The thing that scares me the most about traveling long-term isn’t the fear of the unknown, the unpredictability, not knowing where I’m going to sleep every night, or all of the infinite bad things about the world we’re constantly bombarded with from the news. It’s something that I know all too well:
The repeated heartbreak of meeting incredible new people in each new place and then having to say goodbye a few short days later, with no idea when you’ll get to see them again.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried on the way to the airport / train station / other means of transportation on to my next destination because I got attached to the people and the place. (Shoutout to my taxi driver in Bangkok who had no idea what to do when I couldn’t hold my shit together). Maybe I get too attached. But also I wouldn’t change that aspect of myself for the world, because that’s what makes each new adventure so special.
I couldn’t help but warn the hopeful, idealistic guy I’d just met in the hostel who was (albeit, drunkenly) pining away over some girl he met as we sought shelter in a bar along Khao San Road to avoid the pouring rain. Do not get attached to this girl. It’s so easy to cling to what is familiar when you’re in a new place, where you can’t speak the language. I saw myself in him, and I cautioned him to be careful because I knew all too well what was coming for him in a few short days.
Is it some ounce of self-preservation that makes me wary of this each time? Around the halfway point on my last long trip, someone pointed out to me that I seemed closed off. And of course I was – it’s emotionally exhausting to constantly meet and be open to new people, especially as an introvert alone on the road long-term. But I think that’s what scares me even more – the idea that out of exhaustion and self-preservation, I might become so closed off to new experiences that I stop getting the same joy out of being on the move.
When you travel long-term, especially as a solo traveler, everything in your life is transient. The people, the places, the comfortable foods as you change location, everything. The only constant you have is yourself and what you can carry on your back.
As I prepare for life on the road long-term, this is one of the biggest things I’m trying to grapple with. As a solo traveler, you’re already on your own, away from friends, family, and all the comforts of home. The possibilities for burnout are real, and happen to many around the 3-4 month mark.
I didn’t even make it that far on my last trip, although not necessarily due to burnout. (After losing my appendix in Berlin, I was more than ready to get back to the U.S.) Learning how to thrive in a transient environment is just part of the process, I suppose, and hopefully this time around I’ll be more prepared because I know what’s coming.
I’d love to hear your experiences – please let me know how you’ve dealt with this issue in the comments!
Hanna (Bubu Backpacks)
P.S. To follow my adventures in real time, follow me on Instagram and Twitter @bubu_backpacks!