All Traveled Out: Traveling Too Much and What to Do About It
You get off the train, walk around the block, and see it. Another cathedral. It was listed in your guide book as a highlight of this town, and you take the obligatory photograph, but you don’t care at all. It’s just another cathedral.
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Does this mean you’re all traveled out? Can you really have too much of a good thing? I think the answer is yes, and no. Here are a few of the key symptoms that suggest you might be getting a bit weary of travel, plus some ways to help you solve this problem and enjoy traveling again.
1. You’re suffering from “just another cathedral” syndrome.
You no longer see new sights as individual events worthy of attention, but rather as just another in a long line of new experiences. You don’t remember the name of the museum you went to yesterday, and you took a photo of a statue in the town center just because other people were doing it.
2. You get annoyed easily.
By other travelers, by illogical museum opening hours, by the fact that even though you arrived at the ticket office well before it opened, all the night train seats were sold before you could ask for one, and you don’t know why. Minor setbacks are part of any trip, but if every step feels like a setback then maybe it’s the whole trip you’re annoyed with.
3. Airports and train stations don’t excite you anymore.
This might not happen to everyone, but I still get a chill of anticipation and excitement when I reach a large bus station, train station or airport. All those people, all those possibilities, all those destinations. I’m addicted to reading departure boards and imagining I could go to any of the places listed, not just the place I’m headed. If I lost this feeling, I’d know something was wrong.
4. You forget where you are.
I admit that this has happened to me a couple of times. The problem usually rears its head in the evening when I try to write in my travel journal, and suddenly I can’t put the name of the town on the first line. Sometimes it’s just forgetfulness, or a particularly tricky city name, but other times it’s a sign that I need to slow down and get myself back on track to make the most of my trip.
(By the way: forgetting what day it is isn’t a problem — that’s a sign that you’re enjoying your trip a lot. It just makes it hard to book train trips sometimes if you don’t know whether it’s Wednesday or Sunday).
This feeling of being all traveled out is possible, I believe. But you can also turn it around. Look at career travelers like Lonely Planet co-founder Tony Wheeler. If he can still get pleasure out of traveling after doing it non-stop for decades — and that’s traveling more for work than for fun — so can you. It’s all a matter of taking care of yourself and of what you tell yourself.
1. Take a rest day.
Stay in bed at your hostel or hotel as long as you can. Take a book (and not a guide book) to a park and lie in the sun all day. Treat yourself to your favorite food, no matter what the cost. Basically, spoil yourself. Traveling is fun, but if you’re on a long trip, it can be hard work too.
2. Focus on the small things.
Set yourself some particular task during the day: for example, look for interesting garbage cans, or document the average prices of everyday items around the city you’re visiting, or shoot a photo essay showing people waiting for public transport. Get back to the nitty-gritty of experiencing a new place.
3. Change your plans.
Once while I was living in Europe I got a bit overexcited about booking short weekend getaways in new cities across eastern Europe. Distressingly, every city started to look the same. I wised up and changed plans one weekend to head up to Hamburg and visit friends instead. Changing the activities definitely helped get my travel appetite back.
4. Get philosophical.
Have a good talking to yourself about why you’re traveling. Do you just want to add countries to a list of places you’ve visited, or do you want to know something more about the world, or even about yourself? You might have started out traveling just as something to do, but if you keep traveling for any length of time there must be reasons why it’s important to you. Clarify them and adjust your trip to suit your goals.
5. Learn something.
Stop traveling to see things. Get a new angle: travel to Spain and book into an intensive language course. Go to Mexico and enroll in a cooking course. Join a volunteer program in Brazil. Sometimes people focus on travel as a way of collecting mental souvenirs instead of just trying to extend themselves.
6. Go home.
The ultimate cure for travel weariness. A week of sleeping in your own bed, eating your regular breakfast cereal and perhaps even the unspeakable act of going to work every day — you’ll be ready for another cathedral in no time.