How Travel Blogging helps my Mental Health
Updated: Dec 2, 2020
Chelsea Zhang is a wonderful blogger and owner of the stunning website World Travels with Chelsea. She writes detailed and amazing stories about her travels and her goal is to allow people to travel and escape through her writing, especially in these difficult times. In this blog Chelsea talks about how traveling and documenting her travels allows her to have peace of mind and being able to see her travels in blog form lets her see what she has been able to accomplish.
There are always two sides to every story. I am writing this article at a time where the United States has surpassed 12 million cases of Covid 19, and the world has surpassed 59 million cases while thousands of those closest to us may no longer be there. But I am also writing this article at a time when millions of young people are suffering from mental illness exacerbated from the virus and are dealing with the repercussions of the pandemic. We may have seen kids as young as 6 crying, exclaiming that they are depressed because they can’t see their friends or go to school. Many people wondered: Is it even possible for kids to get depression or is that only a feeling experienced by teenagers and adults? Honestly, I didn’t even know kids had such deep emotions and that they could feel social isolation above a superficial level. Recently I read an article about the mental health impacts of COVID-19 on our young people from the Vancouver Sun. I think that nothing can fully replace organic social bonds that are formed in our formative periods, such as meeting our friends in person for the first time, or the experience of seeing a new place for the first time.
As a young person, I am in no way putting myself in the shoes of those who have missed their graduations, canceled their trips, many times their first, and or have been eagerly anticipating the beginning of a new school year only to see that cancelled. As millennials, we may have been criticised for harbouring on the workload of baby boomers, but the pandemic has allowed me to see so much great talent from my peers from around the world, working on bettering themselves by following their passions. I write this article not because I am in position to feel the same emotions that people who are going through these difficult times feel. However, from the many zoom sessions I have had with my close friends and new friends from around the world, a similar message resonates: Some things change, but some never will change. We as people will always seek to continually understand the world better every day and try to be a better version of ourselves, even though we all have struggles ourselves, some of them internal.
During and after the pandemic, we need to take a deep self-reflection and look at our lives: are we living our lives the way we want to? Are we achieving a work-life balance and learning more about ourselves? Are we satisfied with our skills and cultivating our passions given the circumstances that we are living in? Are we living the life that we always envisioned? As a young person, when I was stressed or dealing with anxiety, I would always try to resort to travel to alleviate my immediate troubles and in a way try to disengage from my internal bubble that always concentrated on negative thoughts. Many times, I had trouble sleeping because of the thoughts in my mind that wouldn't die down.
Travelling has given me the strength to put away the thoughts of a test mark on a Calculus exam or an Economics test, and given me an avenue of strength and a new perspective after a job loss or relationship failure. Most importantly, it has given me the courage to be able to try new things and meet new people, even when I wasn’t sure of the outcome of those interactions. I remember the first time I traveled to England on an exchange, I was scared and excited at the same time. I was scared because I was doing something out of my comfort zone, but I was excited because it opened me up to the wider world and allowed me to develop my worldview. As fellow Author Matthew Waters remarked in his article on how travelling to China and becoming a teacher saved his mind, I would say I can relate because it allows you to disengage from your own life and puts yourself in another person’s perspective. Matthew remarks that mental illness is exactly a “war against yourself”, and sometimes we get lost in that war and never come out. Travel for me has not only saved me from getting lost in that war against my mind, but it is a consistent avenue of optimism even the darkest days, knowing that something will be waiting for me on the other side.
There are millions of people in Canada and around the world who have not traveled out of the country and have missed out on the opportunity to see and explore the beautiful cultures in our world. From the coasts of the Sea to Sky highway in Whistler to the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, there are so many magnificent sights to see. Ever since starting my travel blog two months ago, I am grateful that so many people on social media platforms share the same passion I have. I believe that if every person understood and lived life through the eyes of another person in a different country, they would be able to emphasise with our human kind to a greater extent. Cost is a major issue for most individuals and families in terms of affording a travel excursion, but that in no way sets a barrier of setting yearly goals to see new sights. When I was younger and my family and I first immigrated to Canada, my parents rented a one-bedroom floor on top of a Chinese restaurant. In my early years and all throughout high school, I remember I would have no time to travel anywhere except to the classroom or after school activities because I was studying new things, whether Chinese, Calculus, taking violin lessons, or memorising and taking extracurricular classes to improve my test score. But during my down-time, I always dreamed of one day travelling the world and planned every day in my notebook about the places I would go after finishing my exams or after working at a certain job. It gave me a glimmer of hope during the times in my life when I couldn’t see the end in sight, and today my blog gives me hope that I have preserved so many wonderful memories that one day I can look back on and revisit.
I can’t say that I understand the struggles of all young people, but I have seen and heard from the many stories of my friends and through the young people I have met on the Internet on our shared struggle of wanting to move forward and experience new things and learn. The world was meant to be explored, and I want to be able to show that through my articles during a dark period where many are struggling through mental health struggles. I know there are so many of you out there that don’t have anyone to reach out to when you are struggling, and that feeling of suppressing your thoughts and emotions was something that I struggled and continually struggled with. When I was struggling with mental health, I felt that reading and vicariously relating to the characteristics and descriptions of characters in a book helped me to alleviate the pain of daily life. Although we can't travel the world right now, I hope you will all join me vicariously traveling through my blog, every week at www.worldtravelswithchelsea.com and know that you are never alone in this life.
Travel may seem to be people’s last priority right now, especially when struggling to sort our lives within the job losses, mental health struggles and loss of security, but it provides a way to alleviate some of the stresses of daily life and offers hope for a better tomorrow. On my blog, I write and upload videos of the culture of the various cities that I have travelled to help readers learn about different cities and plan for their next trip after the pandemic, whether that be next year or 5 years from today. As social beings for many generations, we all need a glimmer of hope for the better days ahead. My greatest memories have been on the beaches of Honolulu or Miami eating a salmon sashimi bento box and watching the Hawaiian Lau performers from my seat overlooking the Pacific Ocean. From hiking the top of Mount Cheam in Chilliwack and feeling like I was the top of the world even when I had the weight of the world against me to jumping head first into the waters of Rhodes from a small motor ship, my fondest memories twinkle in the distance. They are eating authentic Chinese chicken noodle soup at my late grand-father’s complex in our small dining room in Suzhou when he was still there and the essence of the scent of fireworks blazing outside the Buddhist temple when we threw the paper cranes into the fire.
Nothing lasts forever, but hopefully the memories from travel will last a lifetime.