Posted by: Tommy | October 12, 2011

“I think you should use the word malaise in there somewhere”

That was Anna’s comment when I told her I was going to write a post about the last few days.  It’s currently October 4th, though this probably won’t hit the blog until next week sometime.  We’re coming up on our 1 year anniversary – which means that today, it’s been 363 days since I was in the States last.

I sometimes feel like we shouldn’t write anything negative on the blog because, when it comes down to it, we’ve been on a sort of vacation for a year.  It’s been nearly 18 months since either of us worked.  We are incredibly fortunate to be in a position to voluntarily go that long without working (there are plenty of people who’ve gone that long without working who don’t feel so fortunate).  And yet, anyone who’s done long-term travel will tell you that it’s only occasionally like a vacation.

Jerry sent us an article (one of his favorite pastimes) this morning about a famous travel blogger (well, famous as far as a travel blogger can be) who got stuck without a visa on his way to Nauru and was “forced” to spend 4 days in Australia.  In the article, he talks about how this unexpected detour allowed him to “have fun”.  And one sentence that he wrote in this article really stood out to me.  He says something along the lines of – traveling is not about fun, it’s about challenge, self-discovery and connecting with others.  And to an extent, that’s true.  There are plenty of days that aren’t all about fun – visiting a museum is intellectually stimulating, but not  necessarily fun.  Laundry days, blog days, research days and especially travel days are not fun.

We’ve been in China for nearly 2 weeks.  The only thing so far worth blogging about is a giant mall of jewellery and a hilarious menu.  There have been no amazing experiences.  We enjoyed Hong Kong, mostly.  We got stuck in Guangzhou – an entirely commercial city – because a lack of trip research put us in China during “Golden Week” – which answers the question of “What happens if 1 billion people go on vacation at the same time”.

We had to stay in Guangzhou  for 5 days so that later we’d be in a place that we could stand for 8 days, as Golden Week has all of China traveling around the country from October 1 to October 7.  Now we’re in Yangshuo, probably the most touristed tiny village in China and a lovely place.  We’ll stay here for 8 days, avoiding the overcrowded buses and trains and avoiding the apparently-rampant practice of Chinese hoteliers ignoring reservations if they can fill a room sooner.  But plenty of those 1 billion vacationers have come to Yangshuo.  The streets are jam-packed with Chinese families on vacation.  There’s a lot of activities around Yangshuo, but this “tiny” hamlet of 140,000 normally has swelled to nearly a million people (we’ve heard) for the week.  All of the nearby activities are a) crowded and b) overly expensive, having tripled their prices for the holiday.

All in all, China so far has us wondering if its time to call it a day.  Fiji and Vanuatu were fantastic and rank as 2 of the top countries we’ve visited on the trip.  But China is battling Mozambique for last place.  Last month, we were fairly certain that we wanted to come home for 2 weeks at Christmas, then head out again to see some of South America for a month or 2.  These 2 weeks in China have us googling “How do you know when it’s time to go home?” and “Air Asia refund policies”.

After Golden Week, we have 11 days left in China.  In that time, we have tickets for a 25 hour train ride, a 16 hour train ride and a 12 hour train ride.  We are planning to see the Giant Pandas in Chengdu, the Terra Cotta warriors in Xian and still have 4 days in Beijing to see the host of attractions there.  Maybe 11 days of vacation-pace traveling will re-energize us.  From there, its on to Japan, where we are currently planning to spend 3 weeks.

One of the problems, after a year of travel, is the law of diminishing returns.  Some of you might read this and think that I’m complaining – I’m not.  This year has been amazing – the most amazing of our lives.  But, because of that, our “WOW” factor is through the roof.  We’ve seen 50 spectacular sunsets this year, while we normally are lucky to really appreciate 5 at home.  But after basically seeing on average one amazing sunset each week for a year, they stop being that amazing.

After seeing lions in South Africa and Angkor Wat in Cambodia, things today are losing their luster.  Our friend Jay, 2 years into his own trip, described Yangshuo, our current home, as the most beautiful place on earth.  Of course, Jay was in China at the very beginning of his adventure.  For Anna and I, we took the boat ride down the river in Yangshuo and thought it was nice – but could think of half a dozen other places we’ve seen this year that are nicer.

When this doesn't stun you, something is wrong.

And that’s the problem.  Logically, I know that the landscape around Yangshuo is spectacular.  But I don’t get the same sense of wonder as I was getting 9 months, 6 months or even one month ago.  And maybe that’s how we know that it’s time to stop.  Or maybe it’s just another 3 month wall – we’ve had them, almost like clockwork, every 3 months – Zambia, Nepal, Bangkok and now China.

A government-issued serious travel warning for Indonesia, currently our final destination before returning, has us seriously considering calling for an early end and coming home in early November.  I understand and enjoy the challenge, self-discovery and connection with others.  But I disagree with Mr. Important Travel Blogger – I think it should also be fun.



  1. We welcome you home whenever you hang up your travel spikes. And if your condo is still rented, you can stay here as we have two kids off to college, thus our upstairs is empty (we even have an extra vehicle).

  2. No longer fun and no longer amazing sounds like Saturday’s Texas-OU game!

    Hopefully the malaise will pass, but if not, we look forward to seeing you here in lovely scenic Texas soon… You could get back in time for the Texas-Kansas game if you got on it. One of you would enjoy that day.

  3. To have only really felt this way once is truly amazing. I would love to encourage you to come home but I would rather you finish your trip on your terms — as I know you will. Love you — Japan and its luxuries is coming!

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