The Hidden Cost of [Too Much] Travel


All you Half The Clothes regulars (and all my friends) know that I’ve been doing too much for too long (like, my entire life, but especially recently).  This year I’ve been more than 41 places in less than 41 weeks.  And that’s just straight-up cray cray.  I’ve lived a whole lot of life without processing any of it.

Too much routine can be maddening, but so can too little.  Living a life in which every single thing I do requires a conscious decision is exhausting.  What time do I need to get up in the morning?  Why?  (In the morning…) Why is my alarm going off?  Where am I?  What am I doing today?  Oh yeah.  Hmmm… I wonder where the coffee maker is here.  Can I drink the tap water?  Maybe I would get more done if I worked from a cafe today.  Is there a cafe near here?  What time does the bus go?   Or… would a cafe have parking?  Should I pack a lunch?  Am I here long enough to buy groceries, or should I just get enough for a meal?  Could I make tacos?  Does this apartment rental/friend’s house/etc. have a cheese grater?  Oh shit – did I email that woman about that work thing?  What do I need to take if I go to the cafe?  Wait… is there a cafe?  Is today Wednesday?  Oh, then I can’t go to the cafe because I won’t be back in time for my standing call.  Ahhhh!  Did I pay my credit card bill?!  Have I made a reservation in that village I’m going to on Sunday?  Uh-oh, what if I have to get train tickets in advance?  Wait… do trains even run on Sunday here?

You know that moment when a juggler drops all their balls? I’ve felt like I’m right on the cusp of that way too many times this year.  photo: pixabay

I’m well aware that many of my contemporary humans have a jumble of thoughts rushing through their heads having to do with all the plates spinning in their lives.  But when so many of those thoughts are about one’s basic needs – food, shelter, hygiene – followed by how to accomplish life’s basics – work, paying bills, communication, moving around the world… it doesn’t leave space for much else.  Similar to the way in which children take a majority of a parent’s attention, constantly-being-in-new-surroundings takes a majority of anyone’s attention.  Essentially, I’ve had no time to decide what I think about what I’m doing, only the time to do it.  And that is a very numbing, identity-dissolving experience.  (I can see a lot of parents and people working 50+ hour work-weeks nodding their heads.)

The tricky thing about mental overwhelm: the larger it grows, the harder it is to enact its solution… rest!  For most people who hit overwhelm, life has slowly (or sometimes quickly) grown to more tasks than a person can reasonably handle.  Those tasks fill the time one might otherwise spend becoming aware of their need for rest and making it happen.

To placate ourselves once in a state of almost inescapable overwhelm, we promise ourselves, “things will be better when.”  We often don’t recognize when this belief is actually a tool to shift responsibility for our circumstances to external sources.  When we fail to acknowledge the role we play in our own overwhelm and the power we (usually) have to do something about it, we are doomed to repeat the same behaviors and get the same results.  Things are almost never “better when…”  Things are most often “better” when we change our perspective or stop making the kind of decisions and choices that got us to where we are now.

I don’t know if things will be better when I finally stop bouncing from place to place or when my Grandma and the care she is requiring stabilizes in the aftermath of her stroke.  But I do know I need to figure out why I so eagerly set myself up for overwhelm (in my case, too much travel) and why I keep doing it.

Wish me luck?  And stay tuned. If you want.



5 comments

  • November 1, 2017 at 11:58 pm

    Hoping for a speedy recovery for your grandma and peace for you all ….

  • October 31, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    Article re-affirms my feelings.
    I work the 40 hours week plus call at hospital-i really like my job plus the BIG plus their very generous about time off.
    I also moved in with and take care of my elderly mom -I have no other family, so i do it all alone.I’m grateful, love my mom but its hard…more so cause I have no life except work and her …WITH the acceptation of my travel and camping… The one thing I wont sacrifice and I’ve learned trial and error to make it work ..(been doing this 5 years now) .
    Anyway, one thing I learned is I will not spend less than 2 days in any one place… I wish I could up it to at least 3 but my maximum time out is 14- 21 days… I make the most of it but no way in hell (unless no choice with logistics) that i will spend all time getting there , only to pack up again and go… I recently was in Mongolia and Kazakstan for 2 weeks and added Hong kong on the front stopover for 3 nights (a place Id love to go back to) and Beijing for 3 nights on the end stopover (just right amount time to do what I needed, plus leisure time and decompressing-and also decided I have no interest to return ) So anyway, just sharing my views and how i agree with you and adore your site… Im a 40 liter backpacker with medium messenger bag..i even take a portable small c-pap machine for my sleep apnea with me (wish i didn’t -I could take another pair shoes.) So thats my story ..how we can make things work and to slow the F-down….LOL..We only have limited time here -make everything you do meaningful…
    Travel on …

    • October 31, 2017 at 8:47 pm

      I’m glad to hear it spoke to you… too fast travel is mind numbing!! Sounds like you are a light-traveler, too!

      It’s crazy how we’re living and what we’re doing to ourselves, hey? So overwhelming! Amen to making it work and slowing down! My grandmother just had a stroke and I am one of her primary caregivers. Even juggling between 3 of us, it’s exhausting. I can’t imagine if I were the only one! I’m sure you’re an expert in respite resources, but I have to ask… have you ever considered work exchangers to help you out?

      Happy Traveling, Susan!

      • October 31, 2017 at 8:55 pm

        Yes, I use certain resources to help but it gets $$$ .. meals on wheels has been a godsend ..

        • November 1, 2017 at 11:37 pm

          It is expensive! We’re just starting Meals on Wheels – the neighbors have been bringing things over – so helpful. All the applause to you, lovely lady!

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