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Some digital nomads can struggle with the feeling of burnout while traveling around the world and constantly moving locations. This feeling can often be associated with a lack of enthusiasm for new locations or even loneliness.
One user in a popular Facebook group for digital nomads was struggling with a similar feeling after traveling to over 47 countries. He wondered at what point did the spark of the nomadic lifestyle start to fizzle out, and if he was alone in his feeling.
This question garnered a large and enthusiastic response, with over 400 responses ranging from empathy to advice.
First, nomads offered their empathy about when they started to feel burnout.
Burn out based on the number of countries:
“I’m at #48 and agree with you.”
“I spent around two years traveling starting in 2017, and I found after around 10-12, things just started to lose their definition, to some degree. The spark wasn’t there all the time like it had been, and traveling strangely became just life, almost mundane.”
“You’re totally not alone! I feel the same! It’s been four years of nomadic life for me, I’ve finished my bucket list and seen everything I wanted to see. Just yesterday I was talking about how the excitement has waned because after 30 countries, temples look like temples, European cathedrals are European cathedrals (tropical beaches, medieval cities, Asian markets, et al) you can only see so many before they all kind of seem the same. I no longer have travel FOMO. Now I’m looking to settle down as an ex-pat and just enjoy living in the cultures I love and traveling to see people or change climates. But YES after a while you CAN “have done it all.”
“After living in four countries and traveling to 40+ countries, I decided to settle down.”
“I’m happy sticking to the countries I love best after visiting only about 35. I make a point to visit at least one new one per year.”
“Did about 30 in 1.5 years and was way too fast. Been in one country since corona hit and am finally starting to get interested again.”
“85 countries and I’m starting to see your point.”
“Yeah, I feel you. I am at 52 countries and it all becomes a blur. I have been to many countries multiple times, like Mexico four times, Thailand three times, etc. Travel is just what I do, it’s not “special” anymore. I still enjoy going places from time to time, but more like taking a one-week vacay exploring and chilling than hardcore backpacking for months on end. I’ve traveled my entire life, haven’t had roots for the past 10 years and have been full-time traveling for 3 years now.”
“Around 45, and I can relate. Considering getting a longer-term home base and doing shorter trips a couple of times a year.”
“Honestly, I’m at 8 and while I love traveling, I am also starting to want to put some roots down. Buy a cutting board, grow a plant, that kind of thing. But I’m also not ready to pick a place and stay, either. It’s not that I’m bored or that everything feels the same, more just that I miss having a consistent group of friends, a partner. Tired of packing and unpacking. I will likely pick somewhere and stay a while longer before I reach 30 countries! But it’s a different journey for everyone. I will always travel, but probably not travel to live (or live for longer periods, like 1-2 years instead of 3-6 months).”
“I’m at over fifty and have definitely lost some of my enthusiasm for touristy stuff, I pretty much never go to museums, etc when I travel unless it’s something I’ve got a special interest in. Lots of people I’ve met are pretty horrified by this. Maybe I’m a bad tourist. I definitely travel slower now – stay somewhere for several years, get to know the area around, and then move on. I travel so slowly that I’m not sure I count as a digital nomad so much as a digital someone who moves house and country every couple of years. However, as I’ve lost tolerance for looking at random things my interest in other things has deepened – so in history, languages, curiosity about different ways of thinking, some particular hobbies. I think my interests and therefore my style of traveling has narrowed and deepened.”
“I’m nearing 90 countries although half of those were visited when I wasn’t a nomad. I’ve changed quite a bit over the years, which is reflected in my travels. When I was younger, I was only interested in city life, music, and meeting people, so I really only visited cities. Now I’m all about experiencing nature, a healthy amount of solitude, and I recently began scuba diving which has opened up a brand new set of travel possibilities. I’d like to go back to the countries I visited 15 years ago!
Burn out based on the number of years:
“Not countries but time. After 2 years I felt like I needed a stable home base and preferred to take trips from that home base versus constantly uprooting my life to move to a different location.”
“8 years of living out of a rucksack was enough for me.”
“I wouldn’t necessarily say it was the number of countries but the number of years. 6.5 for me.”
“I go through like a 5-6 year cycle where I need to nest a few years then I need to travel full out a few years and it makes me appreciate it all the more. After 35 countries I really appreciate traveling to nature and experiences and often don’t even go see the main attractions of a destination as I’ve long now been more drawn to local immersion.”
“After 2,5 years I started to feel I can’t appreciate enough beauty of traveling anymore. So we stopped. We came back to my country and after half-year here I am starting to feel again my curiosity, desire to leave, to see… So for me, pause works well.”
” I’m 6 years in now, and I have found that I’ve reached the rotation stage. I love living between Spain, Thailand, and Central Europe. For me though, the digital nomad ideal started as a lifestyle design plan, but at some point, the love of the career took over and it became more about being fulfilled by work and purpose than by seeing new places. I think the experience I’ve had is that travel helped me to grow up, get some life experience, figure out my talents and nurture them, and so 35 countries in, I’ve figured out who I am, what I like, and where I want to be. That old me that wanted to see 100+ countries probably only really wanted the result of what such extensive travel might give you – a worldly perspective, infinite conversations, and more humility.”
Aside from nomads offering their responses about burnout, a few users also advised on how to avoid burn-out:
Trying becoming part of the community, instead of traveling as fast as possible from one place to the next: “Try living and being part of a local community, not being a tourist or a consumer. Learn the language, study the religion, understand the impact of colonialism. Instead of treating countries like trophies to collect, treat them like places real people live, work, suffer, triumph, struggle, give birth, and die. Treat the people like people, not servants. Go deeper.”
“I think it may be a function of what you choose to do in each. If you are just going to eat and party and shop, especially if with only ex-pats in touristy parts of town, then yes things can get repetitive. I always try to find locals and ask them where to go and what to do. And if they are up for it, for them to join me. I’ve had many random and amazing experiences that way. I’m still itching for travel anytime and I’ve been to 60 or so. At the same time, the lifestyle can get lonely if you don’t work at connecting in which case it just might be a function of your heart not being in it anymore. Wanting to put roots and create richer connections.
Look for new experiences and deeper connections: “Maybe you’re having the same type of experiences in each place. You could aim for new ones – volunteer, take a class, teach a class, train for an athletic competition, learn an instrument, start a social group with people you wouldn’t normally socialize with, befriend a lonely elderly person, travel by boat instead of land. I have a home base and am at #42.”
“I noticed I started getting burnt out so I started focusing on other passions while traveling. So for me, that was volunteering and working at animal shelters. I volunteered at a dog rescue for a month in Thailand and loved it so much and hope to foster some dogs in Bali soon for a few months.”
“I started realizing that I overlooked most countries I stayed in. A country is more than just a place to visit, eat and stay. You can add another dimension to your trips to restore your excitement about traveling. History, archeology and diving are some examples that make you want to even travel more. Adding another person on your trip can be also beneficial especially If traveling is easy for you.”
Adopting a rotation-style travel schedule: “I’ve written and spoken at conferences and on podcasts about this for several years now. The term ‘nomadic’ itself is a misnomer. Young people especially tend to love the mobile aspect of the digital nomad lifestyle a lot at first, but after a while, we all crave community and solidity of some sort. So after getting most of the travel out of their systems, they realize that they like about 3 or 4 places. So they set up a life where they still travel and explore places, but generally rotate every few months between the places they love and where they know and have familiarity with neighborhoods, people, shopkeepers, cafe and bar owners, etc. I call it ‘Nomadic Roots.’ It happens. The lifestyle remains, but at a slower pace while cycling around fewer, more select locales.”
Going to unexpected places: “Did you start going to the ones that your mind has told you that you “probably should avoid” yet? If not, go do that. It’ll come back in spades.”
Look inward about what’s making you feel burnt out: “The pleasure of travel will fade if you’re traveling to count countries or to show off to people. If travel is deeply rooted in your identity, happiness and lifestyle it’ll never fade. You might need breaks here and there but the desire to travel will remain long term. I’ve traveled to around 70 countries and live out of the states full-time and still love it like I did when I started. I love going back to destinations that I fell in love with years ago and sharing those experiences with those who haven’t traveled as much just to see the look on their faces when they get to experience an incredible destination. If you’re burning out, I would ask yourself what specifically is it that’s making you tired of travel. For me in the beginning it was loneliness from doing so many solo travels so now I focus most of my travels with people I love or new people who I’ll meet up with.”