What travelling AND camping AND working taught me about burnout

This post was written by Megan on September 12, 2013
Posted Under: burnout and exercise,burnout and recovery,burnout and the workplace


First, camping is not for the fainthearted. Particularly camping for months in the Australian desert with unreliable equipment.

But, as they say, it’s not a party until something gets broken. And things got broken. Or they weren’t working to begin with (that will teach us to leave before testing everything). Here’s the list of technical blooper highlights:

  • Our trailer pump had the water sucking in the wrong direction
  • The battery operating our camping fridge became unearthed (no fridge)
  • A CV joint for the car had to be replaced, stopping us for several days
  • A rock broke the connection between the water hose and our tank on the trailer (losing all our water)
  • The battery powering my computer kept failing (yes, I was working while on the road – more on this in a mo’)
  • Our trailer storage boxes filled with the red dirt of the desert
  • Our car filled with the red dirt of the desert
  • Our trailer breaks broke
  • The battery operating our camping fridge died
  • Both our walking sandals fell apart in the middle of a trek (Jeff kept his together with safety pins from the first aid kit; mine with dental floss)

This can be stressful.

And, yes, camping chairs with carefully embroidered logos were hurled into the scrub in protest. Stress can make you angry. And stress can make you tired. So does being exposed to the elements 24/7. So does embarking on obligatory multiple-km…walks. These ‘walks’ (kindly misrepresented by National Parks) were more like commando training hikes in the beating desert sun that involved scaling boulders and sliding down sharp inclines. Admittedly, they usually led us to a beckoning tranquil gorge under an idyllic waterfall. Sometimes even ones without crocodiles.

The surprise

You would think that crossing Australia’s chest (armpit-to-armpit) would be all about the landscape experience. Don’t get me wrong. Place found its place in my dust-filled psyche. Highlights:

  • Swimming in the enormous natural aquarium of Big Crystal Creek (complete with an extended family of tortoises)
  • Gazing at cave paintings over 40,000 years old (with updates) at Mitchell Falls
  • Watching two dogs bravely chase a school of sharks out of a bay at One Arm Point (not a one-off performance: here’s someone else’s youtube clip of this)
  • Wandering around the extraordinary mosaic-like knobble-formed range of the Bungle Bungles (Google ‘Bungle Bungles’ – it’s amazing)

But, for me, it’s been the people

Fellow travellers. I would by tickets to them. Never before have I experienced such easy, non-creepy strangers. As we’re setting up camp or stopping for a drink somewhere, they would sidle up with a smile, ask about where we’re going or where we’ve been. Genuinely interested in our response. Then they might share a travel story or two. Small bites of the good, the bad, and that mysterious rattle under the car. Looking to give any help they can with pretty much anything we needed (ref: technical blooper list – we needed a lot). Never imposing. Never in any hurry. Then moving on.

I found myself doing the same. Becoming one of them. Sidling up. Gently inquiring about this and that…It was then I learned what it was to be a traveller. At least, in this country at this time.

About travellers, clients and burnout

Yes, fellow travellers can help out when you are feeling tired. But they can also give you energy so you can help yourself – and help others. It turns out, hanging around happy, relaxed people can be good for your health. Interestingly, I found the same with my clients – beamed in via Skype (technology willing) – while on the road. Before we left, I launched my by-the-hour marketing coaching business (www.My MarketingThing.com) but worried if working while camping was too ambitious. Would meetings take it out of me? Quite the reverse. My clients gave me oomph. Every session ended on an energetic high (my clients seemed to find this as well). Moral of the story? People can be good medicine for burnout recovery.

Except the guy with the bagpipes

He played in a campsite until close to midnight, despite desperate pleas from nearby campers. I didn’t hear the bagpipes. I wasn’t there. I just heard about it from a fellow traveller, who thought the music was great.

Megan is sometimes a writer, marketing swashbuckler, and cartoonist who is learning the art of conversation in the desert. Find out more about Megan



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