Sep 26

Traveler’s Fatigue: It’s Complicated

Traveler’s Fatigue: It can strike anywhere, anytime. Qingdao, China, 2008

Since posting about my bad day in Belize, I felt it necessary to explain a little bit more about what traveler’s fatigue is and what it means to the traveler, or at least to me.

I first wrote about traveler’s fatigue about 5 months ago shortly after leaving Guadalajara in a post entitled Feeling Tired.  In that post I wrote:

People often think time and money are the main limiters to traveling longterm, but this is not the case.  By far, the biggest limiter to any great adventure is spirit.  Give it enough time and the classic symptoms of traveler fatigue, loneliness, homesickness, and even boredom will always start to creep in.  Traveling solo only serves to exacerbate the situation.  In the short term, these symptoms can be treated and consolidated by employing various ZackPacking techniques, but in the long term the traveler can look forward to far more serious symptoms that include: feelings of extreme disorientation, feelings of purposelessness, a sense that there is no point in doing anything, and a roller coaster ride of emotional highs and lows.  Inside every traveller there is a ticking clock, and when the alarm goes off, it is time to get off the road and plant some roots.  For some, this alarm goes off after a month or two, for others it can take years, but we all eventually run our spiritual bank accounts dry.


The other day in Belize I was hit by the first of these dramatic highs and lows, and some people might assume that I am now in a stage of some sort of depression, and that I will now be “struggling” through the rest of the trip rather than enjoying myself.

Fortunately, this isn’t true.

The reality of Traveler’s fatigue is more complicated than a simple black and white “I was happy before, but now I’m not”.  Yes, I feel tired, yes I feel worn down, yes I will get hit by moments of depression and despair… but the rest of the time I will be just fine.  It’s almost like there are two people inside of you.  Person #1 is the traveller in you, he carries on traveling and having a great time, taking in the sights, absorbing the local culture, and appreciating the wonderful opportunities available to him.  Person #2 is the primitive social animal in you.  He is the one getting tired, he is the one who wants to stop and settle down somewhere, make friends, find a girlfriend, get a job.  Person #2 is the one that brings about these pendulum moments of low spirits and high.

When you first start traveling, Traveler Zack is in control 100% of the time and Normal-life Zack takes a back seat.  Over time though Traveler Zack starts to get a little worn out and so Normal-life Zack begins to step in to take over from time to time.  At first, Normal-life Zack only takes the reins for brief moments, say less than 5% of the time, but over time Traveler Zack will continue to cede more and more control over to Normal-life Zack.  When Normal-life Zack starts being in control 30% of the time or more, it equates to the Traveler suffering from some pretty serious Traveler’s Fatigue, and it’s time for the traveler to start scheduling-in an end to his/her trip.  Once Normal-life Zack hits that 50% mark, you want to be off the road and either on a flight home, or making yourself a new home somewhere else.

Every traveler suffers from traveler’s fatigue eventually.  It’s just a matter of time.  How much time depends of a multitude of variables and it will vary considerably from person to person and from trip to trip.

So just to reassure everyone, here on the Tour de Zack y Tony we are doing OK.  To be more specific: Normal-life Zack is probably in control now about 25% of the time which means that yes, I feel tired, yes I feel worn down, and yes I will get hit by moments of depression and despair… the other 75% of the time though, I’ll be having the adventure of a lifetime.


1 comment

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  1. Cindy Bell

    Zack – Good way to explain the fatigue. Even when we had our home with us (Fair Rover), it wasn’t always fun. We settled in Guam and never continued on. I often wish for that cruising life again, but I know it would never be the same. I always said sailing was like being in labor – you can’t stop in the middle just because it isn’t fun anymore. What could have been ….. is always smoke and mirrors. Rest and friends have a great rejuvenating power, and you never know what is around the corner. You are providing us with adventure vicariously. Thank you for that. Cindy

  1. Same Same Syndrome » Zack Skerritt

    [...] just one region of the world, is what I like to call “Same Same Syndrome”.  It is a variant of Traveler’s Fatigue, but its symptoms do not include exhaustion, depression, or purposelessness, rather its symptom is [...]

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