We were pretty tired coming into our time in Ireland last week, but we kept our eyes on the dangling carrot of an upcoming month in London. While we absolutely loved Ireland, after a busy 4-day tour, 2-day conference and 3-day tour in the Emerald Isle, we were spent – emotionally, physically and mentally.
It isn’t just that we had a busy week in Ireland. I was looking back at my travel notes and realized that we haven’t slept in the same bed for more than 4 consecutive nights in 50 days and the average is actually less than 2. (Here is the list of destinations and nights stayed for the first 6 months if you are interested.)
Yes, traveling is indeed amazing. It can also be exhausting. Its important to give serious thought to your pace of travel both before leaving home and while on the road.
Why travel can be exhausting
If you haven’t traveled for an extended period, you may not realize the toll that being constantly on the road can take. I know I didn’t fully appreciate it. Traveling requires that you are on alert, attentive and in problem-solving mode. If you are traveling quickly from place to place, it requires that you are almost always in that mode. There is no auto-pilot, no familiar environments, no established habits. There are constant decisions, not just about what to go see in a city, but about mundane things like, can you wash laundry here and if so, will it be dry before you need to pack it again. I’ve actually found myself breathing a sigh of relief when breakfast is included with our lodging not because it saves us money, but because it saves us from having to make early morning pre-coffee decisions.
In addition, the way you choose to travel can add stresses. Frequent stays in the homes of strangers through Couchsurfing and Airbnb have been an awesome opportunity to meet really fantastic people, and we have loved every stay. However, these stays also require varying degrees of assessing and fitting into someone else’s space and schedule.
By chosing to keep our travel plans fairly open, mostly booking just far enough out to keep the prices low, we get maximum flexibility to adjust plans. We also spend time and energy on the road finding wifi and researching and coordinating the logistics of planes, trains, buses and lodging for our upcoming destinations. The faster we travel the more of this we do.
How we are preventing travel burnout
Individual preferences for speed of travel certainly vary and until you’ve been on the road for a month or two it is hard to know how you will react. Many people do the 10-day trip to Europe where they pack in nearly a city a day and that works out fine. I would be one of those people. For some people, that is already not their idea of fun. When you stretch out the length of the trip, any discomfort gets compounded. No one can keep the pace of a 2-week vacation for a year. And even if they could, who would want to.
So, we are learning. We are learning that Daryle and I have different tolerances for faster travel and a different recovery period. This means its something we have to talk about on a regular basis. If you are traveling with someone, expect to talk about this and expect to disagree.
We’ve found we seem to function best when we base in a location for 3 or more nights. We would rather base in one location and explore out from there on day trips, than take a linear roadtrip with a new hotel each night. This is easier to plan and easier to manage since you only have to unpack and repack once. We find the feeling of coming “home” after a long day is really worthwhile. Three nights is the minimum we like to stay in one place. There are times when we need to be moving faster, like on our tours of Ireland last week, so afterward, we balance them out with a chance to reset. This means lodging where we can be comfortable and spend atleast 3 nights including one full day with no plans beyond sleeping in, doing laundry and catching up on internet work.
Besides having more chance to enjoy the journey, there are other benefits to traveling more slowly as well, not the least of which is that its easier to keep the travel budget low, which I’ll get to in another post.
With all this in mind, there is a good chance we will be ushering in a slower-moving second half of the journey when we leave London next month.
If you’ve taken a long journey, we’d love to hear how you’ve paced your travel. Do you have any guidelines or advice?
Slow travel for me definitely. I also like to stay with people, rather than in hotels, as I feel you get far more out of a place than rushing around from one place to another seeing the “sights.” To me travel is more than the opportunity for pretty pictures, but the chance to experience a different culture and that can only be done at a slower pace I feel.
Yep, we certainly seeing the benefits of the slower approach. And after all it is a big reason we chose to take a long trip like we are – but we have still been prone to trying to do too much. I particularly find it hard not to try to slip in extra things that we are “going to be close to” or that I could “easily squeeze in”. Choosing quality over quantity inevitably means you are choosing NOT to see and experience some things and places. In the long run I do believe it is worth it, but it is hard. We also much prefer the “staying with locals” route. I think I’ll be writing about all the different ways of staying we’ve been doing and their pros and cons soon.
Agree on all counts. In Europe, I tried to stay at least 3 nights in most places, takes a full day just to cognitively adjust, and I was still exhausted. The nice thing about stopping in London is it’s about as close to the US as you’re going to get. In Europe, I knew there was a system to learn, and I just had to figure it out. In developing countries, well, you know. Anyway, as I traveled, I had most of my hostels set in stone, and had a general idea what I wanted to see in each place, which was a short list. I didn’t want to see certain places as much as get a feel for places. But at some point, you just have to plan in days to not do anything specific, and maybe not go far, and just say, “I’m going to sleep in, get coffee with a book, and we’ll have dinner somewhere.” It sounds like you two are figuring out some good rhythms.
Everyone has their own rhythms of course, but it sounds like you arrived at a few of the same conclusions we have. We are enjoying staying put and looking into doing more of it in the coming months. And yes, we are also finding England very close to being in the US in many ways. Certainly more so than anywhere we’ve been. The shift is more of getting used to big city than the shift to another country and culture. And of course trying to maintain some semblance of budget.