I have just finished a 12 month journey around the world, hitting up 13 different countries in Asia, The Pacific, and Europe. There were times when I felt like I had all the energy in the world; I could climb a mountain, go for a run, wander for miles around town, and other times when I felt exhausted and became prone to taking quick naps on the heated toilet seats of Japan’s bathroom stalls. However, I am living proof that enjoyable travel, and specifically long term travel, is possible with CFS. Having become somewhat of an expert of managing travel over the past year, I am leaving you with 8 tips and tricks to reduce your chances of relapse and allow you to live out your travel dreams, whether that includes a long term backpacking trip, or a two week jaunt during the holidays. Enjoy!
1. Travel Alone
Or at least with someone who will leave you alone when you need it. There is nothing more exhausting than trying to keep up with someone else’s plans and expectations. You may have a spouse or a family that makes traveling alone impossible or undesirable. That’s okay too, you can bring them along, just make sure everyone understands that you might choose to lie in til noon and then wander down the block to enjoy your afternoon with a book and a cup of tea some days while they are out sightseeing.
Solo travel gives you the flexibility to go at your own pace, and do what you want when you feel like doing it. Imagine waking up every day and doing exactly what you want to do or feel up to doing. I often felt more energetic when traveling despite being quite active and moving around a lot because I followed this rule. Each morning I woke up and assessed how I felt, and then built the days plans around how I was feeling. This is a very rewarding way to travel, and It is much more difficult to do that with a travel partner.
2. Don’t Plan (Sort Of)
Some things are important to plan. You don’t want to end up sleeping under a picnic table because you didn’t book your B&B early enough. But the thought of fun filled, scheduled days makes my head spin a little. Try not to be a checklist traveler; the type who needs to see every main sight or attraction. It’s tiring to sigh tsee, and no matter how hard you try you will never get to everything, so don’t waste your time and energy trying. Pick a couple things that you really want to see, and then spend the rest of your time enjoying the culture in other ways, like sitting for a few hours with a tea or gelato in Europe or people watching in India. These passive activities can allow you to experience more of the culture than standing a top the Eiffel Tower, so don’t put undue pressure on yourself to see it all! You can superimpose your super relaxed self in front of a photo of anything you like to show your friends!
3. Get Out of the City
Not all stress is bad stress, but all stress is stressful! (I made that up just now). Big cities are fun, and there are a lot of exciting things to do and interesting people and places to see. However, it is really easy to get over stimulated, so while I don’t advise avoiding big cities all together, try to limit your time to a few days in each one, and spend some more time in smaller towns or in the countryside where you can be surrounded by beautiful nature and the questioning glaces of the locals who have never seen a tourist before.
4. Go Slow
Only got two weeks? Try just choosing two places. There is a lot to see in the world, and when you are heading to your dream destination it can be hard to cut out some of the places you really wanted to visit. But travel, the actual act of physical travel, is very tiring. If you know French or Spanish you may notice that the verb for ‘to work’- ‘travailler’ or ‘trabajar’ respectively, sounds and looks suspiciously similar to ‘travel’. This is because travel comes from a Middle English word; ‘travailen’, inspired by the French, to mean: ‘to torment, to labour, to journey’. That’s right, to torment. In our rush to get away from it all to lie on the beach for a week, we often forget that the act of travel in itself is a labor. For some a labor of love, but be aware of the challenges of travel; waking up early to catch a train, long, uncomfortable bus rides, altitude changes in the air, etc. Go slow, and you will be rewarded not only with less travel time but by getting to know one spot or town really well. I try to stay in each place at least 3-7 days when I travel.
5. Stay in One Climate Zone
This is one piece of travel advice I never actually follow, but if you are worried about burnout on long term travel I would take heed of this. Changing climate zones is like jumping in a cold pool after sitting in a sauna, a little refreshing but a major shock to your body. Every time I’ve gotten a cold, or started to feel like rubbish on this trip, it has been in climate zone transition.
6. Make Time for your Coping Strategies
If you are feeling well enough to travel, I’m guessing you’ve come up with some pretty stand up coping mechanisms to best utilize your energy and stop relapses. One of the biggest challenges of travel is keeping this up, as you no longer have your daily routine. It doesn’t matter where you are, you will need to make time for this! I was recently bed ridden for three days (something which rarely happens anymore), because after traveling with friends for a few weeks, I hadn’t done any yoga or meditation, and had been eating a lot of bread (three things that I find really help me keep my health solid). Even if it was just 5 minutes of meditating in the morning, or a quick stretch or sun salutation after a long walk, I made sure, for most of my trip, to remember what allowed me to get this far in the first place, and to continue respecting the limits of my body. Just because I often now feel quite healthy and energetic, it doesn’t mean I can go back to my old habits and expect any different results this time round. This one is very important so I will say it again: Make time for your coping strategies!
7. Give your Travel a Purpose
Travel can often give us insight both into who we are, what our values are, and how we function, as well as giving a broad insight into the global community. Maybe you want to see if you can learn a new language, or survive on your own in a small Thai village, or maybe you want to Travel to East Asia or India to learn about Traditional Chinese Medicine or Ayurvedic practices to help you understand your own health better. Maybe you want to meditate with the Tibetan monks, eat your way through Europe, or learn something you have always wanted to learn. Travel is always more rewarding when you come back feeling like you are better off than when you left, not just with a burning hole in your pocket. You don’t need to become one with the land, or learn a tantric yoga pose to have a purpose, just something to write on a piece of paper, that you can pull out and look at every time you feel like you are crazy or tired or want to go home. Purpose will give you the courage to persevere when things are tough!
8. Go somewhere you love, to do something you love, with someone you love
The most important thing CFS has taught me is to value what is really important in life. And it’s not having an important career, or getting the highest marks in school, or surrounding yourself with perfect and important people. What really matters is surrounding yourself with people whom you love unabashedly and who love you back just the same, and being able to do the things that fulfill you. If you can follow your passions, while being with the people you are passionate about, you will not find yourself wanting for more.
I hope this helps you get on the trip you have always dreamed of! Post your travel stories, tips or questions in the comments!