Note: Although anxiety plays a (too big) role in my life, I don’t experience much depression, nor have I been diagnosed with depression. So I don’t feel as if I’m the proper authority to speak on the subject. In this post, Kara Lockwood of “Creative Heart Travel” explains how travel helps her with depression. If you have depression, know you can travel too!!
Travel Is Great Medicine
Yes, you heard me, travel is great medicine and helps me with depression! I’m not talking about the “quit-your-job-and-leave-it-all-behind” kind of travel, though some say it helps them overcome depression too. I’m talking about the trips that are well planned out, well budgeted and well prepared for. It’s not easy being person who suffers with depression, and you deserve to go on a trip that is filled with fun memories that are super meaningful. Travel, when well planned and prepared for, can help lift your spirits and give you the boost you need with your mood.
My Battle With Depression
Let me be the first to say that I have had my share of down days. I’m not just talking about the blues or feeling sad. I am talking about feeling empty, devoid of meaning, and in a place of darkness. Depression is an illness that affects more people than we think. I was diagnosed with depression after a huge bout of it that landed me in the hospital in 2006. It has been with me throughout my 20’s and in the start of my 30’s. I have made progress, lots of progress, but it came with lots of hard work.
You Can Travel Despite Depression
I made the decision that I am not going to let depression stop me from traveling and having meaningful experiences in my own backyard and abroad. In this time I tend to take shorter trips abroad as opposed to long stints. This is because I like to have a home base and familiar bed to lay in after a good adventure. Since being diagnosed, I have travelled all over Vancouver Island, the UK, China, and across Canada. I have only just begun! All these experiences have been super fun and meaningful. If you plan, prepare, work with your doctor, counsellor or psychiatrist etc you can have an amazing trip!
Here are Some Practical Ways You Can Prepare for an Adventure of a Lifetime!!
Make Sure You Have All the Medications You Need – For Those on Meds
Book an appointment with your doctor before you leave. Make sure he/she knows of your travels plans, how long you’ll be away etc. Make sure that they give you enough medication for the time that you will be out of the country. Also make sure that you have a note from them stating what the medication is and what it’s for. When I went to China I made sure I packed enough medication and then some extra. I also had a note from my doctor explaining what it was. It’s important to take enough medication with you because medication can’t be sent through the mail. Make sure you get good health coverage should you have to go see a doctor overseas and get medication from the country you are visiting.
Pack Your Own Personal Care and Comfort Kit
When you arrive in a place that’s unfamiliar to you it’s nice to have something that is familiar. Put together a kit of things you love that can comfort you when you’re feeling down, homesick, overwhelmed, etc. Maybe it’s a picture of your loved ones, your favourite coffee mug, letters from friends back home and cozy sweater or blanket? For me I like to have some of my favourite snacks a warm blanket, a good book and my iPhone with music and podcasts. Whatever helps you relax and feel at ease. Get creative!
Self Care is Key
In addition to having a Care and Comfort Kit, caring for yourself is something that can have great effects on your wellbeing. Have you been bunking in hostel dorms all along? Why not splurge and treat yourself to a comfy private room. Take a bath and have some quiet time just to yourself. Go for a walk and enjoy the scenery. Treat yourself to something beautiful or something delicious. Even the smallest things can give you a huge boost.
Be Open and Honest With Those Around You
Should a funk strike you abroad it’s important not to bottle it all up. Do tell you family and close friends but more importantly confide in someone whom you’re traveling with. If you are traveling solo this can be harder. Tell your host you are having a down day and tell them what you need. Maybe a little encouragement? Some time alone? Be open and honest but also be careful whom you share your deep feelings with. If you are traveling solo then getting some Skype time in with a trusted family or friend can be comforting. However don’t spend the whole day tied to your phone or laptop. Try to push yourself and embrace your surroundings. You don’t know who will be put in your path to cheer you up.
Balance Travel With A Home Base
Often I dream of throwing caution to the wind, quitting my job, giving up my apartment to go pursue of life of travel. However something deep down holds me back. I don’t necessarily think its all fear that holds me back. I think personally I’m someone who needs a safe place to return too. There is something daring and adventurous about giving it all up to go chase beaches, sun, cities, people and fun all over the world. But in all reality I don’t think it would be for me in this time. I need my home base. Who says you can’t travel for 1, 2 or 3 months and then come home to your nice comfy bed. Especially if you have depression then balance is going to be your key.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
And most importantly don’t beat yourself up! Depression can come with a lot of negative self talk. Remind yourself about how amazing you are. Write out your good points. Reward yourself for being willing to take the risk, travel and be out of your comfort zone. Be kind to yourself and talk to yourself like you’d talk to your best and dearest friend. Would you call you friend stupid and say negative thing about them? Then why do it to yourself?
Do you suffer with depression, anxiety or any other mental illness? Do you still travel despite your illness? Write your response in the comments.