How full time travel makes appreciation harder, and what to do about it

Full time travel appreciation

A common issue for those traveling full time is that when you’re seeing a ton of different places, they can start to fade together in your memory, and you start to have less appreciation for new places and adventures. I’ll write today about why that happens, how it feels, and share some ideas of what one can do about it

VACATIONS FROM WORK – SO SPECIAL!

When I used to work all the time, going on a trip or vacation was a special. In my last few years of work, I traveled a lot for my job. On a few trips, when I went to Flagstaff or southern California for work, I made the weekends before and after the work week into camping trips..

These trips took me to places I’d never been. While driving, I’d often pull off road, get out, and take in the view. I’d daydream about having all my time free to do this stuff much more – to do it all the time. These places – these landscapes – grew to be where my dreams took place.

Those trips had a huge impact. I looked forward to them for a month before they happened. And I’d think about them after, enough to work those places into my daydreams. I’d imagine going back there with my van, retired and able to stop for a week or more. I can still remember many small details of these trips. The campsites, what at I ate, hikes, how I felt, and what I was thinking.

I appreciated these trips tremendously. Because I had time to think about them before and after going, I set the details into my long term memory. Also, I had my early retirement dream (and the actual point when I could retire fast approaching), so these trips were a peek into my future life. 

Vanlife: Camping in the Rockies near Jefferson Colorado - Landscape Photography Sunset
Camping in Colorado with my dad and brother

IMPACT OF FULL TIME TRAVEL ON APPRECIATION

Now, I’m about one year into realizing that dream of retiring and traveling.I’ve been through 10 states and all kinds of wonderful places. Mountains, forests, rivers, deserts, beaches, cities.  I’ve enjoyed it a ton. One thing I’ve noticed is that I have grown less likely to feel wonder and amazement. 

After about 6 months, I began to notice a couple things. First, that compared to when I went on trips while working, it was now much harder to remember the details of my adventures. Second, I’m not feeling as much wonder, or amazement – or basically appreciation of my travels as on those other trips. This is a common experience among long term travels.

To be clear – I love doing this. I’m having a wonderful time. I just notice sometimes that I’m not appreciating this like I know is possible. I’d say on an appreciation scale of 1-10, I average 6. I think I should be closer to 8. (To be clear, I consider a 6 to be pretty high, and a 9 or 10 would be too high because it would dominate my thoughts and make me act weird) 

Hiking with friends in Oregon

WHY THIS HAPPENS:

There are a multitude of reasons for this ‘appreciation challenge’, but I believe the main ones are straightforward:

1 –  When I’m moving on from one great place to the next, I don’t spend all the time I used to thinking about them before and after going. Now, It’s just on to the next one.

2 – Since I’m traveling full time with no specific end in sight, I don’t feel I have to go all out to make every day really special. (And I shouldn’t. No amount of trying could make that happen. Real life doesn’t work that way – partly because #3 below)

3 – Hedonic adaptation. I’ve gotten used to spending my days at leisure in beautiful places. It’s now the norm.

Full time travel and appreciation
A redwood grove in northern California

HOW TO INCREASE APPRECIATION?

Here are things that I’ve been doing, or may start, that help increase appreciation and enjoyment:

1 – Go slower. Stay in one place longer. Leave and come back to your campsite many times (on hikes, bike rides, drives into town for supplies, etc.). Ideally, stay more than 10 days.

2 – Journal about what you’re doing and how you’re feeling. Translating thoughts into words helps clarify or highlight them.

Full time travel appreciation

3 – Stay aware of bad feelings. When they happen, don’t fight them. Accept them as they come. Ask yourself why you’re feeling that way. 99.9% of the time, bad feelings are created in your own mind. Mostly they are from responding to an event negatively – and that mental response often does much more damage than the actual event.

4 – Being able to separate yourself from your feelings – to almost look at your emotions as a third party – helps to realize how trivial the bad ones often are, and to recognize when you’re feeling great and why. When you’re upset, ask yourself ”I’ve got all these things going great, and I’m unhappy about THIS?” (in a comedic way rather than judgmentally)

3 – If you take pictures or write about your travels, look back through them regularly. Set those places and days into your long term memory bank.

Full time travel appreciation

4 – Regularly think about what you have to be appreciative for. This could initially be forced – like forcing yourself to list 3 things each day. When you develop a habit of it, it works better. (For example, whenever I’m driving any significant distance, it usually crosses my mind how great my van has worked out so far and how amazing it is that I can get something so useful for so little money)

5 – Talk to other people about this stuff. It doesn’t have to be a cheesy “what are you thankful for?” type thing, just reminders here and there of how great many things are.

Do you have other methods to increase your appreciation? What are they?