There have been times when I’ve felt so overwhelmed by what’s happening in my life that I didn’t know which way to turn. It was during one of those times that I discovered the beauty in travel therapy…
Overwhelmed. Overwhelmingly overwhelmed? I’m not the only one who has felt this way. According to the Mental Health Foundation, in the past year 74% of people have felt so stressed or overwhelmed, they didn’t know how to cope. As Mental Health Awareness Week kicks in, we have the chance to share this message and help anyone struggling to understand no one is alone in feeling like this.
Travel therapy and me
For me, travel therapy – the ability to give myself time and space away from the life that was piling on top of me – has made all the difference. I discovered that 12 years ago when I booked a one-way ticket to India after a not-very-nice break up. That trip taught me I could cope in the most horrible of circumstances – and not only that, I could cope on my own. In a foreign place. Away from everything I knew. I went from feeling so low to feeling complete empowerment in a few months. It took time; months in fact. But I got there.
That’s one of the reasons why I continue to regularly disappear somewhere far away. Like so many others, I love to travel. But it’s not about sinking a few drinks in local bars and working off a hangover on a beautiful beach for me (well, most of the time anyway). Seeing the natural, wild side of the planet fills me up in a way not many other things can (well, that and writing about it – and of course spending time with my wonderful parents and friends). It helps me put my own struggles into perspective.
How can travel be therapy?
Nothing seems to calm my mind and heal me like travelling does. It’s what I call ‘travel therapy’. As well as suddenly feeling so capable in taking care of yourself, there also is a real power in surrounding yourself with natural beauty. I guess it comes with realisation that our planet, our home, is so much bigger than each of us as individuals. And actually, it’s absolutely incredible. On top of that natural beauty, there are many, many good people out there. People who have their own struggles and yet can be so welcoming and kind. I think we sometimes forget that when we are in turmoil and pain – and when we only ever seem to read bad news.
For me, being ‘out there’ is heartwarming, humbling, distracting therapeutic and eye-opening all at the same time.
As a result, what has been my travel therapy during tough times, has now become my way of life. I didn’t strive for that. It just happened. It’s my job too – but more importantly, travel is now the root to my wellbeing. It keeps my mind mist-free, open and my own life in perspective.
What to do if you’re feeling overwhelmed
It’s true, life can feel way too much sometimes. And when it does, it can be so overbearingly tough. But, we’re not alone in this. There’s a whole army of us who have felt the same way. If you do feel this way, please talk to someone. You’d be surprised at how many people have felt just like you have. And if you can’t talk to someone you know, there are so many professionals who are there to listen and support (see below). There is always someone who will understand.
But don’t be afraid to explore other options, too. If you have always wanted to see the world or go off travelling and you have the means to do it, then the chances are it might really benefit you. It doesn’t have to be for long. It also doesn’t have to be a short holiday. Whatever seems right. Besides, what’s better to spend your hard-earned money on than your mental and physical well-being?
I booked a one way ticket because I didn’t want to come home until I was ready. Being freelance, I could do that. That might not be practical for everyone. But even a short time away can give time and space to heal. You never know, travel might end up being your therapy too.
Here to help:
Samaritans – for everyone
116 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The CALM Zone – for men in the UK who are down or have hit a wall for any reason, who need to talk or find information and support. Open 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Nationwide: 0800 58 58 58 – London: 0808 802 58 58
The Silver Line – for older people
0800 4 70 80 90
Childline – for children and young people under 19
0800 1111 (the number won’t show up on your phone bill)
Find out more about living a healthier and happier lifestyle while travelling