Travel Companions, Exhaustion and Thailand

Our trip to Thailand didn’t get off to the best start.

After an exhausting but incredible three weeks in the Philippines we bid a sad farewell to our mountain retreat in Sagada and headed back to Manila, excited at the prospect of meeting our friends and family in Thailand in just a few days’ time. As we settled down in our Manila hotel for a day of badly needed rest, Andrew received an email from Tiger Air. Our flight to Bangkok had been put forward to the early hours of the next morning and what’s more, we were due to leave from Clark airport – not Manila.

Yes, that’s right – we were in the wrong city.

Trekking in Thailand with my friend Jo

Trekking in Thailand with my friend Jo

Going back to where it all began: Arriving in Thailand

Instead of resting, as planned, we spent our final day in the Philippines rushing around trying to figure out how to get to Clark in time for our flight. Rather than getting a good night’s sleep and jetting off at a reasonable time the next day, we ended up getting a bus to Clark at two o’clock in the morning and arrived in Bangkok absolutely shattered. I love it when airlines change your flight times at the last minute.

As tired as we were, however, we were excited to be back. Our first trip to Thailand four years ago was the spark that ignited our passion for travel and set us on the long road towards the life we’re now living. Walking the streets of Bangkok again, which were cleaner and less chaotic than I remembered, was a surreal experience. I couldn’t help thinking of all we’d achieved since we last visited. Back in 2009 we were penniless, clueless ex-students with no idea how to make long-term travel a reality and today here we are, living a life of indefinite travel.

Travel Companions in Bangkok

Andrew with some of our travel companions in Bangkok

Greeting our new Travel Companions

A few hours’ later things got even more surreal as we greeted my friend Jo and Andrew’s sisters, Sarah and Claire, in our hotel. We were overjoyed to see some familiar faces and began to excitedly plan the next few weeks of our trip together. After a whistle-stop tour around Bangkok the next day we caught the night train to Chiang Mai, a journey which should have taken 15 hours ended up taking 21. On arriving we were joined by two of Claire’s friends and our group of eight set out to find accommodation, food and organise a trek for the next day.  While our guests stayed on in Chiang Mai Andrew and I headed back to Bangkok just two nights later to meet my parents.

Exhaustion was beginning to set in.

My Parents by the River Kwai, Kanchanaburi

My parents at the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi

Travel Burnout

By this point Andrew and I had been travelling for six solid months. We’d been to six countries and moved onto a different place, on average, every two nights. After getting sick and taking on some of the toughest physical challenges I’ve ever faced in the Philippines I was physically drained. All the sleepless overnight journeys, the rushing from one place to the next and the sensory overload of seeing so many new places had also left me emotionally drained.

Travel burnout is tough – when you hit the wall of exhaustion, you hit it hard. In hindsight we should have planned in  some rest time to ensure we were fully rejuvenated before our travel companions arrived. To prove this point, in October Andrew’s parents also came out to visit us and we had a much more chilled-out experience with them because we’d spent the few weeks prior to their visit resting and working in one place.

Despite our exhausted state, however, Andrew and I still had a great time with our travel companions. Travelling with my parents was an absolute laugh-a-minute and I think they gained so much from staying in small guesthouses with us, meeting local people, trying unfamiliar foods and taking local buses and trains. They even hitched a lift in the back of a local’s pick-up truck!

When my parents arrived in Thailand they were scared of catching internal flights and even getting a taxi from the airport to the hotel on their own but by the end they were travelling with ease and had realised (I hope) that you don’t need to book package holidays because independent travel is actually very simple and satisfying.

Hitching a Lift in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

My Dad and Jo hitching a lift

Andrew’s sisters, who are possibly the most cheerful and energetic people I’ve ever come across, fully embraced backpacking and squeezed so much into their three-week trip. It was also great to see my friend Jo in Thailand. One of the things I’ve missed most about my old life in London is the evenings we used to share together in the pub, drinking pints of Peroni and talking endlessly about work, writing and our plans. We had a good chance to catch-up properly again in Thailand and it seems that the trip allowed Jo the space to write and reflect on her future plans.

The Challenges of Travelling with Others

I have so much to write about the amazing adventures we had with our travel companions in Thailand; from a dangerous zip-lining experience to learning about the plight of Thailand’s elephants to exploring war history in Kanchanaburi and relaxing on some beautiful Thai islands.  After months of travelling alone, however, Andrew and I did find travelling with others presented some challenges:

Andrew's Parents in Koh Samui

Andrew’s Parents in Koh Samui

– Hectic schedules – since a lot of our family are teachers we knew that their visits would coincide during the school summer holidays so we ended up with a pretty hectic schedule which only added to our travel exhaustion and put extra strain on our budget. First we zipped up to Chiang Mai with Andrew’s sisters and Jo for a couple of days before meeting my parents in Bangkok and travelling back up to Chiang Mai with them. While I spent the next few days in Kanchanaburi with my parents and Jo before seeing my mum and dad off in Bangkok, Andrew made the long journey to Koh Phi Phi to meet his sisters. After a final couple of days back in Kanchanburi with Claire and Sarah before they went back to England, Andrew and I journeyed down south to meet up with Jo again. Confused? So were we!

– Planning – while I’d more or less planned out my parent’s entire itinerary with them in advance so they’d feel better knowing where they were staying and what they’d be doing while they were in Thailand, we had no such plan with Andrew’s sisters. Although Andrew and I have both gotten used to unplanned travel during the last six months, I really feel that for short trips it’s good to have a rough idea of where you want to go before you arrive. We wanted to make sure that our guests saw everything they wanted to see during their trip and felt that those times when we were floundering about trying to plan trips and decide where to go ate away at their precious holiday time.


Trekking in Chiang Mai, Thailand

– The weight of responsibility – we’d invited people out to visit us on the promise that they’d love Thailand so we both felt responsible for making sure everyone had a good time while they were there. I was particularly worried about my parents, who probably wouldn’t have ventured over to Asia at all had I not persuaded them to visit us but everyone seemed to have a great time (even though Andrew’s parents kept comparing Thailand unfavorably to St Lucia!).

– Budget battles – even though Andrew and I promised ourselves months ago that we’d never become the budget fanatic freaks we were at the beginning of our trip, we found it  hard to reconcile our frugal spending habits with those more lavish budgets of our travel companions. Whereas our friends and family were on holiday and could afford to splash out on more expensive accommodation, meals, drinks and plenty of day trips, Andrew and I had to be more restrained with our spending which was difficult to negotiate at times.

Despite all this, it was great to share a taste of our travelling lifestyle and hang out with some of our favourite people for a few weeks – I can’t wait to write about what we got up to.

  • Rob
    Posted at 16:36h, 27 October Reply

    It’s cool to hear a trip to Thailand is what spurred you on to travel, it was the exact same reason for me and Kel!! Thailand is cool!

    Really interesting to hear about some of the problems friends and family visiting can have. Obviously it’s brilliant to see them and we hope our mates pop over to see us in South America, but I had never thought about how our frugal budget could clash with their holiday spends… May have to persuade them to shout me a meal or two 😉

    • Amy
      Posted at 01:35h, 28 October Reply

      Yeah, there’s no denying that Thailand is cool. A bit more expensive than we remember but cool nonetheless.
      We were shouted a few drinks and meals by our friends and families. It was a bit difficult to accept at times as it wasn’t that we couldn’t afford things as such, we just didn’t want to spend our money in the same way they did! 😉

  • Charlie
    Posted at 17:49h, 27 October Reply

    Wow, that does sound exhausting all that dashing around to meet up with people. Still, how lucky to be able to see so many friends and family while travelling and to show them something of your travelling lifestyle! I really hope you have family and friends visit us on our travels, but often money and time constraints get in the way.

    • Amy
      Posted at 01:20h, 28 October Reply

      Hi Charlie, I felt exhausted just writing about all the dashing around we did! You’re right though, we were very lucky to have people come out and visit us; it was great to see everyone outside of their daily lives back home.

  • Beast
    Posted at 00:34h, 28 October Reply

    I felt quite nostalgic when I read this post, it brought back many memories and reminded me that in spite of any reservations I had previously, I absolutely loved Thailand. Highlights for me – the wonderful day we spent at the elephant sanctuary, the peace and tranquility I felt when visiting the beautiful temple Doi Suthep, the bustle and excitement of the night market at Chiangmai, the war museums and River Kwai at Kanchanaburi, the lovely locals who were charming and very kind…… Well just about everything really, even struggling to negotiate that treacherous waterfall in the pouring rain (and yes I do remember giving up with that one!) We both really enjoyed sharing this experience with you and andrew – can’t wait for our next adventure in Scotland!
    have fun next week when you’re volunteering at the Elephant sanctuary. X

    • Amy
      Posted at 01:17h, 28 October Reply

      I’m glad you had a good time beast, it was fun travelling with you guys. When I read all your highlights it reminded me just how much we packed into those two weeks; I particularly enjoyed the trip to Kanchanaburi, even if there were a few ‘problems’ with our food orders 😉 Come to think of it I still dream about that pizzeria we went to! I can’t wait for Scotland too, it’s going to be awesome!

  • Patti
    Posted at 02:48h, 28 October Reply

    Whew… that was a busy time for you but so glad to know you had a chance to be with family and friends. I think that must be one of the most difficult aspects of long-term travel. We live on the west coast of the U.S. and our son lives on the east coast – it’s really tough so I can empathize.

    • Amy
      Posted at 05:53h, 28 October Reply

      It definitely is one of the toughest aspects of long-term travel and we are grateful to everyone who came to visit – it was exhausting but great!

  • Kerri
    Posted at 06:50h, 28 October Reply

    Just reading your adventures makes me exhausted 🙂 It sounds like a wonderful time though and nothing can replace those memories of being/traveling with family.

    • Amy
      Posted at 12:02h, 28 October Reply

      It was exhausting Kerri but you’re right – travelling with friends and family can be pretty cool, especially if you don’t see watch other much back home.

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