I booked overnight trains when I backpacked across Europe for two weeks last year.
One sleepless night taught me that prioritizing rest was more important than exploring destinations.
Arriving in cities exhausted made it harder to appreciate my surroundings.
I'll never forget how I felt when I exited an overnight train in Vienna at 7 a.m. after a sleepless night — dazed, depleted, and desperate for some rest.
It was about a year ago during a two-week backpacking trip across four European countries that included a red-eye flight and two sleeper train rides. I decided to travel through the night to maximize my days in each destination, but I quickly learned that prioritizing my rest was crucial to enjoying my adventures.
On the train from Berlin to Vienna, I rode in a regular seat in a carriage of six. Though the seats did recline, they didn't lay fully flat, and the small space felt like a tight squeeze for six people with limited legroom. I got zero sleep.
I planned to spend my morning seeing the sights around Vienna until I could check in to my Airbnb at 3 p.m. But as I stepped off the train, it was apparent that my body needed rest.
I started going into random hotels to book a room. By the third hotel, I got one. I had to pay for the whole night even though I was only taking a nap, but I thought it was worth the price for a safe, comfortable place to doze.
Without rest, traveling is a drag
This backpacking mistake taught me an important lesson: Sleep makes everything better. And if I don't take time to rest, my body will force me to — even in the least convenient times.
In Vienna, that last-minute hotel booking changed everything. When I first got to the city, I didn't even pay attention to how it looked or felt, because I was too tired.
But after some much-needed rest, I was able to appreciate where I was and take in the unique architecture surrounding me. Walking to my Airbnb after my nap, I remembered why I was there and felt a new wave of excitement about my travels.
Getting sleep also made me feel more in touch with what my body needed. As soon as I woke up in the hotel, I chugged my water bottle while trying to remember the last time I had anything to drink. I realized that I must have been so dehydrated. From that point on, I took every opportunity to make sure my bottle was always full.
I learned that when visiting a new country for just a couple of days, it's easy to pack exploration into every hour without planning for rest. But without it, I find it's not even enjoyable. Keeping myself in good health was essential for enjoying my trip and became a priority for the remainder of my trip — and all my travels since.
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