You mostly see blogs about people solo traveling, traveling with friends or their significant other, traveling for vacation, traveling because they just got out of a horrible relationship, or traveling just because they can. However, I travel to help me with my mental health. If you have read my past blog posts; which, if you haven’t I won’t hold it against you. You know that I suffer from PTSD, depression, and agoraphobia. It was due to my therapist that she suggested that I do something that I loved to do before I joined the military. I said, I always loved to travel.
How does one travel for mental health you ask? Let me break it down for you.
1.Travel Can Relieve Stress
It’s scientifically proven that travel can relieve stress. When you go on vacation you’re giving yourself the time to escape that horrific 9-5 life of pure chaos. Travel gives you that chance to slow down your life for a few days so you don’t need to worry about work or plan out every small detail. It gives you that zen moment of just pure nothingness. Allowing you to just shut off your brain and take in your current surroundings. When I travel I avoid cities or places that I know will stress me out since there are times that travel can seriously cause a mental break down. This means if you’re traveling to avoid or escape your hectic life try traveling to a place where you can escape people. What I mean by this is, go to a place where it’s not overly crowded. I find that being around too many people can stress some people out. It gives you the feeling that everything is still so fast paced and that you shouldn’t be taking this time to relax because you need to be fitting in with this fast pace atmosphere. Take for example a vacation in NYC. You’d be stressing to plan how you’re going to get to all the sites or how many sites you can fit in one day taking in account the mode of transportation needed to get there. While I’ve visited NYC two times prior to getting PTSD it was still fairly stressful. Now just thinking of planning a trip to NYC almost brings on a panic attack that would require at least a month to prepare and plan for every possible scenario that could occur there. Instead of choosing a place that requires so much planning before hand, that if anything didn’t go according to plan could create even more stress, I suggest choosing to find a place where you can just go with the flow. Go on an amazing hike and find a spot where you can sit down and take in nature. Travel to a tropical location where you can search for a secluded beach and take a nap with copious amounts of sunscreen so you don’t get burnt but can listen to the ocean waves crashing. Essentially, be selfish and give yourself some YOU time.
2. Travel Can Challenge You
When you’re traveling people tend to do things they would normally not do. It’s essentially the thought process of, I’m never going to be back here again so I might as well try this. Honestly, this is one of the biggest reasons why I love to travel. That and I’m apparently a huge one upper, so I can use these things that most people wouldn’t do as a way to keep up my one upping status. In all seriousness though, think back to any vacation or travel experience you’ve had where you did something you normally wouldn’t do if you were back home in your comfort zone. Would you have tried that exotic food? Jumped off a cliff into water? Gone on an excursion with a person you just met? Some people just need the excuse of, it’s a vacation so why the hell not, to give them the courage to challenge themselves. This is one of the reasons it’s great for challenging thoughts of agoraphobia or anxiety.
3. Travel Expands Your Mind
What I mean by this is, travel can increase creativity as well as make you more open minded. I’ve always been the type of traveler who wants to avoid any tourist trap type of attractions and go right to what the locals love to do. I obviously will do some tourist trap things but I don’t want to focus my whole trip around that. I want to know how locals live, how they think, and what they do for fun. This way I can put myself in their shoes. Take for example when I travel to a different country I try to read up on their customs so I make sure I don’t offend anyone. I talk to locals to see if what I read is true and have more of an open conversation with them about their customs, history, religion, politics and so on. If you just travel to see the sights you could miss out on the places culture and the people. When you become more open minded you can also see things from other peoples points of views. This helps make you grow as a person in my opinion since you’re willing to see there’s more than just your own opinion or perspective. Not only that but it can help with cognitive therapy where you can challenge your own thoughts by possibly seeing things from a fresh set of eyes.
4. Travel Makes You More Social
When you travel alone or even with friends you’re bound to make new friends with locals or other travelers. When you’re out traveling you tend to want to meet people. You want to talk to them and see where they are from. What brought them here or if they are locals what made them stay. It opens up a dialog where you can talk about your travels and what they suggest or what you would suggest them to see. The nice thing is you don’t always have to be the person to strike up a conversation. When you’re traveling there’s so many opportunities to meet someone and start a conversation. I find when I’m at a brewery I will chat up the bartender then others will eavesdrop and put in their two cents. Boom you’re now being social and having conversations with people you might have not talked to. You can pretty much apply that to any scenario. Also keep in mind that when you’re more social that helps fight depression and in my case PTSD and agoraphobia.
5. Travel Makes You Focus on Your Intuition
This one is huge for many travelers especially ones who suffer from anxiety, PTSD, or trust issues. When you travel you have to trust your gut instinct because if you don’t then it could lead to a pretty bad outcome. Trusting your intuition becomes a lot easier the more you travel as well. You start learning to read people by what they are saying and their mannerisms or just feeling out certain situations or atmospheres. People always say you’ll regret the things you didn’t do but honestly if your gut is telling you not to do it I’d say trust it! Best example from my current trip; I was going on Tinder dates to help meet some locals and have some cool dates or activities to do in places where I knew no one and trying to be social was a little difficult. I meet up with this guy who looked nothing like his Tinder profile. Right of the bat it was a little sketch. We had dinner and I was starting to feel less concerned with him until he dropped the bomb that he was married and in an open relationship. He said that he knew I was traveling and living in my SUV so he asked his wife if I could stay in their spare bedroom. Given he looked nothing like his Tinder profile pictures and the open marriage thing I declined. Granted it could have been nothing and just a nice Irish Canadian trying to help a traveler out but my gut said it would have been a bad idea. Also to preface the previous night I stayed the night in a cabin with a guy I met on Tinder, his friend, and his friends mom. However, my gut was telling me they were trustworthy and to be honest everything worked out great. Again while traveling you learn to trust your intuition. My advice, if you’re not sure of a situation take yourself out of it so that you can really explore how you’re feeling about it. Most the time if you’re not sure and you need to take a step back it’s probably not a good situation.
Indiana’s Final Thoughts