When travel gets boring

Generally speaking, travel can be exciting, adventurous, and fun, but sometimes it’s mind numbingly boring. And I’m not just talking about 27-hour bus rides and multiple days of air travel.

I’m usually one of those in the “only boring people get bored” camp, but lately . . .

When travel gets boring, temple in Dalat

I think it’s easier when you’re doing holiday travel. When you only have 2 or so weeks to explore a place, I think it’s really hard to be bored. There is so much to do, see, and experience.

But when travel is your life. . .

I am not complaining about my life at all. In fact, I’m giving myself permission to say the possibly unpopular and unspoken: Sometimes I am freaking bored out of my mind when traveling.

As I experience more and more of the world, I see that more and more of the world is really same same, but different. Cultures change, food changes, the names of currency differ, as does the exchange rate, but really we are so amazingly similar to each other that I understand racism and ethnic discrimination even less.

Even that isn’t the boring part, though.

When your life is travel, you can easily get stuck in patterns and ruts. Just like when you’re back home. We’re currently in the medium-sized city (although it seems very small to me) of Dalat in Vietnam. We absolutely love it here, but our day is pretty much the same as it was in Hanoi, Bangkok, Ayutthaya, or even Paris for that matter.

We wake up and enjoy a very leisurely morning. At some point I’ll roll out of bed and make my new favorite—Vietnamese coffee. If we’ve made it to the bakery and stocked up, I enjoy a nice pastry or bread with it. I take care of business and personal emails, check what my friends have been doing on the other side of the world while we slept, and we leave to explore.

We aren’t fans of tourist attractions or tours, so it usually means we go for a nice, long walk watching out for interesting looking places, streets we haven’t gone down before, and so on. We usually eat lunch during these excursions before returning home.

When travel gets boring, Dalat, Vietnam

Once home, I check back into my email and social media, maybe do a little recreational Internet surfing, and do some writing. Meanwhile Tigger chats and plays Minecraft with his best friend who is now in Hawaii. If we have a kitchen, like we do now, I cook dinner before we return to watching movies, playing games, reading, etc.

Yes, it’s truly fabulous to only have to “work” a few hours a week, and I love that we have so much time to go exploring and to just be together. We get to see daily [insert country] life in a way many people don’t, and I absolutely love that. However, I am not a creature of habit. I need more variety.

I’m ready to admit that my day is often boring. Well, I guess I won’t say that. My day doesn’t provide a lot of mental challenge, and I really need that. Playing Words with Friends isn’t quite what I mean, either. Sure, writing gives me a brain workout, but it’s same same really.

What the slow life in Dalat has helped me realize is that I need to have some more activity in my life. I need to be working, volunteering, doing something different. Day after day of wake up, eat, explore, eat, work, eat, recreate, sleep just doesn’t work for me.

But I also know that I can overdo it. I’ve had those times during our journey where I was putting in major hours every single day. Even though I was doing something I’m passionate about, I wasn’t getting the time I want with my child. If that’s how my life will be, then why in the hell did we leave the States?

I’ve moved too far to the other side, though. Now I need to move back to the middle. We already acknowledged that we need to slow our travel down. We just enjoy it so much more. Part of aiding that, though, will be to start doing some local work or volunteering. Something that gets us out into the community in a way that isn’t strictly exploration and tourism. I need to engage my brain with something different. I need some variety.

When travel gets boring, Dalat, Vietnam

I also believe my search for more variety will lead to even richer experiences for both of us as we meet more people and get more immersed into a community, similar to like we were in Utila.

Since our New Zealand housesit didn’t work out, we’re planning on doing some HelpX exchanges. I’m actually really looking forward to that added variety in our daily life.

I guess in reality it isn’t travel that’s boring. You just have to be honest with yourself and realize what your needs are and seek to have them met. Yes, you can have the best of all worlds.

I just love how travel continually makes me reassess things.

The more time I spend traveling, the more I discover about the many facets that make me, well, me. Travel really is transformational. What has your experience been with long-term or slow travel?

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20 Comments

  1. Uh – oh… what happened to New Zealand? Will you still go to Australia? We haven’t traveled the way in which you are traveling but it seems to me that if you planted yourself for maybe 2 to 3 months at a time, you’d have the opportunity to still do your explorations, but you’d also have time to take a class or volunteer or take a short term job, I’m sure I’m not saying anything you haven’t thought of, but just thought I’d throw it out there. Safe travels ~
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    • The homeowner turned out to be rather difficult, and I saw some major red flags, so I decided it would be best for her to find someone else. My gut was just screaming RUN! I decided to listen.

      Yes, we have a housesit in Australia. We already have our tickets to NZ as well, so most likely we will still go there. I have found some HelpX exchanges, so that will help us save some money and stay in NZ longer while still having a bit of a local experience.

      Our plan is to go back to staying in places longer. Two to 3 months isn’t always an option because of visas, expense, etc., but I plan on being more proactive in seeking out classes, volunteer possibilities, etc., so that I can engage my brain in something different. Still love blogging and writing, but I need something else to challenge my brain.

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  2. Funny that you say these things, because we have been dealing with the same things even though we aren’t traveling or living abroad anymore. I needed more mental stimulation, even though I am writing and exploring a new city all the time. It all comes down to constantly re-assessing needs and desires, no matter where you are. On another note, i volunteered and worked in the non profit sector in India for years. Often these organizations need so much help on things that are super simple for us. I know tigger would get such great learning opportunities from it as well if you do go down that path. Look forward to new adventures!

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    • Yep! That’s the key. Reassess and make changes as you need.

      I bet you had some pretty wonderful experiences in India!

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  3. What’s the aversion to tourist attractions and tours? I can see why you don’t want to do tours — I hate them — but getting out and about and seeing things is often interesting, whether that’s museums, art galleries, craft stuff, spice farms, hiking in the landscape, caves. And swan boats are a fun thing to do, I think. We did one in Hue. They’re cheesy, but they’re fun. There are lots of ways of exploring that aren’t taking tours and sight-seeing but also aren’t wandering aimlessly….

    I know it’s very easy to get over temples — after a couple of months in SEA, most people are — but I wouldn’t write off doing tourist things per se.
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    • It’s just a personal preference. We do some touristy things, but in general I like to avoid the crowds, the overpriced things, and the less authentic cultural side of those areas.

      In Paris we went to Versailles and the Eiffel Tower, in Ipoh we went to the amusement & water park, and in Nha Trang we’ll be doing the amusement park island. Tourist stuff is okay once in a while, but it generally isn’t how we choose to experience a place.

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  4. I think for me, the thing that I have really loved about long-term travel is what a fluid thing it has turned out to be; it’s really easy to shake your life up and make the adjustments you need to en route to fit what you’re craving right at a given moment rather than simply pretending to be a static, unchanging inanimate object. We started our trip off thinking we would hit 30+ countries in 16 months or so… only to realize after 1 month of traveling that quickly through Japan that there was no way we could sustain that kind of pace and our sanity. So we slowed down, and now we love taking our time to really explore places in a way that we could not if we were just on a 2 week holiday. But now 9 months in, although we have found this way of traveling really rewarding, we are starting to consider changing things up once again and doing more with our trip, just as you are, because we have realized that while we love seeing all these places, meeting people and pursuing experiences is even more rewarding. So we’ve signed up for workaway, and I’m considering a few long-term opportunities—some volunteer, some simply personal—that again, are diversions from the trip we’ve been taking and one we could take with just a short vacation period. Really, the greatest thing our current lifestyle affords us is the opportunity to trasform it when we ourselves transform as well!
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    • Love it! You are spot on. Love that last sentence especially.

      For me it’s really true freedom, and it’s so nice to be able to take that moment to reassess and say, hmm, this isn’t working for me right now. And it’s fairly easy to just make that change!

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  5. I can so hear you Talon (and LOL, I don’t mean “hear” you and Tigger presently rustling around downstairs) ;)

    It truly is a balance that needs to be periodically adjusted. But I can tell you that when I opted to move here to Asia, I knew I’d never be happy neither A. constantly traveling from wondrous place to wondrous place (would never make it as a RTWer, everything just starts to blur after a few months), nor B. staying in one place for more than a few weeks without something meaningful/productive to do.

    That’s why I deliberately opted to teach English part time here in Vietnam. I don’t really need the money as my small pension is enough to live comfortably here in Asia. But it just gives me a bit of structure, and I feel more of a connection to the local community. Teaching EFL is also quite challenging and I’m able to tap into my creativity big time. I too, just find that – though it might seem like heaven to swing in a hammock in paradise all day – I need the stimulation of both a challenge and a bit of structure. I could accomplish the same thing with volunteering, but the extra bucks from teaching comes in handy for those plane tickets to Mongolia, etc. ;)

    And this way, I’ve been able to dive head-long into month-long travels here in Asia (and truly relish every stimulating moment), yet not burn myself out traveling ‘cuz I can come back here to Dalat and chill til I get the next travel itch.

    In short – I’m sure you’ll find the right balance for you and Steven, but meanwhile… this travel/boredom dilemma is a rather nice problem to have, no? ;)
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    • Definitely agree! We don’t like the typical RTW schedule, and staying too long in an area without other things to do that connect with the community is just too much for me.

      The other nice thing about working, aside from the money, is that you typically get a longer visa so you generally get more time to explore the country and get to know it better. Especially nice for countries that allow so few days on a standard tourist visa.

      And it definitely is a nice problem to have. I love the freedom to either leave and go elsewhere or to say “Okay, this isn’t quite working for me. This is what I need, so let’s make that happen.” SO much better than “normal” life.

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      • Depends on the country (and your own native nationality of course) but… generally to get a work permit (leastwise here in Vietnam) you need to sign a 1 yr. contract (plus the WP belongs to the school/whoever you contract with, no you). And while I may well stay here in Dalat for another year – being the commitment-phobic that I am, I’m just not willing to sign a contract for an entire year (presently I’m on a 6 mo. contract and will likely only go for a 3 mo. once that expires).

        So… I have to play the visa game. Though I’ve learned the ropes in the past year and half, and basically (again, leastwise here in VN) it amounts to getting a 3 mo. tourist visa (either multi or single entry, your choice the former costs more of course), then I’m able to renew that twice in-country before I have to leave VN and come back in. It amounts to… I have to leave VN every 9 months – which… isn’t at all a hardship as I’ve already wandered to Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, Oz, Mongolia and most recently Laos, just in the past 18 months. ;)

        Always a case of “YMMV” of course, but leastwise that’s how it’s worked for me here in Vietnam.
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  6. Bloody hell; you’ve just made me realise what’s not quite right with my life! I am married with two fab daughters who we unschool, and I have been feeling so out of sorts. I am bored, and I knew this but felt so guilty admitting it! OK, I’m going to do something I really love and go and take a dance class. Thanks.x

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  7. Talon, this is exactly what I was telling one of my friends back in California.

    They think everyday is so exciting because we live in France but the reality is that you can get stuck in a rut no matter what,and where you are and as you said “Even through travel”.

    Lately i have been feeling bored with our little French town and felt like we should move but then i realized that there was so much we haven’t done and explored yet. So lately i have set little goals each week to try something new whether it be visit a new place, try a new food or whatever. It just has to be outside of our normal routine.
    I find that by doing this it takes a way some of the mundane aspects of everyday life. I still catch myself slipping into my rut every once in a while and have to slap myself out of it..
    Annie André recently posted..Our Trip To Spain: 7 Tips For Families Who Want To Visit Barcelona On A Budget Without Stressing Out:My Profile

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    • So true! You definitely have to mix things up. I think taking some classes or something will help me move out of the travel rut. Even though it’s a great life and there is a lot to do, it still gets to be same same after a few days in a new area, especially smaller towns.

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  8. we are in that same place right now Talon! seems so strange, as we are living so creatively and yet we are in a rut too. I am sure you have, but have you heard about wwoof farms or workaway.info? they have some great opportunites exchanging work for room and board. Some places are really amazing and you can learn some great skills like farming or house building. good luck, I look forward to hearing all you do in the future:) xoox ,Chelsea

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    • Nice to hear some other families feel that way, too. Yes, I have heard of WOOF. We’re actually looking into doing some HelpX.net exchanges in NZ. We shall see. :)

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  9. Hi! I really enjoyed your article. My husband and I have been slow traveling for about 9 months now and I can understand what your are saying. We have our routine and feel like even though the scenery around us changes, our routine doesn’t (that much). That said we are busy because we put together a list of new goals that we’re working on (physical, language learning, posting to the blog, my on-line business, his consulting work and planning for the next leg, social media). We have a family meeting each week where we do an update on our progress. It actually ends up being pretty busy. We’ll see if that changes. We’re lucky to have each other to make sure we stay challenged as most all of our goals are self-imposed (which I enjoy much more than I did putting in long hours working on someone else’s). Happy Travels!
    Jennifer recently posted..Sintra – Palaces and Secret Passages Await YouMy Profile

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    • It sure is nice being able to spend your time building up your own business rather than someone else’s!

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