“Final boarding call. Final boarding call. May all the passengers for Miami to San Diego report to Gate 16A for final boarding, please”
I gathered all of my belongings and headed to the designated gate.
In 5 hours, after 10 different countries and 8 long months of traveling, I would finally be in my hometown.
My body was glowing.
I felt like a completely different person than the one that the guy that had left nearly a year prior.
All the stress, apathy, and fatigue I once felt had dissipated away from me.
I am a big proponent of travel as it has done wonders for my mental health. I backpacked Thailand when I was 20, fell in love with traveling, and I have left the country every year subsequently for the last 4 years.
This was a return from my longest trip.
I want to share with you why I believe traveling can help give you a “mental reset” you may need in your life right now (and hopefully inspire you to travel!).
Here are some reasons how traveling can improve your mental health.
A Healthy Dosage of Gratitude
You might have heard from your family or friends who have traveled to a new country about how different people live in another country.
Or you can even start to imagine how dissimilar life would be in varied parts of the world.
Yes, different countries have various cultures, norms, values, total wealth and people. This may seem like common sense but until you actually experience being in a different country, you will not fully understand.
Sometimes it may almost feel as if you are visiting another world.
Getting a feel for how contrasting countries live their day-to-day lives could make you grateful for where you come from.
For me, after bathing with buckets in the Philipines, eating on plastic tables and chairs on the streets of Vietnam, and seeing how much locals have to hustle to afford a decent lifestyle in Thailand….
…I have a deep appreciation for being born in the States.
I appreciate the freedom I have in the States, the richer economy, the opportunities to improve in regards to social class, and the strength of the U.S. Dollar.
All those small trivial things I used to dedicate my thoughts and worry about did not seem so important. After all, my life could always be harder or different if I was born somewhere else.
I even felt this sense of gratitude in the more developed countries I had the privilege to visit. In some of the more advanced countries, locals often spoke to me about the work culture environment in their society. The work expectations make them labor for insane workweek hours…
Seeing all these different cultures brought me a lot of gratitude. Gratitude has been shown to bring you happiness. According to multiple studies, gratitude has been linked to curing anxiety and depression.
Traveling opens your eyes to how other cultures and people live in their country. Seeing how different life is can help you appreciate how lucky you are to be where you are from.
Gives You A Clean Slate
You see, when you live your life in the same city or community, you will have a distorted perception of who you actually are.
For example, if you have been known by your peers who grew up with you to be the quiet, shy, funny, angry, brave, outgoing, loud, moody, shy or whatever personality trait you may be associated with, you may find yourself behaving in a way that aligns in a way with how your fellow companions believe you to be.
But what happens when all your peers or the people who know how you generally act are not there?
Who will you be?
There is this freedom to express yourself that comes with traveling to a new country. You will be surrounded by people who have no idea who you are or who you were and it is liberating.
You can try behaving in a manner that you would not typically do around your usual associates.
I’ve always have been known by my peers to be more withheld and kept to myself. When I traveled, I was freed from being known as the timid guy and I pushed myself to talk to everybody.
I quickly realized just how normal it is to start a random conversation with a complete stranger. It was easier to try to chat with a random stranger when I didn’t feel any pressure to live up to the “quiet guy” persona my ordinary friends or people in my life knew me as.
This freedom to try things out relieved a lot of pressure to act a certain way and it gave me the liberty to carry myself in a manner that I usually don’t.
I felt liberated to completely express myself.
I could just be, well, my actual self–without feeling any judgment or need to act a particular way.
Now, I feel have a better idea of who I authentically am and I’m naturally a lot happier.
Challenge You in A Good Way
Sometimes when you are working hard and going through the same routine day in, day out… you may experience being burnt out, lethargic, or dejected.
Maybe a change in the environment may be necessary to give you a fresh start, clearer headspace, and unique obstacles to renew your life.
Sure, it may be a challenge (or even scary!) to get acclimated to a new culture or environment…
But overcoming the obstacles would make you step out of your comfort zone and lead you to a happier state of mind.
Let me explain.
Ever notice that whenever you solve a problem or conquer a barrier in your life, you feel a sense of accomplishment, pleasure, and pride?
Well, let me tell you, there are more than enough obstacles you will face when you travel to an unusual region.
Trekking in unfamiliar territory will give you those challenges and the feeling of achievement as you navigate your way through a new country.
Learning to communicate with locals who do not speak your native tongue, figuring out directions to get around, and facing the multitude of hurdles that comes with being in a completely different country will give you that sense of fulfillment and triumph.
It can provide that change of pace, activity, and schedule you may be mentally yearning for.
Perhaps the problems you face abroad will even make you apprecaite how much less effort it is to live in your own country.
A Fair Warning
As I explained above, traveling can be a wonderful aid to improve your mental health…!
However, I do have to add…
There is a potential situation when traveling may not be so great for your mental health.
One time, I traveled when I was severely depressed…
A depression so bad, it was a struggle to get out of bed every morning. When I did get out of bed, if I was alone with my thoughts, I would be consumed with gloom.
When I was abroad, my feelings of inadequacy, depression, and hopelessness…amplified.
Being alone in another country forced me to deal with my vast dysfunctional thoughts…and it left me in a really dismal, numb state of mind. During the day I would be paralyzed by a constant flood of negative thoughts in my head. At night, I would go out and sabotage myself by heavily drinking alcohol…
…on my own…in a foreign country…where I was not familiar with my surroundings or anybody.
In hindsight, this was extremely dangerous.
At the time, I just did not care.
About anything, really.
I didn’t care if someone hurt me or if I received any sort of serious personal injury.
When I returned from traveling, I knew something was wrong to feel this way all of the time and I checked myself into therapy.
So, although traveling can better your mental health, if you are badly depressed, traveling may actually obstruct you from feeling better.
If you are seriously depressed, I would encourage you to seek professional help to assist you in steering your way out of that abysmal state of mind. I learned a lot from a year of therapy after suffering from depression and I wholeheartedly believe professional help can do the same for everyone going through a rough time.
If you know someone who is struggling with depression, here are my tips to support them.
Time For Some Self-Exploration!
Remember, travel can be an amazing instrument to better your mental health. It can provide you with a mental reset as well as serve as a great self-discovery tool.
But I do have to note that I know what many of you are thinking.
“I don’t have the money, resources, time or I can’t because of this or that…”
Look, there are a million or so reasons you can probably come up with to why you can’t travel…
But something I learned when I was young was that the only thing stopping you from going abroad or, as a matter of fact, doing anything you want in your life– is yourself.
If you truly want something, you will figure out a way to get it.
You and only you, are blessed with the responsibility for determining where or what you do with your life. Sure, it may seem daunting. However, I would advise you to bask in the uncertainty!
It is all a part of this amazing adventure called life.
Sometimes it is as simple as just getting up and going.
So again, if you want to travel, figure out a way to travel. Especially if you are young. Get out in the world when you have don’t a lot of responsibility or other large bills to hold you down. There are thousands of ways to make money online or work remotely. You can teach English abroad or become an online freelancer or just work, save up some money and go!
Here are some other ideas to get you started with making money online or remotely.
Do yourself a favor and reinvigorate your mind by making it a goal this year to travel.
Go explore somewhere new! Gift yourself with the mental refresh and renew your life.
You might thank me later 🙂