Nine Month Check In

01.March 2010

Checking In

We are now past the nine month mark of our trip. Time for another look at how we’re doing:

I think about home more often than I thought I would. I don’t miss home as much as I miss having a home. I thought I would be going home kicking and screaming, wanting to stay on the road forever, but actually I am looking forward to going home. I dream about routine, about sleeping in the same bed night after night, about cooking and cleaning, about running and riding my bike, and yes, even about going to work! I’m sure that within a few weeks of being home the tables will be turned and I will once again be dreaming of the freedom and adventure we have had while away.

Travel fatigue has set in. I have been following travelers blogs since first thinking about this trip 2 years ago. It seemed that they all ‘hit the wall’ at about the nine month point and, sure enough, I think we too are suffering from travel fatigue. The constant work of having to find a room, or a meal, or a bus/boat/train is wearing. We have gotten used to not quite knowing what’s going on and not being able to communicate as effectively as we would like, but it’s tiring to always be trying to figure it out. And, after being in a region for some time, sightseeing loses it’s appeal…we don’t try as hard to go visit another temple, or museum, or waterfall as we do when we first enter a region.

We know now what we need to travel. We may be tired and looking to home a bit more than we thought but we also now know what we need to make us happy. We have realized that the number one thing that affects us is the quality of our accommodation. We like to have a nice room in a nice guesthouse that has space to hang out in and maybe meet other travelers and, if it has wi-fi, all the better. It should have a double bed, it must have a private bathroom with hot water, it should be near enough to everything so we can walk but off the main area enough so it is  quiet. We like to use local buses to get around (and actually prefer them to the tourist minivans that run all over SE Asia), we love to eat at street stalls and markets, and renting a scooter to see the sights (rather than going on a tour) is one of our favorite things to do, but we have learned that spending the money on a good place to stay is more than worth it.

SE Asia is definitely the easiest place to meet people. NomadicMatt told us early on that SE Asia is the place to meet people and he was right! There is a well worn backpacker trail through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia and there are travelers everywhere. We have met countless people on buses and cooking classes, in guesthouses and pubs, and then just keep running into them at various places along the way. I run into more people that I know here than I ever did back home. My favorite though was when Damien and Kara of RunningTowards stopped us on the street in Chiang Mai to ask if we were the folks from OneGiantStep…fame at last!!

Blogging is getting harder. Maybe you’ve noticed that it’s getting a little longer between posts. I don’t know why but it’s getting a little harder to write all the time. Maybe it’s because our time here has been much more laid back – we’re not doing ‘stuff’ all the time and are spending more time just relaxing…not good blogging material. We should be moving more now though and in a few weeks we enter into Vietnam where, I’m sure, there will be lots to write about!

Nine months in and we’re still learning about this travel stuff and how it affects us. Every phase is different and we try to take it all as it comes. We seem to be trudging over a bit of a hump right now but I think we’re almost at the top of it now and will really enjoy the next few months and what they bring.

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14 Responses to “Nine Month Check In”

  1. Mandy Says:

    Well written, as usual. I love your writing and yes, I did notice that the writing wasn’t coming as quick. I was missing them! *selfish, I know.

    Looking forward to hearing about your next adventures. Even the few small trips I have taken, I always wish to come back home, too.

    That’s pretty cool, that you got recognized on the road. I know famous people!

  2. dreamalittledream.ca Says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more on all these points! We have been on the road for 8 months and are experiencing the exact same things. We often find ourselves choosing to just do nothing then to go and sightsee. We now have 2 months left in our budget to travel and 3 countries to see. So we said to ourselves we need to pick up our pace a bit to make the most of our remaining time and get a real feel for our last destinations… then Scott hurts his foot, forcing us to slow down again and just sit around so it can get better!

  3. Joel Says:

    Thanks for sharing what you’re going through. It helps me to know what to expect along the way.

    I’m looking forward to reading the follow-up post that shares how you got past the burn-out and fatigue. It seems it may equate to the ongoing development of a long term relationship. A few months in, the “new-ness” wears off and there’s a need to adjust to what you’re getting from it and find other aspects of the experience you enjoy and can focus on.

    Excited to hear what’s next for you!

  4. Shawn Says:

    I agree, the context of travel changes after seven to nine months. As I am into my third year I have found house-sitting to be the best recovery situation.

    And, course nesting here in Bulgaria for the winter has been wonderful.

    After driving north in Eastern Europe this summer, come fall I am not sure where I will go, but I know that “tourist trail” in SE Asia is deterring my interest.

    Yes blogging gets harder.

  5. Keith Says:

    I like the distinction you’ve made between missing home and missing having a home. I think that’s really on point.

    I’ve also discovered that accommodation is the most important factor in traveling happiness, so I couldn’t help nodding along to that one.

    Keep at it – it’s good to have these realizations.

  6. Victoria Says:

    It was really interesting reading this. Our trip is fast approaching but will only be 9 months long. I wonder if that means we’ll only get burnout at the end, or if it’s a been away a long time but still have a way to go phenomenon? I’ve always found good accommodation makes the world of difference to how you view a place. We are plannin to use quite a lot of short lets of a week or so as we are travelling with children and think having a kitchen and space for them to play will be good. Hopefully they’ll also be nicer than some of the hostels I’ve stayed in! Good luck with the rest of your trip.

  7. Anil Says:

    I’m a creature of habit too and I simply need my little routines to function well. Since I’m always on the road I’ve got a few little things I try to do on a regular basis to keep me going with work and fun. The fatigue will likely pass as you move on, good luck!

  8. michelle Says:

    Hey guys. Neil and I were just talking about this, and remembering our thoughts on travel. We find, no matter if it’s 2 weeks or 2 years, about 3/4 through a trip that you know has an end point, something kicks in and makes you start anticipating the end – and perhaps that then affects the experience you’re now on.

    I think it’s human nature. We are conditioned to look towards the next phase, the next step – perhaps this is conditioning of our society and our current lifestyles, or maybe it’s always been this way, weeks give way to weekends, seasons give way to each other, life stages move on to others.

    Perhaps if your trip did not have an end point, you wouldn’t feel like this? i don’t know, I’ve never been on a trip that didn’t have an end point – well except the trip that is raising children and work. And with those things, we set arbitrary landmarks to measure our progress so that we have something to look forward to – vacations, birthdays, etc.

    Sad isn’t it – that we subconsciously get caught up in the future that it’s hard to live in the present. However, one thing that time away does do, is teach us to live in the present – and you’ll find that when you do come home (wherever that is), you will live more in the present – and you’ll notice that when you chat to people who haven’t been away.

    We’ve been home a year and four days now. And it’s been a time of change and adjustment and longing for travel again – again that thing in the future to look forward to!

    I remember feeling the same way you did at the 75% mark on our trip – it’s normal. But try your hardest to know that this will end, and all will return to ‘normal’ and to enjoy the time spent drinking tea and playing games, with nothing else to do.

    Love hearing from you my friends – and don’t worry about the blogging – I remember the same thing happening to me too. We’ll check in with you whenever you’re ready…

  9. Lisa Says:

    Love this post Gillian!! It is as if I had written it myself. It so describes how we feel down to the very letter. It has been over 9 months now for us and we are all very excited to be going home. On Tuesday I will click my heels and start the return journey. There is no place like home, there is no place like home!

  10. eric Says:

    I love this post Gillian and it doesn’t matter how many or few there are, they are always great to read! These folks have some great advice/ insight, things to keep in mind for any journey no matter how long or short. I cannot believe over four months have passed since we met and you both are still on the road and I am back in the land of the (gasp!) working. But I look forward to my next journey and especially your next adventure post. Travel safe!

    • Gillian Says:

      @Joel – I like the long term relationship reference. Maybe I’m still trying to ‘recapture the magic’ instead of moving on to what this stage of travel is all about. I’ll have to think about that more. Thanks.

      @Victoria – I don’t think it’s the length of the trip but, as you say, the ‘almost done’ phenomenon. Home becomes another destination and is just as exciting as the first destination. Good luck on your trip!

      @Michelle – thanks for the kind words. I think it’s normal to look to the future but, you’re right, it’s just as important to remember today. I do appreciate the time we have, believe me, and will work hard when we get home to maintain this sense of wonder we have.

      @Lisa – you’re on your way home now…we’re thinking of you and are looking forward to your ‘back to reality’ stories!!

  11. Ryan Says:

    We know the feeling. Maybe it’s time to settle into a place and call it “home” for a bit? We struggle with this often. I think a week or two in the same place can do much to recharge the batteries, so to speak.

    We have found India is quite a great place to meet people as well. Great to swap stories, frustrations and have a conversation other than “What country? You married? You have kids?…”

  12. Gareth Livingstone Says:

    Great post Gillian. I can empathize with most of your post, with the exception of the first 2 paragraphs (we are only 3 months into our travels). Accommodation does make a big difference as, even though you are away from home, you can make your accommodation a safe haven if you ever need a break from the outside world.

    We are also finding the blogging difficult to keep going. We keep getting great ideas for blog posts but making the effort to do them is also proving a problem. We find that creating time for blogging (or having an internet or blog day) and writing up several blog posts at once then scheduling them to go live throughout the week works well for us.

  13. Jaime Says:

    I busted out laughing when I read “My favorite though was when Damien and Kara of RunningTowards stopped us on the street in Chiang Mai to ask if we were the folks from OneGiantStep…fame at last!!” THAT IS TOO FUNNY… I hope ne day someone will stop me and say if im the one from BREAKAWAY BACKPACKER jaja LOVE IT!!!

    I am enjoying your blog alot…been reading quit a few of your post this evening.
    Jaime recently posted..STATE OF MY BREAKAWAY