When I left home to travel I had a lot of preconceived ideas that it would be an amazing life changing experience, that I would suddenly become a completely different person and I would be cured of any and all mental ailments. I mean, all the other travel bloggers told me that!
Unfortunately, travel is not a magical cure all. Part of this was probably to do with my location and my job, but I think it’s also a little bit to do with the fact that, even if I don’t want to be, I’m an extremely socially awkward introvert who has battled with far more mental issues that I would like to admit.
When I quit my position as a hospital administrator I also believed that I would be cured of depression and anxiety. I mean, I was taking away one of the major sources of mental torture. As it was, I still continued having panic attacks and moving back in with my parents meant that I was dealing with feelings of failure. But in three short months I would be moving to France to work and live and I would magically feel better. I would be exploring every weekend and making lots of new friends.
A month later and I was sat alone in my very messy room on a Saturday at 4pm having only just woken up and showered. Not exactly the dream I had of exploring cities every weekend with a group of friends. I was still depressed and eating my feelings and I was doing nothing to battle through my anxiety. As it turns out, moving to a different country wasn’t my cure all.
Paris was good for me, I met people, I forgot about my anxiety and my social awkwardness and I learned to relax and have fun. Paris restored my faith in travel. Even on the last day, when I was sitting in front of the Eiffel Tower alone, I felt a strange sense of peace and happiness that I hadn’t felt in a long time. It wasn’t a strong feeling, but it was the first positive one I had had since getting to France. I had had a whirlwind of a week and one day to collect my thoughts and feelings was perfect. It was balanced. I owe Paris a lot for not allowing me to give in and to keep searching.
Maybe travel could be my cure after all.
But Provance taught me a very harsh lesson. Travel is not a cure all. It is not some magical thing that will instantly make your problems disappear. It gave me a very sobering thought. Am I trying to run away from my problems?
Perhaps I am. Perhaps I thought that running away from the sources of the problems would help me in curing them. For a short while, I suppose it did. But, when the going gets tough and all your old thoughts and habits return, it’s in those moments that you realise that travel may not be the cure all, but it will help you forget and it will help you learn to cope with things in the harshest way possible. When you’re alone in a strange place with no language skills and on the verge of a mental breakdown you learn to cope with it, dispel it and come out the other side breathing rapidly, but with the new tools.
I may still get severe anxiety over leaving home, and leaving England. I may still find myself disconnecting when I get a harsh dose of reality. Maybe I will walk around for hours feeling hungry and tired and unable to walk into a bar or restaurant to eat. Maybe I will constantly have that voice in my mind telling me I will fail at being a digital nomad. Or maybe, just maybe, I will have another one of those moments in Paris, where the world seems to align in my mind and I get a sense of content that I very rarely feel.
My goals for travel and for overcoming at least a little bit of my mentality are always the same. Be open to other people. Be open to the lessons you learn whilst travelling. But above all, be open to self-realization and self-discovery. Realizing I was running away from my problems is what is going to help me tackle them head on.
Do do you have depression? Or another mental illness that you thought would be cured by travel? Comment below and let me know!