As we packed up our bags for this trip to Nicaragua I found myself going through my usual motions, at the very last minute. I snatched from their bin what I hoped were enough pairs of panties, I randomly pulled dresses from their hangers and didn’t bother to fold them carefully. I grabbed the baggie of jewelry that I had neglected to unpack and sort from our last trip to Mexico. I put my haphazardly stuffed backpack by the front door and sat down to wait. I posted an obligatory Instagram photo to convey a level of excitement that I absolutely did not feel.
It all felt like a chore.
Not even a year ago these same tasks would have been done well in advance, with a kind of reverence and care that I typically reserved for only the most important of preparations. I’d have done all of the research and ticked all of the boxes and made all of the plans. Or I wouldn’t have done any of those things but I still would have rejoiced in a freewheeling adventure in a new place. This time, however, there were none of those feelings.
When we touched down in Managua and met the smiling man who held a sign with my name on it I felt very little, save a bit of gratitude that the Nicaraguan customs and immigration process was so quick and easy. We piled into the shiny new car, our backpacks stowed in the trunk and our driver bobbed his head to what was obviously a carefully put together CD of album oriented light rock designed for the tourists that he ferries around the country’s most popular sights.
Freddy Fender never sounded so strange.
“Cuánto tiempo a San Juan del Sur?” I asked.
“Dos horas, mas o menos,” was his reply.
I sat in the back seat and gazed at the landscape that was Managua, the country’s capital and most populated area. Will commented that he didn’t see how a project like the proposed canal could take place in a country so obviously lacking in services and infrastructure. I agreed with a throaty noise and resumed looking out the window, my brain only rousing when I saw a horse tethered on the side of the highway.
We arrived in San Juan del Sur in the promised two hours and checked into our hotel. A short nap later we walked onto the beach in this area heralded by many as one of the best surf destinations in the world and home to otherworldly sunsets. We made our way to the nearest bar, which is something of an unspoken rule upon our arrival in a new destination. We pushed our way onto barstools and I surveyed the throngs of people clinging to the previous night’s New Years Eve celebrations.
There were young backpackers, the women clad in booty shorts and sunburns and the men dressed in T shirts advertising the beers of the most exotic locations they’ve visited to date. Singha is always the most prevalent. There were the expats, loudly moaning about the hordes of people that have inundated what was once their own personal paradise and the middle aged American tourists shouting at the televisions broadcasting the Rose Bowl and vomiting Flor de Cana over the railing onto the sand below.
I sat there in the relentless wind that would lash at this town for the duration of our stay and I realized something. Something that I had been loath to admit to admit to myself for some time.
I am tired.
We have maintained this lifestyle for almost five years. We’ve worked our way around the world, living in destinations that have either pleased me to no end or provided frustration in those same amounts. We’ve delighted in exotic and friendly Taiwan, relaxed in sleepy Huanchaco, Peru, dealt with the awkwardness and debauchery that came from residing in the United Arab Emirates, and slipped relatively seamlessly into an expat community in one of the most beautiful parts of Panama. From these bases we’ve traveled all over Europe, Asia, and South America.
But I’m still tired.
I’m tired of beaches. I’m tired of cities. I’m tired of wrapping my tongue around foreign words that feel like a fatty piece of beef that I just can’t spit out. I’m tired of people who see me as a walking ATM. I’m tired of the guilt that comes with the knowledge that, due to the land in which I was born, I am granted unfettered access to most of the world.
I’m tired of making friends knowing that I’ll just be leaving them. I’m tired of buying things armed with the knowledge that I’ll just have to give most of them away. I’m tired of not buying things because I know that I have no way to carry them to the next destination. I’m tired of living a picture perfect Instagram life when the real pictures would garner me no likes.
I’m just so fucking tired.
I know that this might come across as petulant to some. I know that people would tell me to be grateful for what I have, much like a parent might admonish their child to eat all of their meatloaf because other children are hungry. I know all of these things but in that deep, visceral part of me that is quietly closing the doors on my wonder and awe I also know that I have to do something differently.
I am friends with travelers. In fact, most of my friends are travelers. None of us are immune to burnout and I read blog posts almost all of the time that make reference to that fact. This is a difficult life in many, many ways and I think that it’s perfectly natural to feel weary after months or years of doing something this hard.
I just honestly never expected it to happen to me.
So now I’m here. I’m here in a charming apartment in the even more charming city of Granada, perched on the shore of Lake Nicaragua. In two days I’ll be packing my bag yet again for a jaunt out to the pristine paradise of Little Corn Island. I’m here and I’m tired.
So what happens now?
In almost one month we will pack our things again, say goodbye to friends again, and lug everything we own on an international move. Again. This time it’s to Mexico and to a dream that I’ve worked hard to make a reality. Do I want to go? Yes, I do. Am I excited about it? Yes, I am.
Am I still tired?
…and that is how Erica and Shaun ended up renting an apartment in Austin and plan on signing another lease. I was tired of so many things. I was tired of being inauthentic – and I was tired of traveling with other people’s expectations. <3
On the positive side, Tulum is one of my favorite places in the world. I told Will that you better be getting a house with 2 bedrooms because whale shark season is coming up and I know we've been dying to get in on it.
…and to see you guys of course. 😉
You really need to take some time before you hit uber burnout and sound like a jaded, angry blogger like I did.
Amelia Lynch says
Is it bad that I can relate to this and we have barely started our traveling life? It’s birthday season at our house and I feel like the grinch telling people not to give my kids dolls or clothes or even books – it all has to go in the next 6 months so why buy more?
This kind of tired is the reason we want to travel slowly, to stay in place for months or even years rather than seeing a bunch of places a few days at a time. There doesn’t seem to be much pleasure in going from place to place, no matter how exotic and interesting they are.
The bad news: there’s probably no going back. Travelers stick out in the world, and we also stick out at home because we just don’t fit in like we used to-we’ve seen too much.
I hope that Tulum will be a good base, that you can stay and rest and enjoy while the world comes to you. We will come see you there when we get to Mexico, and you can complain all you want. I promise I will never tell you to shut up and eat your meatloaf.
Thanks for writing this, Cate. I’ve travelled far less than you, and I’m always happy to come home. Traveling is hard work! And now that I have a home, I want to spend time at home too! And I have a dog that I don’t want to spend time away from. I’m at a point in my life where wanting to spend time at home (to maintain friendships, be with my dog, tend/plant my garden) conflicts with my desire for travel. I try to fit both in, and it seems there is never enough time for both! Enjoy, even though you are tired. I’m sure you will! Congrats on your new job!