For us manic-depressive individuals, traveling can be a positive and meaningful, yet terrifying and nerve-racking experience all rolled into one giant sushi of emotions.
You never really know when your bouts of mania or depression will hit, although this can be managed by taking your medicines religiously despite the different timezones you might find yourself in.
However, no amount of antipsychotics, antidepressants, and mood stabilizers can ever really prepare you for all the external stimuli that can act as potential triggers: that damn Cranberries song suddenly playing in your Spotify playlist while on the plane, the scent of Indian curry wafting through the air as you try to eat your kaya toast in peace, or the sight of a curly-haired boy in dark jeans who looks exactly like your ex-boyfriend from the back (trust me, it happens).
And then of course there are moments when you don’t want to disappoint your travel companion when you suddenly don’t want to see the Merlion in Singapore, and the ridiculous thing tourists do when they open their mouths to “catch” the water spouting out of it when they have their pictures taken. This is why I often resort to solo travel because of my fickle, restless mind.
For this particular trip I recently took, I had my college bestfriend Trina with me, after many years of just doing local trips to the beach. It was our first international trip together, and it was nice to have some quality girly bonding time in between red eye flights and midnight cravings for chilli crab.
Despite all these possible setbacks of traveling while nursing a mental health illness, the benefits of travel still outweigh the risks in most cases. Based from my experience of traveling through the years, here are five reasons why it can be good for your sanity.
It helps you practice mindfulness.
Travel has a magical way of keeping you in the moment. Whether you’re strolling along the cobblestone arrondissements of Paris or crossing the busy streets of Hong Kong, you’ll notice every detail from the way women rock their outfits or how the locals chatter in their own language.
Your mind is not wandering off in your fluorescent-lighted office desk, or worrying about whether you unplugged all your devices back home. Because you’re in an entirely new place, you tend to embrace all the elements around you, knowing it will be another timespan before you return — if at all.
You can take a break from being in your own head.
Depression can make you dwell in the monsters in your head. When you travel, you have no choice but to focus on getting on the right train and savoring local dishes as they are served in front of you. Traveling can make you get out of your own tumultuous mind and relish your surroundings. Bonus if you have a loved one or friend with you — you become preoccupied with deep conversations and fun activities.
It can improve your mood and overall well-being.
Travel can help us disconnect from the stressors of our everyday lives. After my father passed away in December 2013, my mom decided that instead of staying home and crying nonstop, we should take a quick trip to the cool mountains of Tagaytay to celebrate New Year’s Eve. The effects were phenomenal: we channeled all our energy and grief to simply having a good time and reminiscing on happy memories with our dad. It helped that we were surrounded by nature and a nice breeze, instead of being at home which seemed so empty and bleak that time. It gave us a nurturing environment to rest our weary hearts.
It can help you have more gratitude.
Even if you find yourself in the most beautiful country, you’ll still somehow find ways to be grateful for the life you have back home. Sure, the Philippines may be notorious for its never-ending traffic, poor transportation system, and even lack of mental health professionals and facilities, but we are still blessed in so many ways. Service is warm and friendly, we value the gift of family, we have cheap booze, we can afford to have help at home, and the beach is just two hours away, among other things. Meeting new people from different cultures can also expand your worldview and make you a more compassionate and open-minded individual.
You’ll see the sillier, more playful side of yourself.
Studies and research show that travel can impact your personality, especially when you immerse yourself in another culture. It can increase your openness to new experiences and your empathy for other people.
Traveling can also be a source of laughter. Give yourself the chance to let go and play — you only live once, right?
As with most things, traveling in moderation is key. Aside from the fact that it can drain your savings, traveling in excess can make it a form of escape from your problems — which completely defeats its whole purpose. Traveling is meant to rejuvenate you and to aid you in having a clearer mind to face life’s inevitable adversities.
Traveling is a good way to put your mental health issues in a fresh new perspective — and can be very therapeutic along the way.