10 Ways to Kick Travel Fatigue’s Ass

10 Ways to Kick Travel Fatigue's Ass

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There was a time a little more than a year ago, when I hated traveling.

After doing it for more than five months, being sick for what seemed like the millionth time, being cramped into a dorm room in blistering heat with no air-conditioning, fearing for my life in Turkey and nearly falling to my death, I was pretty over it as I sat in an outdoor cafe in Varna, Bulgaria.

At that moment, I wanted to be done.

It hurt me deeply to admit that to myself. This trip was supposed to be amazing. An experience of a lifetime. And, instead of planning my next steps, I found my mind wandering to the comforts of my bed in Maryland.  To not having my backpacking weighing me down. To a home-c0oked meal. To breathing in private.

To make things worse, I hated myself for hating traveling.

I was so mad. So disappointed in myself for even letting that awful thought cross my mind. I was embarassed. This funk had embraced me, sucked me deep into the recesses of my mind I didn’t want to touch, and left me feeling cold, alone and sad.

Oh, Travel Fatigue.

When I was going through it, it was the worst thing in the world. I felt like no one knew what it was like. I felt like no one could be of any assistance in pulling me out of it.

10 Ways to Kick Travel Fatigue's Ass

A sign of Travel Fatigue: feeling depressed.

I was wrong. Entirely.

After being home and having relationships with other people who are/were on the road, I know this Travel Fatigue awfulness wasn’t exclusive to me. It happens to the best of us. And, fortunately, only lasts for a brief period of time.

It took a few things in my life to help snap me out of this funk.

Are you experiencing Travel Fatigue? Here are some steps to help kick it’s ugly ass and get back in the game.

1. Communicate your misery

No, don’t have a huge pity party (no one likes those), but talk to someone you trust about it. Someone you know can make you feel all better. For me, I was messaging with my lovely Anthony, who wrote words that were oh-so true: You’ve got to have the funk to have the fun. That was the start of my recovery.

10 Ways to Kick Travel Fatigue's Ass

Sometimes you just need to change your perspective.

2. Change your scenery

Nothing can quite snap you out of a rut like waking up somewhere new. There’s just a feeling of possibility that wasn’t there before. It can revitalize you. Abby and I had been seaside of nearly two weeks, so the mountains was a nice change of pace. And totally different and beautiful scenery.

3. Get comfortable

I was tired. I was hot. I wanted to not drip sweat every night after I had showered. Abby and I found an adorable hostel in the hillside town of Veliko Tarnovo. It had gorgeous air-con and a remote so we could make it as cool as we liked. That first night, we both slept with thick blankets on us. In the dead of summer. It was awesome. Naturally, the next day, the remote disappeared from our room. I can still remember the cool air kissing my face that blissful night.

4. Stay put

Even after Abby left VK, I stayed. And stayed. And stayed.

5. Relax

10 Ways to Kick Travel Fatigue's Ass

How can you not relax with a view like this?

When I was back in the solo realm of travel and feeling better, I treated myself to doing absolutely nothing. I would wake up in the morning, pad  upstairs to the kitchen and enjoy the complimentary breakfast, then head outside to the little balcony overlooking the ravine of green trees across the street. I would chat with the hostel owner, the other guests, and just ease into my morning. Then, when I got hot, I would go to the room, open my computer and write. Not because I felt I had to, but because it felt good. And, I would read. Then, a little nap in the cool room. At night, I would go with the other travelers to dinner, then back to my room for some more reading and then sleep. I did this for three days.

6. Don’t plan until you have to

On the third day of doing nearly nothing, I decided I was almost ready to head out and continue with my trip. Almost. I pondered my next steps. I spent a good deal of time looking at the giant colorful map of Eastern Europe on the wall in the common room. I consulted my guide book. I did research.

10 Ways to Kick Travel Fatigue's Ass

Take off your shoes, kick your feet in the H20 and BREATHE. Deeply.

7. Go somewhere you really want to go

Not somewhere along the way. I was planning on going to Budva, Montenegro. The long route would take me through a few cities of interest along the way. So, I had to make some decisions. Head to Sophia, Bulgaria? Stop in Belgrade, Serbia for a few nights? Finally, I let my heart win this one instead of my mind, which was saying “heya, Buddy, go to all three cities because you can!” I was craving the sun and the Adriatic. I knew deep down that the sea would help me feel better. So, instead of doing the stops for a few nights in these cities, I plowed through them, getting me to my ultimate goal — Budva.

8. Get out of your shell

When I arrived to Montenegro, I was exhausted. But, there was the Adriatic. The sea I had spoken of for almost a year to anyone who would listen. Just knowing it was there made me smile. And, put me in a better mood. The first day of being in Budva, I sat outside, under grape vines, and was social. I met a group of other solo travelers and we instantly formed a bond.

9. Remember what it is like to Adventure

When I was with these new friends, we planned a day trip together to the gorgeous little sea town of Sveti Stefan. Well, one guy planned it. The rest of us nodded our heads in agreement and walked down to the bus stop with him. It was so warming to be with other people again, to go somewhere. Then, the next day, myself and one of the guys from the group took our adventuring even further and got on another bus and headed to the stunning town of Kotor. It was not planned. It was fun. It brought a smile to my face. It had been a long time since I had done day trips instead of moving, moving, moving.

10. Find some new, non-Travel Fatigue-y friends

After Montenegro, I decided to go to Sarajevo. Another game-time decision. But, it ended up changing the entire rest of my trip … and my life today. When I was in Sarajevo, I met Katie. We spent a few days together in Sarajevo, and then met up with each other a few days later in Mostar. We planned a trip to Croatia together. When I was in Mostar, I met Dave. Together, the three of us embarked on a week-plus adventure, spending time in Brela, Split and our island paradise of Solta together. The two of them were blissfully happy in their adventures. They woke up every day and embraced their trip, and in turn, made me embrace mine. [Katie came to visit me in Las Vegas in June, and I am visiting her in September in Thailand … see … meet friends!!]

Have you experienced Travel Fatigue? Where were you? How did you overcome its grasp?

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Escape of the Week: Juxtaposition in Sarajevo

It’s been one year since I was in Sarajevo, a city I fell in love with. The charm of the city. It’s heart-breaking past and triumph of recovery left me overcome with emotion. For a week, I wandered the city streets, crossing over the river, walking past the destroyed National Library, meandering between the European and Turkish buildings, sipping the strong coffee …

While I was there, I visited the airport where an underground tunnel funneled supplies to the Sarajevo troops fighting to maintain a hold on their city. Like the rest of the city, this part of the town was riddled with pockmarks, untold struggles from the war.

This photo is one of my favorites from Sarajevo. To me, it shows that, even with a dark past, beauty and life can flourish.

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Touring the Mostar region

“Hi D!” Katie typed into Facebook chat as I sat at Madja’s Friday night. “I’m coming to Mostar tomorrow!”

Sweet!

“Cool, I will be on the tour all day — its 14 hours — so I won’t be back until late, but I will see you Sunday,” I responded.

We chatted a little longer and reviewed our upcoming travel plans.

“Do you want to go to Brela with me?” She asked, sending me a link to information on the Croatian beach town.

Long stretches of beaches. Gorgeous views of the islands across the clear water. Forests lining the coast. Ahhhh.

It looked lush.

“YES!!”

She immediately booked us in for two nights.

Later in the evening, David and I were talking and I told him about my plans with Katie.

“That sounds awesome,” he said.

“Do you want to come with us?”

“If that’s alright!”

Of course it was. I adored David from the start. He was a bright, charming 22-year-old who I got on very well with. His company would be a great addition to Katie and me.

Saturday morning, Madja woke up David and I so we would be ontime for the tour.

“Get up,” she said, then offered us some delicious breakfast before we headed down to meet her brother and the group coming from her other hostel.

David and I, along with four others from our hostel, stood outside, waiting for our ride.

Boom. Boom. Boom. Bass thumped.

A white van pimped its way down the street, every few feet lurching on the breaks so the vehicle would dart forward and then rest.

What is this?

It pulled into the driveway where we were standing.

Our ride?

Madja looked at us, smiling. “This is my brother,” she said, gesturing to the driver of the van. “He’s your tour guide.”

Her brother was a whirlwind of energy and emotion.

“OK, OK, OK, everybody out,” he said as the van unloaded.

Ten people somehow emerged from the vehicle.

“Welcome, this is my tour,” he began and then launched into a talk about the tour, what we were doing, where we were going, how the hostels he and his sister owned came to be and more and more and more.

“See, this van fits eight. But, today, it fits 16,” he said, opening the back doors of the van for us to glimpse little cushioned seats, a huge sub-woofer and a disco ball hanging from the ceiling. “Get in, get in.”

My group, along with an Irish guy, piled into the back seat of the van. The NON air-conditioned van. On possibly the hottest day in Mostar that summer.

For an hour, we would stop and start and stop and start as he pointed out items of significance in the city and again outside of the city.

Each time we stopped I thought I would pass out. Sweat poured out of all of us as heat stroke loomed precariously above.

Finally, we arrived to the waterfalls. A gorgeous pouring of water from the hills above Mostar. Within minutes, our entire group was in the cool clear water.

It felt incredible.

For 45 minutes we swam and sat in the refreshing runoff from the falls, relishing every moment and dreading getting back into the van.

After swimming, we walked for a bit around the falls, and then took a hike to a rope swing and a cliff to jump from.

Naturally, given my history with cliffs and jumping, I declined the invitation to plunge to the water below.

The tour continued with a trip to an ancient walled town that now had 12 people living in it. We walked along and then stopped for traditional Bosnian snacks at a woman’s home there, where she served up figs, grapes and watermelon from her garden, along with delicious syrup drinks (sage, pomegranate, mint and more).

After  nightfall, we headed to another small city that houses an old “monestary,” where Whirling Dervishes are held.

By 10 p.m. our group had begun to tire and by midnight when we finally arrived back to the hostel, I could hardly keep my eyes open.

I walked in to Madja’s, absolutely beat, to find Katie sitting on the couch, bottle of wine by her side.

“Hiya!” she said, smiling.

Instantly, I perked up.

We quickly made plans for the following day — we HAD to see someone jump from the Mostar Bridge — and then I retreated to my bed to pass out.

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A sniper’s point of view

Aldina, a girl who worked at Madja’s Guest House, picked me up from Mostar’s bus station as the sun was setting.

“Over there,” she said, pointing out the car window to a towering building with all of it’s windows blown out, “that’s the bank. During the war, Serbian snipers would sit in there and shoot people below.”

Oh my god.

That the building was even still erect was fascinating. It stood like a skeleton with nothing but fragile bones holding the history of the war together.

“It isn’t locked,” she continued. “You can go in there and look around. Just don’t go at night.”

Immediately, my plan was to visit the former bank.

The next morning, I grudgingly put on a pair of socks (hate them) and laced up my knock-off Chucks in preparation for the bank exploration.

Aldina had warned that the floor was essentially carpeted with shards of glass, and I wasn’t taking the risk of having a piece of it planted in my foot, so shoes and socks it was.

As I got ready to go, a tall English guy walked into my room. David. We began chatting and he decided to come along with me to the bank.

There are plenty of entrances to the bank from the ground level. People can walk in the main door, surrounded by pillars that must have been grand 20 years ago but now stand looking like Roman ruins ready to crumble. Or, you can walk in through gaping holes in the side of the building, what used to be floor-to-ceiling majestic glass windows.

We walked through a gaping hole.

The tiling, gone. The carpet, gone. Any hint of character, wallpaper, paint, anything … it’s all gone.

The bank is a shell. Haunted by ghosts of snipers and former workers.

Glass from windows lie scattered everywhere. Pipes and wire dangle from the ceiling. Elevator shafts are missing the doors and elevators. Windows … well, there are none.

The second floor is the most remarkable of the nearly 10-floored skeleton.

On one end, remnants of what used to be offices are visible. Printer cartridges are piled on the floor. Some wooden frames from the walls remain. Desks and chairs are strewn about. And, an entire wing is covered, littered, with documents of all types — books, binders, envelopes containing mail.

Around windows lie spent bullets. Looking out is chilling.

This is the view the snipers had of the city. Of the people who were trying to live their lives without getting fired upon on a regular basis.

To one side if the front lines where buildings still look today as they looked during the war — bombed out, shells of what they had once been. That side contains the old city, the Muslim side. The other sides have clear shots of the Croatian side of the city, the homes, the schools, the parks.

It is eery. It is creepy.

It makes me sick.

After an hour walking through the past, we decided it was time to go and hit the cool waters of the river that cuts through the city of Mostar. Time to see the infamous bridge that was destroyed in 1993, but re-built and is now a major tourist attraction (people jump into the water from its arch).

The next day, David, me and 16 other people, headed on Madja’s famous tour of the region.

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Help from America

After four days of waiting (kind of) patiently for my iTouch, it arrived.

The days were filled mostly with morning coffee with another American I met, Katie, walking around the city, grabbing a Coke Light or lunch at a cafe and writing, and then heading back to the air-conditioned common room at SA, watching “Scarface” and then heading out for a drink with Katie.

Katie, in those few days, became one of those travel friends whose role in my life would transcend travel. She had been on the road for eight months. She had seen so much, been so many places. She was an inspiration to me. This girl, a year older than me, afraid of flying, and had been around the world.

Katie kicks ass.

When I finally had my iTouch, the first thing I did was download Skype. I was eager to talk to my parents without having to lug my laptop.

My happiness from being able to talk to my parents quickly subsided as soon as I had my mom on the phone.

“Your grandma isn’t doing well,” she said quietly as I sat in almost shock at her words.

I knew before I left she wasn’t doing well, that her passing was something that could happen on my trip, but I tucked it away. I mourned her impending departure intermittently while on the road, mostly when I got news she was not doing well.

I had asked and asked and asked if I needed to come home, and each time Mom had told me “no,” and that Grandma had wanted me to continue my travels and live my dream.

When I finally got to talk to Mom, it was hard to listen to the words she was saying. Each one stabbed at my heart, cutting it up into pieces as I sat in Sarajevo and she sat in Maryland.

Thank goodness for friends.

Katie immediately scooped me up following my phone conversation with Mom and took me to the Sarajevsko Brewery, which is conveniently loacted down the street from SA.

We sat at a table for a couple of hours, sometimes near tears as we shared stories of love and loss.

Having Katie there was a blessing.

When I would get sad, she would sit. And listen. And give me a hug. And say the exact thing I needed to hear.

We both had plans to head to Mostar next — I planned to leave the next afternoon and she a few days later.

After that, we were both heading to Croatia.

When it was time to head to the bus stop and on to Mostar, I hugged Katie goodbye.

“See you soon,” we both said.

And, we would.

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Chasing Angelina

When I was purchasing my iTouch, the girl at the counter mentioned Angelina Jolie had been in town. She was meeting with people to film a movie about Bosnia.

For a few minutes, the girl spoke of her disapproval about the film, saying she didn’t think it was right for Jolie to make a movie about the war.

“It is too soon,” she explained. “And there are other things we would rather her make a movie about than the war.”

Noted.

I went back to SA and messaged Abby, who runs a celeb news agency, sharing the gossip I had just heard.

“Get out there!” Abby had written. “Go get the story.”

Me?

I didn’t have a clue where to start.

“Go back to the Apple store,” she instructed. “Find out where the five-star hotels are and go see if she was there. Talk to people about the movie she is filming. Find out what she did while she was here. Go!”

So, I quickly did my hair, put on my big sunglasses and donned a flowing flower maxi dress to look less Backpacker Chic, grabbed my laptop and a notebook and headed back out into the city, intent on getting the story.

Only I felt like an ass.

The only five-star hotel in town, stood before me, completely redone after the war.

I can’t do this. I can’t pretend to be some crazy fan asking to get the scoop on what Jolie did while she was there.

“Excuse me,” I said timidly, approaching the swanky front desk of the hotel. “I have a question, and it may seem kinda silly …”

“Yes,” the tall man at the desk said, glaring at me.

“Did Angelina Jolie stay here last night?”

“No.”

Dead end.

“Um … do you know where she did stay?”

“No.”

Another dead end.

“Do you know what she was doing while she was here?”

“She was meeting with people to talk about filming a movie. She was looking at tanks.”

Finally.

“Great,” I said, smiling. “Thanks so much.”

I spun on my heels and back outside, intent on finding out where she stayed and needing to get more confirmation that she was here.

I stopped at the bar across the street and talked to a guy sitting at a high top, essentially having the same conversation, except he asked me to please tell Jolie he said hello.

Right. Like I have ever, or would ever, meet her.

I went inside and asked the bartender if he could tell me where she was staying.

Nothing.

I went to another bar. And another. I asked police officers on guard.

Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

Then, I made my way back to the Apple store, knowing the girl would have the information I needed.

Closed. Locked. Not open until Monday.

Damn.

Defeated, I went to a cafe, ordered a Coke Light, and messaged Abby with the info I had.

“Go and talk to people about how they feel about the film,” she said. “Get whatever information you can.”

Ask them about the war? And how they feel about Angelina making a movie about it?

It didn’t feel right. I had heard from other travelers that bringing up the war isn’t something that is done. It’s not PC. And, suddenly, I needed to go up to strangers and ask them flat out how they felt about a film being made about just that.

But, I did it.

If they don’t want to talk about it, they don’t have to.

A funny thing happened that conflicted everything I had ever been told about broaching the subject — every single person I talked to was more than willing to talk about the war. In fact, they could have talked about it for hours.

Each person I spoke with offered me a seat, a drink, and chatted on and on about their city with such pride and admiration. They spoke of the war, the struggles they endured. They spoke about the beauty of the country and how much they loved where they were.

And, of course, the spoke about Angelina.

“If she wants to make a movie about the war, then it is a good thing,” one 20-something Sarajevo girl said. “It can help people to understand what we went through.”

At the end of the day I was hot, tired but filled with hope. Not for getting the story — there wasn’t one there after all — but for the people of Sarajevo and their determination to stand up together and show the world just how strong they are. And will be.

Here’s to hoping Jolie can convey that in her film.

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Sarajevo … surrounded

My first evening in Sarajevo, I took AK’s walking tour. An enlightening five-hour walk through the city, learning about it’s history from Ottoman rule to today. There were times where tears filled my eyes as he spoke of the war, the mortars, the Sarajevo roses that fill the holes were people were killed and serve as a memorial to the lives lost. AK, barely out of his teens, told his stories with the words of someone well beyond his years, with soul … with pain … with passion.

The next day, four people I had met from the tour and I decided to continue to explore the history of Sarajevo. We hopped on a tram, and then a bus, to the Tunnel museum.

During the war, Sarajevo was essentially cut off from supplies. Serbs controlled nearly all of the city, sans the airport, which was operated by the UN. On the other side of the runway was freedom. Sarajevo soldiers, in an attempt to get supplies, dug a tunnel under the runway. It was dangerous. The tunnel carried wires to provide energy and often times the narrow and low-ceilinged route was flooded.

The four of us first watched two videos in the museum, one showing soldiers haul supplies and people through the tunnel, and the other a collage of images during the war. Buildings being hit with mortars. The National Library with Sarajevo’s history in books, being burned. A woman shielding her baby in her arms as she ran to escape sniper fire. It all was gruesome. And real.

Then, we walked through the tunnel portion that was open and out into a field of grass outside the home which housed the underground path.

A clear view of the airport. The runway.

I looked around. Everywhere I turned were reminders of the fighting 20 years earlier — homes riddled with bullet holes and schrapnel scars from mortar attacks.

After the tunnel, we went to the History Museum, a building which still also bares the scars from the war. Upstairs there are two exhibits — one of the history of Sarajevo and one that shows the brutality via photos of the war – “Sarajevo Surrounded.”

The images were horrid. Bodies with intestines coming out. Letters and pictures from children depicting their living situations. Everything I saw brought to life the words AK had spoken the night before.

To lighten the day, we decided to go and see “Inception” that evening at a local theater.

A few of us, along with AK, headed to the theater ($4 USD for a Friday night screening) to decompress.

After, we went out to Cheers — yes, there is a Cheers in Sarajevo — where we sipped Sarajevsko and listened to the haunting voice of a local as she sang along to house music.

The next day, I finally worked towards solving my lack of music problem. I hauled it to an Apple store and ordered an iTouch.

“It could take five days to get here,” said the girl at the counter.

Five days in Sarajevo.

I looked outside at the water. At the pockmarked buildings. At the sun shining.

I can do five days here.

“No problem,” I said, smiling.

Then, I walked into the gorgeous Sarajevo afternoon.

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