Mental health struggles while working on the road (1 Viewer)


Gone Walkabout
Mar 5, 2017
Jinibara Country (Qld, Australia)
Sorry if this has been posted before or isn't allowed, I'll probably end up wanting to delete this anyhow.

I'm working on the road...driving and kinda babysitting groups of around 20 backpackers. I tend to work 3 and a half weeks at a time, then have three days off and start again.

Like, it's pretty rad work as far as jobs go...but it's started majorly fucking with me. Things are generally okay until I'm alone with my thoughts. It's constant exhaustion. It's seeing friendships die because on my few days off i just want to sleep and be antisocial. It's dealing with misogynistic, heteronormative comments from sex obsessed guys on the road. It's hiding parts of myself. It's seeing the utter disrespect of the land and history by people coming here to learn it.

It's grinding me down. I was thinking, hoping, this was a way I could travel and make money while I'm at it without the risks I've faced in the past. If something seems to good to be true it probably is.

This is sucking the life out of me, and making me question life.

I don't know how I ended up on this path.

I miss rubber tramping in North America.

I miss not feeling totally alone when surrounded by people.

I miss not being medicated.

Thought this so going to let me live while raising funds to go back to school and study one of my passions (wildlife science/ecology). But it's just leading me to a bottle.

It's just a bad night. Sorry again if this post is in the wrong place, or unwelcome here.

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Oct 16, 2015
I somewhat relate

- Other people's extra/ignorant shit does wear me down (not though as if I am some sort of perfect person, for the record) but it gets much harder if you cannot call them on it, which I am thinking you *must not* in your line of work from the details provided. It's best then to try to hone your empathy skills, even if in your opinion "they don't deserve it". On the other hand - if you can liberate yourself to speaking your mind to them, just do it!

- I am currently employed 40 hours a week and just got a solid promotion after only 3 weeks, which makes me very happy. It is a very social job which is something I love, I didn't like as much the jobs that left me isolated. it is slow money but could be so much worse especially since there are many things I like about the work itself and the environment. Mostly I enjoy it because of my perspective, I enjoy it as much for *what it is* as for *what it is not*.

Now it is an extremely corrupt and rotten system, but because this is what I am accustomed to I am more accepting of it and know too that I can tap out whenever I want. I have no debt, I have no dependents and I have no medical issues. I basically have all my true needs (know the difference between a need and a want) met and some other things going for me, as well as the will to be flexible in my lifestyle in the present and with my loose plans for the future.

Currently I am bound to this location but I show up early to prepare, I do a good job, I work very hard and make an impact as I am able. At the same time I hold myself accountable for my actions and I do not burden myself with being emotionally bound to the actions of others. I did not decide this world would be this way and I cannot control anyone else. I do the best I can to reach others effectively but I realize I alone am usually powerless.

I definitely miss being anywhere but here, times out west, times in South America - but I think about the future as well as my good memories every day and how I've opened many doors that I can & will walk through again, that this shit I'm dealing with isn't forever.

Anyway between your situation and mine the biggest difference is that I am totally sober. I feel like alcohol is a legitimate trap for most people that blows our problems out of proportion while fooling us into thinking it's helping. Earlier this year I pretty much swore that shit off, so apart from everything else, this is what I feel the most strongly about suggesting to you. Don't make excuses to abuse yourself with "the white man's poison" and instead take better care of yourself. It might sound mad corny but find more healthy ways to blow off steam and you'll prolly find that what was "majorly fucking with you" was not so much the conditions of your work but the way you were trying to handle it.

something someone said comes to mind "Emancipate yourself from mental slavery - none but ourselves can free our mind"

Know what your part is, do your part and don't get so hung up on others not knowing what it is.

Anyway, I'm not cutting any corners here, all positive intent and really hoping you feel better

& feel free to PM me
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sleeps 22 hours a day, eats chutes and leaves
Nov 3, 2015
Ah damn I'm so sorry to hear this Ben. A lot of "backpacking culture" in Australia and SE Asia is really toxic from my experience. I was actually thinking about you the other day since climbing Uluru got stopped (finally!). And thinking, how exhausting those long days driving back to back to back must be for you.

I'm dreading trying to find an income again as my savings are slowly running dry. It seems like there's always compromise when working, some jobs more than others.

Hope you're able to work something out soon to save your mind and so you can fully be your awesome self


Wise Sage
Nov 15, 2012
When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can't tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own - not of the same blood and birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are unnatural.

I can relate. I read this a couple times every morning, and it tends to help. You can't control others actions, but you can control and take pride in you own.

It sounds like you just started this job; so give your self some time to adjust to new surroundings.
It takes a bit to adapt, but you can. And after a while if it's still not for you and makes you feel bad, you always have the option to peace out.

In regards to feeling blue; such is life. We all can relate as it's part of life.
Everyone goes through it. My early 30s were an emotional rollercoaster.
Just remember that sad feeling won't be there forever. It'll change, maybe tomorrow or a week from now, you'll feel better. Prayer and meditation, exercise work well for me. Clear the mind.
Lastly, remember that without the glum periods in life, the good times would not be good; the contrast is needed.

Deleted member 21367

I closed my account
I think one of the main reason s people hit the road is a disdain for the way their coworkers are treating them.


Jun 17, 2019
Sounds like you’re really struggling. I have to remind myself to just live. I think you have to let life flow on its own and let it shake out. Of course, it’s easier said than done, but breathe, and enjoy the moment, relentlessly focus on the positive if you can.


Aug 9, 2018
Completely off the subject but how did you land a job like that? Sounds good to me, but I've come to terms with isolation. Trucking for two years and being a waste collector for two years is pretty isolated. My coworkers would show up an hour early every morning at 2am just to make time for social contact.


May 31, 2011
Riverdale Park, United States
I can't offer any better advice than what's been stated. I can relate in many ways. There is a book you may find helpful. I know this sounds crazy but it teaches you new ways to deal with overwhelming emotions and although it takes effort (reading/finding quiet time) it's been proven to help a variety of mental issues. I've been "diagnosed" a few different things and I think a lot of medication is BS. SSRI's cause electric body zaps when coming off them even when tapering. No one need the hell of that (Im experiencing it currently) Eat well. Make sure to get a brisk 30 minute walk in every day and you can make it through this. Good luck! Check that book or something similar. Helps you stop your thoughts before they get out of hand ya know. Peace. dot com/Dialectical-Behavior-Therapy-Skills-Workbook-ebook/dp/B07MMQ95VG/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

I removed the dot com and replaced it with dot com so you'lll have to fix the link.


Jun 9, 2016
Wollongong Australia
Hi Benji

(Literally got out of bed to grab the laptop so I could reply to this because I think I can maybe help )

Former NT wilderness tourism guide here! I worked for a company out in Alice and Kakadu all last winter and found some useful strategies for me. Hopefully they help my dude, and if you need a friend I live in NSW's Central West; if you're down this way happy for you to reach out. Also- shoutout to how amazing the NT is, amiright??

I totally hear you brother on what you're saying. It's 100% valid, and felt by I'd say most guides out there. I'd say if you're not feeling that way at some point you're doing something wrong wrong tbh. Apologies for everyone reading this if it's a bit long- I just woke up and brains still a bit on the slow train.

1. Decide how sustainable you want it to be. Do you want it to be long-term? Then hack it so it works for you. If you're just there for the one season and you've got mad plans for your cash just work the back to back and be done with it. If you want longevity, then put in the time to make a plan. Can you work on block on, one block off and have time for yourself and a social life in-between? Can you switch to the fancier tourism operators for smaller group sizes such as ParkTrek, WE or Walk Larapinta etc? You will need a wilderness first aid cert usually but the pace is much less mad. I've found you have to be very strict about your work life balance but if you are a good, hard worker (which it sounds like you are) they'll value you too much to not do it for you.

2. Free your mindset. You are not your job- very hard when your personality is so much a tool in this work but take a few 5 second breath in, hold for 4, out for 8's every morning before you swing open that swag and take some time to centre yourself. Count 3 beautiful things around you, 3 good things that happened yesterday and another 3 that could potentially happen today. Sometimes it's as simple as a nice tree, or a good cup of coffee, or maybe you made someone whole day. The job is so changeable! Maybe you can manufacture some- an extra mattress in your swag, your favourite tea at night, your favourite tunes in the bus?? Also- anything that goes wrong is not a personalty fault! Things go wrong in every job, but, and this is so hard to do IRL, but don't take it personally. Some trips are just rotten ones and there's nothing you can do about it but brush yourself off, find some professional learning from it and start fresh for the next one. You are not the centre of the trip, but rather the machine that makes it go.

3. It's not how hard you work, it's what gets done. This can be hard in the beginning, but giving willing members of the group roles to perform while you're out there is worth trying. You can't do it with the fancier operators but with backpackers it's totally acceptable to have some volunteers each morning for helping with dinner, ect. Set up a washing up station so everyone washes up their own dishes. Make a considered effort to step back and allow the vibe fo the trip to calm. What things do you absolutely have to do every day and what stuff can be delegated, what stuff isn't that important? You'll naturally find people in every group who's way of feeling secure is to be visibly helping or in the spotlight. Use it.

4.Intentionally calm the pace. I know the backpacker route can be really hectic, but if you can take 20 minutes to sit quietly with your group before you leave or even on the bus microphone on the way to introduce the importance and specialness of the places you're going, and why it's important not only to you personally to bring a sense of respect can make a big difference. They'll only be here once, how do they want to approach this once in a lifetime trip? Reading the Bruce Pascoe books, particularly the dark emu one, helped me translate that respect across and educate myself, but there's heaps out there! I approached these talks not from a preachy standpoint, but from a personal standpoint of why it matters to me and to others and how it can become a special place for my clients too.
It took me ages to realise that's its not how hard I worked that made me a good guide, as long as everything got done the more chill I appeared the better it actually was for the clients. I'd build in quiet time whenever I could- ie everyone taking time to just lit in the shade by a waterhole and veg out for an hour to two, really feel the place etc.

5. You will get people who are just there to f*ck and party and there's nothing you can do about it. However what you can do is set an example of being a gentle, respectful, open-minded individual with your position of authority and just quietly lead by example. Whatever comes of that, comes of that.

Anyway mate I hope this helps! I did 3 years in the wilderness school camp/ tourism trip world as an adventure guide across a few disciplines (with a cert IV in outdoor recreation from TAFE) and found my naturally sensitive personality was both a huge bonus and a major learning curve. I met incredible people (mostly other guides- you often get a co-guide in the fancier trips or the outdoor recreation conferences are absolutely amazing for meeting people and also sparking new adventure work ideas) and other who's memory still makes me grind my teeth. All i can say is take a step back, make it work for you as much as possible and remember you're probably much better at your job than you realise, cut yourself some slack and smell the roses whenever possible. Know when to take a break, and in the meantime let the magic of the territory seep into your bones. It's one of my favourite places in the whole world :)

Big hugs, and big love


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