When things aren’t going my way, I can usually chalk it up to a bad day and hope to fare better tomorrow. It’s when those days turn into weeks or months that I realize I either need an attitude adjustment, leave the city/country/continent I’m in, or worst case scenario, just go home. As I traveled, I picked up on a few warning signs that tell me it’s time to change my surroundings.
Jet Lag is Winning the Battle
Lucky for me, I didn’t experience jet lag on the road, until I actually came home that is. It took me a solid week to adjust back to the EST time zone, and it was my own fault for not sleeping on the 12 hour flight home. Traveling East, jet lag can be a monster to overcome even when you try to sleep 12 hours on a nocturnal schedule. When all I can focus on is how tired I am, I can barely muster up the energy to go explore new territory, and it’s a real shame, given the effort it took to get there.
Even if jet lag weren’t a problem, it’s easy to get worn out moving around every couple of weeks. Travel burnout is something not easily shaken and always has me yearning for the comforts of [a] home.
When You Start to Think Violence is the Answer
Rewind to Taipei where I made the decision to cut my trip short and go home for the holidays. For my 3-night stay in Taiwan’s capital city, one of my roommates was an older Taiwanese woman who, at first glance, seemed like one of those women you could love, adore, and think the world of, and she probably is. The problem was that I couldn’t see past her incessant pacing between her bed and suitcase that took up half the room, shuffling things around and arranging her belongings in the noisiest plastic bags known to man. This went on until about 2am EVERY SINGLE NIGHT, and this behavior seemed to accomplish nothing but disrupt my sleep.
Now, I’m not a violent person (or a diva, I promise). I tend to internalize my anger which isn’t healthy either, but for a passing moment, I actually considered screaming at her and pushing her outside to finish her business. Of course, that didn’t happen, but I didn’t let it go without 5 minutes of giving her the evil eye. Needless to say, I get a bit cranky if I don’t get my sleep. Be warned.
When the smallest things seem to take monumental effort like tying my shoes, making a phone call, or ordering food, it’s time for a change. I don’t know why such trivial things start to feel like a burden making me bounce back and forth between frustration and deep breaths. Everything I found to be easy at home has suddenly become a challenge to communicate or deal with abroad. It becomes stressful and takes the joy out of the moment. In those moments, my mind floats back to an English-speaking land where I can slur all of my words at 100mph, and the person on the other end will still be able to understand me.
Discovering local delicacies makes up for about 75% of my adventures on the road, but just like anything else, when I’m exposed to too much, it loses its appeal. I mean, seriously, there are only so many kebabs a girl can eat in a two-week timespan in Turkey. When it all starts to look, smell, and taste the same, sometimes I just end up sitting at the table staring at my food wishing for something differently delicious.
After my camera died in Israel, I relied on my iphone for all of my trip photos. Sure, it was easy to pull it out of my bag to snap a picture and check Facebook at the same time, but after a while, I just gave up. In the span of 3 countries, I was down to double digits in the number of photos I took per city. It was due to a combination of my phone’s battery draining quickly being used as a camera too frequently, poor quality photos, and fatigue from photo taking in general. Eventually, I turned to my mind’s eye to capture everything I was seeing, and as we all know, that doesn’t work for long. Towards the end of my trip, not having a proper camera left me feeling defeated and disappointed that I couldn’t try to capture the beauty of everywhere I went.
Phone Calls from Home
I am not a morning person, despite what I tell myself. When I wake up, I need food and at least a an hour before I can talk to anyone. Due to different time zones, I am more forgiving when friends and family call from back home, although I can’t promise I’ll actually answer. But when my mother calls at 6:30am in Bangkok to tell me her breast cancer came back, it’s safe to say I’ve never been more awake in my life. That was perhaps the worst moment of my trip, and it certainly played a significant role in my decision to go home early. Though she assured me that I should continue on with my journey, from the moment I hung up, I was prepared to drop everything at the drop of a hat, if matters worsened.
For those of you who are curious, my mother beat her second battle and is feeling more alive than ever. Cancer free is the way to be!
I hate to be in a position where I can’t enjoy the moment or the place I’m in, due to fatigue or what have you. So when traveling loses its luster, it’s a sign to take a break, maybe go home for a little while, rest, and re-develop my passion for doing so.