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.
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
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.
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.
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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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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Which of these negative feelings have you felt on your travels? How did you handle it?
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You are definitely not alone! I still get anxious before big trips, and I’ve been doing this a long time!