.

Initially, it’s easy to shrug off all these things when you’re new at travelling, because hey, “What a small price to pay!”. But then the succeeding trips come gradually, you go through everything all over again, and you begin to think Is it though?

When you’re physically and mentally drained, what comes next? Your pocket and patience to do just about anything. It’s different when you still have the vigour and enthusiasm for adventure. You budget your money, spend what you must, and look forward to the rest. When you’re burnt out, you do all these things without appreciating the outcome and as if they were a chore.

What happened to me?

I experienced travel burnout at a time when I least expected it and when I wasn’t travelling at all. I was about to though.

Aside from anticipating the physical exertion that comes with travelling to a far country, I already felt financially spent even before the trip began. It shouldn’t have bothered me as much because travellers, of all people, know how to accept the reality of expenses. But for some reason this time around, I felt like I had finally travelled and spent too much. Despite all the pleasures travelling can bring, the presiding thought in my mind was, “Why did I buy that ticket?”

To erase the negative thoughts, I tried to think of all the fun and exciting things I was going to do on my upcoming trip. But envisioning the vibrant city lights and unique tourist attractions of my destination did nothing to make me excited. Planning an impending trip with my friend in the middle of it didn’t help either. I was flustered. “This isn’t like me”, I thought.

I didn’t know how to explain it until one day I told myself that maybe I’ve had too much of this. Too much time given, too much energy and money spent, too much sightseeing, too much wanderlust. Just too much. And like any traveller, I have friends who would tell me how lucky and privileged I was to fly to different places in a year, and I would feel thankful and humble all the more for the opportunities. But despite all the encouragement and acceptance among my peers, I finally had to admit it.

I was burnt out — luck and privilege be damned.

How do you deal with travel burnout?

I’m no therapist and I can only speak for myself. I’m pretty sure that everyone would have their own way of dealing with travel burnout. However, there are some simple steps you can take which have helped several travellers recover from their own burnouts.

Slow down

After accepting the fact that you’ve experienced travel burnout (and it’s okay to feel this way no matter what anyone says), it helps to take your time. If you’re experiencing the burnout in a foreign country, consider shortening your to-do list or removing attractions from your itinerary. It’ll be more satisfying for you in the long run when you’re able to maximise your time in locations that mean more to you than the ones that are only on your itinerary just because. Plus, you save a lot of energy.

In my case, I was still in my own country when the burnout hit me but I had to plan a future trip with my travel buddy. I got sick, thankfully, because that delayed any meeting and conversation regarding our trip. By the time I was better, my friend and I decided that I take the time to rest up for my vacation abroad that was already scheduled to be in a few weeks. Planning for the next one could wait. So I slowed down, took naps when I could, and gave my mind and body the respite they needed.

Seek what’s familiar

Whatever’s familiar is part of your comfort zone, whether that’s a Starbucks in another country or a TV channel on your hotel room’s flat screen. When you’ve experienced travel burnout, the things that you’re accustomed to and enjoy back home should help ease the exhaustion. I for one found comfort in eating in the fast food restaurant I was already familiar with while I was having a burnout abroad. You don’t always have to experience new things blow by blow when you travel.

Also read: Why You Shouldn’t Be Ashamed Of Eating In Fastfood Restaurants Abroad

Talk to your friends

This helps me a great deal every time, especially now that I write about travel for a living.  You don’t necessarily have to tell your friends about the burnout. Just talk to them as you normally would in order to get your mind off anything travel-related.

Bum at home

Stay at home, watch TV, go online, read a book. Eventually, this time of rest will turn into boredom and hopefully you get bitten by the travel bug again.

Go home

When worse comes to worst, book an early flight back home. Whatever you had planned in another city or country might not be worth the burnout you’re going through. Physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion is no joke. If your mind and body can’t handle it, go home.

There’s no shame in experiencing travel burnout, it happens to the best of us, even professional travellers and travel bloggers (TripZilla writers included!). It doesn’t always appear in similar scopes either. Travellers who are on a short holiday out of town may experience travel burnout as easily as those who hop from country to country in a single month. And no, just because you go through it doesn’t automatically mean you’re doing everything wrong. It’s just a fact of life — we get tired of the things we love. The question is, are you prepared to deal with it?

Therese Sta. Maria

Therese's close friends know that if they haven’t seen her around, then she’s probably having an adventure with her luggage and camera in hand. Though she loves staying at home and spending lazy afternoons with friends, there are times when she has to be "away from home to feel at home," — that’s when she’s bitten by the travel bug. See her travels on Instagram @reesstamaria.