Backpacking And The Hustle Burnout.

backpacker burnout, touts and scams, gap year

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.

I’m wearing shorts and flip flops and I’m carrying an old Army bergen on my back. Do I really look like I need a pimped out suit for a business meeting?

“Suit for you sir, very cheap.”

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 on one of the market stalls. Stupid mistake. The vendor 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.

haggling touts gap year

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.

Needing a ride 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.

Taxi mafia Khao San Road Thailand

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 get’s 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.

Backpacker Burnout.

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 backpacker burnout?

solo male backpacker on a gap year

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 backpackers do forget how to do just relax.

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 for a bit of luxury. If you have done it really well and have been travelling under your daily budget for a while or you have that back up fund already set up for this exact situation, 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. Maybe even a little mini fridge. ll the mod cons you need to relax.

Michael Huxley upgrade to a flashpacker

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, cheap hostels and exploring the destination you are in independently after a few days or so when you have rested up.

I flashpack all the time, even more so now that I am older, (hopefully) wiser and am 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 or regions such as south east Asia 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.

Upgrading to luxury flashpacker status

I know for a fact that the hotel I stayed in whilst in a relatively obscure part of Indonesia was so ultra luxurious it would have cost thousands of pounds per night minimum in the UK and 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 in London. 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!

Did you enjoy this article? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.

Avoid Backpacker Burnout And Indulge Your Inner Flashpacker.

How To Haggle Successfully On Your Gap Year.

Haggle Hard, But Don’t Be A Cheapskate!

How To Score Luxury Accommodation As A Budget Backpacker.

Top 10 Tips For A Stress Free Trip.

What Type Of Backpacker Are You?


Michael Huxley is a published author, professional adventurer and founder of the travel website, Bemused Backpacker. He has spent the last twenty years travelling to over 100 countries on almost every continent, slowly building Bemused Backpacker into a successful business after leaving a former career in emergency nursing and travel medicine, and continues to travel the world on numerous adventures every year.

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Posted in Travel Advice
6 comments on “Backpacking And The Hustle Burnout.
  1. Mr Adam says:

    This is a great article – and explains clearly what I mean when I say that I need a holiday after travel. People who don’t travel often don’t understand that there is a clear difference between travelling and holidaying!

  2. Really great article, which bought back memories of our time in Asia last year. Oh, the taxi drivers!! We had a lot of very frustrating discussions / arguments with them – and ended up walking a lot more than we expected after refusing their blatant rip of prices. However, by the end of it, on our third trip to Bangkok, it became a bit of a game and we enjoyed the banter and bargaining. We definitely learnt the art of haggling.

    We only travelled for 4 months last year – but it was exhausting. We ensured to include a few day here and there where we had nothing planned and could just relax – and where we could treat ourselves to a bit more luxury. It was so important to recharge both our bodies and minds! And allowed us to enjoy our travels even more!

    • I’m sure so many travellers – myself included – have shared your experiences with those damn taxi drivers! Haha! I totally agree, rest and recharging is so important. Thank you so much for the comment and kind words. 🙂

  3. Carmine says:

    This is so true. Loved reading this!

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Hi, I'm Michael! I'm a former nurse turned published author and world travelling professional adventurer! I have spent over twenty years travelling over 100 countries and I want to inspire you to do the same! Want to know more about me? Just click here!

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