A few months ago, I experienced a jarring moment. Standing in the kitchen, I no longer had the urge to travel. I was tired, I was no longer excited by the idea of jet-setting, and I even wanted to rest from my work—telling important human rights stories from around the world. I told my friends and family, “I think I just want to stay home and bake cookies. My Facebook name should change from World Trekker to Cookie Baker.” Something was definitely wrong.
After much thought, meditation, and talking to friends and colleagues, I realized that it wasn’t that I wanted to give up travel, but that I needed a break. For the longest time, I had kept going and going without taking a break, and sometimes the human rights events I witnessed in the field weren’t easy to grapple with. Going back out there meant being uncomfortable and facing challenges again, and I didn’t know if I was ready for it.
Soon after the cookie baking incident, I saw an old magazine clipping on the corner of my desk. It was a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt: "You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do." Right then and there, I decided I would commit to traveling, no matter what doubt I was feeling.
I don’t think that this experience is unique—I think many people give up traveling or are afraid to get back on the road because of a busy career, a new family, or lifestyle changes, or just simply because they're tired and overwhelmed. And that’s understandable. But if traveling is something you want (or have) to do, it’s important to make a plan to get going again.
I recently went on a trip to Turkey, and while it wasn’t easy to get on the plane, I found a few strategies that helped me get out there, stay positive, and fall in love with travel all over again.
Know When You Are Ready
There are times when travel just doesn’t make sense. You might be just getting started in your career or a new job, or worried about your relationship, or dealing with family issues. Those situations aren't always the best times to pick up and leave.
But don’t confuse those scenarios with staying home because it’s comfortable and easy. There comes a time when you need to give yourself a nudge to get out of your comfort zone. A friend of mine once told me “You will never be fully 100% ready, but when you are 60-70% ready, you should make the choice to go.”
You might want to start small and take a domestic trip or just a weekend away to see how it makes you feel, but since I usually travel a lot, I knew that it had to be all or nothing. Do what feels right, but remember, even if you’re hesitant, it’s always worth a try.
Find a Support Network
While preparing for my trip, I felt ambivalence at the airport and even considered opting out and running back to everything that felt familiar and easy. What stopped me? I was lucky enough to have an amazing support network of people who rationally explained to me why I should go and how much I would regret it if I didn't. Those friends not only were patient, but they stuck with me the whole way through the trip—their faith in me was powerful and motivational. Because I trusted them, we ended up having a once-in-a lifetime travel experience together.
I strongly recommend sharing what you’re going through with others. You may find your support network in unexpected places, like old friends on Facebook or a trusted mentor. Or, if you aren’t ready to come out with your concerns, you can always try talk therapy or find a support group.
Stay in the Moment
Once I left, I realized that most of my hesitation about getting back on the road arose from forgetting how to live in the moment. I was constantly thinking about what was next, or I was so busy answering texts, responding to emails, and dealing with work demands that I forgot to take care of myself.
A long time ago, a good friend told me to stop stressing out and "be where your feet are." Once I started doing that—recognizing whether my feet were on the plane, or in a cafe, or walking along the street and taking a new country in—I felt that wonderful travel euphoria one gets when exploring once again. Staying in the moment helped me enjoy my experience even more, because I wasn’t thinking about what work I had to do at home or what the next day would hold. I just took the trip one day at a time.
Acknowledge the Challenges
After getting caught in the cold rain and not being able to find a cab on my trip one day, I felt frustrated, but I tried to take it in stride. As I used to tell people all the time, things can go wrong when you least expect it, but you have to be flexible and open to change.
That said, know that it’s OK to have mixed feelings and that there will be moments when travel is challenging or when you feel frustrated, tired, or scared. When a challenging moment happens, or you start thinking negatively, do a self check, and know that this moment will pass and that you will be better and stronger for it.
Celebrate Your Journey
Once you’re there, remember to reward yourself. Head to the local markets and buy something fabulous or go out for a great meal or event. Even if it's a business trip, find time in between meetings or after hours to do something that really makes you happy. Friends of mine who did humanitarian work would often feel guilty about having a nice dinner or going out at night—but there is no shame in finding a balance in order to sustain that kind of difficult work. Travel is about learning and discovery and, especially when you’re trying to get back in the travel saddle, you should be able to enjoy yourself after a journey or a hard day's work.
There might be a time in your life where you want to ditch the suitcase and the travel guide, and that’s OK. We all need a break sometimes. But make sure you also take the time to acknowledge what might be keeping you from it, and do what feels right for you.
A lot of people ask me how I constantly keep world trekking, and while I know a powerful mix of coffee and adrenaline have something to do with it, I also know that travel has enriched my life immensely. Especially when I have pushed myself or stepped outside my comfort zone, I am always rewarded by my travel experiences. And if you just get out there and do it, you might be surprised, too.
Photo of traveler courtesy of Shutterstock.
TopicsTravel , Travel Mirror by Natalie Jesionka , Mental Health , Syndication , Travel Tips , Business Travel
Natalie Jesionka has researched and reported on human rights issues around the world. She lectures on human trafficking, gender and conflict, and human rights at Rutgers University. When she is not teaching, she is traveling and offering tips on how students and professionals can get the most out of their experiences abroad. She also encourages global exploration through her work as Editor of Shatter the Looking Glass, an ethical travel magazine. Natalie is a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow and served as a 2010 Fulbright Scholar in Thailand.More from this Author