¨We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.¨
What is Backpacker’s 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.
The name Backpacker’s Syndrome reflects the fact that it was first identified among backpackers. (While most backpackers travel with a backpack, 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 Emerging Countries);
- Dealing with the logistics of planning your trip (finding a hotel/ place to eat/ etc.); and
- 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. It is just more familiar with backpackers because they have to watch their pennies and travel independently.
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; and
- 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.