Full-Time Travel Burnout: How to Avoid it

Traveling full time is an amazing way to see the world, experience the cultures of many places, and meet people from all walks of life. It has a downside that most people don’t talk about: travel burnout. While we were on the road for many months, we kept our pace of cramming many activities into each day, walking tens of thousands of steps, and then crashing, just to do it all over again. That lifestyle is not sustainable and needs to have a better balance. Here are some tips on how you can avoid travel burnout and balance your full-time travels with some downtime.

Aaron laying down in front of a snowy waterfall in Norway

What is travel burnout?

Have you ever felt both physically and mentally exhausted from traveling hard for a long period of time? This happens when each day feels like the last and you really desire a break even though you want to hit those last few attractions before moving to another city. We travel hard, and sometimes joke we will rest when we are dead. But we really cannot undergo a year-long trip or longer at that pace. We have to have downtime.

A cairn in front of the peaks of Fitz Roy in Argentina

When we are burned out from travel, we get in a nasty mood. We miss a bus, and all hell breaks loose. It is not fun to be so easily aggravated. Then to compensate, we will drink a lot or eat poorly. We feel disengaged and just gently pass through that next museum without paying attention to it. Things get stressful easily and our legs just don’t want to take the next step.

The signs of travel burnout

  • You feel drained, anxious, or stressed when you shouldn’t be
  • Places that should excite you are boring
  • Picking up your backpack and moving again is a big hassle
  • You miss the comforts of home
  • Resting feels more important than traveling
  • It feels like you need a vacation from your travels

We have learned a lot from our travels and better know how to adapt to travel burnout before we crash and burn.

Ways to adapt to Travel burnout

When we were on the road for months, we went through several bouts of travel burnout. However, there are ways you can adapt and overcome it. There are many things you can do to ease the effects as you go. Here are a few of the ones we learned from our travels.

A dog lounging on a rock beach just outside of Omis, Croatia

Build in downtime

It is important to build in downtime, to do a lot of nothing. Spend a day lounging on a beach while reading a book. Do half-day trips and then watch Netflix or sit in a park people watching. Stay at your home base and do something mindless like playing a game or watching YouTube videos. The point here is to rest and recharge.

Feet on a hammock, with trees and a Costa Rica beach in the background

Take care of your health

Sleep, exercise, and eating right are all very important, and not doing so can negatively affect everything you experience. It is fun to go try all the local cuisine and stay up late drinking, but that is not a sustainable way of life. There has to be a balance to keep your wellbeing in check.

We cooked most of our meals while traveling and splurged on meals out when it was important to us. However, some of those meals at home were not as healthy because we were budget traveling and cheaper foods are usually the worst for you. Try to get some greens on the plate.

Exercising was never a problem because we overdid it most of the time, walking over five miles each day. Sometimes overexercising can be worse than not exercising at all because it puts a lot of stress on the body, both mentally and physically.

Aaron and Brianna, looking tired after a long hike with Brianna's dad in Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile

Meet people

Meeting people is a perfect way to get your mind and body away from the wear of travel. Many times we found a local meetup group or events through couchsurfing. Some of these events are  social at a local bar or restaurant. If we stayed with couchsurfers, sometimes they would show us around the area and we could just enjoy seeing new places without all the planning involved. Plus, it is an outstanding way to exchange culture and see things you would never find on your own.

Aaron and Brianna posing with their couchsurfing hosts in Santiago, Chile

Take a longer break

Taking a longer break could mean going home for a month and then resuming travels, or even taking a break while on the road. You could get an Airbnb for two weeks in a remote area where you are forced to do very little but relax. There are plenty of options for longer breaks, especially in off-season months when the weather isn’t cooperating.

Aaron and Brianna posing with a couchsurfer, Leo, at Cannon Beach, Oregon

When travel burned us out, we looked forward to our forced breaks. This came in the form of house-sitting for cats. We signed up with Trusted Housesitters which is a platform used to find people who need someone to watch over their homes and that meant free lodging. We had various stays lined up all around Europe well in advance. This planted us for usually a week or two in the same place, and many of the locations were not primary cities with lots of things to do. These were perfect for taking breaks and petting cute little bundles of joy.

A longhair tuxedo cat perched on a porch railing outside a house in Las Cruces, Chile

Have a splurge day

Find a day to just go to town and do something comforting. This is different for everyone and can completely depend on where you are. It could be as simple as staying at a beach resort or having an afternoon of eating your way through a city. The possibilities are endless.

Wine in front of a palm tree and sunset in Namibia

We took an afternoon to go to the Thermae Spa in Bath U.K. to relax. While it was expensive, we really felt a lot better afterward. It was just what we needed for our tired legs and worth every penny.

Another splurge activity was going to the Okonjima Nature Reserve to see cheetahs and leopards. The reserve has catered meals, lodging, and game drives. We didn’t have to walk anywhere and just enjoyed choosing our own activities.

A leopard at sunset in Okonjima Nature Reserve in Namibia

Go with the flow

When you are on vacation, every detail is usually planned because you only have a couple of weeks to do a trip. Obviously, when you are full-time traveling, it is not possible to plan every detail. Being spontaneous allows you to enjoy your travels and can sometimes take you in directions you never thought of. Take the cheapest flight out, regardless of where it takes you. Relinquish your control of things and just live. Plans will always change and it is often for the better. Many of our best experiences were possible by deviating from our plans.

Also, recognize that you simply cannot do absolutely everything everywhere, and attempting to do so will only leave you disappointed. So if you find one activity is taking longer than you planned, it’s ok to shelve the rest of your day’s plans for another day or even another trip.

Aaron laying on the beach behind words he carved into the sand in Costa Rica: pura vida

Sustaining Full-time Travel

Full-time travel is a lifestyle and not a vacation. We learned the hard way that we need to travel slower to avoid travel burnout. While it is great to have 20 passport stamps, we should have narrowed that down to spend more time in fewer places. This would allow us to live there longer and not have to rush through all the highlights in two weeks per country. Staying longer allows more time to do all the above ways to avoid travel burnout more easily.

Now over to you.

What’s the longest you’ve been on the road, and how did you ensure you continued to enjoy it without burning out? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Psst… do you love reading about full-time travel?  You might also enjoy these:

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