Today I’ll be exploring if solo-traveling could help your anxiety and depression.
When I was younger, I used to suffer from both anxiety and depression. I was on medication, I exercised, I tried to force myself to go out to get rid of the agoraphobia… it didn’t feel like I was improving. Here’s what I did…
I thought of all the places I would truly love to visit. Somewhere I didn’t think it was possible to go due to my illnesses. Rome. There’s a hell of a lot of people in Rome, plus a language barrier. I researched all the sights I’d like to go and see, making a complete itinerary for my holiday (with one day spare for me to explore). The idea of this was that if my anxiety and depression got too much, I would be focusing on completing my itinerary rather than my illnesses. It worked.
Here’s the thing. Before I left, I genuinely thought people were only nice to me so I didn’t have a panic attack or breakdown. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to be friends with me, or why they would make an effort, except to try and make me feel better. By traveling to Rome, people didn’t know about my illnesses. I made friends because they actually liked me. I proved to myself that I was likable – this was very important to my self-esteem.
Now, I’d like to remind everyone that you do still need to be cautious and street smart. I never left the B+B after dark and only visited quiet areas during the high point of the day. I kept my bag close to me at all times – I was never robbed. The people I made friends with were fellow tourists on the Vatican museum tour 🙂 So not exactly strangers when you spend quite a few hours together.
When I visited, it was actually my birthday. I went for dinner with two New Yorkers, a father and daughter – the daughter was my own age. The Italian waiters gave us free glasses of champagne and sang happy birthday to me 🙂 It was a wonderful experience.
How can this help you?
By doing this, I did something I’d never done before. I’d not been on holiday since I was about 5 years old – I was in my early 20’s by now. This was my first real holiday, and I was alone. When you suffer from anxiety and depression, you have a tendency to feel lesser than other people, like you can’t achieve as much because of your illnesses. You can. My solo traveling all started with this one amazing trip. I booked it and forced myself to go, regardless of my anxiety on the day. I saw some amazing things, met some amazing people, tasted some unforgettable food, and discovered who I am.
I’ll admit, it wasn’t always easy. On the night time in the B+B, I got lonely, very lonely sometimes. This was the depression speaking. I would call my family, blog, or look through my photos.
If you’re going to try this, always make sure you fully research the area you’re going to. Make sure it’s a safe place to visit before you book anything. Stay smart. I kept my bag pointing forwards on my body at all times so I could see it, you hear stories from other travelers were they had it behind them and their purses were stolen. Also, let your family or friends know where you’ll be staying and which flights you’ll be taking.
This is one of the best and bravest things I’ve done in my whole life, and certainly the thing I’m most proud of. I defeated my anxiety and depression simply by going. When I returned, I didn’t have depression anymore! 🙂 My experiences cured it, many years later, I still have not relapsed. My anxiety is another matter, a constant struggle. However, I remember how brave I was going on this very first trip, when I think of that, I feel like I can do anything.
Have you solo-traveled before or want to? Let me know in the comments! 🙂