When you’re travelling for a really long time, it’s important to maintain a good balance of how you spend your time, so your time on the road doesn’t end up driving you loco in the coco.
Here are the 5 most typical types of days that you will – nay, SHOULD – mix up, to prevent losing your marbles.
1. The “tourist” tour day
Iguazu Falls: the epitome of the tourist tour day
These are the days where you get up early, get on a tour bus, you might have a guide commentating facts of local interest or at the event itself. You’re tethered to your tour group for most of the day, or it’s just such a busy place that you’re surrounded by tourists the whole time (Cough, cough! Iguazu Falls!) and even though you’re not being super active, it’s somehow exhausting. Sometimes these days are inevitable, and a tour really is the best way to experience something, but we try to avoid these where possible. Partly because of the expense, but also because experiencing something surrounded by so many other people, and in such a structured way, can sometimes punch the fun out of the exploration itself. If you have a good guide though (as we did on a visit to a penguin colony in Argentina) it can really enhance your day, and learning inside info can be a refreshing change to DIY backpacking, but it’s a risk, and quite a high risk too, if you’re on a budget.
2. The “go it alone” tour day
Taking public buses to vineyards in the Maule Valley wine region
These are probably our favourite kind of day. Takes a little more effort, but instead of taking the easy way out and buying a tour package, you can often access the place of interest (national park, wildlife sanctuary, etc.) by public bus, for a fraction of the price. And usually, once you’re there and you’ve got a map, the place is pretty self-explanatory and you can enjoy it just you. We’ve also found in South America, you have to pay the National Park directly, so tours don’t include entrance, and are often a rip off (don’t include lunch, only include one or two additional activities) so it’s really best to go it alone. Plus you get more of a sense of exploration that way! And if you still have questions about what you’ve seen when you get back, there’s always Google.
3. The “bedding in” day
Bumming around town in Valparaiso, Chile
Don’t underestimate how tired you’ll be when you first arrive at a town. Even if you’ve booked ahead with your accommodation, travel is still exhausting, and you should factor in at least one day/evening just to look around town, get your bearings, and recharge your batteries ahead of a sightseeing day. At the start of travels, we were only staying 2 nights in each location then doing big travels in between, and it nearly caused us to burn out. Try and add ‘fringe days’ to bed in, and before you move onto the next place.
4. The travel day
Two 20 hour buses back to back was, in retrospect, an error
Well, obviously. There are lots of days you lose in transit, or doing complicated multi-stage journeys, with bad connections and sometimes unreliable transport. Unfortunately it’s just something you have to swallow. It’s kind of why you came travelling in the first place anyway, huh?
5. The “duvet day”
Duvet day on the beach in Vina Del Mar, Chile
This is one we’ve discovered the (guilty) pleasures of just recently. You don’t have work to go to, so why are you working yourself so hard? It’s easy to slip into a fast-paced tour of countries, fitting in as much as possible with little respite. However, if you have the time, you enjoy things much more with carefully interspersed downtime. Hang around your hostel, chat to people, spend a long morning in bed on the internet or sitting outside in the sunshine with a picnic. Cook a nice hearty meal. Put the Lonely Planet down for a couple of days. Just watch the world go by for a bit. It’s a legitimate way to spend the day (and an even better way to spend a hangover!) Enjoy!