Tips from the Lite Backpacker on some things to do and what NOT to do when you are having a bad day in a lonely country all on your own

10 Tips to get you through a bad day when you are travelling alone

It is ok to have a bad day when you are travelling.

One of the hardest things to do when you are travelling on your own is to have a bad day. But they happen – to everyone, at some point. Whether it’s due to external forces conspiring against you, or you simply woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Whatever the reason it is important to remember that it is OK to have a bad day.

You know that feeling. The feeling of “too hard” when you have to climb out of your hostel bunk bed to go to the bathroom. The feeling of complete annoyance when you realise you should have done washing the day before as you have no clean underware. The feeling of frustration when your internet stops working for the 4th time that hour. Or the feeling of complete apathy when you try to order food in another language and realise you just can’t remember the words so start pointing and grunting. All of these are solvable and acceptable problems that on ANY OTHER DAY wouldn’t even hit the Richter scale of blah… but for some reason on a bad day, they shoot up to 10.

Be indulgent, stay in bed or just have a drink in the sunshine. Don't try and communicate with the world - just wallow!

Be indulgent, stay in bed or just have a drink in the sunshine. Don’t try and communicate with the world – just wallow!

We think that because we are off having the time of our lives (which we generally are) that there won’t be any moments where we will just want to not do life any more. That is stupid thinking – because even if you are the most upbeat, positive, glass-half-full type of person in the world, you will every now and then have a “life is too hard” moment.

You will say things to yourself like “first world problems, get a grip, you are lucky to have this opportunity” or “how can you be so cranky when you are surrounded by all these trees/beaches/cocktails/new friends/snow-capped mountains” or my personal favourite “enough now – get over it”. None of which work, which makes you feel worse as you think that you should be able to turn off the bad mood instantly with a simple pep-talk. Well nothing is simple, including bad-moods.

These are some things you should NOT do when you are having a bad day when you are travelling alone though.
  1. Force yourself to go sight-seeing. You could be standing in front of the Taj Mahal and just be feeling annoyed about that tourist who bustled you at the entrance.
  2. Talk to people – you will just ruin their day.
  3. Plan the next stage of your trip – you will get annoyed with whatever booking site that has put up its prices since the last time you looked and end up booking something out of frustration.
  4. Look at your bank account – nothing can prolong a bad mood better than looking at how much money you have spent and how much you have left. Just don’t do it.
  5. Use social media – your bad mood will blind you to the fact that you are actually doing something really awesome so you will inevitably feel as though whatever your friends are doing either at home or some other part of the world must be better. FOMO is not good in your condition.

Eat something that reminds you of home... it won't taste the same and will just remind you that where ever you are has more amazing feasts

It is all about minimising how long you are in a bad mood for. By not doing any of the above you avoid extending your bad mood, but there are also things you can do to reduce it and get back to loving that amazing place that you are currently in.

Here are my top tips for dealing with a bad day when you are travelling alone
  1. Don’t get out of bed… seriously what is the point? You may be having a bad day because you are tired, it’s amazing what a bit more sleep can do to your mood.
  2. Watch crappy TV – if you aren’t travelling with your own iPad or computer for streaming go in search of the hostel TV. Soaps and dramas are the same the world over, even if you can’t understand the words I am sure you can work out the gist. And sometimes making up your own words is half the fun
  3. Eat something that reminds you of home – on my 4 month trip through South East Asia I was strict on eating only local food, which was great for a variety of reasons including my waist line. But after a particularly nasty bout of food poising I was more than happy to finally spot McDonald’s. It was delicious, it reminded me of home, it was warm and sugary, it made me feel sick – I didn’t do it again.
  4. Find a place to just lie in the sunshine. If you are a person who finds it hard to have a “rest” day while travelling, find a serene and beautiful place like a beach, lake, garden or mountain top to just lie down and contemplate. Technically you are sight-seeing and doing something but in reality you are giving your brain and body a rest. Plus sunshine always makes a person feel better.Find a way to relax - just sit in the sun and switch off your brain.
  5. Talk to someone who knows you well. Not the person who will say “but you are in a stunning place surrounded by all those trees/beaches/cocktails/new friends/snow-capped mountains” DON’T speak to that person. Speak to the person who knows your moods well enough to say “Maybe you should go back to bed, tomorrow will be better”. Sometimes having someone else validate your feelings makes you feel better without having to go back to bed.
  6. Drink….water! There is a good chance that you are feeling blah because your body is run down. It is very easy to get sick when you are travelling, long days, strange food and late nights are a perfect recipe for an over worked immune system. Give yours a break and start chugging the water. You may also discover that the reason you were so cranky was due to your hang over.
  7. Read a really trashy book. Hostel and coffee shops are packed full of trashy novels for book swaps. I always wonder why you hardly see any of the classics in these book swap shelves. But when I am having a cranky day there is nothing I like more than reading a completely terrible who-dun-it where any Poirot enthusiast can work out who the murderer is in the first chapter NO MATTER WHAT the ending actually says, they often get it wrong.
  8. Go for a run. Exercise endorphins are heavenly and can cure all manner of sins.
  9. On that same vein do some stretches. You can often feel cranky due to tense muscles. Maybe you carried your pack on your back for 3 hours the day before, or did a huge hike or snorkelled for hours. Your body just may be coiled a little tightly – an hour of stretching can relieve all of that.
  10. Be creative. I like to write (obviously) so when I am having a bad day I write lists to myself, when I inevitably get bored with that, I doodle around the list. Soon my doodle becomes bigger than the list – it’s my way of protesting the list. But do whatever your creative passion is – play music (there is always a guy with a guitar in most hostels, borrow his… unless you are the guy with the guitar), draw, write bad poetry, edit your photos, write postcards, cook up a delicious feast, it doesn’t really matter what you do as long as you feel satisfaction at the end of the task.

The important thing to remember is that it will be over in a day or so – sometimes it won’t even last a full day, maybe just an hour. However long it is, don’t stress about it, wallow in it, indulge in it, embrace it – because the sooner you feel all of those blah feelings the sooner they get out of your system and you can go back to feeling AMAZING because you are in an amazing place doing amazing things and you worked really hard to get where you are as there is nothing (except your birth) LUCKY about choosing to travel. Now get out of bed and go and see those trees/beaches/cocktails/new friends/snow-capped mountains.

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