A couple of weeks ago in Nepal, I sat squashed in the back of a tiny jeep together with a guide and a blogger friend, holding on for dear life to avoid getting plastered against them as our driver hugged the curves at full speed.
We were on our way back to Pokhara from a 5-day trek in the lower Himalayas. I was tired, sleepy, and getting a headache from the Nepali music blaring out of the radio.
And then suddenly, all my discomfort and tension disappeared. The previously irritating music became profound. The situation took on a new meaning; it was a familiar feeling that I had felt before.
I was experiencing traveler’s high.
The traveler’s high is not (yet) an established concept, I just coined it to describe that brief period of time in every traveler’s life when everything seems right.
It’s similar to the runner’s high, that moment after running several kilometers when suddenly everything is just fine. According to experts, it’s the feeling of “…euphoria, a feeling of being invincible, a reduced state of discomfort or pain, and even a loss in sense of time while running.”
Fellow runners know this moment well. It’s when all your fatigue, all your pain, disappear. You’re at your best and you feel like you can run the whole day without getting tired. You’re in top form, and you feel like nothing and no one can stop you.
In fact, in that particular moment, absolutely nothing else matters. It’s just you and the road ahead of you. Everything slows down and you can see and feel each single step perfectly. You are in sync with the universe; you have a feeling of rightness, a feeling that yes, this is where you’re supposed to be.
I’m convinced that runner’s high happens in traveling, too, even without the repetitive and rhythmic action that’s been identified to bring on that feeling. In all my years of traveling, I only felt it twice, and both times, it was in Nepal (although I did feel it at a lesser degree in Wadi Rum in Jordan).
The traveler’s high comes suddenly, unexpectedly. The situation you’re in doesn’t have to be great, in fact, it can be downright uncomfortable, even painful. But everything, taken together, taken as a whole, makes for the perfect period of time.
One moment you’re dizzy and nauseous, cursing the day you decided to go on that trip, and the next, when the traveler’s high comes, you’re 100% fine, 100% happy, 100% content. A feeling of rightness, of all things coming together seamlessly, perfectly, comes over you, and you’re left breathless at the beauty of it all.
You soon realize that this exact moment, this exact point in time, is why you travel. This is why you endure days of discomfort and cold, and why you can even put up with pain. This is why you left a comfortable life in your country. This is how it should be. This is life.
The first time I experienced traveler’s high was in 2014. I was on my way to Pokhara from Kathmandu, crammed in a bus filled to the rafters with people of all sizes and ages.
I happened to have a window seat on the right side of the bus, a few rows behind the driver. As always, the minute the bus left the terminal, I fell asleep, just waking up every now and then when I got jostled too hard or when my head banged into the window, no thanks to the potholes that characterized the roads of Nepal.
The last time I woke up was around six hours after our bus left Kathmandu. I looked outside the window and was floored at what I saw: there were lush, green mountains in the horizon, and beyond them, much farther away, set amidst the clear blue sky, were ranges edged in white. It was the Himalayas.
I forgot everything; I didn’t even remember to take pictures. I just stared and stared at the Himalayas, totally unprepared and completely awed at the beauty that I could see outside the window.
Since then, I’ve been to many other countries. I’d felt dwarfed by the grandeur of the Cristo Redentor in Rio de Janeiro and humbled by the power of Iguazu Falls. I’d hiked solo to Machu Picchu and flew over the Nasca lines.
I’d seen firsthand the stark beauty of Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, and had gone deep inside the mines of Potosi. I laughed and cried in Broadway shows in New York, and marveled at the beauty and human creativity seen in the ancient city of Petra in Jordan.
But the only other time I felt the traveler’s high was again in Nepal. I went there for the second time this year when I was invited to attend the Himalayan Travel Mart (hosted by the Pacific Asia Travel Association). Prior to the conference, we were taken on a 5-day hike of the Poon Hill-Ghorepani circuit.
The traveler’s high arrived not during the hike, when the Annapurna mountain range was in sight, but on the last day of our trek. We were in a small jeep on our way to Pokhara from Ghandruk, and though I was very tired, I couldn’t sleep.
In fact, I could hardly hold on to my seat at the back of the jeep. Beside me was Sabin, the Nepali assistant guide, and in front of me was Dave Briggs. He was so tall his head barely cleared the jeep’s roof.
The narrow dirt road, potholed and rough, occasionally threw the three of us against each other. I had to grip the seat beside me to avoid getting plastered against the men whenever the driver hugged a curve at full speed. Behind Dave, I could see the terraced countryside, the cliff just mere inches from our jeep’s wheels.
I was tired, sleepy, and on full-alert mode while the radio blared love songs in Nepali. The situation couldn’t have been more difficult.
And then suddenly, I felt it.
The traveler’s high came over me, and I no longer felt the discomfort. Yes, I was still holding on to the seat with a death grip, but I felt none of the fatigue I’d felt earlier. I was energized, euphoric, and I felt like I was on top of the world, right inside that tiny jeep barrelling through the countryside in Nepal.
I closed my eyes and tried to enjoy the feeling as long as I could, loving the rightness, the perfection of it.
Then, before the feeling could pass, I took out my phone and wrote the first draft of this blog post.
I took notes as fast as I could, as if my life depended on it, because I knew that pretty soon, the feeling would pass. I would soon be back in the jeep, feeling all the bumps and holes in the road again, feeling the tension in my hand clutching the seat beside me, and getting irritated at the caterwauling coming out of the jeep’s radio.
In the meantime, everything was perfect. Everything was just right. I was on my way back to civilization with people whose company I’d enjoyed so much in the past 5 days, with a Nepali love song on the radio accompanying our journey back home.
I was experiencing traveler’s high in Nepal and life couldn’t be better.
How about you? Have you experienced traveler’s high? Do share in the comments!
- The Tale of Tonyo the Brave - June 14, 2022
- Things To Do in São Paulo, Brazil: Visit the Consolação Cemetery - October 31, 2021
- Solo Travel Tips: Brussels, Belgium - February 17, 2021
After the earthquakes of April and May 2015, Nepal has force in recovery and rebuilding. The country had to delay and reconsider how to move ahead. There are essential practices of art being rebuilt right now, using techniques and decision making processes perfected for over 2000 years.
Whoa! These images and words are truly inspirational. Nepal looks like a must visit after going through this posts. I’m sure the images don’t even do it the full justice. Great job
You have full experiences from the sky to the water in Nepal. That’s really cool.
I wish to experience Nepal like you, Aleah, maybe next year.
I’ve heard so many amazing things about Nepal! I’m planning to visit next year, and with my new hiking equipment now I am looking forward to it. Glad that you enjoyed the beautiful city of Petra, I’m Jordanian 🙂
Now I have a new term for that feeling of excitement or that level of happiness or joy “Travelers High” I think I’m experiencing it whenever I go to places for the first time or doing activities for the first time. Sometimes, there is this feeling where in its unexplainable joy, feeling too energetic, etc. I can truly relate to this feeling. I wish to experience this again.
Such beautiful places, but I’m yet to experience the traveler’s high, never even thought it existed, hehe! thanks for the article.
Great photos! I did the paragliding in Nepal also– it was scary but so much fun. I would love to go back and see more of the country.
I am sorry to hear you experienced traveler’s high. Sometimes happens to me that I am anxious in the bus or other situations that can not be really avoided when you travel. You are brave to write about this topic, although it is nothing glorious to experience. Thanks!
Hi Veronika. I’m sorry but I don’t think you read my post.
I tend to have this whenever I venture into the unknown, whenever I am too scared to try something out for the first time and things turned out all okay. Once, it hit me, I may not have been in a super good place and I had a lot of worries…. but at that moment— I felt like It was okay, it was teaching me a lesson and despite the odds I was provided for. I met the most awesome people in my nothingness and I had the most authentic experiences.
Traveler’s High! Definitely, that was it.
Traveller’s high is definitely a thing. The thrill of seeing new places, the thrill of the unknown. Yet the opposite is also true, going ‘home’ when you aren’t ready, that sucks.
Totally agree with you that there is a travellers’ high. If we have travel burn out, of course we get that high. And yes, it hits you at the most unexpected times, which is really cool.
Interesting concept Aleah. Actually, I think that’s why many tour companies try to sign people up for their next trip….while they are on a “high” before the end of their visit. Probably, the more you travel the “higher” you get?
I feel the same way more often than not when I’m traveling and just like you I get so excited that I completely forget to take pictures or videos. And then when I get back I’d punch myself because of that! Luckily hubby tends to be more rational and tries to take pictures when I forget!
I loved this post – I never thought about naming that “high” from traveling, it’s something that so many travel lovers experience but can never properly describe. I’m glad I have a name for it now! I loved this post – it captures the feeling perfectly, and I loved how you wrote it as soon as you experienced it. I always struggle to recall feeling after the fact!
P.S. Loving your Nepal photos – sounds like you had an amazing experience!
I get that feeling often.. and I’m glad to finally have a name for it – Traveller’s High!
Love the image of the sunset in Pokhra with the boats!
I still haven’t been to Nepal, but traveler’s high is a real thing! When you described how it felt, I immediately knew what it was and the fleeting moments it happened to me. 🙂
Wow! You have such amazing adventures, Aleah! Hiking the Lower Himalayas has always been one of our dreams. 🙂
Hey Girl. This is such an inspiration reminding me of my previous travels of having the same feeling but not as high as yours, but that moment felt so surreal which I am sure there are more like this to come. Love this one! Travelers can so relate. All the Best! -Ferna
I know you can relate. I can imagine there would be instances like this in your travels, too. Safe trip!
Nepal looks like such an incredible place, I imagine most everyone experiences a travels high!
It really is beautiful. Traveler’s high doesn’t happen often though. I don’t know why or what brings it about.
Oh what would it take to travel with you?
Hey girl. I’m in Israel and probably going to Turkey next (maybe haha). Feel free to join me whenever and wherever!
Thank you for this blog post! I love reading about what you have experienced.
I have felt similar, after really intense days of field research in India. I was writing my bachelor’s thesis on land grabbing in rural India, which had taken me to rural villages near the coast in Andhra Pradesh (now Telangana). I had been around people from early morning till late in the night for almost a week, and I had come to be both overwhelmed and slightly discomforted by their motto that “a guest is God”…
The countless testimonies I was told of injustice, deprivation and poverty upset me, and I had no time to process a thousand impressions. I dearly needed to utilize the few hours in bed by falling asleep, but I just couldn’t. However, in that moment, my insomnia didn’t bother me at all. Instead I felt the blissful traveller’s high that you describe. Time stood still. I felt calm, at peace with everything and everyone in this world. I felt fortunate to experience the journey I was on, and I felt deeply thankful. Looking up at the mosquito net in the dark and listening to the rythmic sounds from the ceiling fan, the world could not have been a more beautiful place…
I’m wondering whether this notion of being exactly where one is supposed to be comes from having invested a lot of effort, aspiration and dreams to get there? In other words, you feel like you are where you’re supposed to be because it’s true?
Hi Asa. Thank you so much for sharing your experience of the traveler’s high. It doesn’t happen often and it’s such a treat to feel it when it does. You have an interesting theory on how the traveler’s high comes about.
I have been on trips, for example, where I exerted a lot of effort, where the views were excellent, and where I had gotten a feeling of accomplishment when I got there, but I didn’t experience the high. I wonder if being in a difficult situation is also a factor? I have to think about it. Thanks again for sharing your experience!
I can so relate to this! I’m not sure I’ve experienced the traveler’s high on quite this level, but there were times when things were far less than perfect and I just felt content. Travel is so funny like that… but it sure helps shape my perspective when little things go wrong after I’m back home!
Traveling does give us a different perspective, doesn’t it? It was so nice meeting you in Kathmandu! Hope to see you again somewhere 🙂
Love this! I reckon you got a sweet high in Nepal. I did in Kathmandu. I often feel it when landing in Bali or Thailand. My 2 fave places. And yep; going for a run in an hour and I often get the high hitting the road, getting my run on.
It’s such a previous feeling, Ryan, because we don’t always feel it in our travels. So glad you can relate!
It is a great feeling when it does happen … it makes all the sacrifice worthwhile!
So true! It doesn’t happen often, though.
What a great article. I would have to think about this because I have felt that “feeling” I just didn’t know how to identify it.
Let me know when you have remembered an instance of it happening! 🙂
I believe that this is also what I felt in Nepal. This must be the reason why this country remains special to me. I’ve been there twice and the only reason I went back again last year was because of the same feeling you just explained. I wanted to feel it again. That feeling of complete contentment and happiness. 🙂
I wonder what makes Nepal so special?? There are so many beautiful places and countries I’ve visited, but I only felt it there! You know what I think? I think Mother Nepal has welcomed us with open arms, giving us a taste of what it feels like to be part of her family. That’s why we keep going back, because we know that somehow, some parts of ourselves call it home <3
WOW. I had never thought that a traveler’s high existed. But come to think of it, I felt it in Nepal as well. Not on the last day, when we were driving back to Pokhara. I actually felt it on the very first day of the hike. It was terribly hot, incredibly hard, and I was cursing myself for not going on the “culture trip”. The minute we got to the tea house – for as uncomfortable as it was – I felt utterly blessed to be there!
Hahahah I guess it was because it was so hot during the hike that the guesthouse, even if it’s not a 5-star one, seemed luxurious in comparison.
I tend to have these experiences in every trip at least once and typically towards the end of the trip which I would characterize as a travelers high.
We’re so lucky to have experienced it! There’s nothing like that feeling in the world…
super fun article. I know exactly what you’re talking about and in fact have experienced it more than once. Notably after a balloon ride in Calistoga. But there have been other times. Often wine is involved. LOL. Just tasting, not serious drinking but it doesn’t hurt! Try it!
Maybe I can indeed bring it on consciously with wine haha But I think the company also has something to do with it. 😀