What Is Travel Fatigue?
Travel fatigue is a general sense of exhaustion that can come from traveling for any length of time. While travel can be amazing and rejuvenating, let’s face it… travel can also be stressful.
Whether it’s packing everything you need into a small bag, catching flights, arranging transportation, finalizing lodging, long travel days that interrupt your sleep and routines, missing home and family, or working to embrace a completely new culture, travel requires you to be “on” and challenges you in new ways.
Travel pushes you outside of your comfort zone and can be a great opportunity for growth, and can also be physically tiring and mentally draining.
Similar to other forms of burnout, travel fatigue can lead you to feel disinterested or apathetic to experiences you once felt excited about or looked forward to.
Signs of Travel Fatigue & Travel Burnout
Pay attention to how you are feeling during your trip or as you near your next travel day:
Do you feel energized and excited or find yourself wanting to stay home rather than explore?
Do you feel tired, sluggish, and irritable?
Do the things you used to enjoy, no longer bring you joy?
These can be helpful indicators that you might be experiencing some level of travel burnout or travel fatigue. Factors like your work schedule, time allotted for travel and trips, mode of transportation, and finances can all play a role in your experience.
So how can you be proactive and guard against travel fatigue or recover from signs of travel burnout?
Balancing the Adventure of Full-Time Travel While Working Full Time
We love our life as full-time RVers. This being said when traveling full-time burnout is a real possibility.
While it can appear extremely glamorous and has many benefits…balancing work, hiking and exploring, and the desire to see it all when traveling full time (in an RV or otherwise) can be a nuanced dance. You want to take advantage of the time you have in each place to see it all. At the same time, it is important to strike a balance to prevent burnout at work, or with travel.
After over a year of full-time travel, we have learned a lot about how to apply the science of preventing burnout to our own lives and strike a balance. This article provides tips for sustainable work-life balanced based on our full-time travel experiences and the science of preventing burnout:
Find the right travel rhythm
Travel fatigue can come from moving at an unsustainable pace, or feeling pressure to cram too much in without enough rest or time to fully experience the places you go. We designed our full-time RV lifestyle in a sustainable way, but it wasn’t easy at first.
When we first started planning, we found ourselves listing almost EVERY possible place to see in a general radius from where we planned to be staying along our route.
This would have required an exhausting amount of moving and traveling. We had to remind ourselves that North America alone is vast and holds so much to see and explore. It isn’t possible to see and do it all! And certainly not in a short amount of time.
Our goal is to focus on quality, immersive experiences, not quantity. Tools like RV Trip Wizard can be helpful for planning routes and seeing mileage as an RVer or road tripper. Especially with fuel prices, you might be surprised how quickly the miles, and dollars, add up (which can also add to the stress).
It is important to keep in mind as well that traveling (for us towing) and settling into new places can be stressful and draining. Not to mention also working 40 hours a week and doing all the normal life chores and tasks.
You have to learn the lay of the land, investigate new grocery stores, and prepare for new weeks all while in an unfamiliar landscape.
For us, our travel plans are our lifestyle, not a race around the country or a one-year sabbatical to see as much as we can before going back to a “normal” life that does not include traveling. It was comforting to remove that pressure and focus instead on finding a rhythm that would allow us to travel and stay at each new place for a long enough time to feel refreshed and recharged before heading off to another new location.
Not to mention, this slower place allows us to focus on mindful travel and engage in each new place with more presence, curiosity, and a sense of calm.
Our Perfect Rhythm:
Our ideal rhythm is a mix of stays between 1-3 weeks long and driving days that are 3 hours or less. Sundays are travel days, which leaves Saturdays for longer hikes. This also allows us to arrive at our new spot and get settled before the work week begins. This has enabled us to see more in each place without feeling rushed and not feel drained from constant moving and traveling.
While this may be an alternative way of living, this is still real life. Establishing some consistency and routine is key!
Don’t move too quickly, choose a sustainable pace
Full-time travel can be tiring. Schedule down time
The theme here is also sustainability and preventing burnout in a full-time travel lifestyle. We want to do and see as much as possible in each place we visit. We spend a lot of time planning hikes and excursions, but we also plan for downtime. While it might seem trivial, we have found it is easy to over plan, get lost in the excitement of new places, and find it hard to commit to downtime unless it is really intentional.
Based on the length of hikes we are doing, how soon until our next travel day, our energy levels, and our workload, we decide how much downtime would feel best for us. Typically, evenings after work are reserved for shorter hikes or excursions, scenic drives, and walks around the state park or boondocking spot. Fridays and Saturdays are commonly reserved for longer hikes and exploring that is further away.
This approach does become a bit more flexible during the longer summer days. Sometimes it also works out that great hikes are close by and we have downtime on the weekend and do more after work during the week. It ebbs and flows. Flexibility and adaptability are key!
How Much Down Time?
This is very individualized. Usually, we reserve at least 1 or 2 days or nights per week where we don’t hike. We might watch the sunset, have a fire, get takeout, run errands, or just lay low and watch Netflix. Spend time doing what feels best for you in terms of managing stress, caring for your body, and recharging.
Self-care is key! Planning downtime and giving yourself permission to do nothing is a great way to prevent burnout. Full-time travel does not mean you have to push hard to do something every single day. It is okay to enjoy the sweetness of doing nothing, even if you are in the most magical places. “Dolce far niente.”
Set aside time to do nothing in addition to planned excursions
Prioritize what you want to do & see while traveling
To prevent travel burnout you have to accept that you simply cannot see and do it all. You could easily create an endless list of activities to do in each place you visit. From restaurants to hikes or outdoor adventures, the reason you are probably traveling is that there is so much you want to see and do! Building a large list of sights and hikes and then slowly narrowing it down has been helpful for prioritizing. Combining hikes or activities makes prioritization a bit easier!
Sometimes we choose central locations where we can easily explore a few different areas. For example, Moab has two National Parks and Bryce is a National Park near a National Forest and a National Monument. Other times, we will stay close to one specific location in order to cut down on driving. With rising gas and diesel prices, being efficient with our travel has been more important than ever!
Gentle Reminder: Sacrifice is part of full-time travel or a full-time RV lifestyle. You can’t possibly see it all in every place you go and that is okay. Choose what you want to do most and enjoy every moment of it with presence.
Express gratitude for the opportunity to see and experience amazing places. You can always extend your stay or come back another time if you have things you missed. If there are things we do not get to do due to timing or weather, we add these missed opportunities to a Bucket List for later use! For us so far this includes places like the Chiricahua National Monument and experiences like hiking Rim to Rim at the Grand Canyon.
Losing the “should” or “must” from how you think about your travels takes the pressure off. There is no correct way to explore and no places you have to see or things you have to do. Your journey is yours alone.
Pick a central location & prioritize what you most want to see or do
4. Follow your desired level of comfort when traveling
Travel fatigue can happen if you feel strained by your day-to-day living situation.
If you find yourself missing some of the typical comforts or “luxuries” of home, that is okay. This might be a sign to switch up your travel accommodations for a while.
We spend a lot of time boondocking and living off-grid on public lands using our solar setup. At the same time, we also enjoy having unlimited electricity, water, and sewer from time to time. For this reason, we attempt to plan ahead to try and snag spots at beautiful State Parks that have full or partial hookups. Bonus points if they have hiking opportunities from the sites!
This allows us to have a reprieve from short showers and careful electricity use. We can enjoy the freedom of long showers, unlimited laundry, and easy access to trash and dumping. This can feel like a real luxury!
While we love the simplicity, privacy, and mindful living aspects of boondocking, switching it up now and again to live on the grid works well for us so we don’t feel like we are depriving ourselves of some of the everyday luxuries we find ourselves missing from time to time.
We have secured camping spots at some amazing State & National Parks by planning ahead:
- Ridgway State Park Campground, Ridgeway Colorado
- Cheyenne Mountain State Park, Colorado Springs CO
- Moraine Park Campground, Rocky Mountain National Park
- Picacho Peak State Park, Picacho Arizona
- McKinney Falls State Park, Austin TX
- Edisto Beach State Park, Edisto Island South Carolina
- Oregon Inlet, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Outer Banks North Carolina
- Bahia Honda State Park, Florida Keys
Find a balance between travel, work, and adventure & balance in comfort and amenities too!
Prioritize Your Health & Self-Care
When traveling it can be easy to get swept up in all that there is to see and do and lose sight of your typical routines and habits that provide comfort through consistency and help you feel your best.
To prevent travel fatigue or travel burnout, try your best to maintain the habits and routines that help you care for your mental and physical health.
Prioritize sleep, get regular exercise, eat a healthy diet, and make time for things that can be consistent staples in your day no matter where you are (like journaling, reading, or mindfulness). When your basic needs are met, you are much more resilient. Unfortunately, these can often be the first to go when things feel stressful or overwhelming.
Another good way to reset and find some clarity is to get out in nature. Our travels are focused on spending time in the outdoors and we find that time to be so helpful for relieving stress and preventing burnout. Nature is healing and science backs it up!
Be Intentional About Connecting with Others
In addition to sleep, exercise, and time in nature, connection and social support are other great ways to manage stress.
With full-time travel or long-term travel specifically, it can be very bittersweet. You are visiting new places, having new experiences, and making special memories, but you are also missing family milestones and time with friends. Birthdays, graduations, and holidays might pass by without you there and that can feel tough.
Keep those connections alive! Be intentional about picking up the phone to call or facetime and spend that time with your friends and loved ones. If you can, schedule a time to see your loved ones each year as well. This is something we have loved about RV travel, our home is mobile and we can easily spend time with family for long stretches while staying in our own space!
Finally, take time to make connections throughout your travels. Turn social media connections into real friendships, spend time in the local communities, and focus on infusing your travels with more meaning and purpose.
Some of the biggest factors associated with feelings of fulfillment are pursuing things that are meaningful and have a positive impact on the lives of others or being a part of something bigger than yourself.
How can you give back during your travels, make a positive impact on the communities or ecosystems you visit, or pursue causes you find meaningful? At the end of the day, why do you travel? Connect back to that and you can help yourself find that spark again, deeply rooted in your value and what’s most important to you.
Balance = Sustainability for Full-Time Travel
Avoiding travel fatigue and burnout is all about balance.
Pursuing full-time RV living or a full-time travel lifestyle is a wonderful opportunity to experience more of what our amazing planet has to offer. We have designed our lifestyle in a way that allows us to travel and continue to work and pursue our careers and we are so grateful for that.
With this, comes the need to always work towards balance so that we can feel and perform our best, experience each place we visit to the fullest, focus on quality meaningful experiences, and continue to travel and work in a way that is sustainable long-term and feels fulfilling.
The keys to balance listed above help us to manage the stress that can be inevitable with this type of lifestyle (or any lifestyle, really). They also help us avoid burnout so we can continue on this journey long-term, so long as it continues to bring us joy and fulfillment.
Want to learn more about the opportunities with a full-time RV travel lifestyle?
- Check out our RV articles on full-time RVing as digital nomads as well as tips and resources!
- Or get inspired by some of the hikes, National Parks, or destinations we have visited throughout our travels