Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Does travel affect mental well-being?

Exhilarating. Daunting. Liberating. Challenging. All words one can use when describing the act of travelling. All accurate too, at some point. Whether it’s a family holiday, weekend trip with friends, or a more long-term plan that involves living abroad, travel offers something different for everyone. It therefore comes as no surprise that it also often has an impact on mental wellbeing, and this too can vary. For some, the thought of leaving the comforts of home may cause distress, the idea of being responsible for your own travel creates anxiety. Many prefer to travel in groups. For others, it can offer a thrilling and temporary change to the routineness of everyday life, and a much-needed break to re-energise both physically and mentally. For me, at this point, it’s basically become my go-to way of de-stressing.


the other unpredictable perk of travel is the likelihood of discovery


“Catch flights not feelings!”

Often jokingly thrown into conversation with friends, either just after a trip has been booked or as one is approaching, this little catchphrase pretty much sums it up. Though mainly only referenced lightly, the more I think about it, the more I realise how much it actually encompasses my attitude towards travel. Defining feelings in this instance as more than just possible romantic interest towards a specific person, but rather your general thoughts, moods and worries, catching flights quite literally provides a way to avoid this. It ultimately provides an escape.


You don’t even have to necessarily go for the clichéd beach getaway. Whether you’re exploring a new city, or just taking a trip to the countryside to visit friends, from my experience it is the act of travel itself that simultaneously relaxes and opens the mind. I’ve noticed I’m less in my head when on the go, and this internal clarity promotes mental wellbeing. Of course, it doesn’t hurt if the destination itself offers distraction with a combination of sights, culture and cuisine. But regardless of location, the other unpredictable perk of travel is the likelihood of discovery. Through continued exploration, even the most familiar places can surprise you.


it’s so important to feed it with whatever brings joy and comfort

Hence, alluring because of the promise of new adventure and possibility, and addictive because of the way it allows me to escape my troubles, travelling has, simply put, played a big role in both my life and my mental wellbeing. Finding that even the thought of a potential trip can snap me out of a funk has left me wondering what I’d be doing if I wasn’t lucky enough to have the option to travel. But on a more serious note, it has also caused me to question why I feel so liberated when I’m on the go, and what I’m actually running away from.


Talking, or even writing about my own mental health and wellbeing is something that I have often struggled with, and arguably one of the worst feelings is being stuck inside your own head. It hinders your perceptions, jeopardises your relationships and ultimately leaves you feeling helpless. Your mind is in control of it all, hence why it’s so important to feed it with whatever brings joy and comfort. For me, that has been travelling. Sure, it may not be the most cost-efficient answer, but the more I do it, the more confident I feel travelling alone and to more remote destinations. Whilst it doesn’t essentially offer a long-term solution, it’s been effective thus far, helping provide a balance against stress and making it easier to take things one day at a time.

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