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How To Stay Sane While Backpacking
Have Someone To Talk To
Having someone to talk to that is not a complete stranger when traveling is important, especially when you're on the road for long periods of time. Simply hearing the voice of a trusted friend or relative from home at times when you're away and feeling stressed can be a comforting reminder of home. If you don't want to pay for long-distance calls, services like Skype and Viber allow for low-cost and free calling.
Whenever I'm feeling stressed while traveling, I like to read about other nomads and adventure-enthusiasts who are also on the road, but doing crazier things than I am. While huffing and puffing my way through the Inca Trail, it was comforting to hear about Appalachian Trail expeditions, or climbs up Mount Everest. If you're in a hut in a remote village where there is no running water, read stories about people who are living in the forest with no running water and no roof over their heads. Not only will you feel less overwhelmed about what you're doing, you'll feel inspired by other brave travelers.
Indulge With Comfort Food
Of course, a smart way to stay sane on the road is to keep the mind and body healthy with nutritious foods and exercise. That being said, nothing calms me more than something delicious that reminds me of home, especially when all you've been eating is unfamiliar local cuisine. Whether you love your mom's homemade macaroni and cheese or a McDonald's hamburger, indulge yourself and keep sane by giving yourself a delicious piece of home.
Get In Some Alone Time
Whether I'm traveling or at home, nothing is more effective in keeping me sane than spending some quality time with myself. When I'm traveling and feeling stressed, I love to put on my iPod and just wander around a city, getting lost in the sites and in my own head. It can give you time to think and unwind, without feeling any pressure to have a conversation. Like a silent retreat, being alone with yourself will leave you feeling refreshed and energized.
When you feel like you're going insane on the road, the key is to relax. For me, that usually means going to the nearest spa and getting a massage; however, this could mean different things to different people. Maybe you'll want to splurge on a fancy hotel, go for a round of golf and find a hot tub to soak in or buy yourself a new shirt. Sometimes you need to take a break from the sightseeing, and give yourself some time to breath and turn your mind off.
Adjust Your Attitude
With that being said, the phrase "attitude is everything" holds a lot of truth. If you're having negative thoughts, find a way to think positive. While not every situation you'll face will be absolutely perfect, you can learn to focus on the good things and make the bad things less apparent. For example, on a recent trek on the Inca Trail in Peru, I was bummed when I found out my group for the ensuing four days was all couples – and single me. On the bus to the start of the trek, I found myself feeling lonely as I watched the couples snuggle into their bus seats, while I occupied the back by myself. However, as soon as I adjusted my attitude and told myself to focus on the incredible journey, and get to know the other participants as individuals, I ended up having an amazing and unforgettable experience.
It's easy to get frazzled when you're constantly rummaging through you luggage, unable to find what you're looking for. If my backpack is unorganized during my travels, it makes me feel disoriented. It's amazing how unpacking and repacking everything in a more organized fashion can really calm you down and make you feel more centered. To help with this, buy suitcases and backpacks with many compartments, separate toiletries in plastic bags, keep similar items together, place items you'll use often in an easy to reach place and, most importantly, pack light. The less you have, the easier it is to organize.
Watch A Movie
When I feel like I'm losing my mind on the road, nothing helps me escape more easily than watching a movie. For 90 minutes, you'll be able to relax and completely focus on something else. If you're staying at an accommodation without a TV, it's also a good excuse to give yourself an upgrade. Don't worry if your budget is small, as many hostels and B&B's have TVs in the rooms or common rooms.
Make Your Hotel Room Your Home
Making yourself feel at home, even if you're not, is key to keeping sane while traveling. Even doing small things, like placing a framed photo of your family, lighting a candle or bringing your favorite throw pillow can help to put you at ease on the road.
Stop worrying about missing out on things and seeing everything, and just enjoy what you are seeing. When you're on the move every other day, you increase your risks of travel fatigue, as well as your chances of losing your mind abroad. Instead of getting a glimpse of 10 cities, choose two or three and get to know them in-depth. You'll not only have a better understanding of the culture, you'll have more energy to really enjoy the trip.
Spray Your Favorite Scent
The sense of smell is very powerful, and spraying your favorite scent can help calm your nerves and center your mind. Especially in foreign cities where unfamiliar odors are everywhere, it's nice to smell something you're accustomed to. Because I don't like carrying perfume, I always make sure to bring at least one shower product with a smell I love. Then, when I'm stressed, I simply take a shower and clear my head with vanilla and sugar or wild citrus sunflower. It may sound simple, but it works.
[flickr photos via liber(the poet), cookbookman17, Witches Falls Cottages, thejaymo, Betsssssy,