Why Too Much Travel Can Be A Bad Thing Atlanta, GA, USA
03.04.2007 - 20.04.2007 23 °C
After wrapping up in Seattle, I was called down to Atlanta, Georgia for 3 weeks. I must admit, that after 3 months shuffling back and forth between rainy, cloudy Seattle and gray, cold, snowy Toronto, heading to a location down in the South of the USA was a nice change. The weather was excellent while I was there - mostly sunny and warm.
Atlanta, Georgia was originally founded as the terminal station of the Western and Atlantic railway, part of a trade route running from the Atlantic Ocean to the mid-western USA. In those days it was called Terminus, but after a few more name changes took on it's current name of Atlanta (feminized version of Atlantic) in 1847. Strange for a city to be named after an ocean over 4 hours away by car, but whom am I to complain.
It's railway connections meant that Atlanta was an important supply hub for the Confederate army. It was captured in September of 1864, and the Union army (under the direction of William Sherman) burnt the city to the ground in November, a scene famously played out in the novel and movie "Gone With The Wind." The city was rebuilt, and adopted the phoenix as it's symbol, as they both had risen from the ashes.
I was feeling a lot more like the ashes than the phoenix when I was in Atlanta this past trip, though. It's probably a little unfair, though, because I had been to Atlanta before and when I was there I was pretty burnt out on travel at the time.
Burnout is something that can happen to all travellers, whether for pleasure or business, while on the road for a period of time. It could be the feeling that you are in constant motion, and yet not really moving anywhere important, or it might be the sensation of travel becoming a chore or routine.
I spent more than 13 months in Atlanta in 2003 and 2004, and by the end of the project I was pretty frazzled. I tried to keep myself up on the road, turning my business trip into a fun adventure by going to see local sporting events like Braves baseball, Hawks basketball and Thrashers hockey, seeing the world headquarters of Coca-cola and CNN, hanging out in the fun neighbourhoods of Little Five Points or Buckhead and even going to see the Mid-town Music Festival.
I was staying outside of the city itself in Alpharetta, and getting out was a bit of a chore, and so instead of heading out I soon found myself mostly getting takeout food for dinner, working out in the gym (I was in training, at the time, for Kilimanjaro and was walking 4 to 6 miles per day on the treadmill) and watching TV.
I was suffering from travel burnout, described by Doctor Marie-Annette Brown, professor and researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle in an article written by Jack McGuire in 2004 as "duplicating the same symptoms seen in mild depression and various forms of anxiety," a "mind/body malaise," whose symptoms include low energy, weight gain, tension and irritability, difficulty concentrating and decreased interest in sex.
(Okay, I didn't suffer from that last one, but that could be because of my general inability to obtain sex. I'm sure if I was offered sex on a much more frequent basis, I might actually become less interested in it... Okay, maybe I'm not sure about that.)
My malaise presisted until January of 2005, when I was able to hop on a plane and about a day later, land at Kilimanjaro airport, just outside of Arusha, Tanzania.
Returning to Atlanta brought this all back to me. Which isn't really fair to Atlanta, because it sounds and looks like it could be a very interesting place if I could have just gotten myself motivated to see the place. I'm afraid, though, that Atlanta has most likely been spoiled for me. I couldn't get out of my funk the entire time I was there, and could only find reasons to complain about being on the road again, rather than enjoying the opportunity to see a new place.
Luckily for me, my Atlanta project wrapped up quickly and so I am back in Toronto and soon off to another location - hopefully one I haven't been to that can reinvigorate me and my love of travel. Actually, that's probably lucky for my regular readers as well that I won't be spending a long time in Atlanta, otherwise you'd be forced to read my whining about travel for a long time, instead of something interesting.
Feeling burnt out yourself?
Here's a nice article on preventing travel burnout while travelling ( Prevent Burnout While Travelling), some tips on coping with the daily grind of business travel, and finally Jack McGuire's aforementioned article on Travel Burnout.