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Traveler’s burnout

It’s been about a month and a half since we first arrived in Seattle. We had been driving a lot: 3500km in Australia, another 3500km in New Zealand and again the same on the US West Coast. We were exhausted and cranky. What the hell? We were on the journey of a lifetime and the mere thought of the next morning was depressing.

The anxiety had crept up on us. Most of the time we were still in good spirits but increasingly we were having days when we felt we just weren’t recovering from our previous experiences. There were mornings when stepping into the unknown didn’t bring butterflies to our stomachs but rather a numb sigh: ”Durrr.. Not again… ” The occasional hiccup in our travels would ruin everything when we otherwise would have shrugged our shoulders, laughed, and labeled it as a learning experience. Eight consecutive failed hiking attempts were suddenly not possible to just shrug off. It was easier to think that ”Maybe all this being outside-stuff isn’t my thing after all.

We hated the fact that every time we found a decent place to spend the night (or two), most of our stay there would involve looking for the next place to stay. We felt guilty that every time someone suggested a place to see or a thing to do, the foremost feeling was ”NOPE!”. We felt even more guilty when we lied that we had been outside even though we actually were with our computers. We felt ashamed about coming up with excuses to stay inside. We didn’t want to touch our blog because highlighting only the good parts of our trip felt like a lie. Sprinkle on top a bit of cold fear about spending money hand over fist, and in a few weeks’ time the cake of despair would be fully baked and ready to serve.

The cake was a lie

The cake was a lie.

Our first survival tactic was to start living in the future. Jonas started to think about working. I was talking about taking a mortgage. We even started to plan using that mortgage to renovate the attic in my father’s inn and staying there. Jonas could get a car and become the local Confluence consultant. We listed things we wanted for our new home: an industrial-grade blender, dehydrator and sowing machine. Heck, why not even buy an industrial grade computer. Let’s throw a dog and 1.3 children in the mix as well!

When living in the future wasn’t enough, we turned to the past. We reminisced about our dream home in a penthouse community in Helsinki. Lovely autumn bike trips to work. Weekend trips to Turku. Sauna evenings with friends.

Our subconscious tried to jerk us back to reality by injecting all sorts of shit into our dreams. On many mornings we woke up traumatized by the dreams of the previous night. Jonas would fall from the sky without a parachute and survive because he grabbed a rubber band that lowered him into a river. I started to actually renovate my father’s attic when it turned out he had gone insane and now wanted to sell everything in a garage sale – including our stuff. Jonas was adventuring inside computer games and I had sex with the Hulk. The mornings were quite filled with ”What.the.actual.fuck.brain!??”.

We reached the bottom of our pit of despair in Vancouver. We realized we would rather sit inside, in a cold, spider-infested basement nibbling the last of our leathery carrots than go outside to look for a grocery store.

We decided we needed a break from our vacation.

Is it worth it?

We weren’t so desperate as to jump into the sea.

Later on…

The Couch

Our wonderful couch <3

I’m writing this post on a comfortable couch in the University Village area in Seattle. These past few weeks we have been working on website projects, watched TV, Skyped with family, played games, browsed the web and just laid in each other’s arms and talked about nothing in particular. We have left the apartment every other day to go climbing and grocery shopping. Navid, who lives here, visits with us every day in between work and school and discusses the events of the day. We laugh at the presidential debates between Obama and Romney. Fall is in full effect and rainy days now seem the norm. We smile at the prospect of having two more weeks of the same. Boring, mundane, routine life. We are on the journey of our lives and for a month we get to do the exact same things that we would do back home!

We feel much better already.

With 20/20 hindsight we can say that we should have noticed our burnout sooner. We covered too much ground, too fast, through multiple countries. We realized our fatigue too late, already behind the wheel, paying rent for our car daily. Returning the car mid-trip wasn’t an option and extending the rental was too expensive. So we went on. Our money was running out sooner than planned and there were some disconcerting news from back home that exacerbated our home sickness. During a three-month period we made quite a few newbie mistakes that bit us in the ass a couple of months down the road. For good measure we even had a few visits from Mr. Bad Luck, kicking us in the ribs while we were still down. Our worries just compounded and bore their full weight on us for a while. Now, with a bit of distance, it’s easy to laugh about the whole thing again and see it as a learning experience. Shrug it off.

We ultimately decided to fly home for Christmas. We still have one road trip planned for Southern California. A few weeks ago we did not look forward to spending another month on the highway, but today we already excitedly discussed the things we still get to do before going home (Grand Canyon, anyone?). I even looked at museum tickets yesterday. The Tourist is coming back to life.

Part of our minds is already at home, though. Yesterday Jonas told me ”Can you believe it? We’ll be home soon!” A year ago we were saying the exact opposite phrase: ”Can you believe it? We’re leaving for our trip soon!” A brand new adventure awaits us when we return home to Finland. We have tried not to make any major decisions about our future yet. We decided to dwell on our plans only after we have sat down on the sauna benches at the inn and we are no longer in travel mode.

But our stomachs are just as full of butterflies about going home now than they were about leaving a year ago.