Finding balance in life is difficult enough, finding balance when travelling is even more so – at least to me. The lessons learnt about keeping a balanced life go completely out the window once I am in a different environment.
One of the easiest traps to fall into – especially on longer trips – is forgetting to balance rest with adventure. You’re on holiday, surely that ticks off the boxes for relaxing on its own, doesn’t it? That’s not always the case – unless your holiday is a beach trip where the purpose is to enjoy the sun and cocktails.
Exploring can be fun, interesting and informative, yet it can also be exhausting. Running around for most of the day, moving from site to site without much pause in the middle takes it out of you. It’s generally more fun than the tiredness that comes with a routine back home, but that does not make it any more sustainable.
However, you still try. Especially because it’s a tiredness brought on by fun. When you only have limited time in a place, moving constantly seems like the best way to get the most out of the experience. You don’t want to waste time by having a rest day in the middle, not when there is so much culture and history just outside the door.
A little over a week into a months-long trip, I ran myself into the ground. I had spent the previous week exploring London, and had just moved to Prague. Having spent that past week constantly on my feet, I woke up completely exhausted. After getting dressed (and then falling back asleep for another hour), I forced myself outside.
It only took a handful of steps out the door for me to realise that, despite the amount I had slept, I was not going to make it through the day. I turned around and went straight back to bed. The next day I felt a lot more ready to go.
Yet I still didn’t learn my lesson.
I learnt it in Slovakia, the next country I stopped in, when I came down with a fever. (Which brought its own adventure of navigating pharmacies and cold medicine in a country where I did not speak the language.) Despite feeling rotten, I forced myself outside, and spent the rest of the day eyeing the clock to decide whether it was “acceptable” to go back and sleep some more.
It is an interesting thing – this idea of “acceptability”. It was a trip where I was on my own, and the decision of what to do and when to do it was completely in my hands. I still felt as though I owed it to myself to keep my feet hitting the ground, even when I just wanted to sleep. I was worried that I was losing time and experiences that I might not get the chance to have again. I had taken a block of time and money to travel, and I did not want to feel as though I was wasting either of those things by taking a break I desperately needed.
Despite objectively knowing that I would be better for resting, any time spent doing so felt as though I was missing out on adventures.
It took being sick and alone in a foreign country to learn my lesson; trying to figure out what it was that I was going to do if the fever kept going up. I rested, and the fever left. Once I began paying proper attention to my body, I started feeling better. I wasn’t going to enjoy my trip if I spent a lot of it exhausted from pushing myself to go outside when I needed the time to recoup. That time was essential.
What I was doing was fun, and it was the chance to step outside my normal routine, but it was also a lot more physically tiring than my everyday life. Between mountains, hikes, stairs, and walking from one attraction to another, I was very active. I joked when I came home that I had done my exercise for the next three years. It made sense that I was worn out and, by not being rested, I risked not enjoying the experience.
I made sure that I set myself times to slow down and rest as I continued. Although I have to admit, the long bus and train journeys also helped with that – I got quite good at napping on transport.
Taking the time to recoup is important, no matter if you’re in the structure of your everyday life, or out exploring the globe. You’ll enjoy it more, and get the most of it, when you don’t just want to go to bed.