This is my travel burnout story
A Travels Belly Production
This is not the pretty side of travel. This is my travel burnout story.
Social media is often a stream of our greatest hits. An unintentional best of our lives collection given a polish until it shines. An edited existence trimmed and chopped of the average and dull. The best bits presented in Technicolor. Just as in the movies, the stars so bright, who never take a toilet break ( unless it’s to fight ninjas or spies ) we cut away the daily vexations and monotony that might make up large chunks of our existence.
Travel isn’t always pretty. Just as with all things there are the highs and there are the lows. I had come to Decin because it is the gateway to Bohemian Switzerland. A national park named so because the it so reminded two Swiss gentlemen of their home. I suspect it was like their home but with more beer and less delicious chocolate. A rugged country of hills clad in verdant green, rolling forests, and rugged rocks and mountains carved through with gurgling rivers.
I wanted to see those dramatic landscapes. I would wanted to hike those hills. but would they be forever tantalisingly out of reach? It was here in Decin that I experienced travel burnout. So I wanted to write about the not so glamorous or shiny. There’s value in all things. It’s all a part of the story.
What is travel burnout?
“Great Things Never Came From Comfort Zones”– Ben Francia.
While travel is many wonderful things, it can also be tiring, draining, stressful, and uncomfortable. While we travel we fall through our days in a constant state of flux. Everything is in motion as we sail through the tides our time without the sure anchor of normalcy. Even our beds are in flux. Our days without form. Long days walking or moving from dawn till dusk. Waiting in train stations and airports with bags like lost dogs at our feet. Hard chairs and beds.. Harsh lights and uncertainty.
Travel is wonderful. We happily collect moments and memories to keep in our jar of hearts but travel is also vexatious, difficult, stressful, and tiring. But of course it’s worth it. When the long trip is over. When we have shared our tales. When we have settled back into our lives routines we begin again to dream. It doesn’t take long to yearn again once more. For us to want to collect the dust from far flung places and for our eyes to see new horizons and new dawns in distant lands.
The road to travel burnout is paved with demon beds
“Roads were made for journeys, not destinations.”– Confucius
I had been in the Czech Republic for 11 days. Every day I wake up early to stuff my senses with as much wonderment as possible. All day moving from place to place. I hardly sleep the whole time. My bed hates me. It is demonic. I should have probably have called a priest.
There are a few great lies we live with in life such as: it’s the taking part that counts or those evil bastards will get what’s coming to them in the end. I find evil bastards rarely get what’s coming to them. And speaking of evil and lies, another great one is a flat surface is great for you back! PAH! I say to you and pah I say thrice more
The demonic bed’s greatest evil was that it was not in fact really a bed at all. It was simply disguised as a bed but not in fact a bed. It was wooden slats with a thin unsprung mattress. You know, the kind you get in a prison or so I imagine. Maybe prison beds are wonderfully comfortable? I doubt it though.
Late nights and early risings, unhealthy beer soaked diet, and bed named Beelzebub take their toll. Travel burnout was waits for me in Decin.
The ancient splendor and beauty of Prague, a city beyond compare, left an impression on my imagination that will never fadeRichard Wagner
The main train station in Prague ( Praha hlavní nádraží ) has 2 faces. I love one of her faces but indifferent to the other. One she presents to the world is full of old world charm. A cavernous circus big top tent of stone and iron. Like all good stations it has a marvellous large clock.
A vast and airy big top of of iron soars over the platforms. The wind playfully whistling from one end to the other of the station.. Hulking chunky trains huff and groan in and out. I love these kind of huge trains. They’re modern but still have a romance about them of an age out of reach. There is an enormous ticket hall of warm tones. I suspect it was built for giants
Her other face is hidden away under ground level. A wide tunnel white washed in artificial illumination that scrubs away all traces of time and history. People bustle with bags and tickets. A constant rush. TV time tables glare. There are shops and restaurants. Windows are the eyes of the soul. She has windows but no soul.
So I wait up top. My tummy has butterflies or is it bees? My first long train trip! I worry something will go wrong. I might get the wrong train. I worry my ticket is wrong. I always worry but I’m excited enough for it to buzz in the background mostly and not bother too much.
I am already tired but looking forward to seat and a show. The train window is one of the best shows in the world and no adverts. After finding my seat ( no easy task ) i finally ease myself into it and wait for it to begin. Wait for the landscapes and lives to roll by me.
“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it’s lethal.”— Paulo Coehlo
I’ve gotten my ticket via the app IDOS ( highly recommended ) and an inspector comes to check it. As always my anxieties comes to play. What if there’s something wrong with the ticket? Maybe he’s an assassin who’s mistaken me for a target? I make a mental note to stop watching so many movies.
He checks the ticket. It’s fine. OF course it is. Why wouldn’t it be? But he doesn’t leave. Why isn’t he leaving? He’s seems to be thinking, or rebooting? I am imagining spinning hourglasses in his brain or blue screen error messages.
He tells me something in Czech. I smile and shake my head. I add, ( helpfully… ) in English that I don’t understand. I’m guessing he will understand I don’t speak Czech even if he can’t speak English. I feel glad we sorted this out and now he will leave.
He doesn’t leave.
He tries again in Czech. I try again in English. I am smiling brightly. He frowns. He doesn’t leave.
He says something new and gestures at me. I’m starting to feel anxious again.
We both speak to each other in a language we don’t understand for longer than I would expect or hope for. He becomes more animated and frustrated as we talk. He really wants to tell me something. I’m guessing it’s important. Maybe he’s an evangelist? Seems unlikely. Maybe he’s in league with the demon bed? Seems unlikely but ever so slightly more possible.
Eventually he shakes his head in defeat and leaves muttering in czech. He vanishes into another carriage with a dismissive wave of his hand. His head low in defeat and resignation.
I begin to worry that I’m in the wrong seat. I check. It’s fine. I check again. It”s fine. I check for a third time just in case the other two times were false positives. Still fine. I spend the rest of the journey confused and wondering what he wants? Maybe the seat is cursed? I see him numerous times during the journey as he makes his way back and forth to check tickets. He doesn’t acknowledge me or try again. I’ll never know what he wanted to tell me but I’ll always remember him now.
Decin Czech Republic
“To beginnings… and endings, and the wisdom to know the difference.”– Andrew Packard, ‘Twin Peaks’.
Decin itself isn’t a tourist destination. There’s little to see in the actual town. It’s not especially beautiful but is surrounded by a majestic landscape of forests and mountains. It brought to mind the town of twin peaks but with less owls and ladies with logs. Not to say it doesn’t have it’s charms and wonders, it does. It’s just not the star. Bohemia Switzerland is the star here.
Those tree clad hills were beautiful in autumnal golds and reds. Some days when the rains came, a mist would veil the stony face. In the distance the fog rolled and roiled like an ocean. The colours deep and verdant and roads resplendent in reflections. I’ve never minded the rain. It has it’s own kind of beauty.
The town has en interesting soviet era feel in places on the edges. Not to say it isn’t a beautiful place, because it is. There are moments of real beauty. It’s an ordinary place for the most part but I think it might make it all the more charming.
“If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.”— Banksy
My lovely airbnb wasn’t far from the train station. Although I am exhausted, my feet are itchy and pulling me outside for a little exploration. There is a pretty looking bridge crossing the river that divides the town like a silver ribbon and I reckon I have enough light left to see it. This does not go so well. Trudging along a motorway while fatigued and being rained on does not make for much of a fun adventure and I abandon the adventure half way.
I get a pretty bad sandwich at the local supermarket on the way back. The bed welcomes me like an old friend and does not want to kill me. This bed is soft and warm. This bed is heaven sent. I fall into sleep quickly.
I woke up late feeling hollowed out. I am a shadow rendered in flesh, empty. I don’t feel the pull to explore. My feet has no plans. My mood is murky and dark as the clouds that had gathered to brood across in the mountains.
It is already late afternoon. Yet I try to pull plans from my brain like some kind of magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat. I feet sick at stomach and heart. Still I try to formulate some kind of plan for the day. It hits me. I just need to sleep. Need to sleep. I can’t…
I go to bed. I crash. I don’t surface again till after 3pm.
I would never never hike those hills or see the rivers. I would never reach those misty mountains. I just have to rest. I spend the days in Decin trying to recover. Trying to get enough sleep. I will not see wonderful rolling hills. I won’t even see much of the town.
It would be easy to be sullen and sour but in every situation, even the not so ideal, there’s joy to be extracted. And let’s face it, most of life isn’t ideal and yet is still full of wonderful and magic. So although I never got to see Bohemian Switzerland, I did have a few adventures all the same although far less spectacular. Everything is an experience. It’s why we travel. It’s why we live life.
A supermarket adventure
“Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.”– Doug Larson.
Although it might not be everyone’s idea of a tourist attraction, I love supermarkets in other countries. I never fail to find and enter one. Grand buildings and monuments are amazing but those grand constructions by dead men tell you little about the lives of people living now. You can tell more about a country, it’s people, and culture by wandering around a supermarket than castles and statues.
So it’s fascinating to wander and wonder around the local Albert. Spotting the differences and similarities. Placing prizes in my bright green basket.
I could really do a whole blog post about all the differences so maybe another time. I get some orange juice and vitamins to try to get myself back on track. I also get some other healthy foods that my body needs such as crisps, bacon, cheese bread, cakes, and potato salad… hey the last one is a salad. It’s healthy. ( it isn’t )
So dinner is a rather lovely pate spread thickly on malty bread with a side of potato salad. With this kind of healthy food I would soon be on track again. Especially with a bacon breakfast.
The saddest meal ever
“It requires a certain kind of mind to see beauty in a hamburger bun.”— Ray Kroc
Having run out of pate I would have to drag my weary body into town to find something. The area I am in is devoid of restaurants. Too tired for a long march for food I know what has to be done. I ready myself.
Soon I stand before McDonald’s: home of the desperately hungry and hungrily desperate. The food here is almost as plastic as the bright neon chairs. Normally on a trip ( and most of the rest of the time ) I wouldn’t be seen dead in one of them given a choice. Even then I think I would be a discerning zombie and avoid it.
But I had no choice. It was this or another trip around the Albert for bread and pate. I order a burger that I’ve not seen here in the UK. I can’t remember what it was now apart from it is shit. It comes with a flag stuck into it. Maybe they wanted to kill it by impaling it with a stick?
My burger is a chicken burger or at least it’s the allegation. The “chicken” a cottony slab of white something coated in sawdust. I remove the inedible cotton “chicken” and now have a powdery bun filled with limp vegetables who are even more tired than I am.
I get a fruit juice to drink because healthy.! This isn’t really juice. It’s some kind of flat sugary liquid that tastes of sadness. I eat part of the bun and the fries. I leave much of it. I have travel burnout but my taste is working and I’m not this desperate but now disappointed and hungry. I leave for the airbnb and more much needed sleep. This was the saddest meal.
A wander around town
“Wanderlust: a strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world”– Definition
My shoes take me walking one rainy afternoon. I’ve recovered enough to feel like a town tour. An exploration of this place at least would be something. So it was that my feet took me down by the river that carved through town. on the face of the craggy hills the mist hung like a grey veil. The water gurgles as she playfully splashes along. A pretty bridge spans the water, filled with potted flowers, and bright against the gloom crossed the water.
The castle on the other side of the river looks dramatic in it’s foggy mist shrouded attire. The weather gave a moody mystery that it would never have been in the bright of day. There’s something about sunlight that helps to wash away stories and imagination. In the gloom and faint light our imaginations fill in the gap and dance with them.
The town looked lovely in it’s autumn colours. The hills on fire with reds and golds and yellows and chocolate browns. The fog and mist clung to rocks and branches adding a touch of magic.
Decin isn’t the most beautiful town. The rain isn’t the ideal weather. But there is always some beauty and magic to be found in any situation if we are prepared to give it a chance. If we care to look just for it. There’s a little magic and beauty.
Food coma blues
“a burger without cheese is like a hug without a squeeze.”– Anon ( but it’s funny )
Still burned out I needed some more healthy food and so I found myself at a burger joint: Karl’s Bar & Grill.
I have a sort of… I want to say phobia but that’s far too strong of a word. I have an aversion to? Dislike of? I hate an empty restaurant. This was pretty empty so not ideal for me. However, there’s not much choice here and everywhere else is empty as well. I enter.
My intention is to get a fat juicy burger. I had read some good things. There was a lot of specials on the black board and a short paper menu. I chose the chilli burger and some nachos.
Nachos are normally a starter here so that’s what I was expecting but oh no. What turned up was mount tortilla chip. There were so many here I could have roofed a house. However, they were amazing and I cant stop myself from devouring almost all of them. Some of the best nachos I have had. Covered in a gooey blanket of melted cheese and smothered in salsa.
By the time the burger and fries arrived I am already crying for mercy. I bravely battle meat sweats and protesting tummy. I can eat around a third of the burger and leave all of my chips.
A lot of love and understanding had obviously gone into this burger. There is so much right going on. The meat was cooked perfectly medium rare and dripping with juices. They elements work well together and the bun holds up nicely. However the seasoning lets it down. There isn’t any at all. This makes for a bland burger. So frustrating because it was so close to being amazing. Still, it is good if not great
The service was good and so was the food. I would recommend this place. If they can tweak the seasoning then they have a winner.
An amazing meal
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”– J R R Tolkien
For my last night I have decided to go out with a bang. If I couldn’t hike the amazing landscapes then I would at the very least have a great meal so I headed out to a fancy restaurant in the hopes it would live up to it’s slick website and tempting menu: Arrigo
Foie gras with plum compote and gingerbread brioche: The foie gras are so silky and and pair nicely with the plum and gingerbread brioche.
Venison Wellington w/glazed truffle vegetables, pommes purée, port jus: Wellington is great especially the punchy rich sauce. The pommes purred slick with butter.
Chocolate fondant with coconut ice cream, passion fruit compote and coconut shavings: The fondant is a big surprise. I really like the extreme tartness of the passion fruit which on its own is probably verging on unpleasantly sharp but together with the chocolate it’s magical
The meal definitely lived up to my expectations. Happily I boarded the bus with a fully tummy and happy heart. At least my final day would end tastily.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”― Hunter S. Thompson,
Although it’s disappointing, and I can’t help but wander along my minds what-ifs and maybes, it’s always about the journey and never the destinations. Places are just way points rather than end points. Life and travel is about the journey. It’s about the experience. There are wonders and the not so wonderful but it’s all a part of a never ending adventure so I’ll choose to focus on that.
As with any experience it has a heart of advice. I need to notice the signs and slow down when I need to. I’ve never burned out before. Initially I felt pretty silly. Hearing others talk about their own travel burnouts helped my wood swing back from self criticism. We can all do with loving ourselves a little more. I certainly can. My normal instance is to instantly blame myself. Another lesson. A post it note in my mind: Remember to be kind to yourself. I do better but have so far to go.
I hope you enjoyed post. If you did please share and consider subscribing. You might want to read my two other Czech Republic posts: