Last November, five months into my South America trip, I arrived in Ushuaia. The most southernmost city in the world and gateway to Antarctica, I had been excited to see it. Yet, once I was there, I hit a low. And I mean, a very deep one. I got seriously homesick and lost all my motivation to travel further. In short, I suffered from travel burnout.
While this is a condition that any traveller can experience, no matter what background or personality, I believe it can be harder for introverts to get back on top. We tend to be trapped inside our heads a lot and be hesitant to do what we need to do to feel better.
So, if you ever suffer from travel blues, I hope some of the following tips against travel burnout will help you get over it.
Realize travel burnout is normal
As I said above, travel burnout can hit anyone. It doesn’t matter how long you’re travelling for, how often you’ve already been away from home, whether you travel solo or with someone else. This is important to realize because it will help you accept how you feel without experiencing any guilt over it.
I know it can be hard. After all, you’ve looked forward to this trip, whether it’s a year-long trip of a lifetime or only a short getaway. You had planned to do so many things and pictured yourself having so much fun. How can you be unhappy now?
Believe me, I felt like that too. That still doesn’t make it true. Beating yourself up about how you feel is not going to help you. Which also applies to quite a lot of other situations in life, I should add. As introverts, we tend to overthink everything and question all our actions and feelings. Often, we’re much harder on ourselves than we would ever be on others. But in this case, you have to try to let go of that little perfectionist whispering in your ear what your trip should look like and accept the situation as it is. Once you do that, it will be much easier to move on and solve it.
When I hit that low in Ushuaia, I constantly repeated to myself that this feeling would pass. More importantly, it didn’t defy me or my trip in its totality. Repeat after me: having travel burnout does not mean you failed as a traveller.
Travel burnout is nobody’s fault
Where does travel burnout come from? This can become a burning question for those affected by it. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy to answer, as travel burnout can happen for a lot of reasons. Maybe you didn’t take enough breaks in your travels and didn’t get enough alone time to recharge batteries. Or something happened that ruined your mood for good. Maybe you’ve just been on the road for too long. But maybe, it’s none of those things and the travel blues just hits you seemingly out of nowhere.
In my case, my arrival in Ushuaia was a week before my birthday. I was all alone, without knowing anyone. Then again, it wasn’t the first time I came to a new place all by myself, and the thought of spending my birthday alone had never bothered me before. So who knows why it suddenly hit me so hard? Sometimes, it just happens, and all you can do is deal with it.
If you know the reason for why you feel down, good. It might give you some ideas on how to fight your travel burnout. But if not, don’t drive yourself crazy looking for an explanation.
Do only what makes you happy
Okay, so you had this whole itinerary planned, with all the stuff you wanted to see and do. But now, you can hardly muster the motivation to look out the window of your accommodation, much less appreciate the view. It can still be hard to let go of all your carefully made plans. That’s especially true if your time at the destination is limited and skipping things might mean you never get to do them.
However, forcing yourself to keep going when you don’t feel any enjoyment is worse. Not only will you get no benefit out of visiting all these places, but you also lower your chances of feeling better anytime soon. So the only sensible thing to do when you get travel burnout is to take a break from your itinerary. Instead, try to figure out what it is you really want to do. And if it turns out that’s sitting in bed and watching Netflix for a day, then so be it.
Take all the breaks you need
By the way, taking enough breaks is something that introverts should always keep in mind when they travel. We need longer to process information and require some down-time in between all that action to recharge, preferably away from people. When introverts get burnt out from their trip, they’ll need a lot more of it. Maybe you even have to scrap your entire itinerary for a few days.
I spent nine days in Ushuaia and didn’t do any tourist activities until the last two. Some of that was because I had a lot of work, but even in my free time, I had no desire whatsoever to go sightseeing. Instead, I headed to the local cinema and rewatched the Fantastic Beasts-sequel, because it made me feel good. Did that mean I ended up not seeing or doing a few things in Ushuaia? Sure. But when I did venture out those last two days, at least I was excited about it again. I wasn’t just dragging myself around without any motivation.
Get in touch with friends and family
This is a tip I outright failed to follow myself. In true introvert fashion, I didn’t want to bother anyone with my problems. I worried too much about what others would think if I told them what I was going through.
I was being stupid.
I firmly believe that reaching out to friends and family, even if it’s just to one person, would have helped me. Especially if one possible reason why you feel burned out is that you’re alone in a foreign place without any familiar faces. Pick a person who will understand, and reach out to them.
If you worry you don’t have such a person, reach out anyway. You don’t need to pour your heart out immediately (although you might find you want to after a while). Just having a lighthearted chat with your best friend or your family can already help to lift your spirits.
My birthday came around after I’d been in Ushuaia for a week. By now, my travel burnout had already improved somewhat. However, I hadn’t really done anything yet except being in the hostel, work, and have a little walk around town. Which was mostly to buy food, not to sightsee. I hadn’t even made it down the few metres to the sea until after several days.
I conveniently finished the project I was working on the afternoon of my birthday. Therefore, I could take the evening off to treat myself to a fancy dinner. It was more pricey than what I usually went for, but hey, it was my birthday and I needed to spoil myself after feeling so bad for a week. The next day, I finally started exploring again.
It doesn’t need to be your birthday for you to treat yourself to something nice. You deserve to spoil yourself a bit from time to time, especially when you’ve been feeling down.
Allow yourself to consider an early departure
If you apply all these tips and you’re still feeling depressed, it can be helpful to consider ending your trip early. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re actually going to do that. Simply giving yourself permission to contemplate the option can already help you feel better.
At some point during that week of my burnout, I started looking up flights to Germany. I didn’t truly intend to go home – my burnout wasn’t that bad yet. But just thinking about the possibility made me feel better. It reminded me that I always had this option, should I need it. I could board that plane anytime and head home. Also, seriously entertaining the thought of an early return in this way helped me realize that I didn’t actually want to go back yet. Thus, it served as a much-needed reminder of why I was travelling in the first place.
There’s no shame in an early departure
Of course, if you’re really still not feeling any better, there is nothing wrong with putting these thoughts into action and going home. Sometimes, in fact, breaking off a trip may be the best thing you can do for yourself. And in case you need that reminder: your wellbeing is what matters here, not what other people might think about that. In fact, in some ways, I think it takes much more courage to admit to yourself that you cannot continue a trip than to stick to it despite it bringing you no joy anymore. Sooner or later, once you feel up to it again, there surely will be the chance for another vacation. One that you can enjoy without travel burnout.
Did you ever suffer from travel blues? How did you get over it? Share your tips against travel burnout in the comments!