The past year and a half has been hard on everyone. We’ve been forced to stay at home in quarantine and not enjoy even the little things in life like going out to eat, let alone travel. Like many, I couldn’t wait to get out and travel again. As soon as we were vaccinated and felt a little safer about the COVID-19 numbers, we booked a few trips. I was so excited about the ability to travel for mental health.
I’ve had the unique opportunity lately to spend a lot of time traveling. In the midst of preparing for every trip I found myself looking forward to being able to release and relax, and travel for mental health. I lived in the “I can’t wait to do X when I get there” mode. Or “I can’t wait to just relax and not worry about anything.” Funny thing is, I did a lot of waiting and anticipating for a bit of a reality check to soon hit.
The good life
Many people travel to relax, reset, and recharge. This summer was no different for me. Jeff and I lived pretty conservatively and didn’t travel at all during the worst of the pandemic. Not to mention, I was dealing with my own health issues at the time, which caused their own effects on mental health. Since then, we’ve branched out and spent time traveling and exploring this summer together. We made it a priority to visit places we had never been and experience new things.
If you don’t know me, I’m the type of person that likes to stay busy. I find it hard to relax or not be taking care of something or someone else. In fact, I recently had a weekend to myself without any responsibilities so I convinced myself not to work and just have fun. About four hours into the first day I was going nuts without working or doing something for my family…I figured it out eventually with some suggestions, but you get the point.
So, lets travel for mental health!
Back to the story. The times I’ve traveled this summer were exciting and much welcomed after being couped up in quarantine for a year. Before I traveled, I prepared my clothes and belongings accordingly and planned out what adventures I would embark on while there – mainly the beach! I love airplane rides so I got so excited for full days of flying and layovers when there were no direct flights. I know, call me crazy. There’s just something so magical I will never get over about flying.
Fast forward to arriving at our destination, once we got there I’d settle in and unpack. I’d look so forward to getting up the next day, getting some work done, then heading to the beach to relax, unwind, and reset! Because after all, this was travel for mental health.
But that’s when it hit me…
The first day I felt the same anxieties I had over work and my medical issues. I convinced myself I just needed to get to the beach and I’d feel fine. I grabbed my books, airpods, and some snacks, and headed down to the beach. I settled into the perfect spot where the waves were crashing just yards a way. I’d go back and forth between the water and laying out. It was the perfect setup…or was it.
Being away from home didn’t mean all my problems had gone away too. They came right with me to the beach. I still felt the pressures of life and my medical issues reminding me my body couldn’t handle the high heat like it previously could in years past. This was all a recipe for a “what the hell” feeling. Wasn’t this travel for mental health, afterall?
Traveling for mental health
My point is this, traveling doesn’t take away from lifes issues, it only brings them to the forefront. While it is great for relaxing at times, it can also cause you to take a step back and really evaluate life and what you’re doing to prioritize your mental health. For me, I wasn’t slowing down a bit. I kept my work schedule the same, stayed busy all the time, and didn’t create any room for self-care.
It hit me hard and with no warning. It felt ridiculous to be in such a beautiful place and not be able to fully enjoy it. I had to learn the hard way to prioritize some self-care and let my busy life slow down a bit. Easier said than done for most! I had to incorporate new routines that allowed more down time for reflection and being present in the moment.
Traveling is not the answer for your precious mental health. Taking time to prioritize your mental health and do things that serve you are what’s important. Take a break from your work, set aside some time for yourself to be alone, put the electronic devices away, and remove the distractions. In the digital era of life we live in it’s so easy to get caught up and let our busy lives pass us by.
I encourage you to take a break BEFORE you travel and not get caught up in the idea that traveling will fix all your problems. It’s merely a distraction for a small amount of time.
What are you doing today to prioritize your mental health?