Travel burnout, running low on funds, family emergency at home… These and other things may cause you to consider packing up and going home early. But is it the best idea?
Lately, I’ve been feeling travel burnout.
It’s a very real thing, and a lot of long-term travellers understand how it feels. People who take 2 week holidays on their annual leave and head back to work often struggle to understand the concept. “How do you get tired of being on holiday?”
Always being alone, or having to make new friends is exhausting. The same 5 infamous questions that you get so bored of answering:
- Where are you from?
- How long have you been travelling?
- Where have you been?
- Where else are you going?
- Oh, and what’s your name?
Of course, nobody remembers your name – you’re now the Aussie guy, or the German girls or the English couple.
Just organising dinner can be so much effort, that you’re tempted to just not bother. It’s not about ‘what should I cook tonight?’ it’s about going out, negotiating streets that you don’t know, and traffic is often insane and hard work. Deciding where to eat, that has nice food that won’t break your budget. Trying to work out what is on the menu, and if you like it – while also attempting to have some semblance of a healthy meal! Noodles / kebab / pasta again? Where do you keep the veggies?
What People Expect
People expect you to think: “Wow! I’m in Istanbul (or wherever you may be) I should make the most of this and see all the sights”
What you’re actually thinking: “Where has good coffee and WiFi where I can hide from the world all day?”
When you see a big tourist site, such as Hagia Sophia people expect you to think: “Wow, it’s incredible! Thousands of years of history and architecture”
What you’re actually thinking: “Ok, cool – another big tick off the list. That’s done. It’s cool… But Cordoba, Spain has a more impressive mix of Christian and Islamic architecture. I wonder where the nearest café is?”
People expect you to think: “New hostel, new people – great. Let’s go on a pub crawl, and have an awesome night!”
What you’re actually thinking: “I’m lonely and want to socialise… Oh look – new people. Maybe if I put my headphones on they will leave me alone!”
It’s not just you – travel burnout happens to many!
Have you felt travel burnout like this, and thought it was just you? The good news is, I know this happens to many people who travel a lot, especially long-term solo travel. The general advice is to slow down – stop moving around so much. Stay somewhere long enough to learn your way around, relax, spend a day in bed if you like and not worry about missing anything, spend long enough with people to make friends. And it’s good advice.
I’ve definitely done that over the past few weeks. I stayed in Brasov, Romania for 2 whole weeks – the longest I’ve stayed anywhere in the months since I left Belfast. It’s a small city, and I got to know some locals – people in cafés, hostels etc. Then a friend of mine joined me and we spent a few days together which was a lot of fun.
Now, I’m in Istanbul, Turkey. I’ve got 2 weeks in Turkey and I think I’m going to spend the whole 2 weeks in Istanbul rather than moving around. The plan is to see the sights while learning my way around, hopefully meeting some people and getting a lot of work done online. It’s a very different culture – as I type this I’m laying in bed listening to the evening call to prayer. I do love call to prayer – it feels so spiritual, magical and I feel a peace when I hear it.
The plan when I decided to leave Romania and Moldova, and go to Turkey for 2 weeks, was a change of culture, and hope that it would snap me out of it a bit. In some ways it has, yet in some ways it’s made things worse! At least I understood the culture in Romania since I’d been there a while. Also, the food in Istanbul is a lot more expensive than I’m used to which is a bit depressing. And omg, I like kebabs… But surely there is some other food around? I’m so sick of bread!
Anyway, it’s for 2 weeks and I am trying to enjoy it as much as I can. I know the city is great, and I do love Istanbul… It’s just me being tired and depressed and I should push through that. I have 2 weeks here and then I head to Thailand for a month before getting home just in time for Christmas.
I’m hoping I really enjoy my time in Thailand – I want to spend a week on a beach, relaxing in the sun with cocktails in coconuts while I read in a hammock and float in the sea. I also plan to spend a few weeks in Chiang Mai – the plan there is to check it out as a possible place to base myself next year. Hopefully make some new friends, socialise and enjoy myself.
It’s meant to be the digital nomad capital of the world – lots of people doing exactly what I’m trying to do – make a living online and have the freedom to live a location independent lifestyle. I figure this will either be great and I’ll love it – or I’ll really dislike it. I don’t see it as somewhere I’ll think “Yeah, it’s ok” – it’ll be love or hate.
So, I can push through this. Home in 6 weeks… In the meantime, try to see some of Istanbul, and check out Thailand and hopefully love it and move there next year. I can do this.
*here comes the spanner in the works*
My great aunt passed away today.
Now, this wasn’t a sudden shock. It wasn’t like a close friend in their 20s or 30s suddenly was killed in a car accident. This is an elderly relative who has been sick for years. In saying that, I still love her so much and want nothing more than to hug my mum and burst into tears.
I’m tempted to book a flight home for tomorrow. I could book a $1000AUD flight from Istanbul at 2pm tomorrow and be in Sydney 21 hours later. But is this something I really want to do? Or is this the travel burnout latching onto an excuse to give up and go home? Even if it is – does that actually mean I shouldn’t do it?
I know I’m under no obligation to go home. As much as my mum would love to see me, she has my siblings, family and friends around her. She knows she’ll see me in 45 days when I get home for Christmas. But I kinda want to… But kinda don’t. If I was having a great time, I wouldn’t go home because of this. But while suffering from travel burnout, this is pretty much the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I’m craving the familiar. To be able to relax. To socialise with people who it’s no effort to socialise with. To go to my Great Aunty’s funeral.
Flying home would mean spending $1000 on the flight Istanbul to Sydney. It also means I’ll probably lose the fares I paid to fly Istanbul to Bucharest, then Bucharest to Bangkok and then Bangkok to Sydney. At the end of the day, it’s just money – and if I need to be at home then it’s worth it. But do I really need to?
Life is full of hard choices
I could go home. I’d be around family. I’d go to the funeral. I’d catch up with friends… Recover from my travel burnout… But then what? Sydney is an expensive place – to stay any length of time I’d need to be earning good money. I’m currently not earning any.
The plan is to get home just in time for Christmas – I land on 22 December and stay until Mardi Gras (which is also my brother’s birthday) – flying back to SE Asia around mid March. If I go home now, would I still go to SE Asia in March? Would I go earlier? Stay longer? What would I do while I’m in Sydney?
Perhaps I could get work for 3 months, though I have plans to go away with friends over New Years, and with my mum and granddad after that. Could I take 2 or 3 weeks off work if I was only working for 3 months?
I guess that’s all just details and I can work it out later. What I need to figure out within the next few hours is whether I’d regret more staying and finishing my trip, but continuing feeling alone and missing the funeral… Or packing up now and going home, attending the funeral and being around family and friends, but missing out on the rest of this trip and throwing away the money for those flights.
I can always visit Thailand another time – in fact, I will probably be back there within a few months.
I can always earn more money to recover the costs of heading home.
I can’t go to Aunty Beryl’s funeral another time – it’s a once off thing.
Is that the answer then? Written like that, it sounds kinda simple. But it doesn’t feel that way.
There is a quote that says you regret the things you didn’t do more than the things you did do. I love this quote, and as much as possible I try to live by it… But which is which in this situation? Why can’t things be black and white?
So, at midnight last night I booked a flight home.
Istanbul – Abu Dhabi – Sydney. A 21 hour trip (plus the time getting to the airport, checking in, waiting then getting home from the airport at the other end) Booked at midnight for a flight at 2:30pm the following day… Or the same day. Or, I dunno – for 14 hours after I booked.
The decision to go home was a hell of a lot harder than the decision to leave – as it usually is. But I talked to friends about it, I weighed up the pros and cons, flipped a coin and asked an online magic 8 ball. The outcome was fairly clear…
At the end of the day, I wasn’t enjoying myself as much as I should be – and I was ready to head home for a while. All I missed was a few weeks in Thailand, somewhere I’ve been before and somewhere I’ll be again in the future. I still love travel and have no intentions to stop permanently – just for a few months. Catch up with friends and family, relax, recover from my travel burnout and earn some money… Then the next adventure!
Have you ever gone home earlier than planned on a trip? If so, was it travel burnout or another reason?
Have you ever felt like you’re not enjoying something that you should be enjoying?
Let me know in the comments below!