Posted: March 26, 2021
“I don’t need a therapist; just a good travel agent.”
“If something bad happens, travel to forget it.”
“Traveling is the best medicine.”
These are actual travel quotes I’ve found on the internet, posted by travel companies and popular bloggers. Although these quotes aim to inspire, all they’ve done is make me want to barf. They are spreading a harmful lie: that you can rely on travel for your mental well-being.
Travel seems like a quick and easy fix for a lot of problems. Just hop on a plane and travel somewhere and you’ll no longer be trapped by your mundane ordinary life and its problem.
But, even while relaxing on a beach of some distant land, you still won’t be able to “escape” your mental health struggles — or any personal problem, for that matter. Eventually, they will catch up to you, no matter how far from home you go.
In my teenage years, my undiagnosed OCD symptoms followed me everywhere. When I visited British Columbia and Alberta, Canada as an 18-year-old, I realized that travel couldn’t save me from my mental health sufferings. When I “escaped” into otherworldly pine forests and mountain ranges, I still struggled from my mind’s loud and unsettling thoughts. On top of that, a new friend spotted my strange OCD behaviors.
It was only when I finally sought professional treatment at home that my mental health improved. From then on, life — and my travels — have been much more fulfilling.
But in some cases, even the most effective courses of therapeutic treatment are not a cure-all for mental health.
The best I can do when living and traveling with a chronic mental illness like OCD is to cope with it. I can be proactive with mental self-care and use the therapeutic treatments I have in my personal toolbox, but that’s pretty much it.
Maintaining good mental health is a lifelong journey. It takes time, practice, and patience.
To be clear, I cannot depend on travel to deal with my OCD, social anxiety, and intergenerational trauma as a second-generation Vietnamese American. Those issues would place too much false responsibility on travel. They are best solved through professional therapy.
My mental health journey involves travel not as a cure but as an activity I like to do. Yes, it’s that simple.
I won’t let my imperfect mental health stop me from doing something I enjoy, which is travel. And to do it with treated mental health issues is proof — a punchy shot of confidence and self-esteem — that I can actually go out into the world despite my imperfect mind. It shows I am in control of my life, not my mental health conditions.
What’s more, travel exposes me to new stressful challenges, which build up resilience — something I should always try practicing. These experiences teach my mind, which tends to inflate things out of proportion, that they are only small stuff.
At the same time, I try not to let travel trick me into trying to “escape” my mental health problems. I have to stay focused on the true meaning of travel — venturing out into the world beyond home, fueled by an innate curiosity and sense of adventure.
Depending on travel to treat your mental health is dangerous because sometimes, you aren’t able to do it as freely as you would have liked. *ahem* coronavirus pandemic *ahem*
How did you react when the COVID-19 pandemic denied us of our travel experiences in 2020 and 2021? Where is your cure-all now? Hmm?
According to Psychology Today, travel can provide a multitude of mental health benefits, including time to relax as you remove yourself from the demands of daily life. But it does not directly improve your mental health long-term.
That’s your job. And professional therapy, supplemented by self-help book reading, support groups, and possibly medication, can help you.
With our newfound knowledge, let’s correct those
inspirational stupid travel quotes into realistic approaches. “I don’t need a therapist; just a good travel agent.” “I need a therapist who will guide me through my mental struggles, then I will find a good travel agent.” “If something bad happens, travel to forget it.” “If something bad happens, seek professional help. Then travel.” “Traveling is the best medicine.” “Traveling is NOT the best medicine.”
The most important item you’ll bring with you isn’t your passport or your favorite toothbrush. It’s your mental health mastery, knowing how to take care of your mind, regardless of where you are in the world.
Share this on Pinterest, you savvy traveler.