Backpacking around the world is – or will be – one of the greatest experiences of your life and is filled with unimaginable, exciting and unique experiences and adventures, but it does have it’s downsides too. Endless bartering, locals trying to fleece travellers, the taxi mafias, it can lead to a hustle burnout. Here is a simple trick to deal with it when it happens to you.
“Sir, sir, suit for you?” I hear for the tenth time on this street alone.
By this point I have given up saying no thank you and simply ignore it. Walking ahead as quickly as possible to escape the clarion cries of ‘very cheap’ and ‘special price for you’, I stop for a moment to furtively glance at a trinket that takes my fancy. Stupid mistake. The vendor of the market stall appears out of thin air next to me and instantly sees my ruse of pretending to be interested in something else, picking up the item and quoting a ridiculous price that I know is at least twenty times what the item should cost. Of course it is a special price just for me and I am his first customer of the day. It’s 4 O Clock in the afternoon.
I walk away, ignoring the calls behind me where the price has halved three times in as many steps. I’m tired of the hustle and just want to get back to my room and get some rest, so I head to the end of the street where a bank of taxis are waiting like vultures for the unsuspecting tourist carrion that they know will eventually walk into their carefully orchestrated trap.
I give them the name of the place I am staying and a particularly fat driver stands up and looks at me hungrily. His greedy little eyes fixed on me like a hawk looks at a mouse. He sucks air through his teeth and pretends to think about it for a moment, before quoting a price that is three times the national GDP.
I stare at him in tired exasperation for a minute before pointing to the meter.
“Oh no sir, meter is broken. Not working today.”
“It is working. Now use it.”
“Impossible sir.” The cadre of taxi drivers behind him are now laughing.
I walk away to find another taxi. The same thing happens. Of course it does, they are all part of the taxi mafia where prices are extortionately fixed for tourists and a carefully rehearsed play about the effectiveness of their meter is standard operating procedure regardless of the law.
It gets really old, really fast.
Now most of the time you can play the game, there are endless tips and tricks for dealing with the taxi mafias and suit sellers, even the really persistent ones who chase you down the street! You can haggle your heart out with vendors and avoid the more touristy places where touts and rip off artists will congregate in much more force.
No matter what you do though, sooner or later it will get to you. Backpacker fatigue, hustle burnout, fed up with those bloody tuk tuk drivers and touts, call it what you want, it is a genuine part of what is widely known as travel burnout or backpacker burnout. At some point – especially on longer trips where this may happen more than once – you will get absolutely fed up of the daily hustle, where it seems every single person is out to rip you off or scam you in some way. It will happen, it happens to all of us.
Now it is easy to lose your rag and get angry when you are feeling tired and frustrated. Don’t. It won’t end well for anyone – including you – if you do that.
So how do you deal with it? Easy.
Take a holiday from travelling.
I know, that sounds completely nonsensical, but trust me on this it is absolutely true. Even travellers need a break from travel from time to time. So just take a minute, gather your thoughts and rest!
If you are on a short trip, this may be a simple day of relaxation, but if you are on an extended trip, a gap year or even travelling long term, then you may need to take a week or so to rest up and recharge your batteries for the ‘putting up with bullshit shield’.
So take a holiday!
Now this will be different for everyone dependent on your tastes and what you want to do, but basically what it means is get away from the hostels, find a nice private room somewhere and stay still for a short period of time. Put your travel itinerary on hold and just put your feet up, read a good book or binge watch a bit of Netflix if you can do so on your fancy tablet or laptop, have those fresh mango juices on a constant flow and just relax!
I think sometimes travellers do forget how to do this.
You don’t need to be heading off to the next must see destination right now, that sightseeing trip to those famous monuments or that PADI course you wanted to do can wait for just a few days. For now, just lay back and do nothing. This is supposed to be a holiday as well, remember?
Find somewhere comfortable where you can remove yourself from the backpacker bubble and rest. Get a towel and lay on the beach, sit by the pool, lounge in your private room in your underpants and watch TV (because you can!)
This is why I always recommend to anyone planning their trip to not over stuff their itinerary with too many things to see and do. You should always leave a little room for ‘downtime’ for situations exactly like this.
If you have budgeted well for your travels then you should have a back up fund to allow you to splurge a little bit on a private room, or the surplus from the planned daily budget that you didn’t use (because you very cleverly slightly over budgeted) has added up and you should have a little extra cash. If you have done it really well and have been travelling underbudget for a while or you have that back up fund, then there is always the option of upgrading to flashpacker status too.
Flashpacking is just backpacking in a little more comfort. Book yourself a private room for a week in a nicer guesthouse or boutique hotel, somewhere with a nice pool and actual comfy pillows and a TV.
This isn’t cheating, this isn’t ‘doing backpacking wrong’. It is simply having a different travel experience on your gap year or backpacking trip, and there is nothing wrong with that. You can always go back to budget travelling and exploring the destination you are in independently after a few days or so when you have rested up.
I do this all the time, even more so now that I am older and (hopefully wiser) and a travelling with a little more money than I used to, because travel to me is about experiencing as many different things as possible.
And experiencing flashpacking can be an awesome experience too! Especially in traditionally much cheaper countries where your money stretches a lot further. You can spend what is a lot of money per night compared to a hostel or using the sharing economy, but is a pittance when you compare it to the cost of a similar experience in a Western country such as the UK or USA, where experiencing luxury hotels will probably be out of many peoples price range.
I know for a fact that the hotel I stayed in whilst in a relatively obscure part of Indonesia was so ultra luxurious I would never have a chance of staying somewhere like it back home, yet it cost less per night than a crappy bed and breakfast would back home. For a few nights it was the perfect escape to relax and rejuvenate after the disappointment of Bali and a couple of weeks of awesome but tiring volcano trekking!
And what better way to relax if you are tired and fed up of dealing with the touts and the daily hustle, to experience a few days in complete comfort without it?
Back to the backpacker bubble.
Once you have spent a bit of time recharging your batteries, you will feel refreshed, reinvigorated and more than prepared to deal with the onslaught of touts, vendors and rip off merchants again. You can meet them with renewed vigour and play the game with gusto. You can haggle to your hearts content and actually enjoy it!
And that is what it is all about, these are your travels and you are supposed to enjoy them. You aren’t supposed to travel feeling exhausted, fed up, angry and resentful because you know when you arrive in your next town the first thing you will have to deal with is the army of touts and the taxi mafia.
So if you ever get a bit of hustle burnout and feel like you are ready to throttle the next taxi or tuk tuk driver who quotes you ten times the going rate, just remember to take a step back, get some rest and then get back out there and enjoy your travels!
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