Solo Travel Burnout

Senso Ji, Tokyo, Japan Temple

I’m currently sitting in a cowork in Tokyo.

Like a lot of Japan it’s quiet. People are focused on their own lives, they hardly seem to notice the presence of anyone around them.

I’ve been in Tokyo for about a month now, I have felt a pull in my heart to go to Japan since 2014, but the stars hadn’t aligned for me until now, Fall 2023.

I’m here, and my emotions are swaying between feeling underwhelmed to completely alone and misunderstood.

I have had some good conversations here, I’ve made some decent buddies along the way.

A shot of a rice field I biked to. I bought a new bike here, and that has been one thing I have really enjoyed here.

But I’m tired of it all.

I’m fucking sick and tired of traveling alone.

I’m fucking tired of having the same bullshit conversations 10x over until I find someone I actually click with.

I’m tired of struggling through basic conversations at convenience stores.

I’m tired of feeling isolated, and in trying to feel better, sitting alone in my hotel room, which only further perpetuates the isolation.

I’m tired of getting in these isolation spirals to the point where it feels painful to have a conversation with someone.

I’m tired of being so judgmental towards others. Immediately seeing the flaws in everyone, and when talking to them secretly waiting to be alone again.

I’m tired of feeling like the only local people I meet who seem to give a shit about me are the ones I’m paying. Either servers, or cafe people, or my Chinese tutors.

I’m tired of all the fucking rules here around everything. I’m tired of feeling invisible until I break one of their 1,000’s of rules, and get reprimanded.

I’m burnt out on traveling.

I can’t blame Japan.

There’s only one thing to blame. My selfishness.

I have spent so much time working so hard to figure out exactly what I want to do, and how to build my perfect life that I can’t be surprised that I feel completely alone.

Dude… no shit you’re alone you don’t think about anyone else but yourself.

The connections you did build while traveling were largely on dating sites, and now that you’re not using those anymore you’re fucked man.

You’ve spent so much time trying to find your perfect life, and that perfect life means you have little to no responsibilities to anyone else.

Short of your clients, and paying your moms bills. Otherwise, you get to do whatever you want, whenever you want.

You’ve really only focused on you.

Even when you did earnestly look for relationships

The biggest thing you’ve looked for is someone who won’t cramp your style, or tie you to one place for too long.

Now you’re free dude, you’ve gotten exactly what you wanted for so long.

You make the money you’ve dreamed about making for a long time, you have the lifestyle you couldn’t have even imagined 5 years ago.

You’ve made it man. You, you and you alone, because you made no space in your dream for anyone else. It would cramp your style too much.

You didn’t even go back to visit your best friends in Colorado because you didn’t want to leave some girl you had just started dating.

You’re selfish as fuck dude, and this is the result. You’re alone.

From time to time you sit in hotel rooms realizing how much you hate the life you thought would bring you so much happiness.

You have short term relationships with women, which always end the same. But that’s okay you’ve gotten what you wanted out of it, and now you can go on your way again.

So let’s take a step back

Etretat, Normany Cliffs In France

A shot of a random dog while in Etretat, France which was a good time for sure.

I do enjoy the lifestyle I have, but these last 2 months have been a bit difficult.

I’m really craving community and deeper connections and traveling around so much doesn’t allow me to find that.

While I was feeling a bit isolated in the last spot I was at, in Paris. I have been to Paris a few times, and I was starting to feel more plugged into things.

Then my visa was up, and onto Japan…

Generally speaking, Japanese people are more introverted, furthermore my grasp of Japanese is very elementary, so I can’t carry conversations and make friends nearly as easily here.

It’s been tough man.

At times I feel like people only notice me when they’re telling me I’m sitting in the wrong area, or I shouldn’t park my bike there, or I can’t walk in this area, or you can’t bring a drink in here, you can’t do this, or that, don’t do that, and on, and on…

The rules feel like they never stop. I don’t think I’ve been anywhere where people feel as up tight as Tokyo.

Adding my isolated feeling to the introversion of Japanese people, my lack of Japanese fluency, and strict adherence to an endless list of rules & it feels like the perfect storm for constant anxiety & hating my life.

So how can I work to get out of this rut?

Firstly, not doing this 6 months of straight solo travel again. I know where my home is. It’s Medellin.

I’m excited to head back there in 2024, and get a longer term visa and stay for most of the year, taking some smaller trips, but likely nothing for more than 2 – 3 months.

In 2022 my plan was to do what I’m doing now, stay in Medellin for about half the year and spend the other half of the year traveling, but I’m over it man.

I don’t enjoy traveling anymore, I’m OD’d on traveling right now and I don’t really want to do more of it.

However, I still got Bali.

I did buy a ticket, 1 month hotel reservations, and I have a 10 day Vipassana retreat in Bali so I gotta go there (plus, for visa purposes I can’t actually return to Medellin until 2024.)

Plus, I feel confident that Bali will feel a lot of Playa Del Carmen. I feel like I’ll be able to mesh into a group pretty quickly.

I’m leaving for Bali in about a week, once there I think I’ll have an easier time with things.

There are a ton of nomads there, nomads like me who are far from friends and family and looking to meet others and connect.

A shot of a cafe I worked from in Osaka, that I really loved. There are lots of great cafe’s to work from here. While I’ve been burned out, Japan does have some great spots for sure. Stay tuned for my digital nomad guide to Tokyo.

So just put up with Japan until then?

I really don’t want to do this. It’s been largely how I’ve lived my life.

Well now I’m not feeling great, but once I get X then I’ll be happy. Then everything will be better.

I’m nearly 32, and I’ve made that mistake too many times now to blindly make it again.

I gotta go back to what I already know about making friends abroad.

I also gotta focus on the positives man, and not get caught in a negative thought pattern.

Lake Suwa By Hokusai

One of the pieces from Hokusai’s 36 views of Mt. Fuji. Easily one of my favorite pieces of Japanese art. The culture and art here is incredible.

So what are the positives, what am I learning?

I need to find some positives & some lessons I’m learning that way there’s a reason behind all of this.

So it’s not all for nothing.

#1 – Getting ready for the retreat

I’m going to a silent 10 day retreat, which will be the most lonely, isolating experience of my life. What I’m experiencing in Japan is really a blessing, a warm-up to that. In lieu of going from a life of feeling extremely connected to extreme isolation, I’m easing into the isolation I’ll have in the retreat.

#2 – I should start thinking more about others, and get over myself a bit

All of the endless rules & customs here are largely in place to keep social harmony and make the quality of life for everyone better. Considering how my selfishness got me into this spot, it’s probably good to be in a society that forces me to follow more rules and think more about the group, and less about myself.

Plus, things are nice here and that is directly related to all these rules.

#3 – You’re just lonely man, it’s okay

Loneliness isn’t the end of the world. While I don’t want to ignore it, I can simply notice it & work on ways to mitigate it. But I don’t need to immediately find a solution to fix it.

Generally the “quick fixes” I find to alleviate my loneliness don’t help much, and they usually just make it worse in the long run.

#4 – Stop being lazy

This is a huge one, a lot of times I know there’s an event I should go to, or a person I should hit up to hang out, but my laziness will kick in.

“Man I’m a bit tired I think I’m just gonna hang out in the room”

Fuck that, I spend plenty of time alone relaxing, I don’t need to find more time for that.

#5 – What’s going to matter in 2 years

I’ve thought about this a lot. How much of this trip I’ve spent in my head worrying about things that will ultimately be trivial in 2 years.

Dude I’m in a kick ass country, having an experience I may never have again. Sit in the moment, be present, notice emotions as they arise, don’t try to supress them, but also don’t just sit and stew in them dude, stop spiraling out on bullshit life’s too short.

Feel it, try to learn from it, then move on.

Looking to make friends & build community while traveling? Check out my guide here.

Leave a Reply