Travel Fatigue in Shangrila

I never thought it would hit me this early into my trip but once I arrived in Dali I came down with a serious case of travel fatigue. The symptoms are always the same and easy to spot:

  • Feeling sleepy most of the time
  • No desire to get out of the room and see the place you’re in
  • No desire to take any photos (for me at least)
  • Doubting yourself and the purpose of traveling
  • Longing for a home and familiarity

It might have something to do with the 17 hour bus ride I just had behind me, or the difficulties traveling in a place like China, where it is very difficult to find anybody you can properly communicate with. Or simply because I was stressing myself out about taking good photos and videos all the time, keeping up with work and worrying about everything my mind could think of. The human mind is a funny thing, if you don’t keep it busy with work and purpose, it will start to wander off and find other things to worry about. My mom always tried to teach me about the buddhist principles of meditation and ways to calm and control one’s thoughts. However it is one of those things that you cannot force someone to learn but let them discover it for themselves.

Dali was beautiful but I didn’t have the energy to explore it

I hit the lowest point when I stayed in this nearly empty hostel in the middle of the Tibetan countryside of Shangrila. I woke up with a feeling of sadness once again whose cause I could not identify, alongside a persistent headache I put down as a symptom of altitude sickness. Shangrila is located at nearly 3000m above sea level and I didn’t had much time to acclimatize. “I have to leave this room” I thought to myself and put on my merino wool long john’s, hoodie and down jacket. A biting cold greeted me the moment I opened the door, but the sun was out and its warm rays tickled the skin on my face. I began to walk alongside the road, the muffled sound of gravel cracking below my boots.

The way leading to the mountain

The road led straight to the mountain dominating the landscape which has been developed into a bonafide tourist attraction with everything that comes with it, including a cable car of course. The Chinese do have a thing for grand and imposing structures, as the road was lined with massive wooden beams normally used as animal shelters by local farmers, creating something akin to a film set of the Lord of the Rings. I nicknamed it: “The Road to Mordor” I wasn’t ready to go anywhere near Mount Doom and strayed off the road to walk in between a herd of Yaks before I spotted a small hill covered with tibetan prayer flags. My thoughts were still all over the place, I was thinking about the future, the past and occasionally the present moment. I could hear the prayer flags flapping in the wind, a constant rustle like a swarm of insects.

Tibetan prayer flags on top of the hill

Each step up the hill felt heavier than the previous one, as if my shoes were slowly filling with lead. My heart raced trying to keep up pumping blood throughout my system, each breath stinging inside of my lungs. I took one step after another and eventually found myself on the top of the hill. I sat down amidst the prayer flags whose flapping sound picked up and ebbed away alongside the changing winds. I closed my eyes and tried to concentrate on my breathing, when I once again noticed the sound of the wind rushing through the trees. Inhale – pause – exhale, it was as if the entire landscape was breathing very slowly like a living organism. Each breath carrying another fresh icy breeze down from the snow capped mountains.

View across the countryside

I recollected a prayer a friend taught me and began to chant it quietly whilst pressing the palms my hands against each other. I repeated the same prayer again and again, each time raising my voice and taking deeper breaths. The sky opened up once more, letting the rays of the sun touch my ice cold cheeks. My mind gradually calmed down. It was now right here instead of pondering in a different place or time. I began to cry tears of sadness and that of joy. “I am in Eastern Tibet far away from home on the journey of my life”