This post describes the benefits of creating a routine when traveling.
Over a dinner with a friend, she inquired how I managed to find something to do every day after I’d worked my way through the initial sights, museums and “obvious” activities you read about in the travel guides. We were talking about my time in Buenos Aires — a seven week stay that did not have a job or schooling attached to my time whilst there.
I described that in many ways, she could think of long-term travel as more similar to her normal day-to-day life than not. Yes, there’s a schedule. Yes, there’s laundry. Yes, there’s lots of friend meet-ups and social activity.
The key to long-term travel is creating a day-to-day framework keeps you motivated to get out of your accommodation, explore the culture, and meet the locals.
Long-term travel fatigue is a real thing
Traveling for longer than three weeks presents a new set of challenges. The initial excitement in the first few days — the Wow! How beautiful! Isn’t everything wonderful! — morphs into a strange feeling that this new place/monument/museum is the same more or less the same one we saw in the last place.
Then the guilt sets in. How can I feel so disillusioned when I have this opportunity to live my dreams but all I really want to do is laze about in bed all day? I’ve met a number of travelers who end up staying in their accommodations to try to shake off the feeling, but end up hanging out indoors for weeks at a time and then end up going home.
This is where having a routine helps combat the fatigue.
The key to building out your itinerary is building in time in your normal schedule to relax, decompress and internalize all the new learnings you’ve throughout the day. Your needs as a human to don’t magically go away just because you’re traveling.
The benefits of a travel routine
- It serves as a motivator to leave your accommodation each day;
- You know you have limited daylight hours so you must make the most of them;
- You have a sense of the amount of sightseeing you’re planning on doing each day so you can adjust your itinerary accordingly;
- Because you have time to relax baked into your day, you are more likely to accept an invitation to do something with new friends you may have met;
- You know around what time you’re eating so you don’t need to worry about finding food at every stop;
- You can leave a destination with peace of mind that you didn’t “miss out.”
Understanding your own habits is the best starting point for putting together your routine
To begin pulling together a routine, reflect on your own day-to-day habits. A few questions to think through:
- What time do I normally wake up? Go to sleep?
- When do I have the most energy throughout the day?
- When do I typically get hungry?
- What are my hobbies? What are the things I’m drawn to when I travel?
- How much walking can I realistically handle per day?
- Do I like changing locations frequently or do I like to spend more time in one place?
This exercise can help craft a framework of what what makes you, you, as a traveler.
The idea is to understand how much walking you realistically do per day, whether you’re an early bird or night owl, what time you get hungry, how much alone time you need, how much sightseeing you like, what types of activities you are interested in etc. This information, pulled together, helps you make the most of your day, prior to formally planned anything within a particular city + country.
This information, pulled together, helps you make the most of your day, prior to formally planned anything within a particular city + country.
Having a routine is not an edict
If you need to sleep-in, do. If you want to spend the entire day at the museum, do. If you want to tuck in to Netflix at the end of the night instead of meeting friends, do. If you want to spend the day at the coffee shop people watching, do.
This is your trip, and there is no such thing as right or wrong. You don’t need to carry the guilt of “shoulds” with you.
What does a routine look like?
My routine follows some variation of the following day-to-day schedule:
- 5:30-7AM Wake up
- 7AM-8AM Get ready + breakfast
- 8-11AM Depart accommodation & explore
- 11AM Catch coffee somewhere & continue exploring
- 1PM Lunch
- 2PM Explore
- 3:30-5PM Return to accommodation
- 5PM–> Bed Free time / meet up with new friends met along the way / dinner / shows / entertainment etc.
On Sundays, I go to the laundromat (more on that in a separate post). I spend the three hours waiting for my clothes as time for myself. I may catch up on a book, hang out at a favorite cafe, or write back to friends and family back home. This is my time for me, and knowing that every Sunday I have this space for myself makes me more willing to accept invitations to do things throughout the rest of the day.
How do you approach your travels? Do you do things ad-hoc or have you found a rhythm that works for you?
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