You are travelling the world and having a fantastic time. You are meeting cool people, seeing beautiful places and everything is a new and amazing adventure.
Of course, you want to make the most of your time. So your days are jam-packed with sightseeing and excursions and your nights are filled with booze and dancing.
You are having the best time of your life, until… you’re not. Slowly, those long days and nights are catching up to you. You’re tired, burned out and getting numb to all the beautiful things around you. It is the unavoidable “man with the hammer” of backpacking: the dreaded traveller’s fatigue.
Because while travelling is absolutely incredible, it is also exhausting. Especially if you’re backpacking low budget, sleeping in crappy hostels, eating cheap food and, simply, not really taking care of yourself. This travellers fatigue is a common problem that we don’t talk about enough. It`s actually happened to me a couple of times before, with the lowest point when I was so tired that I started crying in a shower in Thailand. So, I took a step back and realised that I had been asking too much of myself and I was actually spoiling my own fun, by having too fun. Or trying to have too much fun and not thinking about what I need from a mental and physical health perspective. We have created this idea of travel that is just not realistic. It can’t be 100% all the time, you need to take of yourself even when you are on vacation.
It is important to practice self-care when you are travelling. So, learn from my mistakes and use these tips to either avoid or remedy travellers fatigue:
1. Take a day off
First and foremost, if you are feeling tired and burned out, listen to your body. There is no point in forcing yourself to go out and do activities if you are not going to be able to enjoy them. There is absolutely no shame in taking a day off and just staying in. Usually, that´s what you do at the end of a work week as well, so why not when you´re travelling. In fact, I make sure to have at least one day every week without anything planned.
Just hang out in bed, go to the beach, read a book, watch tv, listen to music, whatever relaxes you. Give yourself some time alone, without social interactions, to recharge and relax. You’ll feel so much better that you’ll be jumping at the chance to go out and explore the next day. Or take another day off if you need to.
2. Get a massage
It is easy to underestimate the physical strain of backpacking. Lugging all your belongings around, sleeping in hostel bunkbeds and night buses can wreak havoc on your back. Even when you make sure your pack fits well, pack light and do stretches, you might still end up with a stiff neck or sore shoulders. So once in a while, get everything sorted out by a professional masseur. In South East Asia massages are often very affordable so this is something you could easily fit into your budget. Alternatively, if you’re travelling somewhere more expensive, check to see if there are any deals on Groupon or through your accommodation.
Getting enough sleep can be a challenge. You’re dancing the night away and the next morning your alarm goes off at 7 am for a cool excursion. Luckily, naps are very socially acceptable for backpackers. Or once in a while, say no to partying and go to bed early. And instead of all those early mornings, try sleeping in a couple of times.
It is worth investing in some good earplugs and an eye mask that will help you sleep through even the loudest roommates.
4. Eat healthy
Yes, I know… boring, boring, boring. But it’s true! Taking care of yourself includes the things you put in your body. When you’re travelling, and you’re surrounded by tempting food options like spring rolls and gelato, eating out and trying to save money, it can be hard to make good food choices. I make sure to always have some healthy snacks like nuts and fruit in my bag, so I don’t splurge on fried snacks. Or I’ll eat a salad for lunch instead of another loaded sandwich. Making sure you’re getting enough vitamins and fibre is essential to keeping your health and energy up, so lay off the alcohol and pizza for a night and opt for some veggies instead 😉
5. Treat yourself
That amazing dish that you’re craving, those cute sandals you spotted, a fancy cup of coffee, a night in a fancy hotel? Go ahead, get it! Every once in a while, give yourself a little gift. I’m a budget traveller, always looking for the best deal, but occasionally I say “fuck it” and get that slightly overbudget thing that I really wanted to have or do. Life’s too short to spend all your time worrying about money. Being frugal is great, but what is the point of saving money if you’re not spending it on things that make you happy.
Treat yo self!