When Depression Hits While Traveling
A beautiful stone sculpture, hundreds of thousands of years old, filled with memories and the history of many lives past yet I find myself feeling bleak. I should feel inspired, even minuscule in comparison to the great beauty that stands towering before me. This is the reason I can here, the purpose I traveled over land and sea, so why is it that as I stand here I don’t feel beauty, I don’t feel passion, I don’t feel empowerment?
I think it is safe to say that at some point we have all hit this point in our traveling experiences, and if you haven’t then you need to keep reading because it will hit you, it always does. This is not just for the clinically depressed but everyone! Whether you are choosing to travel solo or with a trusted friend or even with a group, we are emotional beings and our bodies have their limits. Don’t fret though, because below are 15 tips to help you re-balance yourself so that you can enjoy your time away to the absolute fullest.
is for our non-solo travelers.
If you are traveling with a partner or a group and you find yourself in a “mood” in which you are not enjoying yourself, you are easily agitated, or you just plain old don’t know what you are feeling but know its not what you should be feeling, then I recommend you talk to your travel companion(s) and say you need a couple hours to yourself. Stepping away from other people and the emotions that go with that is going to be a huge stress reliever in its own right and as good companion(s), they will understand that in order for everyone to enjoy themselves, sometimes you need a little bit to yourself.
It’s OK To Feel
Allow yourself to recognize what it is you are feeling. Do not try to push your emotions to the side thinking it is something that will pass because the truth is, you are feeling this way for a reason and that reason does not just go away. You have to be willing to acknowledge when you feel sad, lonely, isolated, crowded, hollow, cold, or whatever else might have you feeling low. I recommend taking a moment and simply closing your eyes first, take a couple deep breaths, and start working through your recognition. Do you wish you had a travel companion? Do you feel the city electricity is leaving you missing home? Ask yourself as many questions as necessary to get to the root of your emotions.
Stop Shaming Yourself
Once you have recognized what you are feeling, don’t shame yourself for feeling the way you do. It’s perfectly ok to be in a beautiful, wonderful foreign land and realize you miss your quaint, non-descript home with sheets you picked out and amenities that you are comfortable with. Diving into new cultures and new places can be overwhelming and it is perfectly normal to need some “adapting” time. No one expects you to just blend into a new exper
ience right away. (Hint: when you look at Instagram and see all those travel posts with people smiling, having the time of their life; that’s because they have been traveling for years and went through what you are going through now. They have had time to develop a process that works for them so that they can transition in and out of their personal “travel modes” very quickly.)
Go Back To The Root
Now ask yourself this question,
“Why did I decide to come on this trip?”
All too quickly we get extremely wrapped up in our travels and we lose sight of the actual reason for taking our adventure in the first place. Did
you go because you wanted to see this part of the world? Did you choose this location because of a specific place you wanted to see? Have you been feeling contempt towards your day-to-day routine and you needed to mix it up a bit? Did you simply want to go on an adventure to gain stories to tell your grandkids one day?
You know the saying “you have to know where you have been, in order to know where you are going?” That same logic applies here. In order to fully embrace your travel experience you need to understand what lead you here.
Have a better emotional stand point on yourself, your feelings, and what brought you here?
Good, because now we can get into some physical work!
If you can, take a moment to call a friend or family member because who doesn’t enjoy a good conversation with someone who understands you and can listen while you work through what you are feeling? They may offer advice and they may tell you “but you’re in such a beautiful place” and let them; you’re not connecting with them for the answer or the solution but because they are familiar to you. Feeling connected to what you know actually helps your mind and body process what is surrounding. You will start to look around and see things which remind you of something, or a smell which makes your stomach growl, or a song which takes you to a different time.
I know this seems like a dumb one since, I mean you are traveling after all. But that is not what I mean. After all you most likely already have a plan in place of things you want to see and do but do yourself a favor and set that plan aside for a moment. There is more to this place than a checklist of highlights. Let yourself get lost, in the culture, in the sights, in the smells, in the food. It’s ok to be the outsider and it may be daunting to immerse yourself when you don’t speak the language but if you are genuinely interested and engaged, locals value sharing their culture and will be more than happy to help you. Try to speak some words in their native tongue, show that you want to understand, and quickly they will be doing back-flips to help you and everything that once seemed so nerve shattering will become a wonderful light of joy and laughter.
Push Your Boundaries
Not everyone is a thrill seeker like myself but arrange to do something out of your ordinary. Find tour groups or activities that deserved to be tried while traveling in different countries. For example, go ice fishing with locals in Norway, go to a Techno Basement Rave in the Netherlands, food festivals in New York City, or even parasailing in Iceland. I remember dancing with my AirBnb host in Barcelona, Spain after she smeared a handful of tomatoes on my sunburn; honestly one of my most vivid memories of Spain and no one else will have an experience like it making it that much more special to me.
Indulge in Comforts
Your trip does not need to always be hiking to this historical site or taking a walking tour for three hours to make sure you see everything this place has to offer; sometimes taking a day to indulge in the more “blissful” pleasures of traveling is perfectly acceptable. Schedule a couple hours at a bathhouse or a spa; find a small café that serves food and perch yourself for a couple hours to read a good book maybe even people watch. Personally, everywhere I go I always have one day where I walk into the local Starbucks (because they are EVERYWHERE) and I order my signature “grande skinny chai latte with cinnamon dolce”. Why? Because it reminds me to be thankful that I am not on my way to my job but rather on my way to see/experience something breath taking. Natural born travelers thrive on the thrill of their next exploration but survive on the memory of their traditions.
Time is often limited when traveling and you may think you need to do everything/ see everything in one day, I call it “the Beginner’s Rush”, but you don’t. Let your feet and your heart guide you; so what if you want to meander and wander, you have no timeline to stick to. Enjoy yourself all the while remembering, you can return another time should you desire to.
Every good traveler knows the basics but how about we do some reminding because its in the basics that you will find the most help, I promise!
Find Your Routine
I am not a creature of habit. When at home my routine never gets more complicated than take the dog outside. However, when I am traveling it is a whole different story. Finding a routine and sticking to it helps your body acclimate to different time zones, elevation, increased exercise, and so on. Establish a routine that works for you like getting up at 9am, have a cup of tea while you plan your day activities, stop by the front desk for advice regarding your day, etc. Try to plan out eating balanced meals at set times of the day. I know I often forget about lunch if I am out doing something exciting but if you want to keep your body happy, you need to feed it so pack a protein bar just in case!
If you want to run a half marathon, great… but, if you are like me and have a sudden urge to laugh uncontrollably when I even think about my awkward ass running, then I suggest you find another way to move your body and get the blood flowing. I recommend doing a short yoga sequence, you can find plenty on YouTube just search “sunrise sequence”. You could also do some basic stretches to start your day. It’s important to open up your joints and get all the toxins that settled throughout the evening moving again, thus letting your body flush them out. Believe it our not, there are even sequences you can do without leaving your bed. (However, I recommend getting out of bed!)
Find Equal Balance
This is not an extension from the Yoga suggestion but rather find balance in the diet you eat and everything you put into your body. Personally, I am not big into drugs and alcohol, and I must warn you that these do not help you when you are feeling blue or depressed, but people will make their own decisions so when you do, balance everything out. Stay hydrated, eat complete and balanced meals with a starch, protein, and fruit/ veggie option. This will help your body regulate toxins and if you find yourself in a place where you can’t get balanced meals, this is where vitamins come in handy which I write more about below.
Put Your Phone Down
FOR CRYING OUT LOUD PEOPLE, PUT YOUR PHONES AWAY!! DO IT!!
(After you finish reading this article, of course!)
Believe it or not, technology is NOT helping you. It is hurting you. There have been numerous studies to prove that the longer you stare at your phone or a screen of any kind, the more harm it does. Sooo, put it away. When you sit down to a meal, especially alone, you will feel drawn to pick up your phone and scroll through IG. Don’t do it. Pull out a notebook and start giving other people in the restaurant stories. Write down the especially interesting ones. Or, see if you can find peace while sipping a cup of coffee with your eyes closed. It is very hard and even I struggle with it, but being able to find peace in being alone is a beautiful gift. Start small and slowly build until one day you are able to travel without your phone at all. (Scary, I know!)
Especially when you are traveling to different parts of the world with dietary norms 180 degrees different from your own, take vitamins with you! The way your body functions now is because it is used to receiving a set balance of nutrients from your normal diet, but when you travel you may all of a sudden take in much less of one vitamin and you start to feel shifts in your body which show as mood swings or fatigue. I highly recommend a multi-vitamin and some individual supplements but for a complete break down you can read more here.
Carry Essential Oil’s
Most people don’t realize the value in essential oils or they knock them without ever trying them but as a frequent traveler who does not like to take medication, essential oils have become just that, essential. I carry a peppermint oil based serum with me all-day-everyday but I also keep a few others on hand for everything from headaches to nausea to boosting energy. Read my tips to essential oils here.
Take a Journal
I have mentioned a journal a couple times leading up to this point to it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I am an avid believer in the value of a journal. Even if you are already on a trip and don’t have a journal, go get one! You do not have to write down every last thing you did that day and you definitely don’t have to write every day but you will find value in even writing bullet points of your travels. Say you decided to travel to tell stories to your grandkids, write about what you are seeing through a child’s perspective, make funny drawings even. Writing is a great tool in releasing tension and bringing some whimsy back into your life. There are days where I will write page after page, including stories and laughs and even pictures, where as other days I am in a “fuck it” kind of mood and ill write something like this, “-long day. tired. saw castle, breathtaking/ overwhelming/ fantasy. did whiskey experience and got drunk, met two people from Amsterdam and Minnesota. many laughs. Frankenstein Bar, electric shock chair.” That’s it. That is all I wrote one day but the beauty of that is, it took me two minutes to write it and I can read it now and know exactly what I was feeling that day, satisfied. That was a great day for me and I was so happy by the end, even though I was exhausted.
Traveling is not always glamorous and can deplete your spirit sometimes but the important thing to remember is you’re never alone. Traveling has a huge community of like-minded people who value your equal enthusiasm for experiencing everything this world has to offer! If you want to talk further with me, I welcome you to reach out via my contact page here.
Happy Traveling, My Lovelies!