¨We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.¨
What is Backpacker Syndrome?
One of the most common forms of travel burnout for Fifty-Plus Nomads who travel for long periods is backpacker’s syndrome. Backpacker’s Syndrome is a sense of exhaustion from all the demands of extended traveling.
Backpacker’s Syndrome was first identified among backpackers; however, it can apply to all travelers. (The term usually refers to people who take extended trips on a limited budget).
Backpacker’s Syndrome generally manifests itself by the desire to stop any or all of the following:
- Adapting to a new place.
- Facing demanding vendors (common in Third World, Emerging Countries);
- Dealing with the logistics of planning your trip (finding a hotel/ place to eat/ etc.).
- Trying to fix a home or run a business in another country.
Instead, you want to retreat from the world for a while. You may even, at some time or another along the way, wish you’d stayed home.
Fortunately, these trying times seldom last more than a few days or at most of a couple of weeks. However, for a few people, Backpacking Syndrome can get so frustrating that they go home early.
Remember, even if you have money and travel in a group on a multiple-day tour (or a cruise ship), traveling can be demanding at times.
Steps to Overcome Backpacker’s Syndrome
How can you get over the Backpacker’s Syndrome? Here are a couple of tips that have worked well for me:
- If you get a minor illness on the road, spend money on a relaxing, quiet room. Don’t travel if you can avoid it. Make sure that the place has a comfortable temperature. There is nothing more miserable than trying to sleep in a hot or a cold room when you don’t feel well anyway.
- If you feel tired, spend a couple of days in your room watching TV, reading, and just relaxing. Anticipate that you will need to spend one or two days a month just hanging out. Plan some downtime, particularly after traveling for a long time on public transportation or an airplane.
- Do the same stuff you like to do at home. For me, the best activity when I need to relax after traveling for an extended time is going to see a movie. It can also be an excellent way to learn about the culture. I have watched censored films in Singapore, stood to pay respect for a recorded announcement from the King in Thailand, and eaten fried octopus instead of popcorn in Hong Kong.
- If you are addicted to the internet, reduce or eliminate it for a while. You are usually better off living in the moment rather than engaging all the time with people and things from your past.
- Stay in a famous hotel, eat at a gourmet restaurant, and take a drink at a high-class bar or nightclub. It is fun to live a life of luxury for a day or two. Sometimes these experiences also give you some great memories to share with your friends.
- Seek out little “tastes of home” while you are on the road. If you find yourself thinking things like “I wish these people were more like the people at home,” eat food from your home country or shop at a familiar store. Do these “home country” type activities for more than a couple of days, and you’ll probably be ready to go back to local foods and activities.
Reflect On Your Experiences
- Keep a journal or scrapbook. Use it both to record what you have seen and to recollect your thoughts. Writing your feelings helps you to analyze them more accurately and to see how they change over time.
- Be prepared to experience discomfort that things are not done the same way in your destination as you expect. The Great Courses has an excellent series on Intercultural Communication that helps explain the difference between different cultures worldwide. (Check out the remarkable guidebook series to cultural differences called Culture Shock as well). If you have some background in the culture, you will be able to understand why people act as they do. You will also be able to develop a strategy (the best I know is using humor) to deal with these frustrations.
Some Additional Posts About Lessons I Learned During Five Years, Round-the-World Travel
- Fifty Plus Nomad’s Exclusive Traveling and Living Abroad Seminars: Let Me Help You Put Your Dreams Into Flight (Coming Soon)Take one of my two Fifty-Plus Nomad seminars in my home in Merida, Mexico. Benefit from my sixteen years of experience traveling and living around the world. Learn how to travel around the world long-term and live in different countries.
- My Temporary Home Base in Montreal: 10 Reasons I Loved Coming Home During My Five Year Trip Around the WorldDuring my round the world travels,, I was glad to spend tree months every year at a home base in Montreal. Not only did I grow very fond of Quebec and Eastern Canada but it was fun to just do day-to-day activities with friends.
- How To Avoid Loneliness During Your TravelsWhen I was traveling around the world as a young man, I frequently got lonely. When I was able to travel around the world again long term, I deliberately participated in group tours, cruises, volunteering, and learning vacations to avoid loneliness. It worked wonders for me.
- How Too Much Togetherness May Ruin Your Long-Term TravelsWhile too much togetherness hasn’t been a serious problem during my travels. I have met couples who had problems with too much togetherness during their long-term, round the world travels.
- Justifying Your Fifty-Plus Nomad Lifestyle: An Unexpected ChallengeI was surprised how often I had to justify my existence when I traveled around the world. Here are some tips in case you find yourself in the same situation.
- Paying More than Locals As a Foreigner: How to Deal with and Avoid ProblemsWhen I was younger being charged more for things than locals used to piss me off. Now I simply acknowledge it as part of traveling in third-world countries. I find the less it bothers me the less I attract aggressive vendors, too.
- Culture Shock: The Greatest Challenge for Long-Term Travelers and Expats?By far the biggest issue I had while traveling around the world as a younger man was culture shock. It even resulted in me making some major decisions, most of which I regret in retrospect. In my experience, many people suffer from culture shock while traveling around the world or living abroad but most don’t even know they are suffering from culture shock.
- Backpacker Syndrome: Why Travel Burnout is Usually Part of a Nomadic LifestyleI think every long-term traveler regardless of the budget will occasionally suffer from backpacker’s syndrome. I deal with it by slowing down, staying in my hotel for a day or two, or scheduling some new activities.
- Church Overload Syndrome: When You Just Can’t Stand Seeing Another ChurchDuring my five years traveling around the world. I occasionally suffered from mild travel burnout. Only once did I succumb to church overload syndrome because over time I have learned how to appreciate churches. However, church overland syndrome used to bother me frequently and it seems commonplace among other long-term travelers.
- Consider Resorts, Cruises, Festivals, and Amusement Parks in Your Long-Term Travel PlansWhile many travelers pooh-pooh resorts, cruises, festivals, and amusement parks, I enjoy them in small doses. It is fun to see the creativity of the developers and event planners. It is also a nice break from more serious and intellectual activities.
- Learning Vacations and Volunteering: The Most Overlooked Travel OptionsMy favorite type of group travel is volunteering and learning vacations. No aspect of group travel has so influenced who I am as a person and how I view the world.
- Independent Travel: Advantages and DisadvantagesDuring my five years traveling around the world, I spent about half my time traveling independently and the other half on group tours, cruises, volunteering, and learning vacations. I love the freedom to explore things in depth that comes with independent travel. However, I find exclusively traveling independently to get exhausting and lonely if done for months at a time. I also love the diversity of experiences.when I mix group and independent travel.
- Don’t Avoid Group Tours and Cruises During Your Round-the-World TravelOne of my biggest surprises in traveling around the world for five years was how much I enjoyed group tours and cruises. It is nice to have other people deal with arrangements. Many of the tour guides are incredibly knowledgeable and friendly. My fellow travelers were usually kind and interested in learning.
- Traveling in Developed Countries: Why it is a Myth that Traveling to Western Europe and Other Developed Countries is Boring and ExpensiveOne of my biggest surprises when I traveled around the world for five years was how much I loved traveling in the developed world (USA/Canada, Australia/New Zealand, Western Europe, Singapore, Japan, the UAE, etc). Until I began to travel around the world for a long term, I always thought the developed world was less interesting than in the third world. Now I find both equally interesting and enjoyable.
- Advantages and Disadvantages of Third World TravelI believe that everyone who has the opportunity to travel round the world should visit countries in both the developing, third world and the developed world (Western Europe, USA/Canada, Australia/New Zealand, etc.). This post outlines the advantages and disadvantages of third-world, emerging country travels.
- Round the World Travel: My Top 4 LessonsI learned four lessons from my five-year journey around the world: 1) Mix group and independent travel; 2) Travel to varied parts of the world; 3) Avoid travel burnout, and 4) Have a home base.