Posted: 1/12/2010 | Updated: January 26th, 2019 (More links, resources, grammar fixes)
Last month, I was traveling Greece with a friend. My friend is sort of a travel newbie. While not her first time in Europe, it was her first time traveling without the comfort of her family or a group of friends. It was her first backpacking adventure and everything we did, everywhere we went, everything we saw was exciting, breathtaking, and wondrous to her. There was always a sense of awe on her face.
One day in Athens, noticing I lacked that awe, she asked me “Do you still ever get excited about a place? You seem so unexcited about being here.”
“Of course! When I go to a new place, I love to explore!” I replied, “It’s just that….I’ve been to Athens already so that first “wow” moment is gone.”
But the implications of her question got me thinking and I realized I envied her – and all the other new travelers I meet on the road.
For them, travel is still new and exciting. It’s a wondrous moment that brings some awe-inspiring moment and new experience around every corner.
To borrow a phrase from Matthew McConaughey, new travelers stay the same age. Actually, that’s not true, they get younger. They have the same wide eyes and ask the same questions you’ve been asked a thousand times before. They want to party. They want to make new friends with everyone. Individual backpackers may come and go, but as a group, they never change.
But, for me, travel is not new. Travel is a lifestyle, an endless journey that I live every day. Some people get up and go to work. I get up and go to a new city. My travels aren’t a well-defined round-the-world trip with a start and finish date. It’s continuous.
Travel is my life.
But am I happy? Can you travel for too long? Can you lose the wonder of travel?
Yes, yes you can.
Travel burnout is real.
As one year rolled into two, two become five, five became seven, I’ve grown out of dorm rooms, pub crawls, and knocking off a to-do list of the top attractions in a city. I’ve got tired of living out of a suitcase.
Like everything in life, there will be ups and downs. One doesn’t need to travel all the time. The purpose of travel was also the purpose of flexibility: To create a life of your own desire.
Desire is not an unlimited wellspring, but a battery that needs to be recharged. Constant travel drains that battery. So if it happens to you—and it will—listen to your heart. Stop and relax. Take stock and take care of yourself. Because if you don’t, if you make my mistake, you’ll end up sitting at a desk wondering if you’ll ever get back out there again, and that is the worst feeling in the world for a nomad.
The more I travel, the more I realize travel is the only thing I want to do and I would never trade my lifestyle for a cubicle.
But eventually, it does become repetitive- more trains, more waterfalls, more beaches, more, more, more. I’ve been lost, I’ve done the hostel thing, I’ve ridden the trains, explored jungles, seen bridges, and got drunk with people from around the world. I’ve partied, I’ve slept, I’ve met thousands of faces I’ll never see again, taken day trips, and explored countless ruins.
It has become routine.
And that repetition can sometimes take the glitz out of travel. It even happens on those defined ‘around the world’ trips. I remember watching A Map for Saturday (a great movie about round the world trips) and even the characters talk about how late in their trips they suffered from that feeling of “things just being another.”
Andm so I think, have I lost the wonder of travel? Has that awe gone out of me? And, sadly, the answer is yes. It has. The wonder is gone. My love for travel hasn’t gone anywhere. And that’s not to say that there aren’t places in the world that awe and inspire me. I still get awed by moments in life. I was blown away scuba diving in Fiji. I was awed by the rice terraces in Bali. Hiking the Tongariro in New Zealand is one of the best things I’ve done. And 4 yrs later I am still in love with the Cinque Terre.
When travel became a lifestyle, it didn’t become a permanent adventure, it just becomes like life.
It will have its ups and downs.
When it does, one just needs to stay put, recharge your batteries, and go away again when you’re ready for more of that lifestyle. For more of the wonder.
Whether travel, playing tennis, teaching — do something enough and it becomes a routine. And once it’s routine, it loses its wonder. And even though I’ve lost those initial feelings you get when you start your trip, seeing it on the faces of others reminds me how life-changing travel can be sometimes and, why even without that feeling of awe, I wouldn’t change a thing about this life I’ve chosen.
Sometimes it is good to simply take a break, relax, breathe, sleep, and get your energy back. To sit around and just be.
And, I know in two weeks later, I’ll be itching to get back on the road and wondering what the hell I was bored about in the first place.
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