Sunday, March 23, 2014

5 Quick Cures for TFS (Travel Fatigue Syndrome)

Simone, unable to visit one more historically important site, ready for a sanctuary and a stiff drink, Salvador de Bahia, Brazil (photo by Luis Bastardo)

You can feel it coming. You want to be excited, you know how life-altering travel can be, you want to get every minute's worth of value out of this expensive trip, you feel a moral imperative to understand the historical importance of the ancient cobblestones that you're shuffling across to reach El Plaza Mayor where the country that you are currently visiting (Colombia? Peru? Brazil?) staged its first political revolutions, but then...everything starts to become a blur. The walking tour guide's words start to run together, the dates become all mixed up (is this the plaza commemorating the revolution of October 12th, May 17th or August 10th?), your camera hand is on auto-pilot, snapping random photos of the latest commemorative plaque or castle ruins. Local touts are entering your personal space to sell you yet another postcard, t-shirt and tweeting bird toy. You can't figure out one more bus route, sign in a foreign language or whether the taxi driver is ripping you off or not. There are still seven days left in this trip and all you want to do is lie in a hammock with a tall, frosty cocktail (which you can do at home for free). What to do? No worries; it's perfectly okay to slow down and recharge. Here are some suggestions for quick  rejuvenation:

A warm and comforting bowl of Pho (photo by Simone Cannon) 

1) Find Some Comfort Food (and Drink): one of the fastest and easiest way to recover is to have a slow-paced, relaxing meal of simple warm food, such as a delicious bowl of soup or noodles. Take a break from touring and wander down the side streets of a city. Follow your nose or ask locals for suggestions (be sure to specify that you would like to know where they eat and not where they think you would like to eat) to find an inexpensive, local restaurant. For the most authentic experience, look for menus only in the local language, that is, without an English or German translation, try to find a family-run place, and check the proportion of local people to tourists eating there (should be high). Suspend your nervousness about eating something unusual, take a leap and ask your server to bring you whatever food is the most popular (be sure to mention in advance any serious food allergies of course, you don't want your sanctuary to be the ER). If you're a drinker, try the local beer, wine or cocktail. You might find a new favorite, like Sri Lankan Lion Stout or Brazilian Caipirinhas. Just don't overindulge; a little alcohol is relaxing, a lot may make you feel worse than ever.

Even in non-stop, full-on India, a traveler can find quiet places, such as the vast, peaceful lawns at the Taj Mahal, Agra, India (photo by Simone Cannon)    

2) Find a Sanctuary: even in the most frenetic of countries, there are many places of calm where it is possible to escape the constant barrage of sounds, colors, smells and activity which can overwhelm anyone in a new place and culture. Places of worship or memorial are usually a safe bet. For example, in Agra, India, although the Taj Mahal tomb itself is often flooded with tourists, the grounds are usually much less crowded. Since so many visitors make a bee-line for the Taj, then head back to their tour bus, a traveler in need of escape can wander across the lawns, sit under a shady tree, explore the numerous mosques, shrines and forts that are also part of the complex, all included in a low entrance fee. In Thailand, although most places of worship are bustling with people, there is a prevailing sense of reflection and peace which most visitors respect.

Taking a break for lunch on the beach while sea kayaking, Cathedral Cove, Hahei, New Zealand (photo by Simone Cannon)

3) Treat Yourself: the natural world is full of free treats such gorgeous beaches, breath-taking mountain trails, thermal springs, forests, rushing rivers and deep blue lakes. Whatever rejuvenates you at home will rejuvenate you abroad. If you enjoy splashing about in the ocean, mountain-biking, kayaking, hiking, sitting in the jacuzzi, fly fishing or photographing butterflies, you will almost always be able to find somewhere to indulge in your favorite pastime. You might even meet some fellow enthusiasts. If you are a spa-goer at home, you will be pleasantly surprised at the variety of spa treatments available around the world, often at much lower prices than at home. Book a 1/2 day at a local spa or get a foot and leg massage at a temple. Wat Po in Bangkok, Thailand is a Buddhist temple that also houses a massage school, where visitors can get a 1/2 hour or full hour fully-clothed Thai massage for 260/420 baht (approx. US $8 for 1/2 hr & $12 for 1 hr).          
Luis taking a very sexy tango lesson in (oddly enough) Lima, Peru (photo by Simone Cannon)

4) Teach or Learn Something: leap in and take advantage of your locale to learn something new. In Argentina, learn the tango or how to make a parrilla; in Calgary, Alberta learn how to lasso; in Norway, learn how to cross-country ski. The idea is to immerse yourself in what makes that country special. Aside from learning a new skill, you will almost certainly get some valuable insight into another culture, language and history and meet many people that you might not have otherwise encountered. If you have skills or an interesting hobby, especially if they are specific to your home country, you may consider offering your services to a local school, whose members are often thrilled to have international guest speakers. English conversational groups are extremely popular and, as a native speaker, you will be welcomed with open arms into the group even if you can only attend a session or two.

 Simone, listening to soul-saving music on her Ipod, after five days aboard a water barge on the Amazon River, between Manaus and Porto Velho, Brazil 

5) Listen to Some Energizing Music from Home: I always have a wide variety of music on my Ipod when traveling, ready for every possible situation. If I can't sleep because of noise or jet lag, I have soothing jazz or new age like Diana Krall or SpaTunes; for ratcheting up my energy level, I have the playlist that I use for running or walking at home, Katy Perry's Firework, Whitney Houston's I'm Every Woman, Earth Wind and Fire's Shining Star, etc. Music has amazing transforming powers and having my tunes loaded and organized into playlists for every musical emergency has saved my sanity more times that I can remember. Although I love the sights and sounds of a new place, after a while, I need some down time and just want to drown the noise out and return home for a brief 30-minute stop, then I'm ready and rarin' to go once more.

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