Mental Health and Travel Go Hand in Hand
Travel Anxiety UK owner, Edwina, is talented blogger who gives those with anxiety about travelling advice through her own experiences. What she is doing is amazing work for anyone with mental health issues. Today she is a guest blogger on our page showing how important travel has been in her mental health journey.
Mental health and travel you ask? I know what you’re thinking, how the hell do they go hand in hand?!
I was brought up travelling the world with a single mum who refused to be anything but traditional. When she was studying her Arabic degree and her professors told her she didn’t have to do her year abroad because she had a young child she outright refused to accept it. Instead she did her research and found suitable countries to take her 9 year old on her year abroad and she did it before the internet was a thing which is impressive in itself. The result was I spent a year living in Yemen attending an Indian school.
That was the start of my love of travel. However, mental health has always been a big part of my life. I could be what some describe as a cliché, absent father struggling single mum I’m sure you know the rest. As a result I developed severe anxiety and bouts of depression.
However I’ve learnt to let both my love of travel and my severe anxiety live side by side in my life. Travel has helped my mental health in so many ways and I’ll tell you why in my real talk, over sharing way.
Firstly travel has helped me grow in confidence massively. The solo trips especially have had a huge impact on me. Whenever I think I can’t do something I think back to September 2019 when I backpacked around Colombia having not learnt a word of Spanish, when I decided to spend my 21st backpacking around Australia for 10 weeks solo and even the time I took my first solo flight at the grand old age of 9 years old. My school term finished 3 months before my mum’s university term ended and I was bored so asked if I could go back to the UK early and live with my childminder. My mum was worried but I remember indignantly telling my mum about a kid I barely knew who was a year younger than me who flew solo.
When I’m travelling my mental health is at it’s best. It’s like the escape from the pressures of everyday life is just what my brain needs to reset itself. I expose myself to so many new situations when I’m travelling that by the time the anxiety has had time to calculate the thing in front of me and work myself up in to a frenzy the moment of fear has passed and I’m on to the next thing. I also tend to question myself and my abilities less when I’m travelling as I’m free to just be me. I don’t have anyone there to judge me or if I do have people with me they trust in my abilities as a traveller.
Travel challenges you as a person. The anxiety monster and the depression monster (because in my eyes they are both monsters) tell me some pretty dam believable lies and it is easy to get stuck in these negative belief cycles. When you are travelling and you are exposed to different smells, sights, sounds, cultures, experiences your belief system goes our the window as you find yourself challenging what you thought you knew not just about the world but also about yourself. But you have to be open minded. You have to allow your thought system, your preconceived ideas to be challenged. Yes, it will be uncomfortable at first but allowing yourself to be proved wrong can often be the best thing for your mental health.
‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ said a very wise ex colleague of mine. Let me tell you now do not feel bad if you’re not one of these ‘go with the flow’ people like a lot of travellers are. Having anxiety makes me a massive control freak and if you are too have a plan. There’s no shame in it. If it makes you feel better do it. If you like to ‘go with the flow’ do that too. It’s ok. You need to find your own travel style that suits your mental health. When I went to Colombia I only caught 2 out of the 4 internal flights that I booked. I like to have a plan and I made quite a strict plan. That said I got to Pasto and did not feel safe there so instead of sticking to the plan of spending 4 days there I got a coach to Medellin 2 days early. When I was Medellin I was due to get a flight to Cartagena but I missed it because I was too hungover after a night partying with 2 Aussie brothers. I didn’t beat myself up about it because I had an awesome night. I checked in to a hotel to sleep off my hangover and got a bus to Cartagena the next day. The buses in Colombia are so cheap that whilst I did waste money not sticking to the plan I knew I would’ve been miserable staying in Pasto longer and I had an awesome night partying with the Aussie brothers so no harm done. My point is don’t let stressing over what type of traveller you want to be have a negative impact on your mental health. Travel is a unique personal experience and sometimes the best travel stories aren’t Instagram worthy and often the best travel experiences are the ones where you are so caught up living it that you don’t take any photos at all let alone Insta worthy ones.
Now I’m not one to shy away from things and I’m not leaving here having not given you the full picture. Truth is sometimes travel can be scary. The thought of it is 9 times out of 10 more scary that the actual travel itself. Travel is not that hard though so you should never be scared of it. Yes some trips don’t go to plan, if you want to hear about my 30th birthday disaster click. But please don’t let the horror stories put you off. Travel is a beautiful thing that can take your mental health journey from strength to strength but only if you let it.
No matter who you are you have the ability to create the travel adventures of your dreams. Never stop dreaming big and never be afraid to turn your dreams in to realities.
We would like to thank Edwina for sharing her story about mental health, go check out her stuff at www.travelanxiety.uk