A very patient elephant gives me his leg to help me mount up. Elephant Conservation Center, Sayaboury, Laos.
When preparing for a trip, it’s instinctual to plan a full schedule in order to get the most out of your journey. This crammed itinerary may look good on paper but could come back to haunt you in the end. Even if you only have a week of time available to travel, it may not be ideal to pack those 7 days full of sightseeing and things to do.
I’ve noticed that the longer I travel and the more I do, the less I appreciate things later in the trip (especially if I am not taking care of myself). Travel fatigue, or the correlation between appreciation and exhaustion, is a common occurrence among many travelers. After traveling for a long time, or packing a ton of activities into a small amount of time, people find themselves going through the motions without fully appreciating what it is they are doing or seeing.
The more shitty you feel, the less fun you’ll have. Period.
By understanding your limits and knowing how to pace yourself, you can get more of what you set out for in the first place: enjoyment! On my most recent 8-month trip around South East Asia, I covered over 23,000 miles while visiting 50+ cities. It was amazing to see and do so much but it was an uphill battle trying to stay fresh in order to take pleasure in everything. Here are 4 lessons I learned that will help keep you going, seeing and doing as much as possible while still loving every second of it.
1) Sleep is king
Nothing wears you out like frequent travel and no amount of coffee or Red Bull can make up for not getting a proper night’s rest. When flying, studies have shown that your body can take a full day to recover for each hour spent in the air. This means that a 7 hour flight could take your body a FULL WEEK to recover. One way to speed this recovery time up is to make sure to sleep 8-9 hours a night and hydrate properly. The longer you travel the more you realize that your energy is finite. Scheduling enough time to sleep will keep a smile on your face and provide you with enough oomph to adapt to and enjoy all that you are doing and seeing.
Scheduling sleep time is the easy part but ensuring good, quality sleep is a different story. Make earplugs and eye masks essential packing items and try to lay off of the booze as it can cause a restless night. I know too well how easy it is to have a few with new friends and stay up late on a trip, but allowing for an occasional relaxing night in makes all the difference later in your travels.
2) Plan downtime
If your itinerary is packed to the brim with sightseeing and activities, chances are you’ll wear yourself out much earlier than you think. To save energy and get the most out of your trip, treat relaxation and downtime as things that need planned. This can be as easy as setting some time out of each day to lay out at the beach or check e-mails in the hotel room. If you have some work to do, plan out time to do this in between activities to let your body rest and reset your mind. Reading and light exercise (going for a swim, or doing a few pushups) are my go-to’s for breaking up a long day of exploring.
3) You can’t see and do everything
It’s normal to feel the urge of wanting to cram as much as you can into your trip. I’m guilty of this on many occasions. The more I travel, the more I realize that quality trumps quantity.
Are you really dead set on visiting your 15th temple in 3 days?
Would you normally be interested in visiting a ceramics museum?
Asking yourself these questions is a useful strategy when worrying about burning yourself out. When cutting out a few activities you aren’t crazy about, you will find yourself better able to enjoy the interesting ones.
4) Remember your initial intentions
So you’re tired, your legs are sore and just about everything anyone says or does annoys you. In a normal situation, you would take some time to yourself to rest and regroup. But alas, you are traveling! Time to power through it and do everything possible… right? Of course not! Why create memories that will have negative feelings attached because you’re worn out and exhausted?
When finding yourself on the verge of collapse, take a second to pause and reflect on your initial intentions of traveling. Was your goal to wear yourself out and half-ass your trip in an agitated state? Probably not. Remembering these intentions will make you slow down and focus on why you set out on your journey. Sometimes relaxing with friends or reading a book in a beautiful setting is what’s most important.
Do you have any other techniques to avoid burning yourself out? Have you incorporated meditation into your routine on the road? Let me know in the comments below!
Nick Waterhouse is the founder of AirBuds, Ltd. and BackpackingWithaBusiness.com. When not starting new projects, he is exploring far-off lands or making music with his friends. Feel free to contact him at BackpackingWithaBusiness@gmail.com.