Whether you’re curled up in your hostel bed praying for the couple in the bathroom next door to stop their incessant lovemaking, or leaning over a foreign toilet with a throbbing headache while your dinner flees your body from both ends; nobody warns you of the travel slump that hits you right between the eyes a few weeks into your Great Adventure. They don’t warn you of its weighted impact when you’re on the street, in a hostel, or mid-fist pump on the dance floor of a club in an ancient city.
My first Great Adventure was seven unaccompanied months in Europe. I landed in Spain without a plan, accommodation or contacts. I remember arriving in the hostel dorm of forty with my weighty backpack dumbfounded at the numbers who were curled up in bed with a book in the middle of the day. Are you serious? You’re in SPAIN. There are bulls and tomatoes and tapas right outside your window and you’re down here in this dark hovel? What is wrong with you? This place is breathtaking!
Weeks later the travel slump hit me for the first time and that was all I wanted to do. I wanted to sit in my underwear with Steinbeck and read about a world that was just as foreign as the one right outside my window. I was in Munich, Germany and I stayed in that decrepit dorm for three days and left only for the cheap kebabs at the local train station.
I began to observe the travel-sphere as a third party. I questioned the laughter and energy of those who came and went in my dorm like ocean tides. I had an existential crisis of sorts: Who are these strangers? Why are they here, are they running from things too? Are they scared? Do they get lonely?
I reached a point of tears; I didn’t want to go home, I simply lost motivation to explore. I Skyped friends and sent emails and was met with scoffs and remarks along the lines of ‘first world problems’. No one at home wanted to know I wasn’t enjoying the holiday they were dreaming of. No one wanted to know my social media presence was a lie.
Since that time I’ve embarked on many journeys and faced countless days and even weeks of the overseas slump. I’ve developed a routine for myself that balances indulgence, relaxation and eventual drive. No longer do I judge you who sits in the hostel lobby on your computer for hours, no longer do I judge you who refuses to participate in the organised pub-crawl, no longer do I judge you in the bunk below eating crisps and listening to music and reading a battered novel in the afternoon.
The travel slump is inevitable, and it is important to rest. It is also important to drag yourself out, backpack and all, and continue the journey. When you’re home you’ll be hashtagging ‘throwback’ and dreaming of this foreign city, so don’t allow yourself to waste away in your hostel dorm. Rest, but don’t waste. And please, when you’re back and ready to take on the world, don’t judge me who lies in the bunk above you, me who has chosen to stay in and rest. I’m feeling a little blue.