Last Updated: 03/16/20 | March 16th, 2020
The travel slump.
It happens to us all. After months on the road, you wake up one day and feel a little off. Travel doesn’t seem as exciting as it used to be. You’re bored, tired, and uninterested.
You start to think, “What’s wrong with me? I’m seeing and doing amazing stuff every day. Why don’t I love it anymore?”
This is the slump — and it happens to us all.
When you first set out, travel is exciting and new. You’re meeting different people from around the world, experiencing new activities, trying different food, and exploring exotic lands.
There’s this perception—from both travelers and nontravelers alike—that travel is all excitement, all the time. Before I’d set off, I’d even indulged that perception myself. It’s natural, even if it’s not correct. Think back to some of the highlights from your past: how many of them include waiting in line at the grocery store, holding a pole on the bus, being stuck in traffic, filing your taxes? We edit those sorts of mundane moments out of our past. But we also preemptively edit those sorts of things out of our future. We treat anticipated travel like a highlight reel that plays in advance. That’s why the planning phase is always so much fun.
Burnout can seem like the ultimate in ingratitude. What’s there to be tired of? You have complete freedom. You’re on an adventure that most people only dream of taking. You are seeing famous attractions, meeting people from all over the world, trying new cuisine, learning new languages. You don’t have any responsibilities. You get to do whatever you want, whenever you want. There’s nothing to get in your way of any of your craziest desires or whims.
And what, you’re over it?
But one day you realize your travels have become a routine: you wake up, sightsee, meet other travelers, ask and get asked the same questions, pack your bag, trek to the next destination, and do it all over again in a new place.
You get sick of constantly trying to find your bus or hostel in countries whose language you don’t speak. You’re tired of making plans from scratch each day. You’re worn out of seeing new friends take the bus out of town, never to be heard from again. The quotidian parts of life that you take for granted at home—finding food that won’t make you sick, figuring out where to clean your laundry, communicating about bus schedules or menus—become tedious chores.
You have to learn a brand-new set of social norms at each stop. You have to restart your life again and again, in a new place and with new people. As much as the backdrop changes, nomad life can come to resemble an unending Groundhog Day.
A friend recently emailed me about this problem. He and his partner are five months into their trip and suddenly aren’t having as much fun as they used to. They just aren’t “feeling it” as much he said to me. He wanted to know what was wrong and if this was normal.
“Nothing is wrong,” I said. “It is completely normal.”
Many long-term travelers face the slump on their trip.
For example, after four and a half months traveling around the United States, my last weeks weren’t spent sightseeing new cities but rather watching Netflix and eating with friends. After moving every few days for so long, I needed a break. Luckily, I was heading home to relax, but if I wasn’t, I would have done what I told my friend he should do:
Stop and mix it up.
The slump is easily curable because it is an illness born out of routine. You went traveling to add excitement to your life and yet suddenly you feel like saying, “Another damn church/temple/waterfall? Whatever.” How many beautiful cathedrals, mountains, or beaches can you see in a short period of time before you become a little desensitized?
When travel becomes routine, it loses its edge, but there are two easy ways to fix it::
First, stop where you are. Spend time in one place. Part of why you are feeling the way you do is because you’re running around so much. Changing locations every few days is tiring. You’re constantly unpacking and packing again while also trying to see as much as possible. Life becomes a blur, a series of photos.
So slow down.
Take a break from travel.
Stay where you are, get to know the place more deeply, become a regular. Watch Netflix, read, and sleep. One day you’ll find you have your mojo back. When that happens, move on again.
Second, mix up your routine. My friends are digital nomads, work a lot on the road, and spend a lot of time in Airbnbs.
I told them they should stay at hostels or Couchsurf instead, join a pub crawl, or use a site like EatWith to meet locals.
What makes travel so exciting is the variety. Every day is a new day filled with endless possibilities. You can be or do whatever you want.
However, just like anything else in life, when it becomes a routine, the excitement fades.
So break out of your routine. If you are staying in hostels, Couchsurf instead. Use Meetup.com to find local groups with similar interests. Skip all the activities you normally would do and attend that festival you heard about instead.
The slump happens to the best of us. Travel is like a battery, not an unlimited wellspring. You need to recharge it every so often. When you feel the slump, it’s time to stop and recharge.
By slowing down and changing your routine, the slump will disappear.
And, as you head out on the road again, the excitement and energy you had at the beginning will come back and travel will ber wonderful again.
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner. It’s my favorite search engine because it searches websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- SafetyWing (best for everyone)
- Insure My Trip (for those 70 and over)
- Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)
Want to travel for free?
Travel credit cards allow you to earn points that can be redeemed for free flights and accommodation. They are what keep me traveling so much for so little. Check out my guide to picking the right card and my current favorites to get started and see the latest best deals.
Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.