The proverbial ‘they’ or ‘people’ think that if you’re constantly traveling you’re constantly engaged. That your mind is running a mile a minute and that you can’t possibly get tired of seeing new things and experiencing new places. Well… my friends, I’m here to tell you that travel burn out is a real thing and yes you can get exhausted, no matter how cool the place is that you’re visiting.
Case in point: Bangkok.
Poor Bangkok. It was our jet-lagged city of arrival on October 30th and it was the same city we arrived at with two and half months in Southeast Asia under our belts. We had the best of intentions for the city, thanks to a well thumbed guidebook. We were going to drink it up in Soi 11, visit the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. We considered a ping pong show (to say you’ve seen the horrors!) and boat hopping along the Chao Phraya River. Do you know what we ended up doing?
A whole lot of resting. Thankfully we’d cashed in the last of our air miles for four nights of luxury at Le Meridien near the Patpong district of Bangkok. Rooftop pool, gorgeous room and killer views of the city were exactly what we needed.
The thing about Southeast Asia is that it expands your senses. Foods are spicier, noises are louder and the smells from the hot garbage…. well, they don’t leave you any time soon. You have to watch yourself as you cross the road, lest you be run over by a motorbike. You’re always on the lookout for the right sign to the right place or the restaurant that you Google street viewed before leaving the hotel. None of these are bad things, but they leave you drained.
After two and a half joyous months of riding motorbikes, seeing a lady boy show, learning about the Khmer Rouge, braving the crowds at Angkor Wat, or cruising Bai Tu Long Bay, we were just a little bit tired. I guess we’re aging?
Before you hit the snooze button, we did find some ways to unwind in Bangkok, discover the city at a more relaxed pace and avoid the crowds. Because when we did try to brave the crowds at the Grand Palace and were overwhelmed by the line ups, this is what happened…
The sad face was pure pathetic-ness and we ended up skipping the Palace in favour of a long walk back to the hotel discovering neighbourhoods as we went. What we saw instead was a quieter, possibly more authentic side of Bangkok.
We saw flower markets and motorbikes lining backroads, Lumpini Park and MBK. We saw Patpong by day and tee-heed at the names of sports bars.
What we finally had the time to do was to decompress and reflect on the trip of a lifetime that we’d just experienced. We were able to appreciate the quirks of Bangkok without the line ups or the crowds. We were able to put down our guidebooks and just breathe a sigh of relief. This trip had changed us, at least a little. For two people that had been together four years, we’d spent almost three of those in a long distance relationship. Southeast Asia has been an opportunity to reconnect, talk about anything and everything, and take on new experiences side by side.
I’m not mad at all that we missed out on the Top 10 or all the sites I’d pencilled into our schedule. Instead, I’m glad that our last few days were filled with fun and rest, before we set off for the U.K.
A lot of people might say “oh boohoo, they were in Bangkok. So what if they were tired?” They’d be right. Being in Bangkok was yet another experience of a lifetime and maybe we blew it by other peoples’ standards, but who’s to say that we’ll never go back?
Has travel burn out ever kept you from maximizing a destination? What did you do instead?