I was fortunate enough recently to pack my trusty rucksack once again and go travelling for a month. I flew to Rio and worked my way down the beautiful coast of Brazil, and from there flew to La Paz where I spent a week in the striking country of Bolivia (the Salt Flats and surrounding landscapes were literally the best things I’ve ever seen)!
While I was away, I had time to reflect. Often in London, I (and I know I’m not alone here) feel overwhelmed or stressed or inadequate or anxious. I also think it’s so easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, getting caught up in the rat race and the mostly miserable faces on the daily commute. While sitting on a beach having a caipirinha (sorry) I made a few notes about why I thought travel was so good for our mental health and wellbeing.
From meeting new people, to testing out your own limits, to allowing some time to be selfish and focus on yourself, I think all these experiences shape you into a better, more positive person. It could have just been the drink talking, or the sugar rush that inevitably followed, but here’s what I noted….
Taking time for self-care and self-reflection
Every single day that I was away, I made sure to keep a journal of everything I’d been up to. This was partly as my memory is so bad that without it I probably would have forgotten half the trip… But, it was also in part as a therapist had once told me how important it was to write down how you are feeling every day.
‘Making time every evening, to sit down and reflect on what you’ve been up to is so important’
Making time every evening, to sit down and reflect on what you’ve been up to is so important and is something I am trying very hard with to continue now I’ve returned home. We recently published a blog on ways that the Traverse community had recommended for staying well mentally, and one that cropped up a few times was starting or ending the day scrawling a few pages on whatever you’re thinking about. It’s often surprising what your subconscious is thinking and it’s good to check in on this once in a while. You can read the blog in full here: it’s packed full of helpful tips if you’re struggling or looking for ways to look after your own mental health.
Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone
While I was away, I made sure to push myself out of my comfort zone, experiencing things that I normally wouldn’t in everyday life. On a visit to New Zealand a few years ago, I forced myself to go skydiving, a pretty big deal for someone that up until that point hated planes and also hated heights (and the idea of falling out of a plane and hurtling towards the earth). Afterwards, I felt an immense sense of achievement, that if I could do that I could do almost anything.
For me on this trip, pushing myself out of my comfort zone meant flying to and from South America on my own. Which might not sound like a big deal, but for someone who hasn’t flown all that much, to undertake an 18 hour journey involving three different connections (hello cheap deals on Skyscanner), I felt so proud of myself for having completed this. Genuinely, I used to cry or have to get so unbelievably drunk if I wanted to board a plane, which my family and friends often found very amusing.
Facing your fears, whether that be going to a new place, putting yourself into new social situations, flying by yourself or jumping out of a plane is a brilliant way to tackle them. I even felt out of my comfort zone communicating with people in a language I know very little of, stumbling together phrases that I’d picked up from phrase books and trying to understand the gist of what’s being said. But yet again, having pushed myself to have these interactions and not rely solely on Google translate, you grow in confidence and self-belief.
Meeting new people
We spent the month based in hostels. This inevitably means you meet a whole array of weird and wonderful people. I met some incredible people, with such interesting tales. One way that travel and exploring new places makes you a better person, is it normally gives you a hell of a lot of good anecdotes. I also, unfortunately, met a handful of obnoxious, self-centred, and quite frankly rude people. But these experiences help to shape you – even if they only serve as a guide of how not to treat other people.
‘We spent the month based in hostels. This inevitably means you meet a whole array of weird and wonderful people’
My Portuguese and Spanish leave A LOT to be desired, but despite this the local people were (on the most part) so willing to be help you and always did so with such a smile on their face. Interactions like these stay in your mind and restore your faith in humanity. I also love learning about new cultures and traditions and seeing how other people live. It’s genuinely so fascinating. We would go on any free walking tour we could find of the local place, to try and learn as much about the history and culture of the places we were staying.
Discovering beautiful places
So many of the places we visited while away were absolutely breathtaking. There were many occasions we’d sit in awe of the incredible view that we’d just hiked to, or the stunning vistas that we’d driven to. Moments like this stick in your mind, and mean that even occasionally on the dark days, you can look back at these savoured moments and remember how fortunate you were to see such incredible sights. This is partly why I love the job so much, as Traverse are often sending talented content creators to discover beautiful parts of the world. Throughout the campaigns, I love seeing the incredible places they get to visit and document, and feel almost like I’m there too…
What do you love most about travelling? Do you think that travelling can be bad for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!