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Avoiding Travel Burnout: Hitting the Brakes on the Road

USA | Thursday, 28 July 2011 | Views [2129] | Comments [2]

It happened in Arizona.

Two weeks into a cross-country road trip that began in New Jersey, my friend and I drove into Scottsdale, where her pal had offered up his town home for a few days. We’d swept through Nashville and Little Rock, saw the stockyards in Fort Worth and pondered alien life in Roswell.  We’d crammed our days with sightseeing and too many stops at Denny’s and our nights with mingling with locals and too many margaritas. It had been 14 days at full throttle. When we got to Scottsdale, we lugged our bags into the crash pad and proceeded to stretch out on the couch watching West Wing marathons and eating pizza for three straight days.

Whether it’s a road trip or a RTW journey, there comes a time during travel when a person just needs to stop for a minute.

No matter how juiced someone is to hit the road and keep going, we humans need down time.  We all reach a point where we need a bed that’s not surrounded by a half dozen other backpackers, some liquids other than alcohol and food other than the greasy, processed kind. But it goes beyond those basic needs. When my friend and I stopped in our little desert haven, we spent some time apart, reading, running errands, reclining by the pool. Even people traveling solo need a carved corner away from other travelers.

It’s understandable why travelers want to keep going, going, going until they’re gone. The very nature of travel calls for a certain keyed-up energy, a commitment to going all in and leaving no opportunity left unturned, no new thing left untried. I truly envy the travelers who can bounce from country to country, city to city, hostel to hostel and still seem joyful and energized.

In the effort to see it all, though, more than one traveler has seen the stark darkness of complete mental and physical exhaustion. All of a sudden, the epic journey plotted for months or years comes to a howling halt, leaving a certain emptiness in its place. All of a sudden, a road warrior desperately wishes to become a homebody.

The need for down time often is one of the reasons I chose to move directly to Sydney and then take small trips to other parts of Australia instead of taking a long backpacking journey. I know myself. I know I need a base, a place to hang up my clothes and curl up and read. I need a favorite café, a good pizza place, a neighborhood whose rhythm I know.  I know if I spend more than a week in a hostel, I’m probably going to start breaking things.

Other hardcore travelers have documented how they’ve beaten backpacker burnout with some “me” time. Bobbi from Heels and Wheels splurged on a nice hotel room to escape her six-bed dorm while living in Port Douglas, Australia. Steph from Twenty-Something Travel stopped her jaunts around Asia during her RTW trip to chill for a few months at her boyfriend’s crib in Xi’an, China after hitting what she terms No More Rocks Syndrome. Taking a break didn’t make these travelers weak or diminish the awesomeness of their adventures. It just reminded them that they’re human.

It’s for that reason I’ll continue to seek out my Scottsdale wherever I travel in the world.

Related Articles:

Home vs. Abroad: Shedding your 'Role' while Travelling

What is the best thing you have done for free on your travels?

Have you ever stopped in your tracks on a trip? What are your tips for easing travel burnout?

About the Author

Lauren Fritsky moved to Australia in January 2010, intent on staying just a year. Nearly 18 months later, she continues to live in Sydney with the American boyfriend she met Down Under and work as a freelance writer and editor for various web sites. She has traveled around Australia and visited China, New Zealand, Italy, France, the U.K., Ireland, Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean.  Read her blog at The Life That Broke and follow her on Twitter.

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Tags: burnout, ideas, inspiration, itineraries, relationships, slow travel, solo travel, travel, usa

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