You've spent months planning for it: you've booked your flights, you've researched the best hostels, you've signed up for tours, and you've worked out an itinerary for your day. Everything has fallen into place to ensure you have the trip of a lifetime. You say goodbye to your friends and family and head off on the biggest adventure of your life.
But what happens if you don't like it?
What happens if you arrive in your destination and realize travel isn't what you thought it would be?
What if all you can think about is how you want to go home?
It happens. In fact, it's happened to me. After five years of constant travel, there are times when all I want to do is stop moving and find a home. There are times when I've been lonely and missed having a constant set of friends. Times when I've wished I owned more than two pairs of pants. Times when I've been sick. Times where I've hated the place I've traveled to.
What should you do in this situation? When should you go home?
I'm a big believer in sticking something out, even when it's not enjoyable, and treating it as an opportunity for growth and development. Here are some ideas of things to do to when you're not enjoying travel.
Stay in a Hostel
If you're not already, move yourself into a hostel and sit yourself down in the common room. It's so easy to make friends in hostels, and doing so will help pull yourself out of your slump.
Make some friends, go out for a meal, chat about your lives. It'll keep you distracted and put you in a better mood.
Hate hostels? Stay in a private room in a well-rated hostel and avoid party hostels. You'll be able to make friends without sacrificing your sleep and sanity.
Sign Up for a Tour
One of the best ways to lift your mood is to keep busy.
Sign up for a well-rated tour in the city you're in and try something new. It could be a street art tour, or a cooking class, or even a river cruise.
Move Somewhere New
Sometimes all you need is a change of scenery to get you loving travel again. If I'm feeling glum, I'll move out of my accommodation and switch to a nicer place to treat myself. If that doesn't work, I'll try moving to a different part of town. Sometimes, I'll leave the city and head to a new one to try out somewhere new for size!
Don't Guilt Yourself
There have been times where I've pressured myself to explore a place when I've been exhausted and it's led to me hating travel. When you find yourself in a new place, the temptation can be to rush around to tick off every activity and site that you feel all tourists need to see. This is a recipe for burnout. Instead of following the itineraries in your guidebook, listen to what your body is telling you it needs. Sometimes skipping out on a museum and spending the day napping on the beach is all you need to feel whole again.
What Did You Want From This Trip?
When you planned out this trip, you likely had an idea in your mind of how you wanted it to turn out. Did you picture yourself making great friends and going out drinking in cool bars?
Was it going to be all about eating local food and immersing yourself in that culture? Were you hoping to top up your tan on beautiful beaches?
Whatever you wanted from the trip, start doing your best to make it happen. On a recent trip of mine to French Polynesia, I was feeling uninspired by travel. It wasn't until I sat down that I realised I'd been hoping for a relaxing vacation there, but had instead felt the pull to hike and go on lagoon cruises (even though they made me seasick). Going back to my original plan to relax on the beach made me so much happier.
It's Okay to Go Home
Sometimes it isn't the right time to travel and there's nothing wrong with that. If you've tried everything listed above and you're still wishing you could go home, then do it. It doesn't mean you're a failure. It doesn't mean you'll never travel again.
It just means that now wasn't the right time.