Trained Actor, Still in Training – Lesson Five – Dealing with Cabin Fever

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In lesson four I gave some tips on dealing with homesickness whilst on tour. Lesson five is a similar issue.

I’m currently touring around the south of Germany (Bavaria) with three other people. Bavaria has vast stretches of countryside, and more often than not we are plonked right in the middle of it. When you read about Bavaria in travel guides you get the impression that most Germans speak great English. While this is largely true in cities like Munich and W├╝rzburg, it is certainly not the case in small towns. With no nearby cities to go to, no friends or family to meet up with, and no one in the vicinity who speaks any English, it’s very easy to feel that Cabin Fever Feeling.

Here are some things that I think can help.

1. Learn the Language

I’ll be the first one to admit that initially, when it came to learning German, I made a pretty poor effort. I suppose at first I didn’t think it was so important, as long as I had the basics down. But since Christmas I’ve been working a lot harder at it, because I’ve realised that it can really help you feel less isolated.

In Britain life is peppered with little interactions with strangers; be it someone serving you in a shop, or your waiter at a restaurant, and of course, the hairdresser. These interactions add a little flavour to your day, and when a language barrier gets in the way of that, you really start to miss it. I’ve had three haircuts in Germany, and the last one was the first one during which I got to actually have a conversation with my hairdresser. And it was lovely.

Learning the language of the country you’re staying in gives you that bit of independence that means you can seek some human interaction outside of your tour group.

2. Learn to Love your Own Company

Touring abroad is hard, and I really believe that you need to be a fairly balanced, happy person to be able to push through it. Often, at the end of a hard day of work, the four of us will go our separate ways for the evening. After a hard week we may even keep a little distance over the weekend. Therefore, it is pretty vital to be able to get by on your own.

If that is something that you think you would struggle with, there are different things you can try. For me personally, I like to have projects to focus on. Writing blog posts and poems is a large part of my weekend activity and can keep me happily occupied for hours. I also find that a mixture of walking, cooking and reading is pretty key to my happiness. And if things get really bad, meditation and yoga are a great way to clear your head.

And of course, as I said in my last post about dealing with homesickness, modern day technology means that we can chat face to face with our loved ones, for free, at the click of a button. It’s a great way to feel reconnected with the outside world. But take caution: I have found that it’s all too easy to get sucked down the social media rabbit hole for the whole evening, and that usually makes me feel pretty awful. Actual conversations with friends and family are great, but scrolling through your newsfeed for hours on end is pretty depressing for your brain and body.

Ultimately, being happy in your own company is a wonderful thing. Taking the opportunity to find out how you can get there is a great way to get in touch with yourself, and could set you up for a happier future.

3. Find Ways to Make Your Small Community a Happy One

As well as working on being happy in your own company, it is very important that you do your best to ensure the happiness of your tour group. You see them every day, you work with them, you travel with them, you live with them. They are your temporary family, and you are all responsible for each other’s well-being.

Worst case scenario: you end up on tour with people that you really don’t like. You have two choices here: either find a way to make it work or quit the job. Sometimes quitting really might be the best option, in which case there is no shame in that. But if you want to stay and make it work then you have to put some serious effort in.

  • Be sensitive to each other’s needs. Listen, learn.
  • Be prepared to make compromises. Simply walking away isn’t always an option.
  • Avoid topics of conversation that you know will cause trouble.
  • Find common ground and celebrate it.

I’m lucky, I really like my tour group. But the above points still apply. The four of us are very different from each other, and sometimes that causes clashes and arguments. It’s really important that we are able to step outside of our own egos and be able to focus on creating harmony with each other. A couple more tips for how to do that:

  • Find activities to do as a group. Sight-seeing, cinema trips, art galleries, nightlife events. And when you’re stuck in the country, card games and movie nights. Create fond memories.
  • Cook for each other. I really believe that the simple act of providing nourishment for each other plays a big part in forming family-like bonds. You’re looking after each other.

Hopefully all of this is helpful for any actor on tour, especially touring abroad. The important thing to remember is that it isn’t always going to be easy. It’s going to feel incredibly difficult from time to time.

Keyword: Teamwork. As long as you are all putting the effort in to support yourselves and each other, and you all keep trying, then you’re going to be fine.