Museum Fatigue….it’s a thing

Detail of the Parthenon. Exhibited (controversially) at the British Museum

You know how people who work in a chocolate factory end up immune to its charms? The same is true of anything you enjoy, too much of a good thing… well – I’m sure there’s a proper quote to cover it – but simply put, it’s too much.

You will arrive in a destination, and perhaps you have invested some time researching the attractions (an action which can go either way on the benefit scale). High up the list will be the museums. Yes, they will have interesting displays and provide insightful information. If you were on a holiday, a good choice of a few museums will most certainly add to your experience.

But, if you’re on the road for any length of time, or hitting up several cities, you will no doubt experience a condition known as Museum Fatigue. You just can’t face another one. Your enthusiasm is depleted and you will not get anything from a visit. Plodding along with flagging energy or interest is basically robbing you of time that might be spent more enjoyably.

They are an easy choice, but sometimes the easy choice doesn’t yield the greatest reward.

Its wise to recognise that this will indeed occur, and take some precautions. Don’t feel obliged to go. It is not mandatory to see or experience every recommendation you receive. Embrace the mere fact that you are there, and take the time to wander.

You may also experience Museum Fatigue’s close cousins, Church Fatigue, Art Gallery Fatigue and Shopping Fatigue. It’s important to understand that that is ok, it’s perfectly permissible to please yourself as to what you want to do.

Didn’t get to the Louvre? Its fine. Did you enjoy a walk along the Seine, sip a coffee at a little cafe and watch life walk past you? Also perfectly fine.

I personally have about a two hour window in any museum, and after that my thoughts drift elsewhere, usually to where my feet would rather be. Don’t persevere if you are feeling that way, it’s important to recognise when you have had enough and leave with a smile instead of a grimace. You can’t see everything.

You don’t have to follow the guidebook.

The pressure to tick things off an imaginary list is something you can do without. Here are some alternate activities we enjoyed:

  • Take a free walking tour. You will learn a great deal about your destination, possibly chat to some other folk, and have a resource for questions or suggestions of places to see. Yes, they are free, but a tip is only fair.
  • Look up the tourist authority website to see what’s on whilst you’re in town. In summer chances are there will be a concert or two you can take in, displays or markets are held frequently.
  • Take a class.. Airbnb now offer experiences in all manner of areas, from cooking, photography, sketching, even city beekeeping.
  • Get on a bus, anywhere. See the city go past (just remember where you got on, and reverse it. The conquest of the local public transport is a minor triumph.
  • Get to a food/flea market. Wander through then choose what tickles your fancy.
  • Bookshops – always worth a meander.
  • Scope out bars where live music is on offer. You don’t have to drink alcohol nowadays, you can make a coke, or coffee last a while if you’re on a budget.
  • Head to the park. Take a journal, or sketchbook to record your impressions.

This isn’t a rant against Museums. I love them too. Pace yourself and do what feels right to you.

Don’t be a stranger, I’d love you to like this, or better yet, follow me. No spam, no selling, just pretty great stories from a couple of ordinary travellers.

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Is it too late to have a gap year in your late 50s? To take back some time from our day to day working life to travel - unplanned, unescorted, unfettered? To take that leap? It was a defining year - liberating, challenging, humbling, scary. It was many things, but it wasn't a holiday.

One thought on “Museum Fatigue….it’s a thing

  1. I get this too! Although a lot of people don’t even like museums so it’s great to see some ideas for alternative things to do. Burnout is the same with so many things – temples in Asia is a big one, and markets! I’m not sure I ever get market-ed out though…


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