It’s Okay to Feel These Things When You Travel

Woman carrying baskets in Hoi An, Vietnam
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When most people think of “traveling,” they think of a vacation: sun-kissed sand and fruity drinks, or perhaps dreamy selfies in a big exotic city. These visions are usually positive and full of fun. Because that's what traveling is!

So what happens when you leave on a trip and don't feel all these warm fuzzy feelings? Did you go to the wrong place? Did you do a horrible job at planning? Does it mean you're somehow traveling “wrong”?

The answer, of course, is NO.

Petite Anse on La Digue, Seychelles

Not every second of every trip is going to be all unicorns and rainbows. Travel is unpredictable and messy and sometimes downright confusing. And if you hit a rough day or find yourself in a less-than-positive mood, it does NOT mean that you've failed as a traveler.

To prove this point, here are some not-so-positive feelings that routinely crop up when I'm traveling – all of which are completely normal and okay to feel when you're on the road!

It's okay to feel these (negative) things when you travel

Anxious

True story, guys: I get nervous before going on trips. And I don't just mean excited-nervous; I mean almost-having-anxiety-attacks nervous. And I don't just mean before big trips; I mean before just about every single trip I take.

Whether I'm traveling halfway around the world or just going a couple hours away from home, I still get anxious before I travel. I never sleep well the night before a flight, and my nerves usually follow me to the airport. There have been plenty of times when I've considered canceling a trip the night before I'm supposed to leave.

Some of my nerves stem from legit anxiety (which far more people suffer from than you probably realize!), but my point here is that even the most well-traveled of people can get nervous about traveling. It's perfectly normal, so don't think something is wrong with you if you start feeling a little scared before a trip.

Amanda sitting in front of Eagle Cliff Falls

How to deal with it: If you're suffering from true anxiety that's affecting more than just your traveling life, you might want to see a doctor. But for regular pre-travel jitters? You just gotta push through. Remind yourself that you've planned and done your homework and that you'll be absolutely fine once you get there. Never have I regretted going through with a trip – but I know I would regret giving in to pre-trip fear and canceling.

RELATED: The World is Not Safe – But You Should Explore it Anyway

Lonely

I travel solo quite a bit, and while I usually revel in the freedom that traveling alone allows me, I'd be lying if I said I never feel lonely. For me, the loneliness usually hits at night when I'm stressing out over finding a place to eat on my own, or realizing it's only 6 p.m. and I have no plans for the evening.

Even though traveling alone doesn't have to mean you'll be lonely, it's totally okay if you DO feel that way sometimes.

Whiterocks Amphitheater at Snow Canyon State Park

How to deal with it: When I'm feeling particularly lonely on a trip, I try to be proactive about it. Sometimes this means hopping on Skype with a friend back home, or even just chatting to someone on Facebook for a bit. If it's during the day, I might join a free walking tour or a day trip, where I'm pretty much guaranteed to meet other travelers. Other times I just go somewhere where there are lots of people, like a park or restaurant or local event. Even if I don't end up talking to anyone, sometimes just being around other people can help!

Bored

Sorry to burst any romantic travel bubble you may still have in your head, but not every day is going to be exciting when you travel. You will have slow travel days and bad weather days and, yes, days where you just feel a bit bored. And that's fine!

Not every destination is going to live up to expectations; sometimes there are just duds, or places that you just won't connect with. We can't be enamored with every single place we visit, after all.

Street art in London's East End

How to deal with it: Force yourself to go out and try something new! Even if you're feeling a bit bored and like a certain destination just isn't for you, I guarantee there's something cool about it that you can still discover. My go-tos are usually food tours and street art tours if they're available – these types of tours almost always help you see a destination from a different perspective.

Overwhelmed

Have you ever arrived in a destination only to feel completely clueless and overwhelmed? Maybe there's a bigger language barrier than you planned for; maybe your accommodation isn't what you expected; maybe the public transportation is way more confusing than you thought it would be. Maybe everything just seems big and loud weird and you're not really sure what to do.

Don't panic. This type of travel overwhelm is pretty normal, especially if it's combined with a bit of culture shock.

Inside the Oculus in New York City

How to deal with it: First of all, remind yourself that *most* travelers suffer from this. Even the ones who look like they know exactly what they're doing are often just as clueless as you are. (Isn't that the way everything goes in life, though? We all just pretend like we know what we're doing!) If you're feeling particularly overwhelmed, slow down take the time to think about how you can approach each stressor individually.

If public transport is confusing, see if you can find a good map or a local willing to explain things to you. If you're lost, take a moment to get your bearings or ask for directions. We usually get overwhelmed when there are too many things vying for our attention at the same time, so taking the time to slow down and address each item separately can often make you feel like you're in control again.

Burnt out

Lastly, don't assume that travel burnout only affects people who travel long-term. It's not true! You can absolutely feel burnt out on a shorter trip, too. I find I run into this when I pack an itinerary too full, or when I find myself in a particularly challenging destination.

Don't stress out if you're feeling burnt out while traveling – in fact, this is when you need to listen to your body the most!

Walking through Prayers for Maria sunflower field

Taking some time to enjoy nature can sometimes give you new energy.

How to deal with it: The best way to deal with travel burnout is to just give in to it. If you're feeling so burnt out that you can't imagine going to one more museum or restaurant or famous attraction… then don't. There's nothing wrong with a day spent in your hotel room binging on Netflix and ordering room service, or treating yourself to a self-care day – things like massages and shopping exist just about everywhere!

My friend Kate has some other great tips for dealing with travel burnout.

I have experienced every single one of these negative feelings on my travels (and then some!), and it definitely doesn't mean that I'm a “bad” traveler or doing something wrong. Even though we often view travel as something different than “real life,” the reality is that travel doesn't exist within some positive bubble.

Traveling is still real life, and it's therefore not weird to feel both positive AND negative things as your explore the world.

So if you experience any of these feelings on your next trip, don't panic. It's completely normal and okay to feel these things!

READ NEXT: 8 Truths About Traveling as an Introvert

Which of these negative feelings have you felt on your travels? How did you handle it?

 

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How to deal with negative feelings when you travel

 

How to deal with negative feelings when you travel | Travel anxiety | Travel burnout | #TravelTips

47 Comments

  • Kelly says:

    Great post, and I really appreciate you acknowledging that lots of people deal with anxiety!

    Last year, I had my first-ever 100% solo trip planned and I was excited and nervous about it. And then, just three days before I was going to leave, one of my dogs passed away. It was wholly unexpected and really, really awful. I was a mess. I didn’t know whether I wanted to go on my trip — I thought I might spend the entire time grieving, or feel guilty for leaving my partner and my other dog. Up until the day I left, I wasn’t entirely sure I’d go. But my partner is incredibly supportive, and he said he would be OK if I went. I reached out to one of my favorite women’s travel groups on Facebook and most people were in agreement: I should go anyway.

    Ultimately, I did go, and I am SO glad I did; I would have regretted skipping the trip. It was rough at times — especially on the one-week anniversary of Luna’s death — but I just treated myself gently, letting myself grieve as needed and not pushing myself to do too much. Instead of taking lots of day trips, I stuck to the city (Amsterdam), spending hours wandering through museums and eating long, leisurely meals. I spent two days in Bruges and fell in love with it. I think my heart needed some time away from home — and all my memories of my pup — to heal, if just a little bit.

    • Amanda says:

      I’m so sorry about your pup, Kelly – that must have been really tough! But it’s good to hear that you ultimately had a positive experience once you decided to go through with your trip!

  • Allyson says:

    Thanks for this article Amanda! It’s a relief to know I am not alone with travel anxiety.
    I’ve been on hundreds of flights to dozens of countries and I still get super anxious before every trip. I try to lay out a plan in advance for each day of my trip, so that on days when I am feeling overwhelmed/tired/jet-lagged, I at least have a goal for my day. That doesn’t mean the plan doesn’t change, but I find it helps get me moving when I am feeling particularly anxious in my travels. If my nerves are really getting the best of me, I head to the nearest five-star hotel for afternoon tea, and that helps me relax and be ready to jump back out of my comfort zone again.

    • Amanda says:

      Those are two excellent suggestions, Allyson! (And I love the idea of heading to a fancy hotel for tea when you’re feeling a little wound-up – that’s an amazing idea!)

  • Brianna says:

    I love this post! I always find that the first and last days of a trip are the worst for me. Initially, I’m overwhelmed and a bit lonely. After that first night of sleep I’m usually good to go. And then on the last day, I’m usually burnt out and bored!

  • Morgan says:

    I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who sometimes wants a Netflix day while traveling.

    • Amanda says:

      You definitely are not the only one! I spent an entire day in Copenhagen last year just binge watching Netflix, and I didn’t feel bad about it. 🙂

  • budget jan says:

    Yes. Thanks for speaking up about what every traveller feels at some time. I’m a little spoilt because I always travel with my husband. If I was by myself I can imagine a few melt downs. With 2 people travelling together there is a built in sounding board for each and two minds are better than one. Even so I connect with most of the above feelings. Travellers are just ordinary people who happen to be travelling after all.

    • Amanda says:

      Definitely – just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you stop being who you are! It is certainly easier when you’re traveling with someone that you get along with really well, but you can still run into some of these feelings even when you aren’t traveling solo!

  • Laurence says:

    I think burnt out is probably the one to most identify with as a travel blogger! Possibly because travel is a lot of work these days as well as being fun 😉 The key for me is to have good downtime between trips, and to go on trips with as much work already done as possible so I don’t feel torn between enjoying the trip, and keeping up to date with everything else!

    • Amanda says:

      Yes, that’s definitely the one I run into the most often! I’m terrible at getting work done ahead of time, though, so I either have to find ways to work it into my travel scheudule, or just publish a little less on the blog when I’m traveling a lot!

  • Ijana Loss says:

    Yes so true! I also think that all applies to living abroad as well. When I first moved to Germany I thought it would all be great, I would be outgoing and see everything and love life, but then I realized that’s just not how it works. I haven’t really done many day trips at all because I decided I would just prefer to stay home. And sometimes I stay in all day and watch music videos, my time sucker of choice vs Netflix lol

    • Amanda says:

      It’s definitely different when you’re living somewhere! You can’t possibly go on adventures every single day – having downtime is crucial to not going crazy!

  • Definitely have felt most of these at one time or another. I often feel like I no longer excited to go to a place when faced with all the final stuff like packing, getting up early the next morning for a flight, etc. But I always feel better once at the destination and then happy to be there! I think that on longer trips, it is definitely important to just take some time off and do very little to keep from getting burnt out, like lying in bed watching TV 😉

    • Amanda says:

      For sure! I’ve come to really dread early morning flights (I always feel like I’m forgetting things the night before!), and yet for some reason keep booking them. Go figure. Haha.

  • Lisa says:

    Oh this is so timely and I’m going to save this post.
    I just arrived for my first stop in a four month (mostly solo) journey that I have been dreaming about and planning for a year.
    I had a big anxiety attack last night…what am I doing going alone around the world, leaving home, it’s too long, etc..
    I have traveled alone extensively before but two months was the max so this is a stretch.
    Thanks for all the practical tips and for being so open.
    It’s helpful knowing I’m not alone and these feelings are normal.
    Headed to Petra and Israel next…should be fabulous!!!

    • Amanda says:

      These feelings are totally normal, and I think you’ll find that a LOT of travelers suffer from anxiety to some extent, too – so you definitely are not alone! But you got this and I’m sure you’re going to have an amazing time!

  • Kate says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I’ve definitely struggled with a few of these negative thoughts when travelling, which made me feel even worse. In those moments I like to just take a breath, take a break and allow myself the time to reset. From there, I’m usually able to get back to enjoying my time and the location that I’m in.

  • Bikram says:

    Hi,
    I must say each traveler at some point of time goes through these dilemmas. Nicely explained how to get out of it and move on.
    Thanks

  • Dominique says:

    I haven’t really experienced these in a way that I have to deal with them (luckily). I usually suffer from those things more in my daily life than during my travels.

  • Melanie says:

    Definitely the anxiety! Every time – If I have a morning flight, I’ve taken to booking a hotel at the airport the night before I go so I don’t have to deal with the commute in the morning, even though it’s only 40-50 mins. What if there was a huge accident and I couldn’t get there etc etc…
    I also have travel dreams in the last few weeks – nightmares about forgetting my passport or camera. They feel like premonitions but I know they are like the anxiety – just St Elmo’s Fire.

  • Christina S says:

    Great post! I suffer from general anxiety on the best of days, and pre-trip anxiety is generally through the roof. I’ve found that leaving myself plenty of time at the airport so I’m not rushed is important in dealing with it. Once I’m on the plane? All worries melt away!

  • I feel the burnt out feeling! I get that frequently now that I’m back up to traveling 200 days a year. Trying to do better about giving myself month-long breaks to rejuvenate, catch up and actually enjoy my home.

  • Renuka says:

    That’s a great post, Amanda! I have been through all these emotions that you mentioned here. True, travel isn’t just about rainbows and unicorns. It’s also about anxiety, loneliness, homesickness and so much more… I remember how I fell sick in Ladakh and had to return home. That was SO bad! But, such is travel. That being said, travel always teaches you something. So it’s always good to travel.

  • Alison says:

    Thank you for writing this, Amanda! It’s a very timely reminder for me.

    I’m leaving in 6 days for New Zealand, and it is going to be my first time traveling solo (well, I’ll be with a tour, but I don’t know anyone there!). I’ve struggled for years with depression and anxiety, and now that I’m finally at a good place, I decided that I was going to make solo travel happen this year. I’ve been reading a bunch of solo travel blogs for years, and I’m finally taking the leap myself.

    So thank you for writing about your travels, your blog has been an inspiration to me, and I enjoy armchair-traveling with you when I see a new post come up. 🙂

  • Yep! It happens to the best of us. I’m considered to be a confident and well-travelled woman, but when we went to the Financial District in LA for the very first time, I found it overwhelming!

    Now that was interesting. I’ve been to Hong Kong. And I’ve been to India. And I wasn’t in the least overwhelmed, but LA did it for me. I didn’t find it particularly safe either.

    We were staying in one of the oldest hotel in LA – the luxurious Millennium Biltmore Hotel – and there were lots of dodgy people hanging around outside. One woman actually lifted up her skirt, and pooped right there on the pavement!

    We quickly ran inside!

    We went to Disneyland California in Anaheim. It was a little after midnight, we forgot that we weren’t in Europe anymore, and hopped into the car! We wanted a snack and somehow got lost driving back. I have no idea where we ended up, but the looks that people gave us as we drove by with a huge tourist-looking car, made me feel very uncomfortable. I’ve never been so scared in my life. We ditched the GPS and drove through the lights to get the hell out of there!

    We nevertheless still love our visit to California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada!

    Oh, I’ve also been to Singapore. And I didn’t like it!

  • Renia says:

    I remember that when I was I student I travelled a lot by myself. And very often, in the evening when all the young people were going out, I just really wanted to stay in and watch a movie or something. Unfortunately I didn’t have much money back then and so I used to stay in hostels, mostly in rooms with other people. That wasn’t very comfortable… But now I travel with my boyfriend and he understands that I need some time to rest, even in the most fantastic and rushing places in the world 🙂

  • Janine says:

    This post is like a virtual hug. I have experienced most of these feelings — particularly burnout — and I’ve definitely felt guilty for wanting to lay around and nap all day instead of explore. In fact, I once spent 2 weeks in Waikiki and never made it to see Pearl Harbour because my friends and I were too exhausted from college exams and all we wanted to do was lay on the beach and eat shave ice. I don’t regret anything! Plus, now I have a good excuse to go back to Honolulu!

  • David Hoyt says:

    Excellent post! After 3 years of constant travel, I’ve settled for over a year in Thailand. I think that I’ll start moving around more next year, but it does feel good to have a “place” where I can settle. I think I’ll keep the condo here, even when I move.
    Thanks for the insight!

  • Thank you for this! It seems that on social media all we see is the pretty side to traveling and it’s so important to remember that it’s not sunshine and roses every day. Thank you for sharing!

  • Natalie says:

    Thanks for this insightful post. I think there is a lot of guilt involved if you just don’t like the destination or get bored or whatever negative feeling comes into play. I remember feeling bored, lonely, and tired on a beach family trip (when I was a teen) and I’ve carried a bit of guilt about it. But, I didn’t keep the feeling long, because we ended up having to evacuate the next day because of a hurricane!

    • Amanda says:

      Yes there’s definitely guilt involved, even though there’s no reason to feel guilty about not liking a place! I mean, just think about how boring it would be if everyone felt exactly the same about everything!

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