Travel Burnout. I must start with this disclaimer – I still get it. But I’m getting better at taking care of myself on the road. I also think I learned a lot about travel weariness in this past year.
In September of last year I received an offer to join the National Tour of the Broadway
musical ‘Once.’ That afternoon I entered the rehearsal room and a week later I was flown to Grand Forks, North Dakota. From there we flew to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and then hit the road traveling across the nation, performing almost every night. For a performer who loves to travel this was a dream come true. We had a few weeks off over the winter holidays so without taking a breath, I jumped on a red eye to Europe – first stopping over to visit a friend in London then on to Rome to visit with my sister and brother-in-law and travel throughout Italy. Then I jumped on a plane to arrive in California just in time for Christmas, we drove down to the ranch to see my Grandfather, and then my best friend and I boarded a plane to spend New Year’s Eve in NYC before I had to hop on a flight to Denver, Colorado to rejoin the tour for 3 1/2 more months.
Everything I did in those eight months was wonderful. All of the sights I got to see, the variety of photo ops, the people I got to hang out with and meet, the food I tasted, the music I heard, the theater I saw… But I was tired throughout most of those eight months and was growing wearier every month. I was often grouchy and not able to enjoy every moment to the fullest. And it has taken being at home these past few weeks, my camera stashed away in the cupboard, sleeping in every day I can, being the laziest me I can be to recover from my burnout.
I am hoping that as I recover, I am finally able to go back through all the the journeys I had and to finally share some of them with you (I was too burnt out during my travels to write about them these past few months!). From the sites of Colorado to the unexpected mix of history in Tulsa, the charm of Austin, Texas, all the way down to Southern Italy (an off-the-beaten-path must for any traveler to Italy). But for now, here are some tips for how to attempt to avoid burnout on both long and short adventures:
- You don’t have to do everything. This is something I am constantly relearning and reminding myself of. I want to take advantage of every moment I have in every new place. But this will lead not only to physical burnout but I’ve found it can lead to mental burnout as well. Soon, I will be so overwhelmed with “new” that I just won’t care. And by slowing down or taking a break I have ended up with some of my favorite travel memories. For example, while planning our trek through Peru my traveling companion asked if we could skip visiting the Colca Canyon and just take a day off in Arequipa. I kept pressuring her up until the day before we reached Arequipa to change her mind but I myself was so tired and sunburned that I decided to let it go. People were shocked to hear that we’d go to Arequipa and skip out on visiting the canyon. Instead, we went to a popular local spot for lunch (and had pig’s feet vinaigrette for the first time – I don’t recommend it), then spent an afternoon sitting on the roof of our bed & breakfast with a
breathless view of the surrounding mountains, hanging our laundry out to dry, and eventually chatting with some fellow weary travelers, exchanging travel stories and tips as we watched the sun set. In the evening we went for a stroll and stumbled upon some galleries of unique local art and had one of our top five meals at a restaurant where the proprietor was so taken with us that he invited us into the kitchen and showed us all the old techniques he uses to cook the food. Every moment of that day happened simply by chance and it all happened because we let ourselves slow down and not do what we were “supposed” to do. Those moments are still some of my favorite memories of Peru.
- Eat healthy foods. As someone with food allergies this is sometimes very hard to do. And so my goal simply becomes: eat something, fill that hole in your stomach. However, that’s not good enough when I’m home and that’s certainly not good enough when I’m on the road and already pushing my body more than usual. Trying to always eat healthy meals is not always easy and it’s okay to have days when you don’t. But I recommend always keeping a mental note in your head of what you’ve had and at least once or twice a week treat yourself to a hearty meal. While in Italy I caught myself often having gelato for breakfast, pizza or pasta for lunch, gelato for an afternoon snack, and then more pizza or pasta for dinner. All of it was delicious but I’m going to sound like your mom for a moment: You need fruits & vegetables. And protein (yummy cheeses don’t count). It’s worth taking the time out of sightseeing and out of your wallet.
If you’re traveling on a shoestring, try to find a hostel or bed & breakfast with a kitchen, buy groceries (which in some countries can be a marvelous adventure in itself, seeing what the grocery trends are there or strolling through a local farmer’s market). And try to always eat a hearty breakfast, gelato will not keep you going for very long.
- Plan in some nap time. Some of you may be thinking, “duh,” while some of you may be thinking that’s a waste of time. I’m one who is usually with the waste of time group but I’ve found that naps can be a great way to revive oneself and to have the energy to properly enjoy the second half of the day. Naps are also great for those travelers who like me, are sometime so excited for the next day that you don’t get a proper night’s rest.
I think the simple way to sum up these tips is to simply say: Don’t forget to take care of yourself the way your mom would tell you too. It’s easy to forget but it’s worth being vigilant of your health. I think it makes for a better trip. And take it easy, you don’t have to do everything (my mom’s #1 tip to me).