Can You See Too Much?
As I write this, I’m in Bora Bora gazing at the unrealistically beautiful ocean. The sun is shining but a few white puffy clouds shield me from its full harshness. A light breeze blows through my hair and bits of palm tree bark swirl around the deck and smack against my laptop. From my chair I can see dozens of the over-the-water bungalows Bora Bora is so famous for, countless palm trees, three boats, a few snorkelers, and a couple in a kayak. I hear people speaking in French, and a little bit of Tahitian. A few women have flowers in their hair, and almost everyone is in a bathing suit. I can smell a light scent of sunscreen and flowers I don’t know the names of.
I’m in one of the most gorgeous places in the world.
But I don’t want to be here.
I used to get that excited feeling of disbelief whenever I landed somewhere new. That “I can’t believe I’m actually here!” feeling. But I lost that somewhere. I haven’t felt that feeling in months, despite all the new places I’ve been to in the past few months. Being here isn’t giving me the thrill I expected it to. I actually found myself thinking, I’d rather be in the Gili Islands, they were gorgeous too and I could have 10 dinners there for the price of one here. I could stay a month in a bungalow there for what it costs to stay one night here.
Amanda said maybe I’ve seen too much. I think, to be more exact, that I’ve seen too much in too short a period of time. I think my brain has hit travel overload and can’t process any more of these extraordinary travel moments. I’m tired of the constant motion, I’m tired of living out of a backpack, I’m tired of always having to get used to new beds, and I’m tired of being away from Andy.
I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I’m so happy that I was able to make this trip happen and fulfill a dream I’ve held onto for years. I know there are many people who will never get the chance to travel in their lifetime to some of the places I’ve been to in the past four months. But I’m ready to go home. I’ve been ready to go home for a while, and it’s taking a lot of effort to try to appreciate where I am and what I’m doing right now.
I let this sit in my draft list for a few weeks before looking at it again. Amanda and I flew from Bora Bora back to Tahiti and then to Easter Island just minutes after I wrote the section above the break. Easter Island was absolutely amazing, and I did finally feel that wonder and awe again. (I’ll write about all of these places later, I promise.) I’m now in Atlanta visiting friends and family, a few days away from flying back to Europe to be back with Andy. For good this time. But I think what I wrote above still holds true. I think I saw too much in not enough time. Maybe fewer places in the same about of time would’ve been better. Maybe I would’ve appreciated certain places more if I hadn’t been missing Andy so desperately. Regardless, I have a different perspective on long term travel. It’s an amazing thing to experience, and so vastly different from a normal two or three week vacation. But the constant movement is not for me. I still want to see everything I possibly can in this world, but the experiences and places deserve time to truly be appreciated.
Do you think it’s possible to see too much?
February 16, 2012 @ 9:10 PM
I don’t think you can see too much, but I think you hit it on the nail that you aw maybe too much in too little time. I think there’s something to be said for slow travel. I love to be able to explore places really slowly and just kind of hang out… however, that being said, sometimes it’s just not possible and I try to squeeze in as much as possible at a specific location. I have never regretted doing that either, but it tires you out.
February 17, 2012 @ 4:50 AM
I used to be ok with traveling quickly, but I think that only worked because I only had 2 or 3 weeks at a time to travel. I don’t think I can do that anymore, even if I am only traveling for a short period of time.
February 16, 2012 @ 9:20 PM
I have enjoyed following your trip and will look forward to the back post of the other places you have visited. I can not imagine taking on a trip like this if I was married and doing it without my partner. Even though Europe is not cheap maybe you should try visiting places closer to your new home for awhile. There is so much to see in Europe.
February 17, 2012 @ 4:56 AM
Thanks Keith, I’m glad you’re following along! It’s definitely been hard to be away from Andy for this long – I promise I’m not doing it again. I absolutely love Europe, and we’re planning to stick to Europe trips for the rest of the year. But no more traveling without my husband.
February 16, 2012 @ 9:25 PM
Definitely agree about seeing too much in too short of time. I kind of felt that way when I arrived in Kiev. I had just done a ton of sightseeing in Warsaw and Belarus and I got to Kiev and had no desire to see anything (of course, the 9 straight days of snow may have had something to do with it too!). I think whenever you travel long-term, you need a break from the doing & seeing stuff every now and then to avoid that burn out feeling.
February 17, 2012 @ 5:03 AM
I think I just had a hard time deciding NOT to go to a certain place. I felt like I was traveling slower than a normal trip I would take, but it turns out that still wasn’t slow enough. It took something really amazing at towards the end, like Easter Island, to really blow me away. And yes, I’m SURE the snow hindered your sight-seeing a ton!
February 17, 2012 @ 6:03 AM
It is absolutely possible to see too much at once and just be overwhelmed by it all. Part of the reason I don’t mind traveling in spurts of a few weeks at a time is that I can pack as much into that time as I want, because I know I’ll soon get to go home and decompress and digest everything I did and saw. When you’re traveling long-term, you don’t have that decompression time, especially if you’re still traveling as though you only have a few days to see everything. So this burnt-out feeling is completely understandable!
February 17, 2012 @ 6:40 AM
Thanks Amanda! You’re right, I totally didn’t get that time to decompress and process everything, because I was immediately onto the next place. I’m slowly starting to process some of it now, but some of it already feels like it was a dream or something.
February 17, 2012 @ 7:27 AM
I don’t think you can see to much, but I do think you can become overwhelmed with seeing to much. Does that make sense? I had this feeling when I spent a month in Athens. For an entire month I didn’t want to do anything… I didn’t care. I arrived saw the main stuff and the next month did nothing. I was tired of sightseeing was tired of finding a hostel, bus station, airport or anything. I was in a way traveled out. So I see how this happens… when it does you need a few weeks of not moving to get your mojo back. I know I got it back after Athens!
Oh how did you get to Bora Bora… was it cheap? I would love to visit!
February 17, 2012 @ 8:32 AM
Yes, that does make sense. I wish I had planned (or not planned) my trip differently so I could’ve had the flexibility you did. But I had such a short amount of time compared to what you’re doing, and I didn’t want to skip certain countries. I think I would’ve been better off just picking half of the countries I visited or something. I can second guess my decisions all day long, can’t change it now. But I definitely won’t be traveling this quickly, or without Andy, again if I can avoid it.
Um, no Bora Bora was not cheap. For lunch one day I paid US$30 for a cheeseburger, fries, and a Coke. It was painful. Not to mention lodging and just getting there. Gorgeous, but expensive. If you do go someday, find an all inclusive deal, that way you don’t have to worry about the prices on the menu every time you order food.
Nadia | Gap Daemon
February 17, 2012 @ 11:57 AM
Sounds like you have travel burn out! Maybe it’s time to settle in one place for a while? Maybe you just need to call a place “home” for a while…
February 18, 2012 @ 7:07 AM
I was definitely burnt out! Luckily I’m days away from finishing this trip altogether. I’ll be back in Europe with Andy on Monday 🙂
February 17, 2012 @ 12:37 PM
It’s a bit like eating. You’ll never get so full that you won’t want to eat again…but you can get so full that you don’t want to eat for a while. In your case too, your heart was split between two great adventures: a RTW trip and Andy. It just seems like awkward timing to me. Exploring the world while a brand new relationship awaits to be explored at home. As life lessons go tho, it has powerful potential to reinforce what it is you truly value.
Best of luck.
(I’m a slow traveler too: Fast eater, but slow traveler. It isn’t the amount of sites we see that matters but how deeply we let them in. It’s hard to enjoy anything when we wish we were eating from a different table however. But also, what the world decides is a must see (or must eat) and what truly moves us can be very different, even in the best circumstances.)
February 18, 2012 @ 7:09 AM
Thanks Sarah, that’s a great comparison! It was awkward timing, but at the time I saw it as my only decent opportunity to fulfill a dream. The dream didn’t turn out the way I imagined, but I guess they usually don’t. I did have fun and see lots of great things, but I’m so ready to be back with Andy in a few days. Thank you for such a thoughtful comment!
February 17, 2012 @ 2:53 PM
I think ‘travel fatigue’ is perfectly normal. Especially when you have a new husband waiting for you back home! We’re heading to Japan in September and I am so wanting to travel super slowly…but reading and researching has me wanting to see so much. I need to remember the lessons I (and you) learned while traveling and realize that I don’t have to see absolutely every temple and small village etc.
February 18, 2012 @ 7:11 AM
Exactly right, Gillian. I think I’m getting a little better about being ok with not seeing everything, but I’m sure it will always be a struggle. Traveling slowly is great, but it’s sometimes hard to remember that when there are so many places to see. I’m really looking forward to reading about your trip to Japan!
February 17, 2012 @ 4:12 PM
I think it’s absolutely possible to see too much within a given period of time. I think that at this point in your travels you had got desensitized to all the external environment had to offer you.
At this point I would probably have reassessed my travels and either gone home completely for a while like you did when you went back to Germany to spend two weeks with Andy before coming to Melbourne or I would have totally reassessed how I was doing my long term travel. I think you kind of did both in the end by deciding to go back to Germany for a while and by deciding to do all future travel with Andy. And of course you can always slow down your travels and spend more time in the one place.
February 18, 2012 @ 7:13 AM
It was definitely the right decision to go back to Germany in November for those two weeks. While I was in Bora Bora, Andy had just gone home less than a week earlier, so the missing him was still so fresh. I think it I had a lot more of the trip left at that point, I definitely would’ve reevaluated things, but as it was I didn’t have much left. Easter Island, which was after Bora Bora, was set in stone, and shortly after that I was back in the States for a few weeks. Luckily now I’m just a couple days away from being back with Andy.
Andi of My Beautiful Adventures
February 17, 2012 @ 4:18 PM
This is exactly why I refuse to ever go on a RTW trip. I don’t EVER want to become jaded.
February 18, 2012 @ 7:15 AM
I think it I had done my RTW more slowly I would’ve been ok and not gotten so jaded. Also, if I had done this when I was single and didn’t have a wonderful husband at home who I missed desperately, it would’ve been an easier trip too. But it is what it is!
February 18, 2012 @ 2:08 PM
The biggest issue with traveling these days is that there is a huge difference between rushing through a destination just to check places off your list versus taking the time to really indulge into your surroundings and experience life from the perspective of where ever you are…
February 18, 2012 @ 6:01 PM
Yeah, I thought I was going slow enough since it was slower than I’d normally travel on a 2 week trip, but apparently I didn’t go slow enough. I definitely have a different perspective on it now.
February 18, 2012 @ 8:11 PM
Travel changes us b/c it comes with downs too. I really appreciate this post for acknowledging that. 4 mo. was my longest time away, but it gets hard. I think that’s when the real insight starts kicking in.
February 19, 2012 @ 5:44 AM
I certainly experienced some down moments along with the fun stuff. I do feel like I have a better appreciation for slow travel after taming this trip, and it’s helped me see Germany as home now.
February 19, 2012 @ 12:25 PM
Definitely. I know I’m doing too much when I have a travel day where I just feel like bumming around – and I always indulge that if I’m feeling that way.
February 19, 2012 @ 8:20 PM
When I was on my own it was much easier to have a “do nothing” day but I sometimes felt bad about it when I was traveling with Andy or my friend Amanda. I’m planning on traveling slower in the future!
February 19, 2012 @ 5:39 PM
I know this feeling because the same thing happened to me. I was ready to come home after 4 months because I pushed through my round the world very quickly. If I had I taken it slower would I have not suffered burnout? Maybe. I but I know I got the Heathrow and could not tell the customs agent where I was the night before. I just could not remember. I surprised they didn’t lock me up!
February 19, 2012 @ 8:21 PM
I’m sure it wasn’t funny at the time, but it’s pretty funny now! I’m glad they didn’t lock you up!
February 19, 2012 @ 10:09 PM
Great discussion inspiring post.
I think most people ‘hit the wall’ when traveling. For me, it’s always near the last few days, no matter how long the trip is. I think my thoughts turn toward home (whether consciously or unconsciously) and I feel like i have to push myself through the last few days. My constant mantra during these days is “You’re going to be pissed at yourself if you don’t keep going”, and I usually do, but by the time I have to do this, much of the joy is gone.
February 20, 2012 @ 8:41 PM
I agree, when it’s the end of the trip, I’m usually just ready to go home no matter how long I’ve been away. Sometimes I’m ok with pushing myself through it, but I’m at the point now where I’ve just come to realize that if I need a break, pushing myself won’t work out too well.
March 4, 2012 @ 2:14 AM
I cannot imagine travel burnout, I’m so excited to leave, but I know it is possible and probably will happen at some point. Our plan is to move slow, settle down when we start to get grumpy, and only move on when we feel like it. I hope we can avoid burnout that way.
March 4, 2012 @ 2:27 PM
You most likely will experience it at some point, but you have a lot in your favor. It’ll help that you will be traveling with your husband, and since yours is more of an indefinite travel plan, you will have a lot more flexibility. Like you said, settling down in one place for a while will definitely help.
Steve @ ImNotHome
April 3, 2012 @ 2:35 AM
Travel burnout can happen.
In 2010 I quit my job, bought a one way ticket and took off. After 10 months, still with money in the bank, I decided it was time to stop.
I didn’t want to go home as such, but my brain was going stale, getting restless.
And i found myself more and more thinking similar thoughts to you. “This is amazing, but not a beautiful as *****” or “The people in **** were nicer.” A sight would have to be world class for me to get even a little impressed.
Now I travel in between work, and the wonder is back. I think travelling for a long time, without something to “ground” you can lead to travel burnout.
April 3, 2012 @ 1:11 PM
Thanks Steve, it’s always good to hear other people’s perspective on this. I’ve been back home now for a little over a month and about to go on a two week trip that I’m really excited about. Hopefully no travel burn-out this time!