The highs and lows of long term travel
I’ve been travelling Latin America for over ten months after quitting my job, selling everything I own and setting out on a life of adventure without an end date. I’ve had the most magnificent experiences, seen breathtaking sights and formed lifelong friendships, but like everything else good in the world, travelling long term has its downfalls.
I’ve met many people who have traded their former lives for a life of living out of a backpack, constantly moving and changing beds in new and wonderful places. Overall, we love this life and we’re grateful for it, but I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the highs and lows, in the hopes of helping my fellow travellers who might be feeling how I have lately.
I haven’t posted a blog filled with thoughts and feelings in a while, so if you’re new here, welcome to one of my spontaneous Ted Talks (blogs).
I was inspired to write this after chatting with another solo long term traveller who has been feeling like me recently. We’ve been feeling the travel fatigue and have begun noticing how new places and new people seem a little less exciting and a little more draining. We’ve been missing having a sense of purpose and routine too.
I’ve come to realise the emotions that come with travelling long term swing in extremes. There are days when I feel pure joy, when I feel so fulfilled that I don’t believe I could feel better anywhere else. Then there are days filled with anxiety and loneliness, when I miss my mum, my dog, a routine, my mates and the ease that comes with living in Australia.
When travelling, especially solo, you have to make decisions about where to go, what to eat, where to stay, who to travel with, consider your budget, be on alert for danger, think about your belongings, manage language barriers, eat less healthy and interact with strangers’ day in and day out. You have to unpack and repack, getting used to new surroundings and people at least once a week (sometimes two or three times a week). If you experience anything remotely challenging, you’re experiencing it away from a support or medical system you know and trust. You might have to experience it in a hostel with 10 other people too, putting on a brave face when everyone at home is asleep in a different time zone.
If we think about it like this, it’s easy to conclude feeling drained after travelling for a while is quite normal. Feeling this way when you’re in a beautiful country with minimal responsibilities also adds a layer of shame. This is ten fold if you’re in developing counties surrounded by people who would kill to be you. But even though we are insanely lucky to be privileged enough to be here, I want you to know it’s okay to feel fatigued and to not feel happy all day, every day. It’s okay to have bad days. We’re still humans with normal human emotions. Just because we’re travelling, doesn’t mean we’re void of feeling them.
Through the pandemic, when we were locked inside our houses, I would stare at a giant map above my desk, dreaming about hiking the Andes in Peru, partying in Colombia, seeing Volcanoes in Central America and eating tacos on the beaches of Mexico.
I’ll bet you had those moments too. We must remember how we dreamed about being where we are now. It’s awfully easy to have rose coloured glasses on about our lives at home, but if they were so wonderful, we wouldn’t have been itching to leave.
The longer I travel, the more I realise there is no perfect life out there. This comes as a relief. If there is no perfect life, if I can’t be constantly happy everywhere, then perhaps I can stop chasing that. All I can do is learn to manage my feelings and figure out the life that feels best for me, whether I’m on a beach in Nicaragua or in an office in Australia. Travelling certainly gets you closer to knowing what that life is and is yet another thing I love about it.
Remember even on the shitty days, the lonely days, the days filled with exhaustion, sickness or standing on crammed buses, there are better days coming. Remember when someone coughs or snores all night, you’ll get another nice night of sleep and coffee exists. The breathtaking sights, unique cultures, different food, new friends and magical experiences are worth every challenge and every low.
If you’re feeling run down, have some chill days doing nothing and don’t feel guilty about it. Chillin’ is an activity, it’s one of my favourites and I always feel better for it. You’re not constantly doing things at home, you rest there, so you can rest when travelling too.
Sometimes all we need is a week in one place, one beach, one bed and some routine to feel better. Maybe we just need to know it’s okay to feel some lows when travelling. That we’re allowed to have them. Maybe it’s helpful in and of itself that we are not alone in feeling this way.
I hope these thoughts and feels have helped you. I also wrote a blog about nine ways to manage anxiety when travelling, it might help ya too. Anyway, I’m going to go for a sunset swim on the coast of Nicaragua after spending a week here chillin’ and recouping. Things could be worse, right?
Yours in feelings,