“No More Rocks” or Knowing When to Take a Break

One of the most important lessons you can learn when traveling is when it’s time to give up. It’s not always easy to admit to yourself that you’ve hit the wall, but it can be a valuable part of your travel experience- and not necessarily the end of it either.

The second or third time I found myself crying in my guest house, alone, I realized something wasn’t quite right. I loved Cambodia- everything from the friendly people to the beautiful blue beaches to the smiling people. I enjoyed traveling alone and I was doing some of my best writing all trip. I should have been having an awesome time, but for some reason I just wasn’t.

Too burned out to enjoy this? Just wrong.

Describing my symptoms to my dad over Gchat one evening he said very knowingly, “Oh yes, I know what you mean. No more rocks.”

You see, when I was 11, my parents bought an RV and took my brother and I on a three month road trip all over the United States. It was my dad’s dream; he’d taken a sabbatical from work, poured over guidebooks and planned an itinerary that included all the great highlights of the American West. It was the trip of a lifetime, which is why he was shocked about two months in when we reached the Badlands, South Dakota and everyone refused to get out of the car.

“What is even here?” My brother and I asked, lazily.

“There are these really beautiful rock for-”

“We’ve already seen rocks! Lots of rocks! No more rocks.” My dad was dumbfounded. Here we were at one of the most beautiful National Parks in the country and all his kids wanted to do was ride their bikes and maybe go swimming. After two months of non-stop sightseeing we were totally burned out.

photo credit: Wolfgang Staudt

It took a little bit longer this time, but I had reached the point of No More Rocks. I was tired. After 6 months of spending no longer than a week in any given place I was exhausted. It didn’t matter how beautiful the scenery was, my brain had reached capacity and all I really wanted was to take a break.

Here are the symptoms of No More Rocks Syndrome:

  • More Down Days Than Up- Anyone who reads this blog regularly can probably tell I was starting to slow down. Just look at my breakdown in Vang Vieng a couple weeks ago   over pretty much nothing.
  • Extreme Laziness– There’s a ton of really exciting stuff out there to see but all of a sudden all I really wanted to do was lie in bed and watch CSI reruns. I was actually physically exhausted.
  • Homesickness– I started thinking about home a lot more than usual. The things I seemed to be missing most were stuff like having a routine, having a drawer to unpack in, and sleeping in the same bed every night.

Luckily the cure for No More Rocks syndrome isn’t just to give up and go home (at least not always). What was bothering me wasn’t the act of being abroad, it was the constantly moving around. The solution then, was simply to stay in one place for awhile.

In another live I would have found myself a bar job in Sihanoukville and become a beach bum. As things were I had a far better option. It was time to go back to China.

In China I could live with Mike, work on my website all day and actually unpack my damn backpack for awhile. I’d have a familiar face, I’d have a routine, and I’d be able to actually save some money instead of hemorrhaging it everywhere. I’d already been planning to come back to china in April, so this was only a matter of pushing my flight up a few weeks. The perfect solution.

My stuff looks kinda sad actually, all laid out like that.

So now I’m back in Xi’an and happy as can be. I’ll be using this as a home base for the next couple of months while doing some travels within China and to Hong Kong. I’ll also be working on some top secret projects which I can share with you guys really soon…

In the end it’s about knowing yourself and your limitations. Sure I could have pressed on for a few more weeks, headed up to Northern Thailand like I’d originally planned. It wouldn’t have killed me or anything. But I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as it deserves to be enjoyed. It wouldn’t have been worth it. Thailand will always be there, but right now I am doing what’s best for me.

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58 thoughts on ““No More Rocks” or Knowing When to Take a Break”

  1. I am getting kind of addicted to your blog! I’m a twentysomething gal as well about to start an extended backpacking trip in the fall, and I can totally see myself getting to the “no more rocks” stage. Your blog is helping me to keep in mind that some days on the road will just be a bit tough. Thanks for the post 🙂

  2. I know I’m coming late to the comment party, but I just happened across this. 🙂

    While lots of folks have said they do better settling in somewhere for a while, when I did a 4 month study abroad in London, I also got the “no more rocks” feeling. “OMG, I feel guilty because there’s all this England out there and I have a limited time to enjoy it. . . but man, I just want to sleep in today and read a novel”. I wasn’t homesick, just oversaturated.

    A weeklong trip to Wales also taught me to vary my sightseeing – too many castles and Roman museums! I really couldn’t care less about battlements or hairpins someone dropped down the drain in the baths by the time I got through my checklist.

    1. Yeah I have that problem as well- too long in one place and I get restless, too much moving around and I get burned out. Have to find the middle ground!

  3. Wow, your post came in just on time. We had been wondering what was wrong with us lately. Just wanted to watch movies all day and do nothing. We have been on the road for 7 months today, and it really has taken its toll on us. We hit our No More Rocks syndrome after spending 2 weeks in a rented apartment in beautiful Palau. We almost cried when we left, and getting back to horrible Manila just hit us hard. We are now taking it slowly for the last weeks of our trip. Thank you for your honesty, and also to everyone who commented.

    1. Glad I could help! I think that 6+ months is really a turning point for a lot of people. Stuff just gets harder.

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