Hitting the Wall

Vilnius, Lithuania
 

A few days ago, I hit the wall.

 
I knew this day would come.  Every long-term traveler I have talked to has hit such a wall at some point, so it was bound to happen.

After over 100 days on the road, things are starting to get to me. Travel burnout has set in.
 

I have gained weight to the point that my pants don’t fit.

 
I have worn holes I the thighs of my nice jeans and my hiking pants and am down to one pair of jeans until I get those back from a repair shop on Monday. Even though I tell myself every day I am going to eat better, I just don’t stick to it. And while I am walking miles every day, it doesn’t compare to my exercise routine back home. I have managed to work in strength training routines when I have stayed in hotels, but it’s been impossible to do anything in tiny, cramped hostel rooms.
 

I am sick of staying in hostels.

 
If I had the money, I would stay in hotels the rest of the way. Everyone seems to rave about how great hostels are for meeting people, but that just hasn’t been the case for me.  Aside from a few people in St. Petersburg and Ulan Ude, not only have I not clicked with anyone I’ve met in hostels, I haven’t even really liked anyone. Most people have been about half my age and often rude and inconsiderate. I also hate the lack of privacy and independence. I have gotten to the point where I cringe just thinking about checking into my next hostel and I long for the next time I get to stay in a hotel.
 

I am tired of lugging my backpack everywhere.

 
I wrote as part of the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project about how I hate my backpack and long for my suitcase. This is especially true on travel days when I arrive at my destination soaked in sweat from carrying my backpack for blocks – I would be soooo much more comfortable just rolling a large suitcase. My back would be thanking me as well.
 

I miss social interaction.

 
I realized that most of my past “solo” trips really weren’t all that “solo” and had a lot of built-in opportunities for socializing. When I visited Australia, I met up with friends in Melbourne and Sydney, took a weekend group tour and did a few day tours. In Germany, I stayed with a friend I Frankfurt before heading out on my own. On all of my other trips, I traveled solo but as part of a group, making it easy to meet other people. I assumed on this trip I would be meeting tons of cool people in hostels to hang out with, but as that hasn’t been the case so far, I am really missing having a social life.
 

I long for the days when I could spend money freely.

 
I have been watching what I spend for over a year and a half now and frankly, it is getting old. I miss being able to go out to dinner and not think about how much I am spending on my meal or glass of wine. I miss the vacations when I could throw in an extra day trip or guided tour or cool souvenir without a second thought. I miss being able to simply replace my jeans when they rip instead of hunting down someone to repair them.
 

I miss my friends.

 
I miss having someone to just call up or meet for a drink when I want to rave about a great day or commiserate over a bad day. Sure, I can post it on Twitter or Facebook, but it’s just not the same. And while everyone warned me this would happen, it is still sad and disappointing to feel like your friends back home have forgotten about you. This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned this and I doubt it will be the last.
 

I am starting to worry about the future.

 
I can hear a chorus of people telling me not to worry but the fact is, my Type A personality won’t let me not worry.  At this point, I don’t feel like I have a whole lot to show for this trip when it comes to helping my job search afterwards. My volunteer experiences, which I hoped would be resume-building, productive, learning opportunities, were instead major busts.  And when I talk to friends who have been back from their career breaks for over six months and are still looking for work, I start to freak out.  I can’t help but wonder if this all will be worth it.
 

It is hard for me to admit I’m struggling.

 
Before I left, my dad made me promise that if I wasn’t enjoying the trip that I would come home. He referred back to when I toughed out a miserable freshmen year of college without telling anyone how rough everything really was. That may have been over fifteen years ago, but I can see similarities to where I am at now. Everyone assumes your freshman year of college will be amazing – and likewise, I feel like most people back home see this trip as an extended vacation where I am just having a blast every day.  While I expected challenges, it has been much harder than I anticipated and it is hard to admit when you aren’t living up to people’s expectations, especially your own. So while this post was easy to write in my head, it was hard to actually hit the “publish” button.
 

But I’m not throwing in the towel.

 
It doesn’t surprise me that I hit this wall around the holidays. I have always been someone who gets a little down during the holiday season so why should it be any different that I am overseas? I also think I am putting too much pressure on myself to do something great for Christmas and New Year’s and that is stressing me out.  I almost think I’d be happier just holing up in a hotel room by myself and watching TV. Like most years, I think I will feel a big sense of relief as soon as January 1 arrives.

I am looking forward to the two weeks I have planned in Belarus starting January 3 – a country that hardly anyone visits (and in which I will spend the entire time in hotels!!).  And I think it will be nice to develop a routine again when I stop in Kiev for several weeks to take Russian classes. I am optimistic that my volunteer experience in Armenia will be vastly better than my attempts to volunteer in Russia and I am eagerly anticipating the months I will spend exploring Central Asia.

And I can’t wait to get to Warsaw next week, where there is a GAP store and I can buy a new pair of my favorite jeans.
 

Have you hit the wall while traveling? How did you get through it?

 

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74 thoughts on “Hitting the Wall”

  1. Granted I am Jewish, so Christmas is like a huge waste of day for me anyway (especially in a country like NZ, where 24/7 stores are CLOSED on Christmas!! WTF?! That would never happen in the US!!) I spent my whole holiday buried up in a nice hotel (cheap, for the hols!) and just watched TV all day (no commercials, thanks jesus!!) and didn’t feel bad about it at all. If anything, Christmas should be a day to do what you want, guilt free (I guess?). Don’t try to push anything if it is going to make you miserable.

    1. Thanks Rebecca! You’re so right that Christmas should be about doing what I want to do. I debated between trying to stay in a hostel so I might have people to spend it with, but considering the bad hostel experiences I’ve had, I realized if I end up in another hostel with people I don’t care for, I’d be happier alone. So rather than risk it, I just went ahead and booked a hotel for Christmas weekend. I’m looking at it as a chance to relax and at least have privacy to Skype with family.

  2. Hi Katie – sorry to hear times are a little rough. I think everybody has these times – for some they last a day, but for others much longer. Regarding the lack of social interaction…have you looked at the CouchSurfing website? There’s often people on there who are willing to just meet up for the day, or go out for a coffee or a drink or something. That way you’d have the added benefit of hanging out with a local and being social at the same time.

    If the backpack is getting really awful, maybe consider ditching it and buying a rolling suitcase (I know you’re on a budget, but this might be a worthwhile investment). Even though I’m a backpacker in my habits, I have a rolling suitcase I take everywhere with me because I refuse to use a backpack 🙂 On such a long trip, I’d say your comfort is the most important.

    Good luck!

    1. Thanks Taryn! I actually have held onto the backpack because I know it will be necessity when I get to Central Asia. I know a suitcase won’t cut it there with taking local trains, buses, marshrutkas, etc.

      Will definitely look into CS – if not to actually stay with someone, at least to meet up for drinks or something.

      1. It sounds like you have way too much weight in that bag! I’m a helluva a lot older than you but I can carry my back for a 1/2 day before it hurts – but then it only weighs 8-10kg – what the hell are you lugging around? Send 1/2 of it back, give stuff away and get a pack that fits. If you are a runner you sure as hell should be able to carry a pack without noticing!

        1. To each her own. I just find backpacks awkward and not ideal for organizing your stuff. I’m traveling in cold weather so my winter clothes are just naturally bulkier – I wish I could fit more, I am soooo sick of my clothes! And yes I am a runner but I haven’t run since September and my workout routine on the road (when I can squeeze it in at a hotel) is nowhere close to how I worked out at home so I am WAY out of shape. Traveling with a small pack and just 8-10 kg may work for you but I like having clothes to choose from and not having to do laundry every single day.

          1. Fair enough – but I carried less weight in Europe in Dec than I did in Thailand a month earlier. Of course I was wearing most of what I owned in Prague when it was -10C – but the weight on my bag wasn’t an issue. And doing laundry is way easier in countries that have indoor heating rather than outdoor extreme humidity.

          2. Like I said, to each her own. If you read my full post, the weight in my backpack was probably the least of the worries I was addressing. I don’t apologize at all for the fact that I am not a minimalist – I like to have my regular toiletries (tried to do the Lush shampoo bar thing to save space & hated it, have full bottles of Pantene now), a hair dryer, my 2 pairs of jeans and some clothes to choose from (which I wish I had more of).

  3. Hi Katie-
    Just posted a bunch on FB for you! You’re right it is kind of like that 1st year of college b/c it’s a big change and we are pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone. We live pretty comfy lives here, but when I pushed myself is also when i felt the most alive (not always during, but for sure after!).

    I know how you feel and I always had bad days during transition times. I learned to know my rhythms and it would normally pass. I can’t suggest Couchsurfing more. At first it may be pushing your comfort zone more…but I think nothing will feel as bad as that house you stayed in. I had great experiences and got to share lives with people and felt like a good friend. I made lifelong friends that i’ve seen several times since. People are so warm and welcoming. CS really made my trip! You can just go for meals or drinks too. There are CS groups in most places. Look there for meet-ups etc.

    1. Thanks again Lisa! It’s funny, after the nightmare experiences I had in hostels in Moscow, I’d take the homestay in St Pete over that. At least there I was able to sleep. 🙂

      I’ll admit, the one thing that makes me nervous about CS is not having flexibility. I am a total morning person and like to be up by 7 or 8 a.m. (I literally am unable to sleep longer!) and especially if I’m in a city for a short period, I want to be out seeing/doing things. I just worry that my style won’t jive with my host and I’ll end up having to compromise a lot.

      1. Don’t worry! 7 or 8? Isn’t that normal? Most hosts expect you to be up and out sightseeing! I felt bed when I had to work and I’d be hanging around! Many work during the day anyway and will be leaving then too.

        They don’t expect anything of you…it’s very low key. Usually you can try to plan a meal together…they cook for you, you cook for them or go out…whatever works! You can search for people in a certain age-range too (i usually did late 20s and older) so you can get away from young partiers that you are sick of and have some fun adult times and conversations!

        1. Okay, I just came from Russia where literally NO ONE seems to wake up before about 11 a.m. so my perspective is probably off – that and I’m always the only one up and about that early in the hostels as well.

          Good point about searching by age…I swear I haven’t encountered another person over 30 on the road since I was in St Petersburg.

  4. Hey Katie,

    I am sure you will push through this wall just like you do when you are running a marathon.

    I can totally relate to the spend freely thing as I am currently looking for work so I feel guilty EVERY time I spend a little extra. I had to convince myself to take a big picture view every once in a while and just spend the extra $20 or so and realize that $20 was not going to make a difference in me going bankrupt or not and so for my sanity I treat myself to a normal spending thing twice a month.

    So I say once a country you make sure you treat yourself to something unique or vacation like on your break from work.

    1. Thanks Mike! Yes, I think I will push through it, it’s just a double whammy with the holidays and a lot of other things converging at the same time. The money thing is tough because I’m already over budget and without knowing how long it will take me to find work when I’m back, I’m particularly budget-sensitive. But you’re right, I do need to treat myself every now and then. 🙂

  5. Ah, that makes a lot of sense! I managed ok with my suitcase in Mongolia, but it’s pretty much a carry-on size so stowing it on wasn’t a problem.

    Remember – this is your trip and you’re in charge; if something makes you miserable, don’t do it.:)

  6. I wish you all the best in dealing with your wall. Have you contemplated painting on it? Bright colors and funny pictures? I only half mean that as a joke. Sometimes being able to laugh at things helps.

    Your old life will still be there if you want it when you go back. I do think your dad is right though. If you need/want to go home (even for a bit) do it. Ali took a pause out of her trip and I think it did us both good. Looking forward to hearing more about the trip. Keep looking for social opportunities with people you get along with. They are out there, but may be quieter (which is good) so take more looking.

    1. Thanks for the humor Andy – I got a good smile out of that. 🙂

      I actually did take a quick peek for cheap RT flights home for the holidays – If I had found an awesome deal I may have jumped on it.

      Good point about seeking out the quieter people – I can be one of those, especially when I am in a new situation or surrounded by groups of people. I am great meeting people one-on-one or one-on-two but when I get into situations where there are big groups, I get easily intimidated. I just have to believe there are other travelers out there who like to get up before noon, see the sights, socialize a bit and still get to bed at a decent hour.

  7. I find that when I hit a temporary wall, it’s a sign to slow down or at least re-evaluate what is it you want out of the experience. I couchsurfed for 6 weeks all around Europe this summer and one day I decided that I was tired of moving (but not traveling), so I picked a city & rented a room for 2 months. It was nice to have a base and having a routine again re-energized me.

    1. Thanks for the comment Ray. Yeah, I think it will be really nice when I get to Kiev and stay there a few weeks taking language classes. Even though my homestay situation in St. Petersburg wasn’t ideal, I enjoyed having something set to do every day and establish a routine.

  8. Oh Katie, hang in there. At least you were prepared that a wall was coming and yes, it stinks that it is coinciding with the holidays. I remember hitting my first ever wall living in Spain in college and that was way easier than what you are doing. I don’t have good advice for you, other than listen to yourself, don’t pay attention to others expectations, but your dad’s advice is pretty sound. Know that you are doing an amazingly courageous thing and if it weren’t hard than so many others would do it. I know money is tight, but try and find little ways to splurge. I think of you often and am sending you positive thoughts!

    1. Thanks Mindy! You’re so right about listening to myself – I think I can get too caught up sometimes in what I think other people will think or what they expect me to do. I need to stay true to myself.

  9. Hi Katie,

    You don’t know me, but I’ve been reading your blog for awhile now, and I wanted you to know that I actually found this entry really helpful. I’m contemplating my own big trip, and it’s nice to get this sort of reality check. It hasn’t discouraged me at all. In fact, it’s helped me to get an even clearer image in my mind of what I want to do. So thanks for that!

    Worrying about money is the worst. I’m going to make a donation right now and maybe you can put it towards a hotel room. 🙂

    Hang in there! I’m sure something extra awesome is going to happen soon.

    1. Thanks so much Hannah! It’s always nice to hear from people I don’t already know who are reading. 🙂 I’m glad you found t helpful – I definitely wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from doing something like this, but I think it’s important to give a balanced, realistic view of what it can be like – the god and the bad. Best of luck to you in your planning!

      Thanks again!!

  10. Hang in there Katie! While I haven’t taken on a trip to the calibur that you are experiencing, I’ve been one to sugar coat an experience feeling the pressure of living up to others’ expectations, including my year in college! I think we’ve all been there at some point. There are going to be ups and downs during your trip and it’s refreshing to hear you speak so honest and real about what you’re feeling right now. Hopefully after the holidays you’ll find something uplifting to focus on the next leg of your incredible and courageous journey.

    In New Zealand on a 3-day hike, we met and roomed with the most pleasant and outgoing couple from Belarus, so hopefully it’s a sign of the types of people you’re soon to meet. They now live in Australia otherwise I’d try to hook you up with them.

    Try to stay positive, and like others have said, if you’re doing something you are not enjoying…change it!

    1. Thanks Kari! I was definitely a bit reluctant to share b/c I didn’t want to come off like I’m ungrateful for the opportunity or just complaining. But I want to be honest about the experience and I think it would be unrealistic to expect everything to be great all the time. And you’re absolutely right – if I’m doing something I am not enjoying, it’s up to me to change it!

  11. Everyone hits the wall. And frankly, not everyone is suited for long-term travel. There isn’t anything wrong with saying that long-term solo travel is not right for you, if it isn’t. A couple suggestions: (1) spend some time listening to your iPod and reading some fun, casual books — a little time away from your head can be a good thing; (2) write some of your thoughts, concerns, and musings in a journal — not on your blog — having some time for self-reflection can center your mind; (3) take a day tour of whatever city you land up in — you will meet some more people to socialize with: (4) see if the people that actually run the hostel you are going to be staying at want to go get a drink — sometimes fun to have a beer or two with locals that are also in the travel industry.

    1. Yep, I knew this day would come – figured it was inevitable. And as much as I am glad I am doing this trip, I definitely can’t see myself doing this as a permanent lifestyle. Not sure where I’ll end up afterwards but this has really taught me how much I value having a homebase and a support system nearby.

      Thanks for the tips – I am keeping a journal and believe me, there is LOTS in there that will never see the light of day on this blog. 🙂 Lisa mentioned the day tour thing as well and I am definitely looking into that. As for hanging out with the people that run the hostel, never thought of that, will keep it in mind. In Moscow, the people running the hostels were half the problem, but I am crossing my fingers that hosteling gets better now that I’m out of Russia. Riga was definitely an improvement.

        1. Haha, yes I know how you feel about Russia. 🙂 And really, I swear it’s only Moscow that sucks. My experiences everywhere else were really really good. Well, aside from the St Pete homestay but they were at least still nice.

      1. Hi Katie! The whole travel burnout thing really is a drag, but as you know, it happens to all of us. And I know how difficult it is to come to terms with the fact that maybe long term travel as a permanent lifestyle isn’t for you. I know Megan and I really struggled with that the further we got into our trip. We had dreamed about the trip for so long, and we had all these aspirations of trying to find a way to make it a permanent lifestyle that it was really difficult to admit to ourselves that we didn’t want this to be our permanent lifestyle. We thought something was wrong with us, and we just didn’t understand why we wouldn’t want to be traveling all the time. In our minds, travel is what we love most, so it was a bit disconcerting to admit that the thing we loved most we didn’t actually want to be doing all the time. Hang in there, you’ll get through this, and if you decide that this lifestyle just isn’t for you, just know that nothing’s wrong with you and you certainly aren’t alone. Good luck!

  12. Katie, you lasted longer than me and you’re traveling in MUCH harder places. This made me cry a little because I can relate to a lot of it, even if we are having different experiences on the surface. What you’re doing is amazing, and it’s totally understandable that you’re having a hard time. I hate that the hostels aren’t working out for you. I met some cool people in my hostel in Melbourne (though only 1 over 26 years old) but still by the end of the week I was getting burnt out on sharing a room with so many other people. I need that alone time to recharge, and I don’t get much of it on the road. As for the resume building stuff you were hoping for, I think you’re getting that whether you realize it or not, it’s probably just not as obvious to you right now. Splurge a little here and there for your sanity, whether it’s on a private room (even a private room at a hostel is sometimes cheaper than a hotel room) or a glass of wine or a tour/activity you’re interested in. I could go on and on here, but if you ever want to chat, you know you can find me on FB or skype…I think Andy gave you my skype screen name. Hang in there, and do what’s right for you, don’t worry about other people’s expectations. If you call it quits halfway through, no one will think badly of you. Most people would’ve booked a flight home as soon as they saw that house in St. Petersburg. Seriously though, let me know if you need to talk 🙂

    1. Thanks Ali! You and Andy have both been soooo great and supportive in helping me through this and I appreciate it so much! I know you recently hit a similar point so I know you get it. 🙂 I did actually do a quick search for cheap RT flights back for the holidays – if I had found something ridiculously cheap I probably would’ve jumped on it to recharge and refill my wardrobe.

      Adding you on Skype…let’s chat soon!

  13. Believe it or not, I agree with a lot of what you are saying. I have done hostels and hotels and like hotels better. Granted, I don’t like nice hotels or really expensive ones. I just like it comfortable.

    However, I do disagree with the backpack thing. I avoid a suitcase as much as possible. I love a backpack so much better. With that said, I will be really honest with you.

    I just got back from one of my best trips ever. I spent 5 days in Maryland researching, exploring, and reviewing hotels, restaurants, and attractions. I actually felt like calling this place home. I was going non stop from 8 am to midnight every day. I was getting 6 hours of sleep max each night and have never had more fun on a trip. However, I was exhausted. I love to travel and wish I could do this for a living. However, I also realize that I can’t travel all the time, living out of a suitcase (or a backpack), and that there is something good about having a place I call home.

    There are definitely some downsides to travel. As AWESOME as it is (and I say this coming off the highest of highs), I know it isn’t perfection. I would never want to do anything else but I also know it isn’t easy as well. Taking the good with the bad is part of it. In the end, our lives are a journey and there is so much you will learn and grow from this as a person.

    1. Jeremy, I’m going to be honest – I know you’ve been following along and you comment so often and share my posts and I really, really appreciate that. That being said, the way you started your comment really rubbed me the wrong way. This isn’t a post to be agreed with or disagreed with. These are my feelings and my emotions and it isn’t up to you or anyone else to agree or disagree with those feelings.

      1. I wasn’t agreeing with you to say you were right or wrong. I was just saying I identify with some of your same feelings/frustrations about traveling. I just got back from a trip that was one of the best ones I had and your thoughts brought up my own personal observations about my experiences. In no way were they trying to discount your feelings or experiences but more of an ‘aha’ moment for me as well. Your post gave me the chance to express honestly some of the things I’ve been thinking about as well as go a little deeper into identifying how you felt. Note that my comments had nothing to do with your feelings. I didn’t discount those at all.

        1. Sorry, I know you meant well, it was just in the way you phrased it – agree and disagree may not have been the best choice of words. 🙂

  14. Hey Katie!
    Hang in there! I have come to realize that whenever I find myself hitting a wall like crazy, it is because I am learning something new. Definitely stick with the hotel for Christmas! Happy New Year!

    1. Thanks Erica! You’re totally right and I know I will be stronger for this. And yes, I am definitely looking forward to the hotel for Christmas. 🙂

  15. As an active Couchsurfing member for 6+ years (and having traveled to the same countries as you), I can’t recommend that site enough. I see that 2 others have already suggested it. I don’t usually comment on blogs, but I’ve been following yours for awhile, and I think the CS experience would totally enhance your RTW trip. If you have any questions about the site or need reassurance, feel free to email me!

  16. Wow, this post resonated with us so much that it could’ve been written by us ourselves! In our five months of traveling we gained weight, ripped holes in our jeans and declared extreme hatred for our backpacks.

    Stay strong and take some time out when you have the chance (and even splurge on a hotel for a night or two!). Watch TV and do absolutely nothing, you’ll feel a lot better for it! 🙂

    1. Not that I’m glad you guys are experiencing the same thing, but it is definitely nice to know I’m not alone! Especially about the weight gain – I feel like everyone loses weight on the road and I have just been packing on the pounds. 🙂 I’m sure your time in Chicago didn’t help you guys on that end at all – all that pizza! 🙂

      I actually just splurged on a hotel for a couple days in Riga and I was sponsored for a couple night here in Vilnius by their tourism board. But I think the more I stay in hotels, the harder it makes it to go back to hostels!

  17. I am sorry to hear that! you mentioned many things which I absolutely hate! My solution…I just wait a bit longer before travelling and save more money so I can have a better and more comfortable holiday. I guess if it were a question of going on THIS budget or not going at all, then I’d put up with SOME, though not all, of these discomforts, but otherwise, I’ll just wait and save more.
    I have very weak shoulders and backpacks kill me. My solution last time was to use a suitcase and save a bit more for taxis. In this way, I didn’t have to run around with a suitcase as taxis picked me up and dropped me off in front of my accommodation. If I do stay in hostels, it’s only in a private room with private bathroom, but I must say this is easier for me as I almost always travel with someone else, which means it’s very affordable.
    The way that even your best friends forget about you when travelling sucks! I try to insist on setting up skype dates regularly, but friends are not often willing to commit :S But at least I know I’ve tried.
    As for wishing you could afford more…once again, I always save much more than I will need. I do try to stick to a budget when I’m travelling, but if I come across a once in a life time opportunity which needs me to spend more money, then I know I have the extra cash for it.
    I don’t know…I guess in my case I have to make SOOOOOO many compromises in my daily life and go through so much discomfort, that when I travel I want to, at least during this time, be as comfortable as possible.

    1. My budget worries probably come more from the fact that I am worrying more about what I will do when I get home and how long it will take me to find work. And the fact that I cut back so much to save up before I left on the trip, it feels like it’s been years since I have just been able to spend freely and not think about it. It sounds shallow but I miss the days when I was a lawyer making 6 figures and I didn’t think twice about what I spent on anything.

      1. It doesn’t sound shallow at all. Whatever people say, we NEED money, and if we have just enough we’ll constantly worry about situations where that enough is not…well…enough any more. But that’s why saving should be followed by a splurge after…ideally. Alternatively, why don’t you try and have one splurge per country. For example, stay in a hotel during your last day there, and treat yourself to a nice. That should recharge your batteries until the following country 🙂

  18. I feel like on every trip I’m on I get to a point where I am just done and ready to go home. I usually find that one night in a private room, a long hot shower, an hour of organizing my bag and a good movie go a long way in improving my spirits.

    Have you though about going to south east asia for a few weeks? It might be cheaper that going home and warm weather/ sunlight always improve my mood.

    1. Haha, honestly, SE Asia is about the last place I would want to go right now. I am sooooo loving how modern and Western and calm Latvia and Lithuania have felt after Russia. I think going to SE Asia might drive me over the edge. 🙂

  19. Hey Katie
    I echo Michael’s sentiment! While I think everyone should try and see Russia and that part of the world – amazing architecture, beautiful countryside, staggering history — the people are a tough nut to crack. I spent several weeks there with fluent Russian-speaking people, and we still had a rocky time! It’s just not as friendly a part of the world as say, SE Asia. Take the experience for what is it, remember that tomorrow is another day and no decision on where you are today or where you’re going tomorrow is forever if you don’t want it to be. And regarding the holidays… I think we’re conditioned to make such a big deal about it because of western commercialism. I’m with you: Jan 2 is the best day every 🙂
    Skype with your friends and family and I’m sure it will help brighten your day. Good luck!!!

    1. Ok, I feel the need to defend Russia here a bit. In my experience in being there for 3 months, it was ONLY in Moscow that I had negative experiences with the people. Even with my homestay in St. Petersburg that didn’t quite go as planned, the family were nice and treated me decent – they were just too busy for my time there to be worthwhile. Everywhere else I went, the people were INCREDIBLY friendly and helpful. I had a guy give me a ride back to Irkutsk from an open air museum outside of town for no charge, chatting with me in Russian the whole way. I had another guy I met on the train not just show me to the right bus I needed, he rode it with me to make sure I got off at the right stop. And I’ve already written about how great everyone at my hostel in St Petersburg was when my ATM card was eaten. My experience all along the Trans Siberian was amazing – it was just Moscow (and particularly two bad hostels in Moscow) that soured things for me.

      Anyway…sorry for the diatribe but I feel like Russia gets more of a bad rap than it deserves. 🙂

      Thanks for the comment and you’re right – I can make tomorrow and the next day and the next whatever I want them to be. And I don’t need to make a big deal of the holidays if I don’t want to. 🙂

  20. Oh Katie – I so feel for you! I know it doesn’t feel like it right now, but what you’re going through is a very normal, expected part of culture shock. After I had already gone through the whole process as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras, my dad sent me an article outlining the four distinct stages – how I wished I had had that article earlier! It would have made me feel normal!

    I’ve written up a post about how a long-term traveler will experience those stages. I hope it helps knowing what to expect – http://familyonbikes.org/blog/2008/02/culture-shock-on-extended-tour/

    You’ll make it through this stage. It’s not a wonderful place to be, but it leads to wonderful places.

    1. Thanks Nancy! I know, I’m not really surprised I’ve hit this point. Looking at your post, I think I’ve gone through the first couple stages a couple times already! I’m honestly not sure I’ll ever be completely comfortable with long-term travel. I have a feeling when this trip is over I’ll go back to taking nice 2 week vacations here and there.

  21. I hit my first wall at the six month mark and then just decided to stay in one place for the entire month so I didn’t have to worry about packing or planning and I just vegged. That was in Colombia and it was a great time.

    1. I’m impressed you made it 6 months! As I responded to another comment, I am definitely looking forward to getting to Kiev in mid-January and staying there for a bit and developing a routine again.

  22. Oh Katie I totally feel you. I have been hitting that wall the past few weeks and didn’t admit it to myself til yesterday. It’s okay to let things suck for awhile. I’ve heard it mentioned, but Couchsurfing totally changed travel for me when I was on my own. If you want, I can send you the guide I wrote to using CS safely and as a woman alone. It’s full of tips I wish I’d known when I started out. But seriously… when I need a ‘mom fix’ I just do a Couchsearch for women about my mom’s age, and end up having a really great time.

    (I also totally feel you about pants. Ugh.) Sending much love your way, I so enjoy your posts!

    1. Thanks Dayna! I’ve hosted Couchsurfers in Chicago before and was actually supposed to CS in St Petersburg before it fell through. I kinda forgot about it after that. Will definitely be looking into it – at least for people to meet up with if not to actually stay with.

  23. Seems like all of your frustrations are coming to a head. Don’t compare your experience to anyone else’s. You don’t have to stay in hostels if you don’t like them and I hope you take up Lisa’s CS advice. I don’t couch surf a lot because I like to do my own thing and feel like I’m using them if I don’t stay around and hang out. A lot of people will be too busy with work and their own lives to hang around with you. In any case you can always say that you have plans to go out and ask them advice and suggest meeting up for dinner later.

    I’ll be honest and say that I don’t really fit in at hostels even though I don’t mind staying at them. Your late night noise complaints remind me of Uganda, where everyone went out clubbing and drinking all the time. I didn’t get it. A lot of people, especially younger people, are out there traveling to have a good time and aren’t as interested in seeing the sights. I hope you find some more interesting people you click with soon. I wonder how much of that has to do with where you’re traveling to as well. I guarantee you’ll meet more interesting people traveling in Central Asia, although you probably won’t find someone as type-a as you are.

    I think it’s too soon to throw in the towel, but keep in mind that you don’t have to go to all of the places/route you set out to do if you’re not feeling it. It’s okay to jump ahead or take a flight somewhere warm if you don’t want to go to the next bloc country.

    My Skype isn’t on all the time but shoot me an email if you ever want to talk and I’ll login.

    1. Thanks Megan!

      Hostels have been a bit of a necessity or I’ll totally break the bank, but I am splurging on hotels every now and then. I will look into CouchSurfing – I think I share one of your fears though – I like to be independent and do my own thing and I’m afraid staying with a CS host may tie me down too much.

      I think you’re right about meeting more interesting people the further into the Caucasus and Central Asia I get. So far the best people I met were off the beaten path in Ulan Ude and on Olkhon Island – all in their late 20s/early 30s and all doing long-term trips. In the bigger cities, most of the people I am meeting in hostels are college students who are just in town to party for the weekend. Hardly any long-term travelers and hardly anyone who’s really interested in meeting new people. I am also much better when I am meeting new people one-on-one and so many of the people I’ve encountered in hostels have been in groups, which can be intimidating.

      When I get to Kiev in a month I’ll be taking group language classes again, so hopefully that will be a good chance to meet some similar people and in Armenia I’ll be volunteering as part of a group of volunteers (and taking Armenian classes!) so I think it should be easier to connect there as well. Fingers crossed…

      Like you said, part of this is just all my frustrations coming to a head at the same time. My favorite jeans ripped in Riga and then the next day my hiking pants. Then I went to put on my dress pants to go to the ballet and could barely zip them. Then I got stuck walking around half lost in a snowstorm in Sigulda and was sopping wet for an hour long bus ride back to Riga. Then the friends at home I was supposed to Skype with totally forgot. You get the drift…

      Thanks for the Skype offer, may just take you up on it soon!:)

      1. Regarding CS hosts, I’ll chime in that I’ve stayed with five so far during this trip, and the only time I’ve really been tied to them is when I wanted to be. Deinitely go into it with the expectation of spending some time together – maybe for dinner or conversation, maybe for sightseeing – because in the end, it isn’t just about a free place to stay. Most hosts that I’ve found pretty clearly state their schedule in their profile, even, so that you can find one that matches your vibe. Good luck!

      2. I had SUCH trouble with clothes on my trip. At least you’re thin! It got unexpectedly cold in China my first time there sand I had to buy a warmer top. The girls in the shops giggled and laughed and me. It was awful. The thighs of my favorite pants that I started off with on trip #2 were really bad and I actually DARNED them before buying another pair in China, then getting some made in India and finally buying another lighter pair in India.

        So I guess my point is, it happens! You’re doing so much walking that your clothes will wear out faster.

        Bite the bullet and couch surf. If the hosts aren’t great you can always leave early. I stayed with two different families in Bogota and saw two different sides to the city. I really recommend it. Meanwhile, I stayed in a hostel in-between and and had a totally different experience. In both cases I ended up spending most of my days alone and then meeting up with them after dark. I’d hate for you to wait until the end of your trip and feel regret for missing out.

        The bigger cities are crap for meeting people unless you’re an extrovert or partier. I met the most amazing people in rural areas where there were only a few westerners, whereas I literally had no one to talk to in Bangkok, when there were thousands of foreigners surrounding me. I think it’s normal because only the more interesting/interested people are going to make the effort to get to an out of the way place.

        With friends back home… I made the mistake of talking travel with them on trip #1. They were uninterested and had nothing to say. It was lonely. So on trip #2 I decided that if they want to know about my trip they can look at my site. I emailed them about their daily mundane stuff, what celebrities are up to etc. It went over much better. It’s hard for people back home to relate and they don’t know what to say.

        My weight was always fluctuating on the road. I ate way too many oreos and chips to supplement the local food I didn’t like. There’s also way more carbs out there in the road. I always lose weight in China because I end up getting sick, but India where everyone loses weight from sickness I gained a ton. Butter chicken curry every day is not good for one’s waistline!

        1. Thanks for sharing your experiences and your support! You’re so right about clothes wearing out faster – I mean, duh, of course when I am wearing the same 2 pairs of jeans every single day for 3 months straight, they’ll wear out. The heels on the boots I bought in Russia made it a month of wearing daily before I had to get them replaced.

          I’m definitely going to look into CS for Poland and Belarus – at least for people to meet up with. It’s funny, while I said I miss the social interaction, I also do really enjoy being on my own and doing my own thing as well. I think what has frustrated me with the hostels has been the feeling of being left out – everyone else was partying and having a good time and I just wasn’t included because it wasn’t my thing.

          Vilnius has been a HUGE improvement so far. One guy in my form was a college student from NY who goes to school in MN but has been studying abroad in Norway. We chatted a ton. Another woman is from Minsk and offered to show me around when I get there in January. And an Indian couple just showed up who live in Colorado but went to college at Iowa – nice small world!

          I started a healthy eating kick yesterday, figuring that’s at least one thing I do have complete control over. 🙂 If I’m not able to work out I am at least going to focus on trying to eat better.

  24. Good luck, Katie. I don’t know from personal travel experience (yet) but surely it will get better. By the way, I love all the photos you post.

  25. Katie! I don’t know what to say. Is it worth it? It might be something that you look back on with fond memories but the living of it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be (I’ve been there). I hope things get better. The holidays are hard, being away from family. Hopefully the new year will bring some joy and excitement (and more hotel rooms!!). Much love to you.

    1. Thanks Kim. Yeah only time will tell if it is worth it. When I wrote this I just kept thinking about everything I gave up – a decent job w/ great vacation time, my beloved cat, most of my stuff, a lot of friendships and some opportunities for new relationships… And so far, even though I have had some amazing experiences, I just wonder where I’m going to end up when it’s all over. If I am destitute and living in my parents’ basement for 6 months because I can’t find a job, I may have some serious regrets…

  26. Hi Katie, What a great, honest post! You’ve gotten a lot of comments and advice on it, so I won’t belabor any points. I know you’re from the Midwest and we tend to have the ethos of “MAKE THINGS WORK AT ALL COSTS” so I applaud that you’re like, “Actually things kind of suck right now.” I hope that Belarus is what you need. If not, book a cheap plane ticket to a beach and soak up the sun, a good book, and have fun.

    1. Thanks Kristin! Although honestly, I am soooo not a beach person, that is about the last place I would want to go. 🙂

  27. Katie – Thanks for the food for thought. I know it is going to be tough for us too as we all leave our family and friends, but please please remind us too in a year about all the amazing benefits, learning opportunities and growth that a trip like this can lend. The holidays are always tough (I’ve been there too… no other country seems to suffer the same crazy and loving holiday season like we do.. LOL!) But please know you will come out the other side such a better person. The world needs more people like you out there! Peace, TheBigBreak

  28. One thing we can for sure count on, Katie, is change. This feeling too shall pass. Been there and reached the other side. The experiences you are having will be treasured for a long time. The advice people are giving about doing something fun and something you enjoyed back home really helps. You can always make up the budget by eating minimally for a few days 😉 Happy holidays and almost New Year!

  29. I remember when I hit the wall…it was after 6 months of continual travel in South America and I sat on a bed and started bawling. (Pete didn’t know what to do for me, I was such a mess!) That night, we made some big changes about how traveled.

    I am always in awe of solo travelers because Pete and I have each other, and I’m especially in awe of you because you are doing it in RUSSIA of all places! I can’t even imagine.

    TREAT YOURSELF! Do something totally out of budget and whatever it takes to just make you feel better for now. Over time, you will come to realize how much stronger this has made you, and what life changing days these are, but for now, do whatever little thing it takes to make you feel GOOD!

    And Christmas is just another day. We’ve given up on the pressure of trying to make it *special* for many years now. It’s just another day. Or, at least it’s just another day where we watch the movie “Elf”, which we tend to watch a couple of times during the year anyways. 🙂

    Chin up!!! 🙂

    1. Thanks Dalene! Like I said, I kind of knew the day would come at some point and it is a bit more difficult since I’m flying solo. You’re lucky you had Pete when you hit your wall!

      Things are looking up – I’ve been in Vilnius for almost a week now and found a nice hostel and met some great people. And I’m getting quite excited to get to Warsaw and chill in a hotel for 3 days over Christmas. 🙂

  30. Hi Katie! I must admit I haven’t read through all of the lovely comments above, so apologies if this repeats any of the suggestions above.

    – Make some goals for the New Year. I always find this a positive experiences, as it forces a reflection on the achievements of the past 12 months, and encourages us to look optimistically at the challenges that the year ahead brings.
    – CouchSurfing (as noted in a number of the comments I skimmed through) is great, and recommended as long as you vet your host properly. I’ve had one AMAZING experience in Kuala Lumpur with a girl who I remain good friends with, and one NOT SO GOOD experience with a guy in Rome. The Rome experience was undertaken with a girlfriend, which was a good thing. We laugh about it now.
    – See if you can find a kitchen to bake something familiar from home on Christmas Day. Might make you cry, but might also cheer you up 🙂

    Good luck, and remember – fortune favours the bold!

    Poppy xox

  31. I have hit this wall a few times on extended trips. I find when I’m sleeping well, I tend to avoid this wall better. I can definitely see how hostels would be getting old. I have never found them as wonderful as everyone thinks they are. I would treat yourself to a few nights in a hotel. I think it is worth it for travel sanity.

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