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10 Things No One Tells You About Long-Term Travel

10 Things No One Tells You About Long-Term Travel

Long-term solo travel is sometimes believed to be a lot of things that it is not. It’s true that travelers have a lot of crazy stories to tell when they’re back from that trip across Asia or around the world, but the not-so-glamorous side of travel is a reality that hardly gets spoken about and very few people understand. Here are 10 things on the other side of that perfect travel jump shot.

1. Travel does not let you escape responsibility.

It’s common belief that people who sell all of their possessions, quit their jobs or take a gap year to travel the world are free of responsibilities and can afford to be reckless and carefree. Of course, it looks like that considering that they don’t have a house, job or routine to follow anymore. But the truth is that they are still responsible for a lot of things on a daily basis, such as finding ways to fund their travels, keeping costs to a minimum, making decisions about where to stay, what to do, where to travel next, how to travel and how to make it all work. It’s just that these decisions are of a different kind, but they do have real consequences. Travel needs meticulous planning and this requires assumption of full responsibility. On the road you’re responsible for arranging and organizing everything and your own safety. Living out of a suitcase or backpack requires taking some tough decisions and a whole lot of creativity.

    2. It’s not one big party.

    When you’re staying in hostels and have a limited amount of money to last you the entire trip (and sometimes debt to repay), there’s no way you can afford to party with your new friends every night. Forget about the wild stories you hear about travelers drinking and dancing every night away. While this is true for a certain age group in some countries (like Thailand), the percentage of travelers who can afford to travel for a long time while continuing to do this is very small.


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      3. Travel moments are not always glamorous like the pictures.

      You look like a mess and you are one a lot of the time! Everything does not go perfectly as planned. You miss flights, buses and trains and rush to get to others in time. You get stuck in bad weather at some points. Unexpected things go wrong all the time when you’re travelling and if you can see the humor and enjoy it all, then you’ll get the most out of your experience. An inspiring adventurer once told me, “The disasters are all part of the adventure.”

        4. You don’t always have company.

        Loneliness can often be a real problem faced by long-term travelers, especially if they’re traveling across a country without spending too much time in one place or setting up a base. Unless you’re someone who’s comfortable with being on your own, dining by yourself and not always having someone to share the joy of new discoveries and experiences with, solo travel is not a good idea. Of course you do meet a lot of people from all over the world when you travel and forming meaningful friendships is common, but the possibility of this happening depends on where you’re traveling, if other people are around and how open and social you are as a person. It’s not always the case that you’ll have company, there may be extended periods of time when you’re by yourself.

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          5. Falling sick on the road can be a real pain (no pun intended).

          It’s comforting to have your loved ones and local doctor around when things go wrong with your health. In spite of globalization, the quality of healthcare, services, medicines and the availability of different medicines varies widely among countries. A lot of travelers don’t like to risk going to a doctor or getting any kind of treatment done until they’re back home. It’s not always that the quality of healthcare is bad in other countries; it’s just that some people may be uncomfortable with the unfamiliar methods used. When I developed a nasty blister from hiking in new boots in Vietnam, I decided I would rather wait for a few weeks to get it treated at home, rather than show it to a doctor in Sapa. Also, if you’re traveling solo, it can be difficult to deal with allergic reactions, severe fevers, insect bites, swollen feet, stomach infections, salmonella or food poisoning all by yourself. At times like these, you’d rather curl up and die.

            6. You don’t always love the food.

            The images of local food that you see in travel magazines and on countless travel blogs can make you believe that every meal is an experience in itself. The truth is that not every cuisine appeals to your taste buds and some places are very expensive to eat out in every day. Sometimes when you’re traveling in a region that is culturally very different, you don’t know what to eat and everything you try is either a bad idea or just does not taste good. Sometimes there’s not even the good old McDonald’s to rescue you. Allergies and reactions to local food are a reality that all travelers have to deal with from time to time.

              7. You look at home differently.

              If you travel for a few weeks or more, especially if it’s off the beaten path, you’ll probably come back and look at a lot of things differently. You’ll notice things and have realizations you’ve never had before. If you’ve spent some time trekking in wilderness and fallen in love with nature, you’re more likely to appreciate your local park that you simply walked past before. While you appreciate familiar comforts and luxuries, there are also some things that now annoy you, although you’ve seen them happen all your life. If you’ve spent a month in a village with limited power and access to water, and taken quick cold showers with buckets of water, then you’ve probably learned the importance of conservation of water. Obviously, coming home to siblings who take half-hour-long showers can become annoying.

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                8. You always need travel insurance.

                Even if you’re a traveler of the thrifty kind, one thing you should not be cheap about is travel insurance. Anything can happen when you’re traveling; your phone or camera could be stolen on a bus, you can get into an accident while zip lining in a forest, or you could lose your baggage at a busy airport. It’s reassuring to know that you’re covered for these things rather than have to deal with the disappointment of monetary loss.

                  9. Hardly anyone really wants to hear your stories when you’re back.

                  Sure, you’ve had the most life-changing trip and seen things that you could have never imagined you would see. Maybe they’re even things that none of your friends or family have experienced. But the truth is that very few people really want to hear your stories. Your stories are about unfamiliar things and they make most people uncomfortable after a certain point. If you’ve had an amazing journey, people don’t always want to hear about it because it makes them long for those things. They don’t like this because they believe that they have real responsibilities and just can’t take off carelessly like you did. Sometimes they’re just dismissing you as lost, confused or a hippie type when you’re talking excessively about that month you spent learning to meditate with monks in a remote village in Nepal. So just be content in knowing that you’ve experienced what very few people do in their lifetimes, you don’t have to brag about it to make it count.

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                    10. You can’t travel long term unless you really want to.

                    All the above challenges are a very real part of the adventure. If you only want the good parts; rich cultural experiences, good food, meeting interesting people and acquiring new skills, then you don’t understand what long-term travel is about. Unless you learn to enjoy the challenges, or want to experience them, you don’t really want to travel long term. If all this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then you’re better off getting a pre-arranged tour type holiday where you have almost complete control over what is going to happen.

                    Travel is full of surprises and challenges. It teaches you invaluable lessons that you can’t learn in school or at university. It forces you to get out of your comfort zone and go further than the boundaries you know. If you let it, it can change you forever but mostly in a good way. So even if there are things that nobody told you about, it’s because the positives far exceed the risks and challenges. In the end, you take away much more from the experience than you could have imagined.

                      Featured photo credit: Garry Knight via flickr.com

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                      Published on November 14, 2018

                      Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

                      Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

                      With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

                      For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

                      In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

                      Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

                      Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

                      It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

                      For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

                      Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

                      Symptoms of Fatigue

                      Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

                      • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
                      • mental blocks
                      • lack of motivation
                      • headache
                      • dizziness
                      • muscle weakness
                      • slowed reflexes and responses
                      • impaired decision-making and judgement
                      • moodiness, such as irritability
                      • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
                      • reduced immune system function
                      • blurry vision
                      • short-term memory problems
                      • poor concentration
                      • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

                      Causes of Fatigue

                      The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

                      • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
                      • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
                      • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
                      • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

                      Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

                      Medical Causes of Fatigue

                      If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

                      Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

                      Anemia

                      Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

                      Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

                      There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

                      Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

                      Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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                      This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

                      Diabetes

                      Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

                      Sleep Apnea

                      Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

                      Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

                      Thyroid disease

                      An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

                      Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

                      • Lack of sleep
                      • Too much sleep 
                      • Alcohol and drugs 
                      • Sleep disturbances 
                      • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
                      • Poor diet 

                      Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

                      • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
                      • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
                      • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
                      • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

                      Psychological Causes of Fatigue

                      Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

                      • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
                      • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
                      • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

                      How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

                      Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

                      1. Tell The Truth

                      Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

                      To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

                      Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

                      The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

                      One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

                      • How you feel
                      • What time of day it is
                      • What may have contributed to your fatigue
                      • How your mind and body reacts

                      This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

                      2. Reduce Your Commitments

                      When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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                      If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

                      When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

                      Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

                      3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

                      If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

                      Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

                      If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

                      Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

                      Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

                      4. Express More Gratitude

                      Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

                      It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

                      Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

                      5. Focus On Yourself

                      Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

                      There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

                      But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

                      We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

                      6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

                      Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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                      Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

                      The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

                      Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

                      7. Take a Power Nap

                      When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

                      Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

                      This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

                      8. Take More Exercise

                      The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

                      Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

                      The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

                      You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

                      9. Get More Quality Sleep

                      To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

                      Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

                      My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

                      10. Improve Your Diet

                      Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

                      Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

                      On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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                      To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

                      Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

                      Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

                      11. Manage Your Stress Levels

                      Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

                      When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

                      Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

                      My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

                      12. Get Hydrated

                      Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

                      Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

                      If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

                      The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

                      The Bottom Line

                      These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

                      If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

                      Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

                      Reference

                      [1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
                      [2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
                      [3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
                      [4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
                      [5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
                      [6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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