Travel Fatigue and How to Overcome it
A big hurdle for any traveller to overcome is travel fatigue. Simply, tiredness is a daily bug bear while travelling that can have a big negative impact on the day. Read on to hear about 4 primary culprits and my techniques and suggestions for how to overcome them!
There are many wonderful aspects of daily life when you travel.
But there's also a fair amount of waiting, walking, rucksack hauling, small talk, snoring dorm room neighbours (there’s always one), early mornings, sweaty adventures, scraped knees, job-searching, jet-lag and so on that goes it.
These things aren’t quite as wonderful and all tend to contribute to a final, frequent phenomenon of travel: tiredness and fatigue.
Tiredness is an absolutely unavoidable feature of travel that can render an amazing experience less enjoyable, which we obviously don't want.
Here are four primary culprits:
- Lack of sleep
- Exploring new places
- Poor diet
I'll talk a bit about each issue and follow up with some tips to help.
#1 - Jetlag
Assuming you fly to your destination of choice, jetlag will probably be the first issue to make you feel tired.
Once, when I got back from Thailand I was so tired I couldn’t use my knife and fork properly to cut up the pizza I was having for dinner. I was so hungry and wanted that pizza so bad, but my damn hands just refused to work.
I literally started crying into my pizza.
Yep, that happened. Jetlag can suck.
- Tip #1: try organising long flights so that you land in the evening/night. You'll be tired after your flight so this way you should wake up during the daytime, enabling your body to align itself to the local time far quicker.
- Tip #2: there's research that shows flashing a light in your eyes somehow adjusts your body clock in time for landing, reducing jet lag.
- Tip #3: work out! Studies suggest this also helps with the body clock.
- Tip #4: eat less/fast! Apparently fasting will significantly reduce the likelihood of getting jetlag.
#2 - Lack of Sleep
Lack of sleep will probably be another big cause of tiredness with your travels.
When you’re away, it is ridiculously easy to fall out of a regular routine.
After all, you’re doing new things, meeting new people, going out, partying, camping, sleeping in hostels where people come in and out at all hours, being in new places every few days, working late, working early and so on- sleep can suffer.
Moreover, when you’re having an amazing time, sometimes sleep doesn’t even seem as important.
However, tiredness can quickly creep up on you and before you know it, you burnout, have no energy to do the things you really wanna do and may start losing enthusiasm for things.
- Tip #1: try hard to maintain some semblance of a sleep routine/ make sure you get at least some each night.
- Tip #2: take stuff with you that will help you sleep (e.g. for hostels, it is always a good idea to have a set of ear plugs and an eye cover).
#3 & #4 - Exploring Somewhere New & A Poor Diet
The next couple of reasons for tiredness while you travel are somewhat related.
Firstly, exploring a new place eats up a tonne of energy; secondly, a poor diet can impact the amount of energy you have in the first place.
Let’s take an example of getting to a new destination, such as a city.
Exploring a new place often entails lots of walking or cycling around it, getting lost and carrying multiple bags around the whole time.
This is an awesome way to get to know a place properly, but it is also a sure-fire recipe for tiring out both your body and mind.
And, when you’re in the process of exploring, with limited means of cooking and little way of keeping and transporting food anyway, it can be harder to consume healthy meals and tempting to go for cheap, fast-food options.
In new and exotic locations it can also be harder to find the food you’re used to and if you can’t find a supermarket, it can be generally tough to find what you’re looking for to eat.
I find it useful to remember that our brains feed off the same store of glucose as our body- you gotta eat right to both function physically and mentally.
If we eat less frequently and consume food that doesn't sustain us, we don’t have the energy needed to fuel our day and we get increasingly tired as a result.
- Tip #1: Don't rush! Take regular breaks while you explore a new location and don’t try to see everything in one go.
- Tip #2:Take your time, be mindful of what you do, sit on a bench, find a park to lie down, watch the world go by etc etc.
- Tip #3: find a supermarket, pack poly-bags to carry food, eat sensibly (limit/cut out fast food) and match your diet to what you’re doing.
Some Final Thoughts
There's a danger that because we imagine and expect travel to be this awesome experience, we can feel like something is wrong with us and beat ourselves up about it when we’re struggling.
When you are down, angry, sad, upset, lonely, or any one of the plethora of difficult emotions that you’ll experience during your time away, it is tempting to tell yourself that you shouldn’t feel this way, that you should be happy, smiley and revelling in the opportunities around you- only a fool feels bad during the trip of a lifetime, right? Wrong!
Just because you’re on the other side of the world doesn’t mean everything miraculously operates differently (emotionally speaking, anyway).
There will absolutely be difficult moments during your trip and when you’re tired, you’re all the more likely to face them.
In these cases, not having the headspace to deal with whatever’s going on is more likely to be the problem than anything objectively wrong.
In such times, a simple piece of advice would be to think about how you’re feeling, acknowledge how tired you are, and simply recognise and accept it for what it is.
...And then get some sleep.