Coping with travel fever when you’re stuck in the 9 to 5: Ways to get through those long periods between trips when you’re stuck in a 40+ hour work week at a job that is not your dream job.
We write about our travels, but we aren’t travel writers. We have jobs, bills, a mortgage, two cats, aging parents, and family and friends we love to spend time with. You know, responsibilities and stuff. We’re childfree, which helps us tremendously in the travel department, but we can’t travel full time. Coping with travel fever in between adventures is tough, especially because travel is addicting. The more you travel, the more you want to travel. The more off the beaten path you get, the need for a more unique travel experience to top the last becomes more and more unbearable. For us, travel isn’t about sitting on a beach with a mai tai and trying to unwind. It’s a cultural learning adventure. Maybe someday we’ll find a way to travel more.
But for now, we have things that keep us in one place most of the year. We feel lucky that we can travel as much as we do, and we travel more than most of our friends and family. We are grateful for every experience we’ve had, and grateful for all the ones to come. However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t go to work fighting the urge to turn our cars around and drive off into the sunset (or sunrise). Coping with travel fever can be hard, but there are ways we try to ease the pain:
1. Plan your next trip
If you don’t have your next trip planned already, start planning. The only way things happen is if you plan them and set goals. Figure out where you want to go, how long you want to (or can) travel for, and finally how much it will cost (always overestimate). Buy a guidebook to get the basics, and spend the rest of the time googling and reading about places on tripadvisor.com. I’m a planner, and I probably over-plan a bit, but I also plan for days without plans in my destinations. If you have a long time to travel, try to stay a bit longer in a few key destinations to really get to know them and leave room for spontaneous moments. For me, coping with travel fever is a lot easier if there is a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. If we have a trip to look forward to, and I can obsessively read about the culture, food, restaurants, weird tourist attractions, transportation methods, etc–and I’m a lot happier.
2. Watch travel documentaries
Unfortunately, there are a lot of really bad travel documentaries out there. I am so sick of the overly peppy, pseudo-knowledgeable travel host going to all the major tourist spots.
There are also some really good ones. I have a post about our favorite travel shows that you can check out. We are big fans of Departures, Anthony Bourdain, and Zane Lamprey. Watching travel shows is a method of coping with travel fever, but it also kind of makes your travel fever worse. Be warned.
3. Read travel books
Books will always go more in depth than shows. Reading someone’s well-written memoirs of their travels is more educational, and allows you to live vicariously through their experiences. My favorite travel book that I’ve read is the Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner. He is a former NPR journalist who decides to travel around the world to the world’s proclaimed “happiest countries” to find out what makes them happy. He also travel’s to one of the world’s unhappiest countries in contrast. It is a really interesting read and very well written.
What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman
Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain
4. Take short weekend getaways
Go on little adventures for the weekend to places within a few hours’ drive of your city. Stop for food at little hole-in-the-wall restaurants and diners, go on a new hike, visit that town with the unusual name that you’ve only seen while looking at a road atlas. We are a bit lucky in Seattle to have so much natural and diverse places to visit within a three hour drive. I believe there is something interesting to see everywhere. Check out what your region has to offer.
5. Visit new restaurants and try new foods
One of the biggest parts about travel is trying new foods. Food is always what Paddy looks forward to the most in our adventures. A great method of coping with travel fever is to go to a restaurant with a type of cuisine you haven’t tried before. This is more easily done if you live in an urban area with lots of culture. Yelp can be a great tool to hunt for different restaurants. Have you tried Ethiopian food? Indonesian? Dim Sum? Eating at a restaurant can be a foreign cultural experience in itself.
6. Host a theme party around your favorite travel destination
Have an Italian dinner party, a Polynesian luau, a Mexican fiesta, a Parisian brunch, or a Danish Julefrokost. Make a bunch of food from your favorite travel destination and invite friends to share and learn.
7. Learn a new language
You may not be able to travel right this minute, but you can improve your language skills for your next trip. Many community colleges offer continuing education language classes in the evenings that anyone can take. A friend of mine keeps her Spanish fluent by attending a Spanish language conversation group. You might even meet some new travel buddies or new friends to share travel tales with. If you live out in the sticks or local classes don’t work for your schedule, I’ve heard the Rosetta Stone is a great self-learning tool. Check and see if your local library has it available to use for free.
8. Look for cultural festivities in your city
If your city has any kind of diversity (as most cities do), there are probably many cultural celebrations and events open to the public that you can check out. Some aren’t as well advertised as others, so you may have to do some research. Seattle has Scandinavian breakfasts and movie nights at the Swedish Cultural Center (I also heard they recently had an ABBA night as well,) a Lunar New Year/Chinese New Year celebration in the International District, and a whole plethora of cultural festivals at the Seattle Center throughout the year (Hawaiian, Arab, Iranian, Japanese, Brazilian, Polish, Italian, Croatian, Turkish, Mexican Dia de Los Muertos, Filipino, Irish, and more). Check out what the city nearest you has to offer.
Coping with travel fever is hard, but getting little doses of culture and learning in combined with quick weekend getaways helps tide us over until our next travel adventure. We also always have to be planning our next adventure–there can’t be an indefinite period of no travel. Something needs to be planned. Don’t let the 9-5 bog you down. If you have vacation time, plan a trip and go for it. Happy travels!