Always torn between different choices. I may take a puppy, but my heart says it is better to adopt. But if I adopt an animal, what about traveling? And I want to lose weight, but I must love myself now, right? Which drink should I order or which item of clothing should I buy? But back to traveling; this hobby simply continues to cost a lot, even though some say it’s cheaper thank you think. So, of course, there must be a source of income. Wait a minute, then I have to work. But isn’t that what my counselors advise me not to do? So working isn’t possible because of my depression. Does that also mean that I cannot solo travel with depression?
Travel and depression; for one a stigma, for the other a way to survive. I belong to a handful group that regards travel as a medicine. However, hundreds of people tell me that traveling has become an escape. A phenomenon that’s called escapism. But it is precisely those people who forget that you are learning a lot of things, gaining new experiences and, as it were, being pulled out of your comfort zone. Anyway, traveling to survive, does that actually exist? Yes, certainly. For years I have been traveling as a way to “recharge” myself with positivity, strength, and courage. I think this is an ideal way to get to know yourself even better and a way to become a better version of yourself.
Traveling is a great thing to get better, only if you know how to do it. If you don’t know how to travel with depression, the journey can go wrong, I admit that. In 2017 I traveled alone for the first time. Super exciting, of course. And then depression and anxiety disorder came in again. Then double that “super exciting” with a “what the hell do I do”. I read an article before my trip to Vienna that you can get to know yourself better with solo travel and that you’d be happier in a minute. What a lie that was. I cried every night and barely came out of my hotel room. So far for getting to know me better and being happier. I assured myself that I would never try traveling alone again. But a few months later I was on the island of São Miguel in the Azores and yes, I was alone.
Solo travel with depression?
Before I landed on the Portuguese island, some things went wrong already. First we had to make an emergency landing on another island near São Miguel. Thanks to the experienced pilot and the patience of the passengers, we arrived at the destination so many hours after the original landing time. I wanted to cry so badly, but I had to force myself to go to the hotel. Finally, I arrived at the hotel, in the middle of the city of Ponta Delgada. The receptionist was very nice, I gladly admit that. When I closed the door behind me, the tears began to come. Finally. But I was all alone with dirty thoughts in my head. Now you might think, “Why does she do that to herself?”.
It isn’t easy to travel alone with depression. But life, in general, isn’t easy for people with depression. So why would you give things up? My passion is traveling and I am lucky that I still have a passion, because many only have one big void in them. About 2 years ago I decided to travel more and in the meantime, I have been able to visit several countries like China, the United States, Thailand and several countries in Europe. I honestly admit that I didn’t travel alone to distant countries. This is due to the fact that there is a big difference between traveling solo with depression and with several people.It isn't easy to travel alone with depression. But life, in general, isn't easy for people with depression. So why would you give things up? Click To Tweet
Setting priorities is a must
I don’t recommend it to anyone to travel suddenly if you have something of depression in you. Strange, I promote solo travel with depression, but not if you want to go out immediately. That’s how it was with Vienna in Austria. That same week I received an email: “you can come and stay with us the day after tomorrow”. That was a bit of a shock since it only involved one person; myself. My adrenaline increased at the speed of an aircraft taking off and I immediately booked a return flight ticket to Austria. Two days later I was in Vienna with a head full of worries and a burning desire to fly back home.
If you want to travel alone with depression, I recommend that you plan everything well. Only for the first time. Plan everything in detail; accommodation, airline tickets, excursions, where you will eat, transportation, etc. When you have a plan, fewer things can go wrong and you are less likely to start worrying about what you can still do. If you are more “experienced”, you can leave some things open to create more freedom. But certainly not in the beginning!
My priority in traveling solo is definitely to offer myself safety. I do that by making a schedule, offering myself some rest breaks, but doing as many group excursions as possible so that I am as little as possible really alone. In the Azores, I had planned an excursion every day. One would think that this is tiring, but actually being alone in your room is even more tiring.
Solo travel is indeed getting to know you better
During my trip to the Azores, I did get to know myself better. I have come to know myself as a person who can persevere, who is quite confident, assertive and social and a person who can handle more than she thinks. However, I am not saying that solo traveling with depression will make you a new person, you will become a better version of yourself. But only if you open yourself up to it. If you are diagnosed with depression or any psychological vulnerability, you simply have to be more careful when traveling. Try not to stress or scare yourself unnecessarily, but go for it if this is your dream. If you have any questions, contact me via social media @mostlyabroad, or via mail firstname.lastname@example.org. To make matters a bit easier, I list the questions that are most frequently asked below.
Solo travel with depression, F.A.Q.
What should I do when things go wrong?
Always have a backup plan, a plan B and/or a crisis plan for example. Plan B ensures that you can always return when it is needed. Buy additional cancellation insurance, have extra money with you to book a plane ticket if necessary and be critical about your plan A before you travel (will this work, do I have enough power to pursue my trip, am I ready, … ). In a crisis plan, the necessary issues are included if you end up in a crisis; write down emergency contacts in your cell phone such as the number of your trust persons, the distractions (what you can do to lower your stress level or change your mind), be 100% sure of what your crisis signals are (cradling yourself, lip biting, sweaty hands, crying …) and intervene before it becomes a real crisis.
What if I don’t have the nerve to travel solo?
Know that you won’t fail if you suddenly decide to not continue just before the trip. This means that you were not completely ready for it. But if you feel that you still have a small wish to travel, do it. Take the chance, take the risk. The first three days are the most difficult (in my case) if you travel for a longer period. Also remember that you had the courage and strength to dream about travel, use that courage and strength to persevere.
What do I do with my medication? Do I take them with me?
Yes! Absolutely. Take the prescribed medication and stick to it. First ask your doctor or psychiatrist for permission to take the medication with you when traveling, so that you do not get into trouble with customs at the airport.
What if I want to travel solo, but I still have the need to talk to therapists?
During the Azores-trip I had no help on my side for a moment. Simply because I thought I could do it alone. So I had to do it on my own. However, if you do have assistance, use it! Ask your psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist or doctor if you can contact them during the trip. You have a no, but you can get a yes!
What do I do with homesickness?
Homesickness occurs in most cases, so please don’t be ashamed of it. However, it can cause “problems” in the sense that you want to blow everything off, want to go back home, become even more depressed, etc. My best tip is to either video chat with the home front every day or to ask that your family writes letters at home before you leave. If you are rather homesick for your comfort zone, it is a bit different. My best tip in such a case is to bring things from home. Write down the pros and cons of this before you travel.
I want to wish you a lot of courage and strength if you decide to travel alone with depression. In addition, try to enjoy all the beauty that you will encounter. You are certainly going for an adventure!
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Sanne Grieten is the travel blogger of Mostly Abroad. Just like any travel blogger, she loves to travel and discover new places. In addition, she also fights every day with her mental health. To end the stigma, she also writes about this regularly.