Updated: Dec 1
"Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind." Seneca
Many people I speak to say the same; “I’m afraid to go and travel because of my mental health problems.”
The fear of being in an unknown place, outside of our comfort zone [what if your mental illness becomes your comfort zone ], and the burden of a mental illness seems to most of us enough reason not to go out, explore & travel.
But are these fears valid? From my experience, I can say that without traveling, I would still be trapped in my world filled with mental illness.
WHY I STARTED WITH SOLO TRAVELING From the age of sixteen, I started to develop some serious mental illness problems. I was diagnosed early on with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and, later in life, Bipolar syndrome II. The labels never really did much for me [ ublabel yourself ]. I was feeling what I was feeling; I messed up, and even besides all of the medication, I knew I did not want to limit myself from doing what others were doing.
Although my lust for life was zero, I still wanted to discover new places. A slight hope for change. Hope to become more like me. A hope that it turned out to be the answer to my problems later in life. Most of my days, I would spend drinking, using drugs, or doing nothing until I discovered that solo traveling was a way to deal with my mental illness. I started to make solo trips around Europe at the age of seventeen.
The relief of being in another place, away from my environment, attached to my childhood trauma.
[ why do we hold on to trauma ] My mind was suddenly free, and I had room for new thoughts. I would feel reborn, even happy. Traveling made me different usually and forced me to go out and do things usually and going wouldn’t. I was making friends and going for walks and reading and reading books. I was discovering new places. It was like entering a new world with a new self. I developed new skills and started to feel confident and strong again.
MY MIND WAS TRAPPED AGAIN Unfortunately, I didn’t understand what was truly happening inside my mind during those trips. So when the trips ended, I would fall back into the same mental prison when I arrived home. My mind was trapped again with all the emotions, feelings, and actions that came with it. Why did that happen? Why did I fall back as soon as I came back home again? [ you are not your mind ] The more I traveled, the more I realized that my environment was my problem and the thoughts and behavior I created around it. My environment, my trauma, is that to say, together with my mental illness, was my safety zone. The only life I ever knew. I created a vicious circle for myself that I was afraid to break away from. I kept my mental illness alive. [ why do we hold on to trauma ]
I decided that little trips had to make a place for bigger ones. I left my home country and started a journey to change my life. I lived and worked in many different countries for the next fifteen years—each with a new mission and goal. Although I still struggled with mental illness, slowly but surely, I started to shift around. Things changed when I began implementing some intensive self-development training of the mind.
Many years later, I can genuinely look back and think;, ‘if it weren’t for traveling, I would still be stuck in the same place, dwelling in my own created prison, thinking it was all due to my mental illness. The mind is super powerful. Don’t let it limit you from trying out ways that can work for you to become mentally stronger and healthy again. Ways that maybe go against the traditional treatment programs. Ways like traveling. It has to be said, though, that being safe is number one while traveling. We are all different. What works for me doesn’t have to work automatically for you. From my own experience, I can say that traveling can be a great tool to become mentally stronger and ultimately mentally healthy again.
Do you have a travel experience that has been helpful for your mental health? Let's talk about it in the comments below.