Why am I tired while Traveling?

View from an airplane. Photo by Josh Sorenson on Pexels

Dear Lewis,

As a society, sometimes I feel like we have an obsession with traveling—we want to go as many places as possible (and we want to be able to show others about our adventures on social media). However, as much as we love travel, at the same time, we want to recognize that travel can also be really tiring, both emotionally and physically. So, if you are feeling worn out after your amazing vacation, don’t worry—you are not alone! Here are some reasons why you might get tired when you travel:

Physically:

Let’s start with the ways that you can physically get tired while traveling. Whether it is for a weekend or for months on end, these are all reasons for why you might be yawning instead of partying.

Carrying luggage: It may seem like a silly thing, but if you are not used to lugging around pounds (or kilos) for long stretches of time, even your 20 pound (10 kg) backpack will get heavy. And if you have to drag around a suitcase it can be just as bad—especially if you have to get around old towns in Europe where they have cobblestones instead of paved roads.

Pro-Tip: Calculate how to make the time you spend with your luggage minimal. You can often leave bags at hotels or hostels in addition to finding storage units at many train or bus stations and airports. Consider paying a small fee to avoid a sore back and tired legs later.

 Doing all the tourist things with a backpack is double tiring.

Doing all the tourist things with a backpack is double tiring.

Doing all the tourist things: Again, this might depend on how much activity you do back home, but I often find that I do (minimum) twice as many steps per day while I am traveling as when I am in my day-to-day life. Everything from guided tours to just walking around the city center really adds up quick when you are in awe of a new place (or get lost trying to find somewhere specific). While this balances out excellently with wanting to try all the local food specialties, it can also mean that I am ready to drop into bed hours before I would be back home.

Not eating/drinking great: Eating while traveling is one of my absolute favorite things to do—I usually want to try as many of the local dishes as I can. However, after about a few days, I also usually want to sit down to a home cooked meal… that I make myself. This may seem strange because I am enjoying what I am eating so much, but when I am at home my diet is fairly regular and gives me a bunch of energy. When I change what I eat, I often don’t eat enough of something (usually veggies) unless I am cooking for myself.

I also think its important to consider that our drinking habits while on holiday aren’t great either. I am a huge water and (unsweetened) tea drinker at home, but will often swap that for a soda or alcoholic beverage while traveling. This means that, minimum, I am upping my sugar intake. And alcohol has been proven to disrupt sleep as much as coffee, often making me wonder if on holiday we should go alcohol free and catch up on good sleep (even if it does seem to be contradictory to how we feel like we should be enjoying our vacation…).

Pro-tip: Take advantage of wanting a simple, home cooked meal to invite the people you are traveling with (or other hostel guests) to join you. I guarantee that most people will love to join in. Check out our top tips for cooking in a hostel or AirBnb if you don’t know how to get started.

Hotel room bed. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.

Not sleeping great: If you are a person that can sleep anywhere you are really lucky. Most people have difficulty sleeping as well when they are away as when they are at home (mostly because your brain will wake up to strange noises, lights, etc.). Add in the fact that you might be out partying until all hours of the morning and/or waking up at the crack of dawn to hike to the top of a mountain to see a beautiful sunrise and it is no wonder that you are ready for a siesta mid-afternoon. In addition, things like last minute packing and stress about catching your early train can warp your ability to sleep like a baby.

Pro-tip: Make sure you are properly considering how much good sleep you are actually getting before heading out on another adventure when you are already tired.


Emotionally:

While it may seem weird that you will get emotionally tired while traveling, I honestly think this can have more of an impact than the above factors. And these are the top reasons for why.

Busy all the time. Photo by Rawpixel.com on Pexels

You might need to catch up (with yourself): I am one of those people who always gets sick after finishing an important test/project and I figure it is because I push myself so hard that my body needs a rest when I am done. Before I go on holiday, I also tend to try and tie up all loose ends and finish up all my important responsibilities. By letting go of this stress when traveling, you are inviting your body to relax, which may mean that you need to catch up on sleep or just chill out a bit more than you initially thought.

Pro-tip: While doing all the tourist things is awesome, staying in to watch a movie and just hang out (with yourself or partner/friend) can be an equally wonderful way to spend a day or evening of your holiday. Listen to your body—it is smarter than you think!

Seeing new things everyday: Even if you go into your holiday completely charged and ready to see everything, seeing new places and people everyday can also be tiring. When we travel we take our brains out of what they already know and force them to constantly be interpreting new stimuli. This means that going on a guided tour, a wine tasting tour, and visiting an important cathedral makes for an exhausting day. If you are also trying to check out museums, stadiums, and all the monuments, your mind can go into information overload.

Pro-tip: Figure out what kind of traveler you are and book your trip around what makes you feel great. I personally believe that having a picture in front of every monument is only amazing if it makes you feel good to travel like this—and I know it’s not for me!

Different languages: Living in a different language is tiring (here’s why I think so after living abroad for years); however, traveling to countries that don’t speak a language you are used to can be even more tiring. It turns communication, something that seems so easy in your native language—especially after spending a significant amount of time abroad—really hard. Simple tasks such as asking for a cup of coffee with plant milk can turn into drinking tea because I can’t face trying to explain that real milk and my stomach just don’t agree. And, sometimes, finding people that you can understand isn’t always easy (although, I don’t believe it’s impossible either, like we talked about here).

Pro-Tip: Be patient with yourself and don’t worry if you mess up—it happens to the best of us.

 Even something as choosing what you want to drink can feel complicated in different cultures.

Even something as choosing what you want to drink can feel complicated in different cultures.

Different cultures: In addition to having to communicate in a different language, it is important to keep in mind how culture impacts so many aspects of everyday life. Everything from how people cross the road to how they go out will impact your holiday (unless you are in a very tourist zone). And some things, such as waiters you perceive to be rude or restaurants that open at odd times, might only be strange to you. Again, emotionally and intellectually this is really difficult because it will take a minute (or more) for your brain to compute what is going on.

Pro-tip: Read this article about cultural competences and question what you can do to make this easier for yourself (hint: I would recommend starting to learn that your cultural norms aren’t the only ones).

Nothing is familiar: At the end of the day, one of the main reasons we get emotionally tired while traveling is because we are constantly facing things that are unfamiliar to us. To be able to interpret the situation around us we have to use large amounts of emotional energy. While this is totally normal, it can be frustrating.

My two top tips for dealing with being tired while traveling:

Eiffel tower in Paris. Photo by Free-Photos on Pixabay.

I actually don’t really like the process of traveling because I do tend to get tired; however, I love to go new places and meet new people from different cultures. I really enjoy eating local dishes and interacting with people from the places I visit. I personally find that smaller cities are easier than really big ones for me, but here are are my two top tips for combating your tiredness while traveling.

Rest: I know it sounds easy, but relaxing when you feel like you have to see and eat everything can be really hard. Two ways to look at it are: make sure you have enough time to do everything you want to do OR go with the flow and don’t be disappointed if you don’t see it all. For example, I would never try to see Paris in a weekend, but if I really sat down and decided I really wanted to see the l'Orangerie museum (my favorite), the Eiffel tower, and Notre Dame I could feasibly do that and make sure I ate as many croissants and delicious food as possible. On the other hand, if I want to see all that Lisbon and its surroundings has to offer, I might decide to stay for a week to two weeks to make sure I could ‘do it all’ without feeling burnt out.

In addition, making sure that you take naps (one of my favorite things I have learned in Spain—I nap more than most Spaniards I know) and call it a night early really help if you want to be a super tourist the next day. Because you know you might be more tired, by implementing these self-care resting tricks, you will be able to do more in the long run.

Make/eat a good meal: I know I said it before, but eating while traveling (even when I am only eating really good food) can throw off my system and energy level. I know that if I find time to go to the market and make myself—and others if I can—something that fits me, it will help boost my energy levels. One of my favorites is making a simple but complete breakfast with whatever is local plus some extra fruit and veggies if I can find ways to sneak them in.

Do you get tired when you travel? How do you deal with it? Let us know in the comments!

Sincerely,
Spain