As much as backpacking around the world is a wonderful thing sometimes it can also leave you burned out and exhausted. This is known as Travel Burnout, or Backpacker Burnout. When that happens it is time to escape the ultra cheap backpacker hostels and street food, and upgrade yourself to a bit of luxury flashpacking to rest and recharge your batteries!
Backpacking around the world on a budget is an amazing thing, you get to see and do things that most people will only ever see on the TV or dream about enviously as they sit at their desk counting down the seconds until their shift ends.
You get to island hop tropical paradises, visit and learn about new cultures, see ancient and modern wonders of the world and experience the world in all its infinite variety!
For most of us this means sticking to a tight budget. Eating at street stalls and staying in budget accommodation and cheap hostels becomes the norm, choosing the less comfortable but cheaper transport option or passing up that extra beer means that you can extend your travels and experience more awesome stuff! Good times!
But every now and then those noisy dorm rooms and those long arduous bus journeys can take their toll. For most of the time they are all just part of the adventure, but sometimes -especially on longer trips and if you are rushing from place to place – you just get a little bit tired and a little exhausted, sometimes you may have a few days where you feeli ill or just for your own mental health and sanity you want your own space for a day or two. That is all fine, that is all completely natural, but when you ignore it for too long that is when backpacker burnout can set in.
Travel Burnout Is A Very Real Thing.
From time to time, especially on longer trips and especially if you aren’t taking my awesome advice and travelling slowly or not packing too much into your itinerary, you will get travel burnout, or backpacker burnout.
You will start to feel tired, stressed and cranky, little things will start to annoy you far more than they really should. You don’t feel like exploring as much and those little discoveries and peculiarities of your destination aren’t exciting you any more.
When that happens you need a holiday from your travels. You just need to take a day or two to yourself and rest.
The human body isn’t made to run constantly without rest and relaxation and sometimes you just have to indulge your inner flashpacker and spoil yourself a little bit. The important thing is to remember that this is absolutely normal.
How To Deal With Travel Burnout.
When you feel burned out from your travels and you start to get a little backpacker burnout then all you need to do is stop and rest for a while, and indulging your inner flashpacker and upping the comfort factor can restore and rejuvenate you faster than any luxury spa.
All you need is a little rest and a little comfort, that really is all it can take.
This can mean anything from treating yourself to a nice private room once in a while, feeling the cool touch of air con on your skin as you fall asleep or the invigorating touch of a power shower that actually has heat, getting a cheap budget flight instead of a gruelling sleeper bus or even going wild on the menu at a slap up restaurant for a delicacy or two that you just can’t get at a street stall or food court.
Whatever it may be, that little treat or that little bit of luxury from time to time can mean the world of difference to your trip. It can help keep you sane on the road and stops you from becoming burned out, and it can keep your enthusiasm and drive for travel alive!
What About The Cost?
Well that is an important and fair question. After all you have saved up hard for your gap year, you are on a tight budget and you have to make sure your funds last right? That’s not unreasonable.
The good news is flashpacking is a lot more accessible in large parts of the world than most people think it is.
Of course if you are backpacking through Europe, Australia, Singapore or any wealthy, developed nation then flashpacking becomes much more difficult and budgeting does become more of an absolute necessity unless you have really deep pockets, but many popular backpacker destinations such as South East Asia, the Indian subcontinent and parts of Africa and South and Central America for example are extremely accessible for most budgets.
You can easily offset the extra expenditure of a few nights luxury or an extra activity by budgeting well for the majority of your trip. Staying in a cheap beach hut for an extra week and simply relaxing with a good book doesn’t burn up much money and you will often (if you budgeted well) be under your daily accomodation budget. If you stick to hostels and street food for a month or so but have allocated a slightly above average daily budget for those things, that means you should have a lump sum that has built up and that means with those extra savings every now and then you can splurge. It really isn’t that difficult.
Value For Money.
Quite often the difference between ultra basic accommodation and a little bit of comfort in a private room or a flight instead of a twelve hour night bus may only be a few pounds, which makes flashpacking easily affordable in moderation.
In fact in many popular backpacker destinations your money often goes a very long way indeed, and you will get a lot more value for money than you would in many more wealthy countries. A lot of the time it is this value that is more important than the actual budget itself.
The level of comfort you can get for relatively little money in South East Asia or parts of South America or India for example would simply be out of reach of most backpackers budgets to get the same level of comfort back home or in more developed regions like Europe or Australia. A luxury hotel suite in the Philippines may be above your daily allocated hostel budget, but will cost significantly less than a basic bed and breakfast in London. A slap up gourmet meal in a posh restaurant in Vietnam may set you back the same amount as an average pub lunch back home. It is hard to generalise of course as there are so many options available to you, but the point is spoiling yourself from time to time on the road is not out of the reach of most budgets, especially if you have budgeted well and have left yourself some wriggle room.
Yes you may be shelling out a little more than normal every now and then, yes you may be paying what your backpacker instinct is telling you is a lot of money for a nice meal or a really nice hotel, but think of the value for money you are getting in certain parts of the world. Would you be able to get the same experience or the same room at home for anywhere near what you are paying in South America or India? Would you get the same room for the same money in London that you got in Thailand? No! Sometimes the difference between a cheap room and a very comfortable one may only be the equivalent of a few pounds or so per night, and this is the one time you can probably afford a little bit of luxury, so a few extra pounds for a few nights is justifiable when it means you can rest, de stress and get out of that backpacker burnout.
You Don’t Have To Limit Yourself To Just One Type Of Accomodation.
The stereotype of backpacker hostels is a stereotype for a reason, we all use them! We all (mostly) love them and they are great ways to see the world whilst on a budget, but they aren’t the only option open to you. You can get cheap private rooms in hostels for not much more than a dorm room bed, you can get private rooms in guesthouses, bed and breakfasts and even boutique hotels for not much more than that. Even luxury hotels are within your reach sometimes.
The best thing about travelling independently is that you are never limited to just one option.
To give you an example, in Indonesia after some grueling weeks of endless volcano trekking I really went to town and spoiled myself for a few nights in a presidential suite at a luxury heritage spa hotel. Thanks to a good deal and a bit of lucky bargaining it cost me a little less than £100 GBP for a few nights. Total. Around the same price for one night in a basic chain hotel room per night in say London for example.
If I had stayed in an equivalent room in an equivalent hotel back home in the UK, you are talking thousands of pounds upwards per night! Seriously! It was at THAT level! That is not an experience I am likely to get anywhere else again, so I took the opportunity to live the highlife for a short while for what is comparatively very little money.
But getting a little bit of luxury doesn’t need to be at this extreme. You can get a nice private room with an en suite for as little as £10 GBP – or even cheaper – in many countries. On my last trip to Egypt I had a nice, large private room in Alexandria with an en suite and a balcony that overlooked the Corniche and the Mediterranean sea for the equivalent of less than £3 – £4 GBP a night. At that price it just wasn’t worth staying in a hostel dorm for me and I opted to stay there for a couple of weeks and got an extra discount for that on top because it was low season!
Your options get more limited the more expensive the countries you are staying in obviously, but again it is all relative. Even short stays in luxury boutique hotels in more expensive countries like Singapore can be amazing value, and the cost of a few days offset by longer stays in cheaper countries such as Indonesia or Malaysia.
The difference between a basic beach hut with a cold shower and a beach hut with air con and a warm shower was the equivalent of about £2 GBP difference a night on Palau Tioman in Malaysia, so the upgrade wasn’t really much of a question for me. Comfort and privacy really are not all that expensive when you are backpacking, and paying a little bit extra from time to time is not going to break many budgets.
Or Just One Way Of Travel.
The increasing growth of budget airlines around the world has really helped the backpacker to flashpacker transition too.
Travelling overland has always been the traditional backpacker way, it is usually the best way to see a country and is often dirt cheap, but every now and then when you just can’t handle another 12 hour bus ride or you think you really need to get some sleep and would rather be at your destination in one hour instead of twelve, then there is always the option of taking an internal flight.
Many years ago with major carriers this was an expense many backpackers just couldn’t justify, but now you can fly from Bangkok to Koh Samui or Mumbai to Delhi for less than an average lunch back home, making the occasional splurge looks pretty damn attractive!
Again, slow overland travel is absolutely much better in so many ways. You get to see more, experience more, take your time and savour the journey, and it is certainly better for the envioronment, but we are not talking about what you would do normally here, we are talking about those occassional one offs, those decisions you will make to help you with backpacker burnout.
You don’t have to do this all the time, but now you have the option.
Backpacker Vs Flashpacker.
Does all of this go against my backpacker roots? Does the fact I like a bit of comfort and convenience from time to time insult some strange, ingrained stereotype that I should be an ultra budget backpacker all of the time? Am I not allowed to be a backpacker anymore?
Long term travel is about finding a balance, a way of travelling that allows you to stick to the all important budget and stay true to your backpacker ways if that is what you want, but also allow a little bit of comfort in from time to time.
There is nothing wrong with that.
Stopping and slowing down to rest for a while, getting a little bit of comfort will help you with your backpacker burnout and help you get your travel mojo back. It is good for your mental health. So on that basis alone it is always a good thing.
Yes you may be a backpacker, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with allowing yourself to be a flashpacker from time to time too. Who says you have to stick to just one label? Who says you can’t travel in any way you choose? You don’t have to limit yourself to just one way of travel. You can always move back to your budget conscious backpacker ways later down the line.
Backpacking isn’t about denying yourself things, it is about experiencing as much as you can in your limited time on this Earth, so don’t limit yourself to just one type of travel. Don’t think that because you are backpacking or you have to stick to a budget that you always have to stay in the cheapest accommodation or miss out on some activities or nice restaurants, you don’t!
What is the point in travelling the world if you are going to miss out on some of the amazing experiences travel has to offer you because you were too tight to splash out from time to time or you thought it isn’t what you should be doing as a backpacker? What is the point of sticking to such a tight budget and denying yourself some of the wonderful and amazing opportunities that will present themselves to you on the road? You will only regret it later if you do!
Looking After Yourself Is Important.
Look, travel is an amazing thing, we all love it. It defines who I am, I’ve even made a living out of it! But it isn’t worth sacrificing your mental health for.
If you are experiencing travel burnout, and remember it does absolutely happen to all of us, then just take some time and rest up. Stay in your room and binge watch some Netflix in your underpants, sit on the beach and finish that book you were reading. Like anything in life balance is important too.
If you were at home you wouldn’t work 24/7 without a rest would you? You wouldn’t sit on the sofa 24/7 either. You would have a balance between the two. Travel is no different.
Your mental health is important, and burn out can lead to you feeling stressed, depressed, facing anxiety or even panic attacks or worse at its most extreme, and nothing is worth letting yourself get to that point. If the situation does start to get that bad then you can always seek help, reach out to other travellers, call friends or family back home, call a professional, even consider going home if you need to. Nothing is out of your control and nothing can’t be fixed, you just have to do what is right for you.
But most of the time simple backpacker burnout can be solved with just a few days of rest and taking some time for yourself. A few flashpacker upgrades will do you the world of good and help you get that travel mojo back and get you back on the road!
So Rest, Rejuvinate And Revitalise Yourself Any Way You Can.
By all means stick to a tight budget some or most of the time, enjoy the backpacker lifestyle in the hostels and dorm rooms, take in the ultra cheap delicacies of street stalls and food courts and run the comfort gauntlet on overnight sleeper buses, the backpacker lifestyle is a wonderful one! But budget well and indulge your inner flashpacker from time to time too, you will thank me for it later!
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