Lazy as a Panda in Chengdu

The 16 hour train journey from Xi’an to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, was relatively comfortable since we managed to procure “soft sleeper” beds for the journey. Despite the fact that we left at 6am and arrived at 10pm, we slept through a lot of the day. Panda in Chengdu

Not that you would have known it, because the following day I was exhausted!

I couldn’t really understand why, after all the sleep I’d had (maybe it was a case of too much?), I spent my first day in Chengdu in a weird, unmotivated, slump.

Tyrhone, on the other hand, was excited to return to the city he had become acquainted with on two previous visits, and to introduce me to the homely Mix Hostel he had come to know and love. Whilst it was a lovely, eclectic little place, the mood I was in drew my focus to the fact that I had to share a bathroom, with like, other people, and I didn’t like it.

In response my last post on Xi’an, the lovely Carmel wrote that I “make everything sound so exciting,” but despite the fact that we have experienced so many amazing adventures in the last six months (SIX MONTHS!!!), I want to share that occasionally, I just lose my enthusiasm for travel.

Chengdu was a prime example of this, and whether it was the lengthy journey to get there, or the fact that I had already heard so much about the place from Tyrhone and other travellers, or the fact that it was my third major city in China, or the humidity, or what,  I don’t know, but the urge to explore it was just non-existent for me.

And here’s where travelling in a couple gets a little tricky. See the truth is, I was okay with my lack of motivation. I have come to accept the peaks and troughs of life and travel, for without the lows we don’t have the highs, without the down time, the excitement.

Sometimes if I don’t get the right balance of sleep, food and activity, I just feel off kilter, and frankly, quite blah. I’ve learned that if I fight it, and run myself into the ground, ignoring what my mind and body is telling me, I eventually reach a breaking point that results in a melt down which believe me, is NOT pretty.

I’ve now learned to be kinder to myself when I’m feeling low, and to really try to take care of myself emotionally, because it’s not up to Tyrhone to know how I’m feeling every minute of the day, and it certainly isn’t his job to take care of my spiritual and emotional needs. If I take care of myself, I’m more pleasant to be around, and it’s a win-win for everyone.

But do you think I could communicate this with my partner like I am here?

Umm… not very well.

Compared with Tyrhone’s enthusiasm for the place, my lack of motivation came across as quite negative.

The conversation basically went like this:

“Do you want to go see the pandas?”

“Umm, I don’t know.”

“Do you want to visit the Mao statue?”

“What for?”

“Sichuan Opera?”

“I’ve heard it’s boring.”


“Is it any good?”

“Well, its oily and weird and spicy…”

“So why would I want to eat it? Just to say I did?”

And so on…

I felt like I was disappointing Tyrhone is some way, like I was dissing his city or something. Truth be told, I wished that I was more excited about Chengdu, the ‘dumpling making party’ at the hostel, the pandas, hot-pot, Mao, everything, but I just wasn’t.

I just had no desire to see or do anything, and whilst perhaps I could have faked it, when traveller’s fatigue sets in, the only real cure is eating hamburgers and watching back-to-back episodes of Modern Family.

And after some careful conflict resolution involving excessive use of the phrases I feel that, and I’m sorry if I, we did find a solution to my traveller’s blues.

  • I had a long, hot shower in the middle of the day when there was no one else waiting to use them (and I wore my flip-flops!).


  • We ate burgers at the hostel for lunch, and spent the afternoon working on our laptops and surfing the net.


  • We laughed our asses off at episodes of Modern family, streamed on the Chinese version of you tube, “you ku” (seriously, that’s what it’s called!), and I day dreamed about what my life would have been like if Cam had been my Gay Dad.


And the following morning, after a good night’s sleep, we joined ‘The Panda Tour’ run by the hostel, which was the most perfect balance of “doing something without having to think” that I could have asked for.

They were really, really, cute.

And very lazy, which made me like them more.

We did make dumplings at the “dumpling party” that night.

But I didn’t eat hot-pot.

Perhaps I was being stubborn and didn’t want to do the one thing that everyone tells you to do in Chengdu, or perhaps it was quite sensible considering our eight-hour bus ride the following day, but my culinary adventurousness didn’t extend beyond the hostel kitchen. Thankfully, they churned out good Sichuan cuisine (as well as a damn fine burger!).

Now, we are in a beautiful place in the mountains, called Kangding, about eight hours west of Chengdu on the Sichuan-Tibetan highway. It sits at 2700m and my spirits have lifted along with the altitude (and I’m writing in cheesy cliches so I must be feeling better!).

Maybe I’m just hypoxic, but I’m excited about travel again, and even more so to share my experiences with you soon.


Lazy as a Panda in Chengdu — 20 Comments

  1. Your conversation with Tyrone was very similar as mine was with Matt 30min ago haha. I am patiently waiting for our tuk tuk to pick us up to take us to our surf paradise. And then after some sleep I will be more pleasant too :)

  2. I think you’re wise to let yourself have those lazy times and lay low. It sucks when it’s not in sync with your partner, but you can’t deny that stuff. It’ll come out one way or another.

    It still does sound exciting and fun to me. But you have to remember that I spend 8 hours a day sitting a desk, so….even your lazy day watching Modern Family and eating burgers sounds exciting to me.

    Pandas are so cute! My in-laws are here and my MIL told me there was a baby panda born at the San Diego zoo. That reminds me I need to go check in on the Panda Cam. And yes, my husband has been making fun of the random squeals that come out of me when I see the baby panda. It’s just SO small!

    • Hi Carmel, yes I remember that ‘anywhere but here’ feeling I had whilst I was still working, and all I wanted was to be travelling. It’s all just a case of perspective isn’t it? I would have killed for one of my ‘bad days’ a year ago!!!!
      We saw a baby too- squealing necessary, they are soooo small and cute and weird!!!!

  3. Sarah, I just found your blog and am very excited to read it! My husband and I started our adventure in February of this year as well, although we’re not as adveturous as you guys, we’re just traveling around the US. In the last 5 months we have run into MANY moments like what you just described…don’t worry, I think everyone does! I look forward to reading your blog!!

    • Hi Maria, welcome! The states are amazing, that’s awesome!!! Yes, I know it’s all part of it, travel and life that is. We can’t be up-beat and enthusiastic all the time – travel is bloody tiring!!!!! Thanks for stopping by, all the best for the rest of your adventures :)

  4. So one day of being tired of traveling in the six months of all exciting things that you’ve done is not so bad, right? It’s o n l y one day out of thousands. And I think it is realy necessary as well to schedule a Modern-Family-day(-or-even-week) from time to time. Just do what you feel like doing, even if that something is nothing.

    And Sarah: even when you don’t write about mountains you’ve climbed, beautiful people you’ve met and amazing places you’ve visit, … you’re posts will always be gorgeous and inspiring !

    • Lies(e)!!!!!! He he, very funny… Been thinking of you, how was JAVA??? Where are you now?! Thank you for your lovely comment, I do like a good compliment to lift my spirits he he!!!!

  5. I definitely think that traveling as a couple can pose its own set of challenges that people often overlook! Often we think that solo travel is hard, but spending night & day in the constant company of another person can be really exhausting. I personally have been feeling really burnt out the past few weeks because Tony and I have constantly been surrounded by other people (my family, now his family), and I have realized that I am in fact an introvert, and so having people around ALL THE TIME and not having time and space to just decompress and do my own thing really wears on me. It has really opened my eyes to what I need as an individual, as well as how important it is for Tony and me to keep the lines of communication open. Hopefully I can remember this lesson when we are actually out on the road!

    • Totally! I think I am more introverted too, which has changed over the years. I need my own time more than ever now, and find that when I do socialize and interact, the experiences are more valuable than doing it just ‘because’.
      I feel for you, I really do. Family is great but I agree that being surrounded by people 24/7 is energy zapping!!! Hmm, kind of funny coming from China – there are people everywhere!!!! Good lucking finding some ‘Steph’ time :)

  6. I love your honesty and authenticity here Sarah, and I also love your cure for traveller’s fatigue – that sounds right up my street too! And you imagining Cam as your gay dad is just hilarious! Best. Show. Ever. But seriously, travel isn’t always the great adventure we want it to be, and I am so glad that you allowed yourself the time and space to rebalance. Sometimes I feel like the most boring girlfriend in the world when I would rather go take a nap than explore with Lee, but like you I listen to myself, then grab my eye mask and go do it anyway. In the long run, I’m a better traveller/girlfriend for it :)

    • We definitely need a few emergency episodes for India!!! Something tells me we are going to need them!!!! But seriously, wouldn’t it be great?! I mean, just to KNOW Cam would be enough he he :)

  7. Totally normal to feel tired of traveling and so good of you to listen to your body. We all need to be more like pandas sometimes!

  8. Ah yes, how the travel blues set in. Sometimes you just need a down day or to work through them as hard as they are. I’m glad after some talking through, a good old comforts and a great night’s rest, your travel spirit was back in form.

    Long term travel isn’t easy and there is a lot of learning involved but sounds like you’re doing just fine!

  9. Sarah, what special experiences you’ve been having! We really wished we could’ve made it to China this past spring; the pandas are precious. Now, I see you’re off to Mexico! Safe travels and here’s hoping you’ll make it to Cuba.

  10. Dave and I had a similar start to yours in Chengdu. We got there after a 16 hours train ride and with Dave not feeling well we literally did nothing for the next 2 days. I wasn’t that interested in seeing the Mao statue, etc just like you and was going to wait to see the Pandas with Dave. Now we are Jiuzhaigou and with Dave feeling better and both of us being more active we will definitely be seeing the pandas when we get back to Chengdu! They truly look adorable! And yes I knew exactly what you mean about the difficulties in communicating with your partner sometimes — happens with us too!
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