I had big plans for my three months in Thailand.
Writing a Koh Tao guide. Overhauling my archives. Pitching freelance outlets I’ve been itching to write for. Tackling items on my to do list that have been stagnating there for, oh, I don’t know, years. I had mighty ambitions for doing all those things in my quarter year back in Southeast Asia.
And you know what? I did basically none of them. I failed spectacularly at that list. Instead, my time back in Thailand was focused around a much more crucial goal: a little thing I call not losing my flipping mind.
Because guys, I was close.
I’ve really struggled with how to write this post, because the last thing I want to do is come off ungrateful for my life or unaware of how privileged I’ve been to lead it. But every lifestyle involves sacrifices. And this one, for all it gives me, does lack in some things I’ve grown to feel the absence of — the comforts of a routine, the depth of long term friendships and relationships, the stability of regular employment, a place to call home, a sense of balance. The truth is, for me, much of 2014 was spent on the brink of burnout. Two of the things I love most in this world are blogging and traveling, and from those passions grew Alex in Wanderland. Yet somehow, around my third anniversary of non-stop travel and blogging, I came dangerously close to loathing both those things. When you create a business out of your passions, you have to be somewhat protective of yourself in order to make sure that flame doesn’t burn out — advice I simply was not heeding.
I sobbed tears of relief when I got to my hotel room in Bangkok, knowing how close I was to an apartment in Koh Tao where I’d sleep in the same bed for weeks in a row, and finally catch up on the backlog of work that was haunting me every night in the form of severe insomnia. I couldn’t say I was homesick — I don’t even have a home. But something wasn’t right. When I got to the island and caught up with one of my oldest and closest friends there, I confessed to her how lost I felt. “Anna, I’m so, so tired. I’m dreading every plan I have coming up. I don’t know if I ever want to travel again.” She considered me closely. “Be careful who you say that to,” she replied. And I know she was right. Travel fatigue doesn’t elicit much empathy. But you guys are my people, and I think I can say pretty much anything to you.
Over the next three months, I gave myself permission to push all those big goals I had to the backburner. I splurged on a light-filled studio and rented a motorbike. I opened my apartment up as an office where my girls Katy and Anna — who also work online — came over almost every day for laptop time and laughter. I did my most pressing and urgent work, and then I firmly closed my computer. I went to muay thai or yoga or to the gym. I went paddleboarding and hiking and diving. I had a regular Sunday spa date where I gossiped with my friend Janine over foot massages. I went out drinking with my friends Brian and Chris. I ordered pizza and laid in bed and watched The Daily Show. I went beach and pool hopping with my girl Päivi. I started seeing a guy who made me smile and made me think. I had movie nights and friends over for drinks. I had unpacked my bags entirely, and I felt deeply content every time I ran my hand along my things, neatly hung in my small closet. My heart swelled when I looked down and saw my keys in my palm — my bike, my apartment. I cancelled two upcoming trips and felt great relief at doing so. My days were filled with friendship and sunshine and the simple pleasures of sitting still. I cannot remember the last time I was so happy.
When it did come time to do a bit of traveling around Thailand — as I had committed to some things ahead of time, before declaring myself on hiatus — I basically brought my new life along with me. My jaunt to Koh Samui, Bangkok, Pai and Chiang Mai was filled with camaraderie, silliness, and a sincere lack of hoots about much else.
Now, I fear some of you might be reading this and thinking, “Hey, it didn’t look like you were having such a bad time when you were jetting around Maui and Las Vegas and gallivanting on the beaches of Greece! So what’s the deal, were you lying then or are you lying now?!” Well, I wasn’t really lying ever, but I maybe was at times selectively showing only the peaks of what had becoming a nauseating roller coaster ride of highs and lows. My mood swings were almost manic. I’d have this beautiful day on a beach somewhere and feel so grateful to be alive, and then as soon I disengaged from the moment I’d descend into a pit of anxiety about every and anything — did I update my accounts to reflect that recent payment, when am I going to find time to write that post, am I going to earn enough income this month, oh my god I never answered that email, how am I going to juggle next month’s itinerary and partnerships, where am I going to be sleeping next week. Yes, I was having fun, but the metaphorical emotional hangovers were excruciating.
I look at pictures from this year and I have the most poignant bittersweet emotions. For example, writing that third anniversary roundup post — I was so proud of that milestone, but I was sick with stress that week, and when I went out to dinner with my mom and sister that night, I didn’t even make it through the meal without crying. I was up and I was down and it was all going by too fast for me to savor or process or anything it.
But finally, in Thailand, life slowed down. I had lots of time to think and reflect. And I looked at myself and said, self, you are not happy! Is it time to pull up the anchor and sail in another direction? (And before you judge, I ask who among us does not use ocean metaphors when contemplating major life changes.) Bloggers far deeper in than I have done so. But in the end, I knew I needed a renovation, not a total rehaul — and now we’re onto home improvement metaphors. Rest in peace, Young House Love (seriously, you should read that article I just linked to).
And so I made some changes. As financially strapped as I was feeling, I was even more hard up for time — so I hired a part-time assistant who is now taking care of a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff for me. I slowed down my travel schedule, in order to cut back on the amount of shuffling and planning and unpacking I do, and to give me ample time to both run my business and to enjoy the places I’m in. I thought long and hard about what my priorities are in my professional and personal life. I vowed to make saying no to things that don’t align with those priorities my New Year’s resolution. And I gave Thailand time to work its magic.
And you know what? It did. Those three months followed by my current six weeks of sitting still in New York — they worked. My wanderlust is back. My excitement at waking up each morning to work is back. I’m back. And I’ve learned some invaluable lessons. I’m not ready to stop traveling and I’m sure as heck not ready to stop writing — you won’t get rid of me so easily! — but I am ready to start embracing doing both a little bit differently. And part of that is going to involve much more time in Thailand to recharge, just like I had here. I’m sure this isn’t the last time I’ll fall into a rut and I can promise you it wasn’t the first. But for now, I’m going to enjoy being on the upswing.
And be grateful to Koh Tao for waking me up, again.
. . . . . . . .
How do you cope with burnout?
So glad to hear you’re not done traveling! I’ve definitely experienced this type of burnout before, as I work full time and freelance at night in addition to blogging, traveling every weekend, and attempting to maintain a shred of a social life. Six months ago I finally bit the bullet and took a higher paying job that allowed me to dump some freelance jobs while keeping the ones I enjoy the most. It changed my life!
Not done yet 🙂 You bring up a really important step which I have not found the balls the take yet, and that is dumping some of the lower paying jobs. I just can’t seem to let go of them due to sentimentality or a misplaced sense of stability, even though I know it would make a huge difference… there’s one in particular I’ve know for a year I need to get rid of but can’t seem to pull the trigger! Hearing how much doing so helped you definitely inspires me though.
After being on the move for 3 months this summer I was dying for some routine. I can only imagine how you must have been feeling after such a hectic year.
I think a little R&R is the best cure for a burnout. It gives you time to focus on yourself and realign your priorties to make sure everything is on track.
Glad you’re feeling better again and won’t be leaving us anytime soon ♡
Yeah, I think my impulse to stop traveling was a lot stronger than my impulse to stop blogging… I literally can’t imagine not having this outlet! I’m sure it will take different forms but I really feel like I’ll be blogging in some way or another for the rest of my life! Crazy? Maybe!
Glad to hear that little Koh Tao brought you back, Alex! All the best for the next year – I look forward to reading about your new adventures! 🙂
Thank you so much Petra — announcement of my upcoming plans coming soon 🙂
I love that this beautifully written deep and meaningful post is still full of beautiful pictures!
I get burn out from a blog I haven’t even updated in 3 months so I cannot begin to imagine how it must be for a full-timer. Having now finally been, Koh Tao seems like the perfect place to get over it though…
I always think it’s helpful to remember just how much you HAVE done, even if the stuff you haven’t fills a much bigger list. It’s one of the easiest things we can do, but we all seem to never do it!
That is a reminder I need a lot, Jade! Can you just text me on a daily basis to say that, perhaps? 🙂 One of the lovely things about being back on Koh Tao was finally getting to meet you!
Well said Alex. I totally relate to that strange feeling of having a fantastic day and then falling to pieces after. It doesn’t always make sense and may seem like you’re living a lie but life is messy and it is definitely not linear. Ups and downs are all a part of the deal.
I have toyed with the idea of full-time travel and I usually get scared away by the idea of turning my passion (travel) into a job. I don’t know if I want to risk losing my wanderlust.
I’m so glad you found it again and that for the moment you are re-energized. We live and we learn!
Whitney I am so glad to hear you say that… I felt like I was crazy! Like, how can I be having so much fun while simultaneously being basically miserable — is this even a factual possibility, ha. And yes. Making travel into a necessity (I don’t technically have an apartment or place to return to, other than my parents’ homes, really) means that sometimes its scary and stressful and anything but a joy. Traveling full time isn’t for everyone, hell sometimes it isn’t for me!
I can only imagine how difficult your work/travel balance must be at times, but if it’s any consolation, you definitely seem as though you have everything together at all times! I’d never know any different- were it not for these honest posts that choose to share with us- so thank you for letting us see the bad as well as the good.
I’m glad you were able to take time for yourself in Thailand and I’m especially relieved to hear your wanderlust is back!
Thanks Ashley. Sometimes I’m shocked how perceptive people can be and how they can read through the lines. I’ll feel like I’m keeping everything together and totally professional and I’ll hear from a friend or a reader who’s like, “Are you okay? You seem not okay.” But for the most part it is almost scary how easy it is to keep up a facade online — a good reminder when we are feeling envious of others.
This is such perfect timing. I’ve only just started out freelancing so I am nowhere near even getting into the nitty gritty of it but I’ve already learnt a big lesson about balance.
I said yes to every assignment (even ones I was poorly equipped for and had no inkling of interest in) and then I was trying to juggle all of it with a full-time job. Then a project went so badly wrong and I was all over the place and that’s when I had the epiphany/watched the most perfect timed TED talk “The Art of Stillness” by Pico Iyer (it is so good, highly recommend it).
The problem with blogging sometimes is the expection of perfection and then the assumption that because you only show the highlights, everything is peachy. Even when travelling and being able to have the lifestyle you want, there is always going to be compromise and downsides and it’s refreshing to see blogs showing both sides of the story – as even the eternal optimist has their down days.
Koh Tao sounds like a dreamy place to recuperate though and glad to hear you feel back on track.
Okay first of all, I just queued up that TED talk and I can’t wait to watch it over lunch! I love Pico Iyer. Thank you for the suggestion! Also, yes, I agree — there is great danger in comparing the highlight reel of someone else’s life to the behind the scenes of your own, and blogging definitely exacerbates that because we get to be the art directors of what people see of our own lives. Sometimes I write about struggles when I’m right in the midst of them, other times I kind of wait until I’ve figured it out myself before I delve in. But I do always share eventually — gotta keep it real around these parts!
Cheers to taking care of YOURSELF first. You work your ass off, lady, and it’s nice to hear that you’ve been a little easier on yourself lately. You know what they say, if you haven’t got your health (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, any of them!) you haven’t got much.
I’m always here for a chat if you need!
Can’t wait to see what 2015 has in store for you. xox
Ha, this makes me think of those airplane announcements — put the air mask on yourself before you help others! It’s advice I should probably heed more often. Not going legally insane > politely declining link exchange requests via email. Lesson learned.
I always love reading your posts and especially the more personal ones – they make me feel like I actually know you, so when I read the less personal, more tips-and-tricks ones, it’s like I’m getting travel advice from a friend, not a guidebook. Thanks for opening yourself up to your readers – I can imagine it is not always easy! Glad to hear you’re feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, and I look forward to hearing about your upcoming plans, travel and otherwise 🙂
Erin, you made my day with that! You basically summed up exactly what I’m going for on this little blog of mine. I don’t want to write top ten lists, I want to be that friend writing down the name of the best hostel ever on a napkin at a bar… but you know, the blog version of that. This comment makes me feel like I’m nailing it 🙂
YES! 1,000 times yes to everything you said. I haven’t even been doing this for three years and yet I felt it so hard when I was just getting through a year and a half of constant movement. I kept telling myself that when I moved to Berlin it would be OK, and then, it was. I got my wanderlust back too.
But I also really love my routine these days. I LOVE my friends who I get to see for more than a week or two before they vanish off into oblivion and I wonder if we’ll ever meet again in this lifetime.
I remember telling my woes to my brother who was like, “I’m sorry but I have no sympathy for you.”
Funny enough, a few weeks later he came back to me and said one of his friends randomly brought up my travel blog in conversation (sidenote: What? His friend somehow knew about my blog without him telling them first?! Cool!) and how great I had it, and he told them that actually, my life had its ups and downs and wasn’t that easy. It touched my heart that he took the time to understand. So, maybe, people other than me will read this and get it.
Life’s a trade off. If you make one choice, you leave another on the table. Cheers to getting your mojo back. I guess no matter what path you choose, it will be peaks and valleys. (But yay for solidarity)
“I’m sorry but I have no sympathy for you.” <--- Heard it a million times and was what made me read and rewrite this post a dozen times before hitting publish. I have gotten off a plane from an incredibly stressful and demanding press trip into the car of a friend who laughed it off and basically said the same. It stung! There is no worse feeling than being misunderstood. Yes, traveling is a choice and no, blogging isn't brain surgery, but supporting yourself is supporting yourself and no matter what method you choose to do it by, there are times when it's going to leave you frustrated or worse. I love that your brother defended you in the end. When I think about it, I'm not that surprised that I'm getting more support here than I have from friends in real life who maybe don't have as much travel experience. Long term travel is most glamorous before you actually do it.
I’m very sorry to hear about all you’ve been going through, I really relate in certain ways (stress and burnout and emotional roller coasters/feeling guilty for them after going after something you want that others would kill for) even though I’m not a full-time traveler. Although I would love to live that lifestyle, I’m also sure that certain aspects of it would put my anxiety issues into overdrive. I’m so glad that you’ve recharged and have found a way to make things work for you going forward. Life is all about adapting to the changes 🙂 Take care!
Yup, the guilt does not help. I remember saying to someone while I was going through all this… “I’ve gotten everything I ever wanted, and I think now I realize I actually want some different things.” Ha! And anxiety isn’t my friend either, not with this very unpredictable lifestyle. I really marvel at my friends in Thailand who live paycheck to paycheck and have this unshakeable faith that everything will work out and it’s all okay. I have at least one full scale meltdown per month pertaining to money and income, and a little weekly panic usually as well 🙂
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year Alex!
Enjoy time with your friends and Family.
Thanks Ron. There’s nothing quite as refreshing as that.
Alex, you have no idea how much this post resonated with me! I’m not traveling long-term, but during the last few months balance has been missing from my life as well and constantly working on things while worrying about not doing other things really has taken its toll on me. I’m tired all the time and find it hard to muster up energy which in turn often makes me feel like a failure and while things have been getting better lately, I still often feel guilty for not being ‘on’ 24/7. I think there is so much pressure in our society to be productive all the time and to have to do everything perfectly, while this really isn’t healthy, reasonable or – frankly – humanly possible!
I’m glad you found your groove back and reading this post has made me a little bit more hopeful that I will get mine back soon as well! 🙂 Thank you for always being so open and honest with your readers – it’s one of the things that I cherish the most about your blog and probably the one thing that has kept me reading for such a long time now! 🙂
Hey Melanie, man can I relate. I have a very ingrained habit of judging my day — and my worth, frankly — on how “productive” I was. And I also have a very distorted view of what I should be able to accomplish each day. I make the most ridiculously unachievable to do lists, and then torment myself for not being able to finish them! I still haven’t really figured out how to be more realistic. Let me know if you figure something out 🙂
I think that travel can really exacerbate that roller coaster of highs and lows because you don’t have as much of the steady routine/friendships to moderate it. That’s part of what makes travel appealing – the highs are SO much higher! But also makes it tough to sustain when you start hitting those lows. I appreciate your honesty about this – I find it hard to relate to when bloggers just seem to be having the best. day. ever. all the time!
Find your balance 🙂 (and pour one out for YHL. Miss them so much!)
Yup, being back with my very dear friends on Koh Tao — friends who have been a major part of my life for so many years — was definitely an extremely important factor in what someone called “How Alex Got Her Groove Back.” Ha.
And seriously, RIP YHL. In addition to that article — love seeing blogging burnout covered in the New York Time! — I’ve actually noticed quite a few of my fellow bloggers writing about burnout lately. Funny enough that has made me hesitate to hit post, because I obviously like to think of myself as a special snowflake going through deep and complex emotions NO ONE else could ever understand 🙂
Aaah there is something magical about Thailand!! I was only there for a few weeks last month, but even that short time fixed all the feelings of stress and burnout I had been feeling. Glad you aren’t giving it up, your posts are a great source of wanderlust when I am stuck in the freezing cold!!
There is indeed. My original plan for Thailand also involved hopping all over, seeing new islands, spending a bunch of time in Pai, blah blah… but basically as soon as I got to Koh Tao I was like nah thanks I’m just gonna shore up on the beach here for a few months. Luckily I think I’ll still have enough to post about to get us all through this winter 🙂
Alex–this is a beautiful, powerful and vulnerable post. Thank you for writing from your heart and speaking from your head. You inspire in so many ways.
Thank you so much Diane — I appreciate you reading!
I always love reading your more personal posts Alex. I’m glad that you have taken the time to look after yourself. After all, that is the most important thing!
I know that after spending four months on-the-go earlier this year, that I was on the brink of a travel burnout and was missing a normal daily routine. I have no idea how you have manage to be constantly moving around for the last three years without having a complete burnout! I would often feel guilty about having a ‘lazy day’, when I was constantly travelling to new places every few days because I was ‘missing out’ on seeing that city. But sometimes you just need to have a break, sit back and watch some TV, catch up with friends and do absolutely nothing for those few days.
You should be so proud of everything you have accomplished over the last three years Alex!
Happy holidays! 🙂 x
Thank you Kelly! I am proud, and I need to remember that 🙂 In my travel plans for 2015 I have already been building in plenty of periods just like this, where I’ll be able to settle down temporarily and soak up the last trip and get excited for the next.
This post is so refreshing and real! Thank you for sharing Alex.
It’s hard when you incorporate your hobbies with making money, there are times when you feel so uninspired. I get that. And I’m yet to figure out how to pull myself together.
It’s the constant struggle of the entrepreneur, I think! How to not lose passion for the thing that inspired you to start your business in the first place. I’ve heard every travel blogger out there say it and it’s true — you never travel the same way again once it’s your job.
It’s been ages since I commented but this post drew me out of hiding. I love my job I wake up and get excited about it almost everyday. But I have had two major burnouts, one where I was cramming too much of everything into my schedule, and one where a business deal gone bad broke my heart. For the first one I took time off and like you it helped, the second one, I’m quite sure I’m still dealing with but I simplified and talk to the people who helped me the most about it. Don’t feel bad about telling us how you really feel, it’s what makes you real, and we can relate to you a heck of a lot easier that way.
Anyways Happy Holidays
Hey Breanna, thanks for sharing that. You have made me stop to think how much my first web redesign fiasco probably affected me — I didn’t lose money and time but also a lot of confidence. And that was around the time this burnout really kicked off. I may be discounting that as a factor. Happy holidays to you too 🙂
I think a burnout from that is harder to bounce back from. I shutdown completely and the guy I am originally contracted to told me, ‘it’s not your patients (massage) fault that one guy does not know how to write a proper contract and treats you badly. Go back to basics, and why you love what you do.’ So one piece of advice for you is just go back to the basics of your career. I think you have already started though 🙂
We got travel burnout after about 8 months of non stop moving around. For us, it wasn’t just that we missed having friends and cat in our lives, or ability to sit on the same couch and sleep in the same bed (although all of those were true), but it was also a bit of oversaturation with experiences. Constant churn of temples, locals, new rituals, cool experiences. I remember standing on a side of a road in rural Kerela, India waiting for a bus, and thinking there is no way I can keep going like this. We slowed down a bit, and spent weeks instead of days in certain places. But it wasn’t until we got home that really were able to work through the travel fatigue. Now after about two months of being stationary, we are getting itchy feet again…
Jenia — YES. I think part of what I need is time to sit still and savor the experience I just had, as well as time and space to get excited for the next one. If you’re just in constant sensory overload you don’t get that quiet time to soak up all you’re seeing and doing and learning! And yes, I’m starting to get ready to go somewhere totally new again… it’s been over four months!
I felt in a much better place when I convinced myself that it’s ok to have a break and not blog every week or take my camera out with me everywhere. If there’s the constant pressure and anxiety to create and achieve something then what is it all for?
One of my favorite things about NOT traveling solo (because I basically love everything else about it!) is being able to hand my camera off to someone else! Feels so good to say, yeah, I’m just going to enjoy this one — here, you take pictures. I wish I could find the strength to do that when I’m alone! I also feel super guilty when I don’t write a real post twice a week.
That sounds intense. You seem to work incredibly hard so it’s more than understandable that you’d get burned out. Good for you for taking some time to recharge. It’s so not worth going at a pace that will just run you ragged, especially if it causes you to reach a point where you loathe what you’re doing. Ko Tao sounds like it was just what you needed. Plus, I’m sure six weeks back in New York will help you recover even more! Enjoy the holidays and the relaxation and the SNOW! I don’t care if you’re over it because I’m still super envious 😉
Ha, I’ll try to enjoy it a little just for you, Justine 🙂 Being home is great, and actually I am appreciating the monotonously gray weather right now… because it is going to make it very easy for me to leave again. I can only take so much darkness before I need a hit of Vitamin D!
What a beautiful post. Reminded me the “old” Alex from almost 3 years ago, when I was living in Italy in a massive burnout situation, and I got hooked on your blog. We exchanged some emails. Those deep beautiful stories made me smile again. I changed jobs and country,but before that went 2 months to Cambodia and Thailand inspired by your very first trips there.
Cant wait to get that amazing job in Bangkok next year. Will tell you more soon!
Have an amazing Christmas.
Wow! Maybe we will get to finally cross paths in Bangkok, Pilar! And you’ll be seeing a lot of the old Alex around here now 🙂
Glad to read that your not done with traveling, I’d miss the stories! Burnout is hard to deal with. I’ve definitely had moments when I’m so consumed by all the things I have to do I forget to do the things that make me happy. Sounds to me taking some time out was the best thing you could do. It’s all about balance 🙂
It’s crazy, isn’t it… sometimes the hardest thing in the world to do is shut the laptop and go for a walk, even though you know it will make you happy AND more productive when you get back! It’s nuts. And you know, on a sidenote, my heart is really warmed by all of you saying you’d miss my posts if I did burn out completely. Gives me inspiration to keep going!
This was a really interesting read – as always. Why would you think -that we would think you are lying? Most of your readers know the ups and downs of the road – especially those of us who have also tried to turn ours into a business. It’s great to hear all aspects.
Most recently I realised that I was not achieving what I had set out to do with my Blog and writing – my energy has been taken up with living in one place for a while now, as I am home with a family and working from here trying to build a business around Instant Escapes in Europe and Long Haul travel but i’ve failed – which is actually ok. In the words of Kenny Rogers ‘you need to know when to hold em and when to fold em’ ‘ Blogging is incredibly time consuming and the web is a demanding mistress and your posts are quality reads most of the time.
We all need time – i’m looking for some work to create a physical life whilst I work out the next step on my Path to the Pacific. Fun.
It’s great to hear you are doing what you need for yourself and may the work come in more steadily and you be able to work out your next steps healthy.
Well, I guess I wouldn’t want people to think I was being disingenuous, and for me its hard to wrap my OWN brain around the fact that I can be having these amazing experiences yet also feel so emotionally drained — so I worry it will be even harder for someone else too!
I’m glad to hear you’ve found a new direction you are excited about, Janice!
I have to say, I don’t think my blog is big enough to give me burn out. At this point I don’t feel stressed by it for the most part, I enjoy it. I think being an expat makes a HUGE difference though, which is what you did in Ko Tao… so, although I travel outside India, I have this base with a cat and boyfriend and “home” to get back to. Have you thought about moving abroad and making a base? When I was working on a press trip for a whole MONTH moving every day I felt the stress! and I kind of imagine that must be how you feel a lot.. :/ happy to hear that your rut is now over. So where to next? Or was that a post that I’m forgetting about!?
Rachel, one of the things I love about you is your unfailing energy! I am definitely incorporating more temporary bases into my upcoming year — post coming on January 2nd revealing all 🙂 But yes, I need that in my life. I’m so much happier when I have a place to call home, sort of.
So glad you’ve figured out what works best for you, Alex. Sometimes I feel the burnout when I’m on the road for too long. I’m so tired of living out of my backpack, not unpacking or constantly moving. It’s nice to relax, to have a home and some routine. I think it’s human nature to want some stability, even if only for a short time. It’s definitely tough to find the balance when you do what you love for a living. Trying to keep that spark alive while working your tail off is exhausting. Keep taking care of yourself! And I SERIOUSLY can’t wait to get to Koh Tao next year!
You’re going to love it 🙂 It is a constant tug between my desire for adventure and my craving for stability. Hoping that in 2015 I find the perfect balance of both.
First, so many of these photos amaze me. They are stunning and I feel like I would order prints if I could.
Second, you have no worries about coming across as ungrateful. Everyone experiences burnout, and no one can make claims about your life because they haven’t lived it. It’s all relative. Moving around constantly is tough, there’s a reason why some people are happy to buy a house and live a completely stable life, routine has comfort (more for some than others). Don’t feel guilty for wanting to have that time. It’s best to take time to yourself when you need it, and not feel forced to please others. People read your blog because they are invested in you, not just the product. If you are happy and enjoying what you are doing, it really shows. Cheers 🙂
Thank you so much for this lovely comment, Marie. There is indeed beauty in routine, and stability, and the comforts of a home! I can see the appeal of all of it… I guess the adventure of nomadicism has always won out by a hair for me, but the fact that I am so attracted to the opposite lifestyle choice as well means I sometimes need to cool my heels for a bit. These comments have been very heartwarming <3
That’s so beautiful… I’m looking forward to going there soon, probably in February. It looks like paradise!
I’ll be jealous 🙂 I miss it already.
Everyone gets burnt out, you would be superhuman if you didn’t (maybe you are, still 😉 ). Koh Tao does have such a magical feel to it, glad you got recharged and good for you for finally recognizing when you need a break and taking it!
Thanks Katie. I still wish in some ways I had checked some of those items of my list, but eh… there’s always next year 🙂
honestly, just the act of blogging while traveling burns me out so i can’t imagine jugging those with all the other things you do. traveling full stop is a recipe for burnout. like you said, all that packing and unpacking, trains, planes and donkey carts, learning and re-learning the basics as you leap across cultural divides — it’s nuts! glad you are being kind to yourself & re-establishing your priorities. AND recognizing that this process might need to happen again. ‘cuz life happens and sometimes we lose sight of stuff & that’s ok x
Exactly. I don’t think it’s a lesson I will have to learn just once. I’m trying to make these Koh Tao recharge sessions a more frequent occurrence for that exact reason.
I was so scared that the end of this post would be you announcing that you’ve given it all up, like so many countless people before. As I grow a bit, I do start to understand the draining drive that you’d need in order to continue the way you have done… and for that I applaud you 🙂
Not stopping, just slowing down 🙂 I know some readers have noticed I’m posting less than I used to, which is a change I was so afraid to make. But you know… the world didn’t stop turning! And it’s been a really positive change overall.
I started reading this post and thought you were quitting. Glad I was wrong 🙂
Thank you for writing about a feeling that I’m sure everybody feels at some point. There’s a strange pressure to be having the *best time of your life* all the time. Especially if you are making a living off your passions.
Someone once told me that I have no right to complain about anything ever again because I was/am living the dream. They were joking, but they meant it on some level (Like too many other jokes…ugh).
Now I get stressed about being stressed which is ridonkulous. It’s like my subconscious brain is like, “Oh man, the Universe gave me all this cool stuff and if I let myself be bummed, it’s gonna think I’m an ungrateful cow and take it all back”
Sometimes I am just not okay! I’m painfully slowly learning how important it is to acknowledge when I’m not feeling right, and to take the time to figure that sh*t out.
This post is the perfect reminder of just how to do that. Thanks for sharing it with us, I know it’s hard to write about the ugly side of travel blogging. Your reflections always inspire my own.
Ha, stressed about being stressed and guilty about being unhappy are two of my most common — and loathed — emotions. What even is up with that! I was talking to a friend about this recently and she kind of shrugged it off and said something that made me feel great, which is everyone has the right to be bummed or have a moan about the little stuff sometimes. She calls them “tiny tragedies,” which I love 🙂 I need to remind myself that’s okay sometimes!
I can’t tell you how much I related to this post. My husband and I have been traveling the world with our three young daughters. We’re so grateful to have this lifestyle we know so many people can only dream of. Yet sometimes it almost feels like I can never have a bad day. Travel does get overwhelming at times and there are moments when I miss the convenient comforts of the western world. At the same time, I feel guilty for having these thoughts and emotions because I know the reaction I would get if I articulated them. Glad you made your way through it all. I’ll have to refer back to this post of yours if I start to feel a total burnout coming on. 🙂
The guilt on top of the negative emotions is really the killer, for me. I was pretty nervous to publish this post but the support has meant a lot to me. Maybe it will help combat that guilt in the future!
Alex, you push yourself so hard so I’m not surprised you burnt out! Glad you are feeling inspired and reenergised again 🙂
Ha, I am pretty darn hard on myself sometimes! It did feel pretty good to just say “screw it!” for a little bit.
Who was the photographer Alex? All the pictures are just faaaaaaaaabbbb…… 🙂
That would be me! All photo on the blog are mine unless otherwise noted 🙂
I’m amazed it took you that long! I’ve only been traveling for 3 months and I’m feeling burned out (though I think a lot of that had to do with the 3 weeks I spent trekking to and from Everest Base Camp…that freaking KILLED me). I spent 2 weeks on Koh Lanta trying to recoup and it helped a bit but wasn’t nearly long enough. I have things pretty tightly packed until the beginning of January but then I’m back to Thailand (this time the North) and plan to start my recoup time (take 2) and continue it in Singapore for a few months (where a potential job opportunity lies as well so it’ll be good to see if I could live there long term). You just have to do what’s right for you! Glad you figured out what you needed to recharge. I’m still trying to figure that out as I am just downright exhausted at the moment. Here’s to re-learning how to enjoy traveling! 🙂
It is tough, I am constantly torn between my desire to say YES! to every opportunity and to keep exploring the world and my growing want/need to slow waaaaay down. It’s a big internal battle for me, all the time!
I’ve definitely been there, girl. You did the right thing in slowing down and chilling out. The worst feeling for a traveler is suddenly feeling like you don’t want to travel again ever. You were right to listen to yourself, and treat yourself to a slower pace and some fun!
Glad to hear it worked. 🙂
Thanks Amanda! Yeah, I definitely think it’s dangerous territory when as both a traveler and travel blogger you find yourself literally weeping at the thought of, you know, traveling. I’ll be really interested to see how I feel once I hit the road again after this much needed five months of nowhere new… what a concept!
I would never ever judge you for feeling burned out by this lifestyle! Like you said, it just means that you’re sacrificing different things than people who aren’t traveling full-time are sacrificing. One thing that applies to me that I think you might be able to understand or agree with – after being in South Africa, I vowed to stop complaining about the mundane things in life that didn’t go necessarily as planned. Of course that wasn’t a realistic expectation, and it led me to feeling a lot of guilt. The thing is, though, no matter what you are doing with it – this is our life. We are completely justified in finding things challenging or getting frustrated and stressed out about the day to day. As the saying goes, the grass is always greener….
We are our own worst critic and hardest judge, so I really commend you for being honest on here. I’m glad you’ve rediscovered your wanderlust!
Ha, I love a good moaning session and I would never begrudge anyone one… except myself sometimes! I need to remember though how cathartic it can be. Sometimes I just need to say what’s bothering me, and the act of voicing it means it starts to fade already…
Just don’t stop writing! 🙂 And i Think we all come to this phase in life sometimes, regarding what your job is.
And I just came to Thailand yesterday and I hope to have a good time here 🙂
It will be hard not to have a good time, Nika! And don’t worry, I’ve still got lots to say 🙂
Glad you have found your mojo back?
Too much of anything can result in boredom (deadwood)
And human beings always want the opposites of things when this happens.
1) I want to go out (When out, no, I rather be home)
2) I wish I have a boyfriend (Reality: I’m happier being single)
3) I want that person’s job (It is not what it seems)
MERRY CHRISTMAS ALEX!
I agree, there really can be too much of a good thing! Thanks, Julia 🙂
Alex, I related so much to all of this. You’ve been blogging a lot longer than I have but even I’ve had points this year when I just wanted to throw my laptop out the window, stop travelling, and just go to sleep for a few weeks. I was waking up and going to bed with emails and projects on my mind and I was ready to just book a flight home and sob for a while. Ecuador ended up being my Thailand – just a few weeks to time out for a bit, and that did the trick perfectly. As weird as it sounds, travel bloggers need holidays too.
Glad Ecuador got you back on track! Thailand really does the trick for me, which is why I’m building a lot more time there into my upcoming year…
Girrrrrl, if I didn’t have one of these “quarter-life crises” annually, I’d think there was something wrong. Happens to all of us, whether it’s spurred by traveling, work, sitting still or something entirely else. I remember my ups and downs being the most manic around 25, so I do think there’s something to hormones in your mid-20s that make these oscillating thoughts and feelings even more powerful.
Glad you’re back and better than ever =)
Life does seem to be moving a lot faster as the years go on… a trend I really hope doesn’t continue! I miss the good old days when years seemed to stretch out forever. I feel like I blinked and 2014 went by! It definitely puts the pressure on to feel like I’m making the most of every moment/day/month/year, etc.
Thanks for sharing this, Alex – it’s so nice to know that even those who seem to have everything all together struggle with things like this. You do an amazing job and it’s only normal to feel burnt out. Hell, I feel burnt out just living life and I have nothing close to your insane travel schedule. You should always be your #1 priority – advice I should learn to take myself. Kudos to you for finally taking the time to relax and get yourself back in Thailand!
Thanks Sky. I need to remember to build in tons of time like this — nice breaks to recharge and refresh. I’m definitely going to be more conscious about doing it in the upcoming year!
So glad you took some time out for yourself to stop and smell the roses 😉
They indeed smelled fantastic!
This is the first post I’ve read from you and it will definitely not be the last.
I can totally relate to everything you’re saying. My blog is still in its beginning stages but your tips will hopefully prevent me from having a burn out in future. Thanks for being so honest!
Thank you Monique — and welcome! Best of luck in your journey into blogging 🙂 Enjoy the good parts!
Posts like this that give us a peek into what your life is really like are really inspiring and give aspiring bloggers like myself lots to think about!
Thanks Maddy, I’m really glad you enjoyed. It’s not always pretty behind the scenes… but it’s kind of liberating to give everyone a look every once in a while!
Good for you for getting over the hump! I deal with burnout by doing yoga, dancing, or going for a walk and getting fresh air. I also loved to read and journal to reduce stress.
Those are all beautiful ways to get your groove back, Joya! Getting outside and getting fresh air are two of my favorites as well.
Hi Alex! I’ve only been on your blog a few times in connection with the Fantasyland Festival LOL! You’ve always sounded like a jolly girl full of spirit, but I’m pretty glad that you got that bit of space to rejuvenate and focus on the things that you really want to do, and how. Don’t feel bad, we’re all human and it happens to the best of us. The important thing is to listen to that nagging voice and adjust accordingly. Welcome back!
It’s good to be here 🙂 And nice to know I have the perfect formula for recharging when necessary!
I loved this post and I’m very happy to read that you are feeling better, refreshed and found your wanderlust again. You’ve been a big inspiration to start my own blog – so I was worried you were going to say that you don’t want to continue any longer.
I’ve just started with blogging and I can easily see how one can fall into a burnout doing this kind of job. I guess you are, like me, someone who cares and wants to do things as well as possible. You wanna give it your all. I find if you are really passionate about what you do, you quickly slip into eating, breathing, living it – without ever switching off. Even if you think you are ‘relaxing’, you are actually worrying about what else needs doing…Thanks for this post! Full of honesty and not afraid to expose vulnerability – which makes you damn REAL. Thank you.
You’re so welcome, Tess. It’s true, I’m a perfectionist and don’t want to do anything unless I can give it 110% — and I want to do a lot of things! Figuring out how to say no to some of them is going to be a lifelong struggle for me, I think.
Firstly, I don’t know why I haven’t found your blog before – I love your honesty and we seem to have a shared passion for Thailand.
Secondly, rather spookily I wrote a post on this exact same topic a few weeks ago. It is hard not to sound ungrateful whilst admitting you are struggling but I totally understand what you mean. The constant juggling and planning is tough. But the very fact that this lifestyle is an awesome privilege means we should probably slow down in order to appreciate it. I’ve put any travel plans on hold at the moment in order to appreciate where I am (I moved to Sydney 6 months ago and then spent several months leaving it for some reason) and already I feel much more in the moment and in control. Plus planning a trip for a few months time seems exciting again rather than tiring!
I am trying to slow down a bit in 2015, Jayne. You make great points! We’ll see how well I stick to my plan 🙂
Alex! This is a lovely, intense, and emotional piece of writing. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings through your article.
Thanks Steven. These are the posts that take the most to write… but that mean the most to me to share!