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Travelling is a wonderful experience, but sometimes it can get you down | © Roberto Nickson/Unsplash
Travelling is a wonderful experience, but sometimes it can get you down | © Roberto Nickson/Unsplash

Four Symptoms of the Travel Blues and How to Beat Them

Picture of James Hale
Updated: 17 May 2017

While travel can be the stuff that dreams are made of, any frequent or long-term traveller knows that it’s not all adventure and excitement. Every now and then the travel blues descend, and it’s important to know how to beat them.

Whether you’ve gone on holiday for three weeks, or been backpacking for six months, if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, chances are you’re a little fed up of being on the move. Here are a few of the most common problems, and some tips on how to overcome them – to get back to your usual globe-trotting self.

You’re exhausted

Travel can be exhausting. Uncomfortable flights, delays, ten-hour coach journeys – when you’re sitting in un-ergonomic seats for hours it’s impossible to relax. Shared sleeping spaces can also make it difficult, because you have to be socially ‘on’ far more than you would be at home – and if your accommodation is less than desirable, unwinding there can be tricky.

Then there’s the full itinerary of sightseeing and location-hopping to think about. Throw in a cold or dodgy tummy and you can become pretty miserable. Furthermore, if you’re travelling digital-nomad style, you have to do all of this while simultaneously making a living. Yeesh.

The cure

In extreme cases, all this can end in burnout – a kind of physical and mental exhaustion that will leave you completely debilitated. If feelings of tiredness are starting to get to you, clear your schedule. Rather than heading on if you like a location, just stay there a while longer, and turn down any onerous social engagements.

The key is remembering to rest, and take as long as you need to rejuvenate. There’s also plenty of evidence to suggest that twenty minutes of meditation every day has various benefits for burnout recovery; if you find yourself approaching a bit of a meltdown, commit yourself to regular peace and quiet, and some lazy days, until you feel better. 

You’ve become jaded

Maybe you’ve gone away and the experience is not what you imagined, or perhaps you’ve been travelling so long that one white-sanded paradise looks much like the others. If you find yourself yawning outside the Taj Mahal, irritated with the people you meet, or annoyed that your hotel is looking a little tired despite its spectacular surroundings, you may well have become jaded.

No longer enjoying yourself while travelling can feel pretty catastrophic, but it doesn’t mean you have to get the first flight home.

The cure

It’s part of the bizarre nature of human beings that we have the ability to get bored with just about anything , which is why even billionaires can get discontented. You need to put the effort into rediscovering your passion. Re-embrace the mundane, take the time to truly appreciate a good meal or lovely view, and start to manage your expectations.

Not every experience is going to be amazing, and travel doesn’t always look like something straight out of Instagram – change your plans and surprise yourself with something unexpected.

You’re feeling lonely

Homesickness can creep up on you, and lone travellers can really struggle with feeling isolated and disconnected. Even those who’ve travelled with their families – for example someone who follows their partner’s international jobs – can become lonely, and the feeling is very psychologically tiring.

So what do you do when you want nothing more than a meal cooked by your mother, the cosy familiarity of home, or the chance to put down roots?

The cure

First off, there’s no law that says you have to keep travelling. There’s no point ticking off your bucket list if you’re truly not enjoying it. But if the advantages of travel still appeal to you despite your loneliness, then there are things you can do.

Keep your friends and family updated of your whereabouts and demand postcards and letters – something as simple as a handwritten letter is something you can treasure. Get on Skype whenever you need to, and make an effort to introduce yourself to locals and fellow travellers. It will be the first step in becoming more connected with those around you.

You’re finding other cultures alienating

No matter how open minded, adventurous and culturally curious you are, you can feel lost in a country that’s very unlike your own. Whether it’s as simple as going from lush green surroundings to a desert landscape, it can be a culture shock.

Not knowing the language, finding the food a challenge, or misunderstanding subtle social cues, your status as ‘foreigner’ can be an alienating one. However strong our common humanity, small differences can be discombobulating.

The cure

No matter how confusing and remote you find another culture, the fact is that you are in the midst of it, and human beings are very adaptable. It may take time, but soon the things you found strange will become second nature, whether it’s Australian abbreviations (‘arvo’, ‘mozzie’ and ‘servo’ to name but a few), deadpan Russian directness or careful Japanese etiquette.

Also, when in doubt, no one’s going to mind if you ask – even if you explain that you are finding it very different there, someone will often be happy to take you under their wing. Most people find guiding others through the quirks of their culture fun and amusing – you might even make some friends as a result.

Travelling is exciting, inspiring and truly magical. But like all things, sometimes we can lose sight of that magic – it doesn’t say anything bad about our character, it just shows us we’re human.

With a bit of thought, and by taking the time to reconnect with ourselves, and what matters to us, we can regain that fire that inspired us to step out of the door in the first place.