Have you ever had those trips where you just feel the planets aren’t aligned for you to be traveling right now? Everything is going minorly wrong, and it’s altogether more exhausting than you anticipated? This exhaustion is termed as ‘Travel Fatigue’. Travel fatigue is something not frequently discussed among travelers, but it’s very real according to science, and it’s something that can be avoided a lot of the time, but it will eventually set in on any long-term trip. With the right steps though, and with some prior knowledge of what’s worked for other travelers, it’s possible to cure travel fatigue—or at least recover enough to continue enjoying your trip.
What is Travel Fatigue?
Travel fatigue is total exhaustion caused by too many days or weeks of constantly being on “alert” while you travel. It manifests as apathy toward travel activities that usually excite you, and a lack of motivation to enjoy local culture and cuisine. Like other types of burnout, travel fatigue is a feeling of deep weariness and disengagement.
Causes of Travel Fatigue
There are many causes that can lead to travel fatigue. The causes may vary from the mood of your transportation to the way you treat your body while traveling. So in order to avoid it, we need to understand what causes it-
Not enough sleep
Everyone’s different when it comes to sleep but most of us need seven to eight hours of quality shut-eye to minimize the risk of burnout. If we’re only getting a couple of hours each night, burnout is almost inevitable and will catch up with us, eventually.
Not enough exercise
Exercise is a known mood enhancer and energy booster so without it, we’re likely to feel more sluggish, negative, and – ironically – more tired. So before packing your bag, it’s absolutely necessary to check that you are physically fit to cover all the walking and adventures.
Panicking or anxiety can cause travel fatigue. Packing your bags at the last minute, stressing about missing your flight or train, and making travel arrangements in the nick of the time are only going to give you unwanted stress. This will later reflect itself in the form of travel fatigue.
Breaks are important; in work but also in life. And that doesn’t change when it comes to life on the road. A lot of people return home from a trip, less relaxed than when they left because they didn’t give themselves any breaks. So make sure you are relaxed enough after your trip and are capable of returning to your normal life.
Your traveling depends upon the diet that you intake. Food provides us energy and without energy, it’s impossible for us to travel. So, if your diet is not proper you will feel more exhausted than your co-traveler.
Hectic travel schedule
When you’re eager to make the most of your trip, you might overschedule yourself. Monasteries, climb mountains, sampling local foods, hitting the beaches, enjoying the nightlife, and visiting important landmarks tend to make it onto most travel schedules… sometimes all in one day. This overscheduling may cause you to travel fatigue. Relax, let your body calm down. Don’t make schedules that can hamper your body.
If you fly to your destination, you may be experiencing jet lag. This could be the case even if you landed in a place just a couple of hours ahead or behind the time zone, you’re used to. Jet lag comes with a host of health impacts, and if you experience jet lag enough, travel fatigue could be one of them. It is essential to listen to your body and determine what it needs. Even if you’re excited to explore, take a nap, get plenty of rest and try to mitigate the impacts of jet lag.
Fatigue due to a road trip
Fatigueness is experienced more on road trips than on a train journey. This is because when you are traveling on a road, your car or bus accelerates and decelerates frequently, because of the natural flow of traffic. The vehicle also takes various turns that sway your body from one side to another, causing bodily stress. The condition of your vehicle, its seats, and even the quality of the roads also determine the level of comfort that you experience.
Fatigue on flights
Flights do not provide relief when it comes to experiencing fatigue. Flights have different factors that make you feel tired. Altitude is one such factor. Your body needs to adjust to altitudes that are unnatural for humans. Other factors include- turbulence, noise, rolling, and shuddering that you experience during a flight, which is not normal.
Symptoms of Travel Fatigue
If you experience any of these symptoms, the chances are high that you are suffering from travel fatigue:
High Stress or Anxiety
You may think of this purely as work-related but it can be just as common on the backpacking trail. If you’re constantly traveling to new places, never staying anywhere for longer than a few nights, never having a free moment scheduled into your day, that’s all going to catch up with you at some point.
Feeling disinterested and being unable to focus on any given task after a trip is a tell-tale sign that you are suffering from fatigue.
Negativity and Self-Criticising
Travel fatigue can leave you feeling more negative than you usually do, both towards others and yourself.
We’ve all been there, right? We get stressed out or we feel totally overwhelmed (perhaps by traveling too quickly or by packing too much stuff into our itinerary) and we resort to binge eating our favorite comfort food.
Another common symptom and early sign of travel fatigue are if you find yourself distracted when eating. This could mean you’re eating and working on your laptop or tablet at the same time.
Fatigue can lead you to spend your entire day in bed. Not because you are sleepy, but because of total mental and emotional exhaustion.
You have the same worries and fears playing around in your head, on repeat. And, no matter what, you can’t seem to quiet the noise, then you need to relax and calm down your fatigue.
Travel in itself can compromise your immune system. Have you ever noticed that you’re far more likely to get sick after traveling than you are if you had just stayed home? You may feel nausea, vomiting, or any indigestion related sickness after your trip is one of the symptoms of travel fatigue
Getting a fever, cough, or running nose is a common part of after travel stress. This is because your body got exposed to different bacterias, new weather, and even change in the water and food.
Increased Alcohol Consumption
Excessive alcohol consumption is another common symptom of travel fatigue. This one could be a bit tough to recognize as traveling and drinking can go hand in hand. But if you find yourself drinking to excess, you may be attempting to self-soothe your travel fatigue.
How is Travel Fatigue different from Jet Lag?
Often used interchangeably, there is a significant difference between travel fatigue and jet lag. While travel fatigue could be caused by any mode of transport, jet lag is related to aircraft and timezones.
Unlike jet lag, travel fatigue does not involve circadian rhythm disruption. For that reason, while travel fatigue usually goes away after a good night’s sleep, jet lag can persist for days or weeks until a person’s internal clock becomes realigned.
It is possible to have both travel fatigue and jet lag after a long-haul flight, but jet lag is far more likely to cause lasting and extensive symptoms.
Fatigue after Flights
Ever wonder why you feel fatigued after flights that are more than an hour or two in duration? There are many causes that can exhaust your body after a flight. Remember we are not talking about jet lag here!
The total distance, amount of layovers, time zones crossed, the direction of travel, local daylight hours, length of time at the destination, and other specifics of a trip can cause fatigue.
A person’s age may play a great role in fatigue. People over the age of 60 experience more exhaustion as compared to the others.
Sleep before travel
Poor sleep in the days leading up to a flight can increase a person’s propensity for fatigue after traveling.
Being stressed out can keep the mind and body on edge in ways that interfere with sleep and make it harder to cope with travel fatigue.
Use of alcohol and caffeine
Many people drink alcohol and coffee during flights, and these substances affect the brain in ways that can disrupt sleep.
To maintain the required temperature inside the cabin, most airlines regulate the air pressure inside by changing the composition of the air. Did you know that the air inside the cabin is 15% drier than ground air? This is why you feel dehydrated and your skin dries up while flying.
Sitting for long periods and the altitude of the plane impairs your circulation which fatigues the body and causes other unfavorable effects.
Bloating and indigestion
Your body has to work hard to keep the blood circulating throughout your limbs, deal with dehydration and fight off airborne viruses and the excess of bacteria that compromises your immune system when you’re flying. It re-routes many of those resources from digestion, causing bloating and gas.
Is it normal to be exhausted after a vacation?
Post vacation fatigue or exhaustion after a vacation is a common thing. The stress and anxiety associated with it can start before you’re even home, simply by thinking about the prospect of coming home.
Remedies for Travel Fatigue
Here are a few remedies that may help you to avoid the worst of the tiredness that comes when you are taking a long overland trip-
Make Time for Sleep
On planes, in taxis, on overnight trains or buses make time for your sleep. If that’s what it takes, do it. Say your Phone was down to 10% battery. Without charging it, it won’t work or even turn on. If our body is the phone then sleep is the charger and a bed is the plug socket in the wall.
Have a (Simplified) Exercise Schedule
Yes, it is harder to stick to your regular exercise routines when backpacking but it’s not impossible to stay in shape. Go out for a run, or even a walk when possible. If you have space, do some simple bodyweight exercises that don’t require any special equipment.
Drink Plenty of Water
One of the features of many buses and trains is that they will have an integrated air-conditioning system, and as a part of the way this will work it will actually draw some of the moisture from the air within the cabin or the carriages. The effect of this for those who are spending a fairly long time on the bus or train is that they can get dehydrated, and this has a physical effect on the body, so making sure that you drink plenty of water and keep hydrated will help to deal with the tiredness caused by the loss of water.
Break Up Your Journey Into Shorter Legs
Many people will want to go directly from one place to another on their trip, regardless of how long it will take to get to that final destination. One way of avoiding the exhausting effects of such a long journey is to spend a day or two at a point that is on the way from your starting point to the destination.
Maintain Your Normal Diet As Much As Possible
Another aspect of long journeys that add to the tiredness that people will feel is that the food that is available from retailers and restaurants along the route of the journey can be very different from what people will eat at other times. From wanting to save money to the fact that options on such journeys are generally less healthy than a normal diet, one great idea is to take food with you where possible and to keep your diet and mealtimes as close to your normal routine as possible, which will help to avoid the effects of a change in diet on your body.
Give Yourself Time To Relax At Each End Of The Journey
A common mistake for those who tackle long journeys is that they will not give themselves sufficient time to prepare before they travel and particularly not giving themselves recovery time after arriving at the destination. Planning for tiredness and knowing that you have a good night’s sleep before and after the journey will help to mitigate the effects of the tiring factors of long-distance travel.
Interact With Your Fellow Passengers
Boredom is one of the most tiring parts of long-distance travel, and while you can look out of the window and enjoy the scenery for a part of the journey, this will often become tiring itself, so one way of staying awake and alert is to engage your fellow passengers. This can feel a little odd, to begin with, but you will soon find yourself eager to learn more about those traveling with you and why they are traveling, and also wanting to tell them more about you and your trip too.
Doing some volunteer work is already popular among the backpacking community and it can really help soothe the soul and make you feel great about yourself. As a side effect, this is a great way to avoid fatigue.
Take Days Off
You can afford to do this when traveling slower. Not every day has to be filled with a million tourist attractions. It’s okay to spend some days lying on the beach, chilling by the mountains, or even sprawling out on your bed. This will help you recharge and keep your energy up to make the most of the experiences and adventures you do have.
Schedule Alone Time
If you’re not traveling solo, it can get difficult to spend every waking minute of the day with the same person (or a small group of people). It’s okay to do your own thing occasionally. In fact, it will keep both/all of you sane and will mean you actually enjoy the time you do spend together more.
How to Cope up with Post Vacation Fatigue?
When you’re trying to get back into the swing of things after coming home from a vacation, there are a few steps you can take before and after traveling to make things easier-
Tidy up and be proactive before traveling
To facilitate a smooth transition back to normalcy after being away on a trip, try to be proactive at home before embarking on your travels. Simplify things by making sure your home is tidied up and any lingering tasks and chores are completed before going away. Accomplishing this will ensure a relatively “clean slate” when you return home and eliminate one of the main causes of post-vacation fatigue.
Allow yourself to recover upon returning
One reason people feel post-vacation fatigue is that they push themselves too hard when they’re back home. Try to avoid overloading your family’s schedule with a bunch of post-vacation activities and social engagements. Get enough sleep and try to distance yourself from that more leisurely vacation pace you’ve enjoyed the past little while, especially in your first days home.
Don’t put off those must-do tasks
While we are recommending easing your way back into your regular routine after traveling, don’t take that too literally. It’s easy to procrastinate on those must-do tasks that arise after a trip, such as: buying fresh groceries, checking your snail mail, unpacking suitcases, catching up on email replies and returning missed calls and texts, laundering vacation clothes, etc. That’s why it’s so important to take care of things at home before departing on a vacation – you’ll lighten your workload that much more.
Feel ‘Back Home’
Often, traveling could be all about socializing. You meet new friends, network, and share thoughts with like-minded people.
However, if you are not liking being on top of your social game and are feeling tired, the best way out here will be to talk with your best friend, family – whoever tends to relax you. Watch some cooking videos, or listen to the voices of your favorite people on the earth – either way, remember that traveling could be fun and all, but oftentimes, it is best to disconnect and experience life at slow.
Start planning for your next trip
Fatigue and exhaustion cannot dominate your passion for traveling. Relax for few days, let your body calm down then again start planning for your next trip. This will help you to reduce your post-vacation stress and will boost your energy for the next. Get some inspiration by organizing your recent vacation photos and reliving some memorable moments.
Traveling – like anything else in life – has its ups and downs. But by managing to avoid exhaustion and fatigue, you can enjoy the ups more and limit the downs as much as possible. Avoiding travel fatigue involves recognizing the causes and the symptoms and then implementing measures and habits to prevent it from happening. We hope that this article showed you the best way to a happy trip. Even if you don’t travel the world, just remember that life is a journey–embrace and enjoy it!