It’s Okay to Feel These (Negative) Things When You Travel

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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 confusing and sometimes downright messy. 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 social media 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 and 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 and 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

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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51 Comments on “It’s Okay to Feel These (Negative) Things When You Travel

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  1. I’ll be travelling in the next two days but I’m feeling scared o of the sudden I keep thinking of death n accidents I don’t know why. Please help me out with this feeling

      I’m not a mental health professional, so I’m not really qualified to help you other than to point out that you are statistically much more likely to get into an accident at home than while you’re traveling. I know that’s not necessarily helpful when your brain is being illogical, but that’s all I’ve got!

    Thank you so much for this article. Almost every time I arrive on a trip, i feel anxious and depressed and start crying. I have a lot of trouble getting used to new things and environments, so you made me feel less alone. Thank you xx

      It’s absolutely okay to feel those things, and you’re certainly not alone!

    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!

      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!

    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!

      Yup, there are bad days when you travel, just like there are bad days in real life!

    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!

      Long-term travel was never ideal for me – I love having a home base!

        I’m definitely coming around to that way of thinking!

    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!

      Sometimes you really just have to listen to your body and take a break! And it’s good that you don’t have any regrets about it!

    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 🙂

      I’m very similar – I need some quiet time in the evenings to kind of recharge!

    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!

    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. 🙂

      I hope you have an amazing time, Alison! New Zealand is an excellent place to have a solo adventure!

    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.

      You are so right; even the bad days can be good learning experiences.

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