Mental health has been creeping into the public discourse more and more in recent years, but we still have a long way to go. Despite a roaring pharmaceutical industry, mental illnesses are often misunderstood, improperly diagnosed and unfairly considered as something less than an actual disease.
Traveling with depression can be particularly difficult. You may find little in the way of support on the road, and new environments and routines could be disruptive. Alternatively, if you heed the following advice, travel can serve as its own form of treatment.
1. Pick the right time
If you are struggling more than usual, a trip might not be a good idea. Travel can be unpredictable, with its own set of ups and downs. Make sure things are relatively stable on your end before you plan your trip.
2. Take your medication
If you are prescribed to any medication in order to treat your depression, bring plenty with you. It’s always a good idea to have a backup supply while traveling, because you never know if you will be able to find the same medication abroad, and you never know whether you will prolong your trip (either intentionally or because of unforeseen circumstances).
3. Prepare a support network
Pick one or two people that you can reliably get a hold of while traveling. People that you enjoy talking to. People that will listen to you. Applications like Skype, Viber and Facetime make it easy to stay in touch with people at home. This support network can help keep you grounded if you hit a rough patch.
4. Don’t push yourself
Need to take a day out of your itinerary to rest and lay low? There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, plan to take a few days out of your trip to do just that. You are not competing for a “best tourist” award. You are trying to have an enjoyable trip. There won’t be any negative consequences for building in a few days in order to simply chill out. In fact, your overall trip will be better for it.
5. Make an effort
It’s important to respect your limits, but you also need to make an effort. You didn’t travel in order to lay in bed in your hotel room. The first step out of bed may be difficult, but the second one will be easier. Take a morning stroll to clear your head. Take in the new environment. If you are feeling reserved, you don’t need to interact with anyone. Wander. Discover. Observe.
Keep in mind
Many travel insurance policies do not cover mental illnesses. This is a sad reality, and you may have to pay an expensive premium if you want such comprehensive coverage. Make sure to read the fine print of any policy that you are going to pay for, and talk to your doctor to see if they have any specific recommendations.
If you have or are currently traveling with depression, please share any thoughts/tips/advice that you may have in the comments below.
photo credit: flickr user Fir Z