Cultivate a Sense of Belonging to Take With You Anywhere You Go
When I tell people I spent the better part of two years touring the United States, I often hear how glamorous that sounds.
My years of extended international travel since then frequently inspires comments from friends and family about how lucky I am. What a luxury it is to travel.
What anyone who has lived out of a suitcase or a backpack for an extended amount of time knows is: nothing could be more true.
Before I got all cozy and ex-patty in Australia, I spent years hopping from place to place. It was exhilarating, mind-expanding, experience filled, and challenging.
In admitting the following, I risk betraying the fantasy life of the eternal nomad. BUT:
For every life-changing adventure I took, there was also an accompanying feeling of isolation or longing for chili cheese fries (you can take the American out of America…) or general sense of fatigue.
There are tons of tips out there about how to combat travel fatigue – many of which I’ll reiterate here. But, for me, the hollow feeling that sometimes joined me on my journey wasn’t specifically triggered by moving too quickly or the eternal challenge of finding laundromats when I needed them.
The rotating door of destinations made it hard to put down roots. Without roots in my immediate environment, I struggled to stay grounded.
And even now, all settled in with a dog and a husband in a white bread suburb of Melbourne, AU, I still find that it takes real effort to feel at home away from home (home being a white bread suburb in America).
That’s because it isn’t only loved ones and creature comforts that give you the settled feeling of being home. Home is an internal feeling of belonging.
Fortunately, a sense of belonging is something you can build and bring with you anywhere you go – and everywhere you stay.
I’ve broken down some of the most effective strategies I’ve used to feel at home on the road. These 7 tips will help you cultivate a real sense of belonging so you can avoid travel fatigue and come home to yourself.
It is so easy to get caught up in the excitement of travel and forget self-care. But, if you think about it, travelers are the last people who should be abandoning self-care!
When you travel, you may experience jetlag, varying levels of air pollution, inconsistent diets, limited gym access, exposure to new germs and bacteria, poor sleep quality on a range of mattress types, and a lack of a routine.
Doesn’t that sound like a cry for self-care?!?
Making time for self-care helps cultivate a sense of belonging to yourself. Finding home in your body will help you avoid travel fatigue, and will give you a sense of groundedness as you move through the world.
Hydration (as my best friend always says) is key.
Before you travel, make a plan for how you’re going to stay hydrated. If you don’t make a plan, you are less likely to prioritize it when the distractions of the day set in.
You’ll be walking in the sun all day, indulging in salty food, and enjoying late-night drinks with new travel friends. That body is going to want some H2O.
And don’t forget hydration prioritization on your flight! Drinking water can help reduce jetlag.
The plan to stay on top of this is really simple: carry a reusable water bottle with you.
Not only does this keep water on hand at all times, but it also supports sustainable development goals as you travel.
You may also consider planning a way to clean your own water if you’re traveling somewhere where clean drinking water isn’t readily available.
You can do that a number of ways, but a bottle that filters and purifies can make it super straightforward.
This prevents you from having to buy plastic water bottles each day. It may even make water more accessible to you throughout the day because you can fill up from anywhere.
Also, consider what bag you’ll be carrying as you explore.
There’s no point in packing a reusable water bottle if you’re planning on carrying a cute little clutch around town. Pack a day bag that can fit a water bottle, or consider packing a collapsible water bottle to fit in your clutch.
Get some nutrients in your body!
A little dietary discipline will go a long way when warding off travel fatigue.
If you’re anything like me, enjoying local food is one of your favorite parts of travel. And if you are me, that usually means enjoying the most indulgent, least healthy of the local foods.
Eat your heart out, fabulous foodie. But make sure you’re seeking out nutrient-dense food as well.
This can be challenging depending on where you are traveling. I know it can feel impossible to find fresh produce in some places. It can also be hard to know if eating local raw produce is safe.
I don’t recommend winging it if you have concerns: you don’t want to be sent home with a stomach bug. But ask around and get the local lowdown on fruits and veggies.
It’s well worth the effort considering how sluggish and unmotivated you’ll feel after a few days of eating only delicious but nutrient-void food.
Make time for exercize!
You may have walking built into your schedule while you are out exploring, but is there more you can be doing?
Ask your hotel concierge about the safety of local park routes and go for a run!
Or, if you’re allergic to running like me, check out some hotel room yoga poses you can do as you travel. I usually bring a travel yoga mat when I travel these days because my stiff post-flight body craves some yoga love.
And if you’re in one of those cities that has the city bikes, take one out for a spin. This is always a great way to get in a little exercize and see a city from a new vantage point.
This one may seem silly, especially if you are someone who packs light. But hear me out!
I lived on the road for two years. For the first year, the thrill of long term travel kept me pretty distracted from priortizing grounding, but then travel fatigue hit hard.
A significant change I made was packing intentional items that made me feel like myself.
When I got to each new hotel room, I set up my little home.
I used a beautiful silk scarf I had bought as a souvenir and draped it over the bedside table like a table cloth.
Since I was going through a massive crystal phase at the time, I put out a few of my favorite stones as well.
I also took one with me each day as I explored. Every time I touched it or looked at it while I was out in the world, it brought me back to myself.
These things were lightweight and made me smile, so they were well worth the suitcase space.
You may find a particular scent on your pillow does the trick. Or traveling with your own pillowcase or a framed picture. It could be the simplest thing, but it should help your travel accommodation feel like home.
Taking the time to delight yourself with comforts or indulgences of home can have a huge impact. It is such a treat to go “home” to a hotel room that feels like a place of restoration after a day exploring.
2) Find your local spots
A change in scenery is part of what makes travel so exciting. However, traveling from place to place sometimes leads to stimulation and adaptation overload. It can be very grounding to find some consistency amongst the shifting vistas.
For me, that means two things: a local coffee shop and a yoga studio. These are the first things I look for in a new town.
Finding your happy places will help you feel like yourself and will quickly turn a new town into a comfortable fit.
Your local spots are also where you stand the best chance of meeting like-minded travelers, and hopefully a few locals!
Building a community can also be very grounding, and hard to come by when you’re passing through town. The familiar smiles of employees or local patrons you meet in your happy places will be a welcome balm for your travel-weary spirits.
4) Invest in the local community
Language barriers, cultural differences, and even simple unfamiliarity in a new destination can make you feel like you are on the outside of the city you are visiting.
And, you know what? You are on the outside as a tourist.
Travel fatigue is an understandable outcome of spending so much time feeling like an outsider. A great way to dig in and feel a sense of belonging is to invest in the local community.
When I was moving around often, I found volunteering to be the quickest way to get right in there and meet local people from all walks of life. Volunteering creates a connection with the community and it deepens the sometimes-shallow of the tourism experience.
Please be mindful of responsible volunteering practices if you do plan to get involved while you travel.
There are many other ways you can dive into a local community as well.
You can join a language club, go to an open religious service, find a local or expat facebook group and say hi, couchsurf, or participate in a cultural experience – with an appropriate invitation, of course.
Get creative! Just get in there, rather than watching it all happen from the other side of your camera phone.
5) Stay in touch with your people
Meeting new people can be exciting, but what about the people that already make you feel at home? Their support can be a potent antidote for travel fatigue.
Keep your people close when you’re far away!
Fortunately, that has never been easier to do. How great is it that tech can bring loved ones into the room with you as you travel the world?
The World Clock app on my iPhone is my best friend when it comes to scheduling a face to face on Houseparty or FaceTime.
If time zones make it hard to connect, Voxer is a great option to keep the conversation flowing.
My grandparents, who aren’t tech-savvy, have a Nixplay photo frame that I send my pictures to digitally so they have a live feed of my adventures in their home.
If you get in a good routine (I call someone back home most mornings!), you may find yourself talking to friends and family more than before you left.
Not only will this preserve your relationships, but it will bring a piece of home with you as you travel.
6) Go for the upgrade
I know it’s hard to wrap your head around saving a little margin for an upgrade. I’ve been in the thick of budget travel so I understand how hard it can be to decide to splurge.
Sometimes, our thin budget is the only reason we can keep our travels going!
But being a tourist for a week, a month, or a year at a time is exhausting. For me, failing to carve out room in the budget for a little bouge was a huge factor in my toeing the line of travel burnout.
Every once in awhile, upgrade for the hotel room with the king bed. Get yourself a proper meal. Book the flight with the good connection time. Extra airline points? Extra leg-room baby.
You don’t have to do it every time if it’s not your style or you don’t have the means, but give yourself permission – and the margin – to feel comfortable.
Hostels and homestays are great ways to meet people and offer financial value. BUT if you need a day to sleep in late, or you need to soak in a nice bath after a long day on your feet, or you need to have a pizza delivered to your hotel room in Cambodia (#noshame), you will require a bed and a bath and a hotel room to do these things.
If an upgrade really isn’t for you, that’s okay. The aim of this tip is investing in your restoration – whatever that means to you. It’s just really important that you take the time to figure out what that is!
You can’t be in full tourist mode 100% of the time. That is a one-way ticket to travel fatigue land.
Prioritize rest, relaxation, and maybe a little royal treatment sometimes. Then use that energy you’ve restored to get back out there and explore the world!
Now, even if you follow all these great tips, it can still be mentally exhausting to be out of your comfort zone and routine while exploring.
Make sure there’s time in your itinerary for some meditation or journaling.
You’ll want to keep your schedule action-packed, but I promise you it’s worth taking the time for mindset work. You’ll enjoy and remember more of your trip if you quieten your mind from time to time.
Have you tried all of the above steps and are still feeling fatigued? This last mindset tip really can make a world of difference:
Summon it somehow. Reflect on it, journal on it, speak to someone who can help you find it, pop on a playlist that makes your heart flutter, or engage in a self-care practice that puts gratitude front and center.
Gratitude is one of the most powerful mindsets for shifting you out of any funk, including travel fatigue.
Bonus tip: start preventing travel fatigue now!
Ready to commit to cultivating a sense of belonging as you travel?
Well, what are you waiting for?
While I do strengthen this practice during my travels, it is something I work on every day – at home or abroad. And it’s something you can start working on too!
Drink water. Care for yourself. Invest in your local community and your people. Notice which elements of home warm your heart, and envision ways to include them throughout your day. Think about what restores you when you’re depleted. Practice gratitude. Learn more about belonging to yourself and do that work.
Begin. Right where you are.
If you’re already traveling, then integrate these elements into your travels to help you avoid or counteract travel fatigue.
If you’re staying in one place at the moment, build these practices into your life so you can carry them with you as you embark on your travels.
Your trip may last a week, or it may last months. Maybe it’s even a staycation!
The point is, if you don’t feel at home within yourself, it’s hard to feel at home in the world. If you can build your own sense of belonging, you can be at home anywhere you go.
Drop a note in the comments about your plans for cultivating a sense of belonging through your travels.
I can’t wait to hear your ideas and your commitments to yourself!