‘You need a change of air’. Anyone ever uttered these words to you lately? If not, then maybe they should. In the past doctors commonly prescribed a sojourn abroad for both mental and physical ailments. A general tonic, a universal panacea that is just as pleasant as it is effective.
In today’s 24/7 society never has there been such a need to take time out, to venture abroad, to travel. Just to live one day, one hour, one minute at a time. To let tomorrow’s problems be faced after a good bottle of local vino and a good night’s sleep. For many of us, depression is- what it’s always been- nervous exhaustion.
Never has there been such a need to seriously look at travel as a treatment for depression. We live in a world where more than 350 million people suffer from depression. In 2015 alone, an estimated 16.1 million adults experienced at least one major depressive episode according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Depression is the most common cause of disability worldwide, and it doesn't just affect adults—teen depression is also on the rise. Despite a wide variety of antidepressants, 10-20% of people suffering from depression have treatment-resistant depression.
Depression linked to isolation and loneliness is a particular problem for the elderly. An Age UK survey into depression in the elderly was published last year, July 2017. It stated that in England depression affects 22% of men and 28% of women aged 65 or over. The Royal College of Psychiatrists estimates that 85% of older people with depression receive no help at all from the NHS. Never has there been such a pressing need for a treatment that is simple, can be personally administered and has permanent benefits. No better time to book that holiday you always promised yourself. In the words of Mark Twain: ‘Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover’. Embrace a new adventure. You may discover a whole new you!
To benefit from your trip, plan it carefully. This is particularly important if you’ve been suffering from depression. Here are a few useful lessons I’ve learned along the way:
1. Hit the shops – a smart new suitcase, a bright beach towel, a new pair of
snazzy sunglasses. Look good, feel good.
2. Prep thoroughly- the day before you travel print off all travel documents and
put them in a clear plastic wallet, charge your mobile, pack the charger.
3. Allow plenty of time- Give yourself an hour extra on the morning of travel in
a case of unexpected problems.
4. Enlist friends and family- If you’ve been down, they want to know you still
need them to accept offers of lifts to the station/airport, pet sitting etc.
5. Treat yourself- a nice cappuccino at the airport and your favorite magazine,
a First Class upgrade; whatever the budget allows.
From the get-go to the get-gone has been ok. What now though? Will heading out into the blue yonder really lift the blues? Here are six reasons why it could do.
Firstly, you’ve removed yourself from the problem, whatever that is. You’ve put some air miles or rail miles between yourself and the situation. No daily reminders of the arrogant boss, nosy neighbor or moody boyfriend. You are already traveling lighter.
Secondly, at last, you’ve time to think. The phone’s not ringing and there’s no house to clean. Spared the daily grind, your unconscious brain can chew over more important issues in peace.
Thirdly, you are reminded of how little you need to be happy. Maybe it’s the rosy glow of a beautiful sunrise over the sea or pigeons coming down to a fountain to refresh on a hot afternoon? Maybe it’s children playing with each other on the beach? Maybe it’s the stranger who takes time out give you directions?
Fourthly, you’re thrown into an entirely different environment. As Rudyard Kipling noted, “The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.”
New landscapes and people to witness, new languages to hear, smells to experience and tastes to relish. It’s no wonder that many books are written while traveling. You’re overloaded with new sensory data.
Fifthly, you take risks. You experiment with new foods, new methods of transport and new forms of entertainment. Maybe you discover new skills that you didn’t think you had? You can beat your friend in a go-cart race. You can order a meal in Spanish. You can talk to a stranger in a park. You surprise yourself! As William Least Heat Moon, so aptly stated: ’What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do — especially in other people’s minds. When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.
Sixthly, you may find that you can open up about your depression to a complete stranger you meet on the journey. With a different cultural perspective and background, you gain a new perspective.
A holiday, then, may be just what the doctor ordered. Who doesn’t remember their travels? It doesn’t matter whether it’s been trekking in the Himalayas or island-hopping in the Greece, you’ve gained new knowledge, skills and a clearer outlook on the world. The writer Miriam Beard sums it up well when she stated: ‘Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” You’ve moved on. With new wind in your sails, you can travel on to discover a brave new world. And that world is you.
Back in 2015, Gleda found herself heartbroken, broke, and wanting to travel the world. This led her onto a journey of discovery where she shares her expereince, tips and advice in her wonderful travel blog, just click [Here] and enjoy her down to earth insights.
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