Perhaps it’s the thought of all the places left to be explored that keeps depression from swallowing me whole at times.
There’s always more mountains to see, more flowers to greet, and more delicacies to snack on, and this alone is enough to sustain a will to go on.
You see, depression is different for everyone, this is what makes it such a difficult mental illness to tackle. People who live with depression may have feelings of lethargy, anxiety, or woe, but not everyone exhibits the same criteria of symptoms. There is only an overarching sensation of apathy.
If the opposite of sadness is happiness, the opposite of depression is vitality.
Depression requires day to day management, and is unique to each individual. While many people have considered medication or therapy as treatment, not nearly as many have considered travel as a method for treating depression.
This article is meant to provide you with the benefits of treating depression with travel.
What You See Isn't Always What You Get
We’ve all seen them…
There are literally hundreds of movies about some character or another who travels to get away from some upsetting situation. Maybe it’s learning to get over a recent breakup, or learning to cope with old age, but almost every movie ends with some anecdotal conclusion about travelling.
It’s not to say that these movies aren’t engaging, or entirely off kilter, but they convey the wrong impression.
Travelling is not always a fantasy, and not every situation can be cured by travelling.
When it comes to dealing with depression, there is no room for fantasizing. Your experience of depression is very real and unique to your own personal situation.
This is why we’ve tried to create a list that is not only practical, but down-to-earth as well.
Forewarnings for the Wayfarer
Depression is a serious mental illness. If you, or someone you know needs honest help, there is no shame in reaching out for assistance. Click here for more resources on dealing with depression.
Seek help if you need it.
In addition, it is always wise to make sure you have a plan when setting out to travel. We’re not against spontaneity, in fact we try to thrive on it, but it is extremely advisable that you have a plan for how you’ll make your adventure happen.
If you have medications to help with depression, it’s best to ensure that you’ll have access to them when you need them. The same goes for having a therapist. Talk over your plans with a licensed health provider before setting forth on your journey.
Finally, don’t just chase dreams of travel for the sake of escapism. No matter where you go, your mental luggage is more than likely going to be coming along with you. Don’t expect nicer weather alone to change how you feel.
The key is to set your objectives and go forth in search for something real.
11 Reasons Why...
1. Motivation to do, think, and feel
One of the biggest hurdles for most people living with depression is the underlying sense of apathy. Treating depression by travelling is a great option because of the inspiration it breeds. If it’s a struggle sometimes to do mundane things, like preparing a meal or calling someone back, consider supercharging your life by planning a trip to some new location. You get the option of living on your own terms, as well as the means for making your adventure as fulfilling as possible.
2. The thrill of challenging anxiety
The other biggest hurdle put up by depression is anxiety. While it’s probably going to be a guarantee that you’ll be taken out of your comfort zone at least once while travelling, if you expose yourself to anxiety little by little, you may gain a leg up from it over time. With the help of the internet, you can find travel experiences that are mildly anxiety-provoking, but not too far outside of your comfort zone. The more you’re able to supplant your anxiety with the thrill of travel, the better off you may be.
3. Learning to accept yourself among changing scenery
Depression is largely affected by the environment and the fluctuations of neurochemicals. While it may not always mean immediately feeling better, the theater that we surround ourselves with changes how we view ourselves. If each day travelling provides us with a fresh experience, we can begin to see new angles of how we might handle varying issues. The whole phenomenon is not unlike looking a picture of someone photographed with very hard lighting, and then seeing the exact same person in a softer light.
4. Share your story with others
One of the greatest things we can do to treat depression is to build a support network. You’re bound to meet people while traveling who have similar conditions, who are willing to share inspiring stories, or are at least willing to listen. The beauty of making friends with people around the world is that you gain access to a global support network. Not only are the majority of travelers living outside of what has been expected of them, but they’re doing it in style by positively supporting others in their own wants and needs.
5. Inhabit a mindset of finding what's possible
You can accomplish anything that you set your mind to, sometimes it just takes a variety of experiences to reveal that. When we start seeing the world with opportunistic eyes, the symptoms of depression slowly begin to subside. Travelling does not just have to be a prescribed two week vacation to somewhere you’ll probably get a sunburn. There are literally limitless possibilities for how to travel, all it takes is a little forward planning to make these wild ideas a reality.
6. Find moments of awe
They’re not always going to be around, but when you catch those moments of pure awe you’ll know them for a lifetime. I’m not sure that there’s any specific recipe for creating moments of being left simply speechless, but motivating ourselves to get out into the world has allowed those moments to happen with greater frequency. Something about those awesome moments takes away whatever mental catastrophe we’ve been living in, if not just for a little while.
7. Maintain interest in daily reality
When the days are broken up into novel experiences, there’s always something to look forward to. When we move outside of our comfort zones, the pupils dilate slightly and awareness grows to try and account for all of the new commotion. Sometimes depression can be treated by changing a boring situation into something completely new. When you inhabit a country outside of your own, there’s plenty of activities to engage in that will hold your interest.
8. Explore alternative perspectives for treatment
Due to the fact that depression has so many widely varying symptoms, you may find that your current location does not adequately meet your needs for treatment. The alternative is to travel to other places around the world to gain new perspectives on treatment. While each perspective will be contingent to the particular culture it emerges from, sometimes a varied approach may work better than what’s found at home. These could range from anywhere between herbal medicines, virtual reality, cold water immersion, and meditation.
9. Learn to sense the world with greater authenticity
Taking the opportunities to taste new foods, appreciate new art forms, and look out across new landscapes can have huge impacts in helping to treat depression. The act of sensing something that you’ve never come across before can ignite the soul in ways that have never been imagined. Having a closer intimacy with reality through the five senses leads to the realization that we’re saturated in a world full of multivalent experiences to be sensed.
10. Find time to reflect
Sure, we may be moved to see as much as we can while travelling, but it’s also important to take periods of rest so that we may reflect and find our center of gravity. Oftentimes, we get too caught up in the fast-paced world around us and don’t take the time to reflect. Simply taking the time to temporarily relinquish our responsibilities in order to think about what it means to be alive can have profound impacts on depression. There is no shame in retiring to a remote village for a few months of the year.
11. Expland your worldview
It is perhaps the best aspect of travel that the more we see of the world around us, the more we learn that not everything we’ve been taught is absolute. There’s a great big world out there and it’s important to notice that everyone is struggling in their own way to thrive. Learning about the world and the many lives that frequent around it leads to a sense of compassion emerging for others who strive to endure in their own way. Let yourself be humbled by the infinite number of narratives in the world and you’ll come out a better person in the long run.
Summing It All Up
Travelling is not a panacea for everyone dealing with depression.
In fact, sometimes it can make things worse if you’re not prepared.
Besides not really having a permanent home and being constantly on the go, it can be a lot of hard work trying to stay connected with the people you love back home. In addition to this, it can be easy to forget to slow down and make mental health your number one priority when so many new things are happening around you at all times.
Sometimes a combination of medication and therapy can be the most successful course of treatment. In this case, it may not always be convenient to plan to travel for months of the year.
However, I would implore anyone to book that plane ticket in order to see a new location.
For those who are reading this and struggling with depression, I encourage you to push through the despair and take the steps to make your depression more manageable.
I know what it’s like to be numb. I know what it’s like to not have much hope left in the world. But I can assure you, the decision to travel long-term was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. I still live with some heavy luggage everywhere I go, but finding new and novel experiences has done wonders to help treat some of its symptoms.
It’s important to remember that there is no “cure” for depression. There is only treatment. I’m just one, among many, who has found a sense of vitality in travelling as a means for treating depression.
Thank you for reading.