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  • Writer's pictureAllen White

‘Mental Health Isn’t Black and White.' What are the Benefits of Travel on your Mental Health?

Mental Health Isn’t Always Black & White

Hi my name is Allen White and I've recently started a mental health campaign called: Mental Health Isn't Always Black and White #IDO. I invite people to send in photos, looking at emotions allowing people to open up about their mental health. This aims to get people’s stories heard and make people realise they are not alone. I hope you enjoy this blog and The Travel Story Society’s Mental Health Week.

Check us out on Instagram: @mentalhealth_blackandwhite

A global survey by Gallup, in 2019, found 85% of people are unhappy in employment. The balance of work life and home life being so poor in many workplaces, holidays can be one of the only escapes. Now in a global pandemic, mental health is worse than ever before, with many still not furloughed, work life is all they know. No social life, no visiting friends, work morning, work day and sleep at night. Living right now feels like a sad reality, and mental health seems to be always forgotten about, with Covid-19 spreading from country to country, everyone's holidays are being put on hold. During the pandemic mental health has been highlighted across the world, with males suicide being at a two decade high and eight students dying since uni began this year. Awareness is key in helping people speak out.

A season in Ibiza or backpacking in Thailand, they are the trips you will never forget. The memories, the people,the food, make the experience an everlasting memory, printed on your mind. Graduation day, you are buzzing to get into the world of work. To start earning the big dollar, leaving behind the uni days you loved, leaving thoughts of faraway beaches on hold.

Now mental health is worse than ever. The months of planning, a year’s worth of preparation, all abandoned and forgotten. Now the panic of reality kicks in, you are stuck inside, worrying about employment and worrying about when you can next escape to travel again.

When we get out of Covid don’t chase the world of employment too hard. Going into the world of employment, you rarely get the opportunity to take that well-earned break, like you once did. Booking a holiday off work, loud kids, and putting your job first, to have a successful career, isn’t easy, and after the struggles of making it through a Global Pandemic, the opportunity has arisen to open the chapter in your life that you left behind. Recreating the memories you said you would never forget, visiting the destinations you have always dreamed of.

What are the Mental Health Benefits of Travelling?

Everyone in the world has in one way or another seen the effects of mental health on themselves or others. Mental health comes in many forms and while work might be difficult for you and for me, imagine someone who struggles to get up everyday because of their health; someone who feels like they're always on the brink of a panic attack. Lost, alone with no one to turn to but themselves; and that's the reality of mental health. Historically men have been said to find it harder to speak out about their mental health. Embarrassed, shamed and with negative stigmas, the thought of being seen as weak scares people.

Sometimes people just need to give themselves a break, and traveling can help you do that. Well-deserved rest, better moods, and getting a tan without having to step foot in a Tan 4 U salon as well as endorphins getting pumped round your body with every sip of that cocktail in the sun. A holiday can be an escape, it can help your mood, reset your mindset, open your eyes to a reality that isn’t working day in day out.

When I mean rest, I mean giving yourself time to relax. I mean a drink in one hand and a refill in the other. The time where you can drink and laugh with friends and family, and sometimes cry from the hangover you knew you'd regret. But it's all a memory, a time you'll never forget, something you can’t experience in your hometown. While you can never beat a British Spoons, the mornings in Thailand waking up on the beachfront, having an English breakfast on the sand, I will never forget. I have never felt so relaxed then sitting on the beach with a drink in hand

No one can deny the power of the sun and that hot sand getting in every nook and cranny, but nothing beats the enlightening feeling of knowing the work, eat, repeat days are a worry for the future and a thought of the past. The better moods are just echoed throughout the holiday, from time with friends and family and even that grumpy grandad, no one can put the mood down, when you are in a far away land, baking in the sun.

My Holiday

In 2019, I went to Thailand, which was the second holiday I've ever been on. Being brought up without holidays is crazy in 2020 but not knowing what an 18-hour flight would do to me, the jet lag I expected was nothing compared to the hangovers I felt every day. Hearing about holidays, I always expected to drink till the early hours of the morning and then sleep till midday, then repeat. While I did drink everyday, I was up at the crack of dawn, ready for the days ahead.

Being abroad opens opportunities to see a new world. I saw elephants up close covered in mud, and washed them. It was an experience I’ll never forget and stuff like that makes you excited about your next holiday. It was like a giant therapy dog, each time you stroke it, you feel less stressed, and while a giant elephant isn't a dog, traveling felt like it was definitely an anxiety release, opening up people’s eyes to some of the most beautiful places in the world.

Travelling is so important, a life of no worries, no stress, less anxiety and not a thought of employment insight.

My holiday stress

When you are dealing with anxiety, even the most relaxing times can have a bit of stress.

While I prepared for my two week trip to Thailand, I never imagined my passport not being stamped. Finding this out was the most stressful thing I've ever gone through. My thoughts were: 'Am I here illegally?" "If the police ask to see my passport, will I get arrested?" With Thai prisons being associated with the worst in the world, the panic was real. The overwhelming fear of the unknown, but could I let it ruin my holiday? NO. Looking across the beach, looking at the islands directly in my line of view from the hostel, nothing could ruin the holiday I had ahead.

Luckily the hostel owner of the ’Dancing Elephant Beach Club’, David, was nice enough to sort everything with my passport, involving his lawyers and the British embassy, and £60 later everything was sorted. Even got an extra day in Koh Phangan, missing our original plan to get a ferry, deciding to take an overnight train instead to end up in Bangkok.

Mental health

Mental health isn’t black and white, it’s not an overnight thing. For many, it lasts a lifetime and can be daunting taking on new challenges and new destinations. My advice would be to travel. While the pandemic has been hard on everyone, travelling after will be a cultural eye-opener, with countries inviting you to celebrate the world that has survived the crisis, rebuilding every economy one country at a time. So while we don't know when we will next be able to travel, get prepared and book in them flights, get them festivals sorted and take that much needed time off work. Put your health first, as "it's okay not to be okay".

Thank you for reading, and thank you to The Travel Story Society for allowing me to tell my story. Once again I am the founder of ‘Mental Health Isn’t Always Black and White,’ and I would love it if you checked us out on Instagram @mentalhealth_blackandwhite


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