After 2 years of near constant traveling, I knew I was bound to run into a few snags. I’ve had some medical emergencies and I’ve had a few run-ins with theft. I’ve been alone, lost, and even missed a couple of flights. I thought I’d seen it all and felt it all, up until recently, until I had a full blown travel melt down.
Recently, my new iPhone 6s was stolen out of my purse during a meet up with some friends. My business is completely run from “home” and I work directly with clients, so losing my phone made work, photography, and communication near impossible. It’s one thing to drop your phone or even break it and you know it’s your fault, but it’s another to feel violated and have something taken from you.
Before you say, “what a snob!”, let me make it clear that I know I’m truly lucky to even have an iPhone in the first place. I know the situation could have been worse, and that I wasn’t physically hurt. I’m aware that there are terrible things happening in the world and I am truly grateful for where I am and that I can even sit here and type this story. But this was just the beginning of many small things that, isolated, I wouldn’t bat an eyelash at, but combined, I wanted to weep uncontrollably.
To continue with some brief examples, I am a US citizen living in Spain with a regular tourist visa. My time here was coming to an end and I needed to find a way to travel out of the Schengen, still make it back for 3 weeks of promised travels with my sister in September, and spend as much time with my boyfriend as possible (he’s British, it’s a long distance thing). Combine these with some tough clients, a very tight budget, a short window for decision-making, and a few more run ins with bad luck, and you get a stressed out nomad whose about to crack.
Now, everyone is different and has a different breaking point. For me personally, I’d hit a really low low. Nothing was going right and my bad luck seemed to only get worse. I found myself wondering what the heck was I doing and if I’d made the right decisions in my life (yes, it turned into that mid-twenties kind of melt down). It wasn’t until I was alone, the world crumbling at my feet (or at least it felt that way), that I finally gave my boyfriend a call while he was at work and admitted that I’d come undone. Well, I did more than admit, I sobbed like a terrible two-year-old.
The point of my story is that everyone has their limits regardless of the lifestyle you lead. Seeing photos and posts from long-term travelers who appear to be living the dream is just the surface of what travel really is. Travel is not always beautiful views, delicious food, and seamless movement. It gets dirty, confusing, scary, and lonely. You get sick, valuables get stolen, and you get lost every once in a while. This is the true reality of being a traveler and it’s what makes traveling the challenging and rewarding lifestyle that myself and many others have grown to adore.
Since then, I’ve embraced my melt-down and tried to learn and grow from it. I’ve developed some steps to get through my travel woes and to help prevent myself from getting burnt out while on the road.
- Remember it will Pass – In the moment when everything feels like it can’t get any worse, try to remember and tell yourself that you will feel better again. The loneliness, heartache, sadness, and pain you feel is only temporary and you will feel happy and free again. When you’re at a low point, remember some of the best times you’ve had with friends and know that some of best times of your life have yet to come and are waiting for you to discover them.
- Let out the Waterworks – It is completely OKAY to cry. You may let it out to some strangers you just met on a pub crawl, your bunkmate at a hostel, or by yourself, but it is ok. Don’t keep all that to yourself.
- Take some Deep Breaths – “Pull yourself together. Relax. Chill out!” These are phrases that put me over the edge if someone tells them to me when I’m already in a bad mood or angry. But they are phrases that you should tell yourself after you’ve had a good cry and been the MVP of your own pity party. After you’ve let it all out, regain your confidence, remember that you’re traveling the WORLD and are on the best adventure of your LIFE.
- Re-evaluate the Situation – You feel like everything is caving in and anything that could go wrong… did. Now it’s time to fix them. Make a list starting with the smallest tasks or problems first.
- One Step at a Time –Well, it’s time to grab those troubles by the horns and knock out your to-do list. Tackle the obstacles that can be fixed right away, then move on to the harder things. Knocking out little problems whittles down your list and relieves some pressure from the situation.
Steps to Prevent a Travel Melt-down
- Slow Down – There is a lot to see in this world and the reality is, you’re not going to visit every monument, national park, museum, and restaurant in 5 countries over the span of a month. Cramming too much into your schedule is a recipe for over-doing it and you probably won’t remember half the things you saw anyway. Relax, plan for some days off, and set a realistic schedule
- Take some “Me Time” – Hostel life can be godsend for solo travelers, but it can also be quite overwhelming. Staying in dorms can mean you’re constantly surrounded by people and change and this can lead to never fully feeling at rest or relaxed. Plan a private room once or twice just to get some assured peace and quiet. Make your way to a park where you can lie down and collect your thoughts. Tap into one of your personal outlets that you know relieves stress, like music or reading, so you can stop it from building.
- Do Something Familiar – Netflix and chill doesn’t have to just be a way to get with someone. Take a night off from partying to watch a movie, read, or listen to some music that makes you happy. If I’ve gone too long without listening to some of my favorite artists, I really feel like something’s missing in my life. Sometimes all it takes is a walk with my iPod to get me feeling myself again.
- Create a Routine – All the change of moving from city to city can make you feel a bit scatterbrained. Develop some habits that you can do every day no matter where you are in the world so you can have some stability in your ever-changing life.
- Change the Scenery – If you have a few weeks of big cities on the agenda but you can’t stand walking through another museum, switch it up! Head to the beach or the mountains for some nature and fresh air so that all those big cities don’t become a blur.
- Settle Down for a Bit – This is a big one that helps me reset and and recharge. I love just stopping at a place where I really enjoy the area and the people I’m with and stay a bit longer than expected. Sometimes, I’ll even start volunteering at the hostel I’m at just to give myself some routine and time to get to know the place better.
- Stay in Touch – Don’t forget about your family and friends back home. Maybe you’ve gone traveling specifically to get a break from your home life, but that doesn’t mean you should completely shut everyone out. Try to keep connected with a few close friends so they feel they can still confide in you and you feel like you can vent when you’re feeling blue.
- Head Home – I’ll never recommend this to someone taking just a few months trip because it takes a few months to get into the rhythm of travel in the first place. But for long-term travelers that have been gone over a year and are feeling a bit down, popping home for a visit can be just what you need to recharge. I suggest planning an onward trip so you don’t get caught up in your old life again [if you had more travel plans anyway]. Be sure to keep this as a last resort because you don’t want to feel a life-long regret of giving up on something that seemed too difficult at the time.
Everyone handles stress differently, but stress in an unfamiliar place can be a completely different ballgame. These are tips that I’ve discovered work best for me and I suggest trying variations to see what works best for you.
What helps you prevent or recover from travel burn-outs?
Alyssa lives for exploring, nature, diving, food, photography, music, tattoos, and most of all travel. Her biggest passion is inspiring and helping others to get out, see more than the ordinary, travel off the beaten path, and truly experience all the world has to offer – so much so that she turned her love into a career as a travel planner and blogger. Having travelled with her family from a very young age, she should have known her one true love right off the bat, and yet it took her a few years of wandering and over 60 countries later to learn the direction she was meant for. Check out her travel blog www.alyssaallday.com and instagram, @alyssaallday.