I’ve heard it plenty of times by now:
“You can sleep when you’re dead!”
“Why would you want to go back to the Hostel? It’s only 2 am! You’re only in Paris once!”
I’ll admit it, I’m old. At 27 I’m practically ready to start drinking prune juice (I actually ask for V8 on every flight I take, but that’s another story!) Perhaps you will disregard my perspective on travel rest because of this and that’s fine, but realize that with age I may have learned a thing or two.
The natural instinct of most travelers is to take in as much as humanly possibly while abroad, whether it be a ten-day trip or a three-month study abroad. It makes total sense. You have the rest of your life to sleep in the United States and have so little time abroad, so why waste it with unconsciousness?
Well, for starters, sleep helps you actually remember the great experiences you do have when you are traveling. Countless studies have linked adequate amounts of sleep to memory preservation, both emotional and detail (Google it if you don’t believe me.) I personally remember the least from my Junior year I was most busy and getting the least sleep. This doesn’t mean you have to go to bed at ten everyday, though.
I like to stay out late when I’m traveling as much as the next person. I think it’s important to see a city at all different times to get a true feeling for what it’s like. However, I try to make sure I’m not going 120 miles an hour every day and night and work in “catch-up” sleep wherever possible. Not only is rest important to help you preserve your memories, it also helps you avoid burnout, which threatens every traveler at some point. Here are some simple tips to both avoid burnout and keep fresh throughout your travels:
1. Be okay with taking a day off. During my 40-day trip I took a few days off, including my first day in Mumbai. No tourist destinations, no attempts at meeting anyone new, just some quick ventures out of my hotel for food. That was it. The next day I felt fresher than at any point of my trip.
2. Connect with things you are missing from home. Spend some time on Skype with someone you care about if possible. Get some food that reminds you of home (if possible), if that is what you are missing. Look at some pictures online of friends and family. It’s okay to get your home fix every once in a while.
3. Get sleep when you can. Everything becomes a little easier and more memorable when your body has caught up on sleep.
Of course, this is all just my own opinion based off of experiences abroad. Everyone operates a little differently, but rest is almost universally important.
Besides, like Ted Mosby says on the American sitcom How I Met Your Mother:
“Nothing good ever happens after 2 AM.”
Zach Tobin is a second-year graduate student in Student Affairs Administration at MSU’s College of Education. Zach was born in Seattle, WA and has had the privilege to travel throughout the world including stints in Central America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Along with traveling, Zach’s interests include higher education policy and Eastern European history and politics. Zach also serves as a Programming Intern at the Office for International Students and Scholars (OISS).