You obviously can’t plan for everything on a RTW trip, but there are certain things you can think about and be prepared for. Realizing that you will suffer from homesickness, travel burnout, and loneliness at some point (and most likely multiple times) during your trip is an important thing to think about. Many first time RTW travelers simply don’t understand how anyone can get sick of traveling. It’s important to remember that you this is completely different than a vacation, and after a while, travel becomes your life, your routine. And like any routine, it gets tiresome at times.
Travel burnout is a real thing. Constantly being on the move, sight-seeing, taking long and sometimes uncomfortable bus and train rides, the occasional horrible night in a loud hostel, packing and unpacking every few days–after a while, it becomes exhausting, and you just get sick of it all. The first time this happens, most people try to ignore it, or they beat themselves up over it. It’s important to just accept that this will happen. It’s just part of a trip like this. Even the most experienced travelers suffer from travel burnout at some point. The important thing is how you deal with it, and we’ll give you tips later on in the article for dealing with travel burnout in a positive manner and moving on quickly.
How To Do Laundry
You’ve probably read that many long-term travelers do their laundry in a hotel or hostel sink. And that is a valuable part of an overall strategy, but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. It can be a great way to postpone doing your laundry properly for a couple of days, but it’s not a perfect substitute. It takes a lot of effort to get your things anywhere near as clean as they are after a real washing, and the bigger problem is actually the drying.
If you wring your clothes out until you are sore, drying them on a shower curtain rod or a special camping laundry line still won’t get them fully dry overnight if you are staying in a colder or damper place. You can usually get things dry enough to wear and then dry the rest of the way with your body heat, but hotel bathroom-laundry isn’t a reliable method everywhere. Still, you should bring some soap powder and whatever else you might need to do this occasionally, but don’t assume this will be how you do it every time.
Fortunately, people do laundry all over the world so it’s rarely difficult to find a way to get yours done right. Many hostels have machines for guest use or services to do laundry for guests, but often they are only available at certain times of the day because the sheets and towels are done during other blocks. Hotels will often have laundry services as well, but these services are usually priced by the item (for business travelers) and are so outrageously expensive that buying a new pair of socks is sometimes cheaper than having them wash the old ones. Some hotels in Asia will send your laundry out to a cheap service, so it’s worth asking about since it saves a lot of hassle.
And even if your hostel or hotel doesn’t have laundry service that suits you, they will be able to tell you where the nearest good Laundromat (or equivalent) is located. Just as with most other things, prices tend to reflect rent and labor costs in that area, so getting it done in Hanoi will be much cheaper than getting it done in Helsinki.
Expensive cities usually have a self-service/DIY option, which can be a worthwhile way to save some money and spend part of one of your off days. Cheaper cities will tend to offer mostly full service (aka fluff and fold), but it’s usually so inexpensive that it will be a welcome luxury.
Days Off And Resting
Days off are important during a long trip such as this, but you don’t really need to worry about it until the feeling hits you. You’ll probably be riding on an adrenaline rush for the first few weeks of your trip so there isn’t much reason to purposely slow down. But after those first few weeks, you’ll realize that traveling and sightseeing seven days per week gets mentally exhausting. It can even feel like a job after a while, so when this feeling begins to come over you, it’s time to think about scheduling some official days off.
But this can be easier said than done, so there are some strategies to consider. If the feeling suddenly comes over in you while you are in a crazed and stressful city like New York City or Rome, it can really be tough to ignore all the stimulation going on around you. It’s easy to feel guilty being in an amazing city while choosing to sit in a hostel lounge reading a paperback. And perhaps worse than fighting the guilt, places like these can be expensive spots to try to chill-out.
So when you start feeling like you can no longer tell the cathedrals or temples apart, and the idea of visiting the famous museum in town sounds like the most boring imaginable way to spend the day, it’s time to plan a vacation from your vacation. And as we mentioned above, it’s a good idea to figure this out before you actually hit the wall rather than just be stopped in your tracks when you finally can’t deny the feeling anymore.
Eventually you’ll get into a rhythm with this. Many long-term travelers reserve one or two days per week to do their laundry and read a novel or go to the movies or anything else that excuses them from shuttling from one tourist attraction to the next. Again, it’s easy to feel guilty doing things you could do at home while you are in an exotic location, but if you don’t allow yourself to recharge your own batteries from time to time, you are likely to burn out even worse in the long run.
So if you are going from city to city on your general route plan in the coming weeks, you can just pick a time in between two of them and stop in a small city that doesn’t have many things to see. You can often get a comfortable room at a budget hotel in a small town for little more than you’d pay for a bunk at a hostel in a large city nearby.
And stopping for a couple of days in an authentic and non-touristy town can give you a new perspective on the country. Do your laundry. Watch some TV. Read books about things other than travel. Get drunk in the morning and take a long nap in the afternoon. Allow yourself a couple of days to just decompress and you’ll appreciate those cathedrals, temples, and museums much more when you do arrive.
Dealing With Homesickness
This is another thing that is a little easier to deal with when you are prepared for it in advance. For many people this hits them in a sudden wave and next thing they know they are at an internet cafe pricing a ticket to go back home. Then they realize how unbelievably expensive and disappointing that would be, so they just get depressed for a while. This is completely normal, so don’t feel too bad when this inevitably happens to you.
Most people get over it in a couple of days, so it’s rarely a major issue, but if you are feeling too depressed to enjoy the place you are visiting, it might be time to give yourself a short break. Follow the advice in the section that discusses taking days off and just grant yourself permission to stop visiting tourist attractions for a while.
If you feel that speaking to your friends and family will help, then schedule some Skype calls back home. Or if you think that might make you miss them even more and you just want some empathy, sign onto the BootsnAll message boards and read some messages and post one about your own feelings. This sort of thing is so common that you’ll probably be overwhelmed with replies from people who know exactly how you feel and who offer specific advice on how to get past this. When you feel better again, the trip resumes as planned, but don’t feel bad or beat yourself up over this because it happens to pretty much everyone.
Dealing With Loneliness As A Solo Traveler
Some solo travelers definitely do get lonely from time to time. Obviously this can be related to the topic of homesickness, but this is more about the fact that solo travelers often feel alone in a crowd, even if they are thrilled to be exactly where they are and not missing home. Part of the problem with solo travel is that even outgoing people who make friends easily will be saying goodbye to new friends, probably forever, every time they change locations.
Every person and every situation is different so there are no easy solutions to this, but this is another one of those slightly unique RTW situations that is a bit easier to deal with when you expect it and realize just how normal it is.
If you are mostly staying in private hotel rooms, you might switch to private rooms in hostels or even dorm rooms in hostels for a while. As we discussed in the hotels and hostels section, the normal layout of a hostel makes it easy to make friends or acquaintances if that is your goal. And yes, virtually all of them will be other travelers rather than locals, but that also means you’ll probably have much more in common to talk about.
It really helps to have some continuity with people you are communicating with, so going on forums like the BootsnAll boards will be helpful. You’ll see the same people over and over, regardless of where you happen to be logging on, and they will actually want to hear your stories and see your photos. You can also spend more time e-mailing,instant messaging, or Skyping with friends back home.
Tips For Dealing With Travel Burnout, Homesickness, And Loneliness
In another section we discussed the necessary concept of granting yourself official days off once in a while, but the longer you are traveling the more even that gets routine. So instead of a couple of designated days off here and there, you might want to actually do a full-on vacation from your vacation. Actually, at this point it’s not even a vacation anymore – it’s your life.
One interesting way to get out of that constant rhythm for a while is to rent a furnished apartment for a week or more and slow down. This can be a great idea for anyone who knows they’ll be staying in one place for a while, even if they are still doing hardcore sightseeing. Obviously this is yet another thing that tends to be directly related to the housing prices in the city itself. So renting a flat in London for a week isn’t going to be cheap, but renting a bungalow in Bali probably will be.
You can search for short-term apartment rentals online on sites like craigslist.org, but you can also just ask around at local travel agencies, tourist offices, or at hostels. The apartments will almost always come with all the sheets, towels, dishes, pots and pans you’ll need, and the security deposit situation can be surprisingly relaxed or even non-existent. And a short-term apartment rental will also be a nice change because even the smallest ones will be larger than a hotel suite, but the prices tend to be even less than that of a modest hotel room on a per day basis. Having your own kitchen and refrigerator is a welcome change, and this also gives you the chance to immerse yourself in another culture rather than moving on after a few days.
If you are using this to refresh yourself for the next part of your trip, it’s probably best to find a flat in a resort area or in a small town. After a few hectic days in Athens, a week in your own place on a Greek Island will feel like you are in heaven. And since you can cook your own meals and store all your own food and drinks, you get to shop at local grocery stores and buy large quantities of some items cheaply without having to worry about them not being there next time you look in the hostel fridge.
But one small warning on this: you probably want to see the place before you commit to it. Just based on a description on the internet, every place is going to sound great and ideally located. Obviously this is not always the case in real life. An ad might say a flat is at the edge of the entertainment district but actually be a 10-minute bus ride away. And a rental agent might say a place is charming and recently refurbished, but that doesn’t mean the place doesn’t have mice, or very loud neighbors, or who knows what else. Ending up in an undesirable hotel or hostel is a problem that can be corrected the next morning, but renting an apartment for a week is something to be more careful about in advance.
While you are still in the planning stages of this whole trip, the last thing you want to think about is coming home, but it is necessary to plan for a few things upon your return. The next article deals with what you need to think about regarding coming home from your trip.Next: Coming Home »