Travel—it can inspire you, bring out your creativity, and help you appreciate the beauty of the world. But what if you’re just feeling dog tired? What if you’re experiencing travel burnout?
The good news? You’re not alone. Many full-time nomads hit a wall in their travels. Some give up and go home.
But if your “home” is your RV or boat and you have no other base, figuring out how to cope with burnout can add to the feelings of stress.
Before we figure out how to cure burnout, let’s figure out how to recognize it.
What is travel burnout? And how do you know if you’re suffering from it?
Signs Of Travel Burnout
Are you flying into a rage at relatively minor setbacks? Do you dread planning your route? Are you avoiding people?
The words I hear most frequently from cruisers and RVers suffering from burnout are exhausted and overwhelmed.
Travel Burnout In An RV Or Boat
In one sense, traveling in your own RV or boat could make you less prone to burnout that someone backpacking around the world. After all, you carry your home—your refuge—everywhere you go.
But when you travel in your own vessel, you’re not only responsible for managing yourself. You also have to maintain your “home.”
A backpacker will not be called upon the repair the toilet in a hotel or hostel. But every RVer knows the horror of a wet spot near the base of their toilet. And just mention the phrase “joker valve” to a sailor if you want to reduce them to a quivering pile of jelly.
So in addition to the exhaustion of constantly traveling, dealing with unfamiliar food, and communicating in a language you weren’t raised to speak, RVers and boat cruisers have to keep their homes operating properly.
No wonder we sometimes feel burned out.
Help For Travel Burnout
If you’re starting to feel the symptoms of burnout, maybe it’s time to do things differently.
After four years on the water, we definitely travel more slowly than when we first began.
We limit our sailing distance to about 35 miles a day. It allows us to drop the anchor at a reasonable hour and have time to rest before dinner.
Obviously, if you’re crossing an ocean, you can’t limit your mileage. But hopefully, you’ll have enough boredom underway to make the travel less stressful.
And once you arrive at your destination, just stop. There’s a reason the Guna Yala islands of Panama are filled with cruisers who hardly move. Once you’ve worked so hard to get somewhere, it’s nice to have a break.
For full-time RVers who travel much faster, 5-6 hours is a reasonable amount to drive on a travel day or no more than 350 miles.
I remember leaving a dock at 6:30 a.m. and traveling 50 miles in a day. On our sailboat, that’s at least an 8 hour day, not including the two hours we spent getting ready to leave and the two hours cleaning up at the end of the day.
It was exhausting. Though the reason we traveled so (relatively) quickly leads to my next suggestion for curing burnout.
Watch the weather
The reason we traveled so many miles per day when we first started cruising was that engine problems led to us leaving the Chesapeake Bay in January. It was freaking cold.
Even in a dirt house, too many cloudy days or a heatwave can wear you out. But bad weather when you live in a boat or RV? It’s the worst.
One RVer shared on a Facebook group that she was wondering if she had made the wrong decision only one month into her new life.
What caused her to consider giving up? Thirty straight days of rain.
I suspect that my Facebook acquaintance had reserved a campsite for a set period. And didn’t want to lose the money she had paid. But I know what I would have done in her place—pulled up stakes and driven until I saw the sun.
Although the ability to move your home is the best choice some times, other times, it adds to your stress.
Put down (temporary) roots
When you first hit the road, there’s a huge temptation to be a tourist—to see as many things as quickly as you can. Y’know, like you do on a two-week vacation.
But the urge to see as much as possible creates burnout after a while. Just because you can move, doesn’t mean you have to.
If you’re feeling travel burnout, stop traveling. Set down some roots. Stay in one place and explore it deeply.
Not only will you avoid burnout, but you’ll also save money.
If you also work while traveling, you’ll also find it easier to earn money if you stay put for a while.
And if you aren’t burning up the cruising kitty by motoring every day or filling up after miles of driving, you may be able to invest in your comfort.
Add a luxury
Scientific studies find that people feel happier when they spend money on experiences than on “things.” But I bet those studies didn’t include traveling nomads.
Living on a 34-foot boat, I’m not a proponent of buying loads of stuff. But I find that certain careful purchases bring me great joy.
Buying something that fulfills more than one use, works well, and makes me more comfortable is a good defense against burnout.
Recently we bought and installed some powerful fans that run off our house batteries. They’re very powerful and they sip energy. And every time the temperature climbs, I love the feeling of that strong wind blowing over my face.
Of course, my husband and my dog prefer the air conditioner we bought to use while we’re tied up to the dock over the summer.
When you’re burning out, a little luxury can help.
Acknowledge the reality of your feelings
Those of us who choose a lifestyle, in part, because it’s challenging tend towards “pushing through” when we start feeling bad. Sadly, the shame of feeling bad when you’re living a life that many dream of having can make you feel even worse.
You feel the way you feel. There’s no shame to it.
And if you talk to other nomads, you’ll find that you’re not alone.
They’re called sundowners—when cruising sailors get together to drink and admire the sunset. But maybe a better name would be “some downers.” Because a major part of the occasion is swapping stories about bad days on the water.
After the fact, the days that stress us out the most become the most amusing stories.
And they create a community. Because we all have bad days. And everyone feels burned out sometimes.
A Million Ways To Avoid Travel Burnout
I’ve met people who’ve suffered travel burnout after several years or just a few weeks of full-time travel. When they speak, you can hear their exhaustion.
Most of them assume they’ve come to the end of their nomad life. But there are always more possibilities than travel or don’t.
Maybe instead of putting the boat up for sale in Guatemala, it’s time to hire a delivery captain to bring that boat to the Chesapeake Bay or the Great Lakes for some inland cruising.
A brief stint as a lighthouse keeper or state park docent might give you new living quarters to enjoy while you park your rig nearby.
I’ve met world cruisers who sold their beautiful sailboat to travel in Asia by camper van. And a few bloggers famous for traveling by RV have bought sailboats and started cruising.
Only you know if your case of burnout is a sign to stop traveling.
But if you start feeling burned out, change things up. Or take a break. When you feel good again, you have plenty of time to figure out what’s next.