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empowerment

Advice Solo Travel

Extra Baggage: Traveling With Depression and Anxiety

The prospect of traveling to 
unfamiliar countries can be daunting. The same can be said about dealing with
 mental illness — in my case, anxiety and depression.

Combining these potentially volatile 
ingredients can, to those of us who may not have had much experience with 
any, invoke the taste of a potentially deadly cocktail on one’s tongue. Before heading out, I found myself nervously and honestly inquiring to 
no one in particular; “Can it be done”?

My answer, after careful
 consideration, is yes. Absolutely — yes.

To break it up, I’ve made a few points of things that have helped me 
along the road so you don’t have to resort to Google for answers that don’t
 entirely exist like I did!

1. Talk To Your Doctor.

First off, I am (obviously) not your doctor and cannot, therefore, tell 
you what can and cannot be done with regards to your specific condition. They 
will be able to help you whip up some coping strategies and, if necessary, 
figure out a plan for dealing with your medication abroad (if you are taking a
prescription).

2. Figure Out Your Drugs! 

This was probably my biggest cause of concern. Images of running out of 
or losing my medication constantly flashed through my mind. An emotional crisis 
in the middle of a foreign jungle. My poor dorm mates unequipped and unaware of 
how to deal with this black mass pulsing frightening energy from the top bunk
 (Obscurus, anyone?). Allow me to clarify the reality.

To begin with, my doctor was able to extend my prescription by six
 months – three of which were covered by health insurance, while the other three
 came out of pocket (amounting to about $60 CAD all together for a 50 mg daily 
dose of Sertraline, the generic brand of Zoloft). I kept about a week’s worth
in my day pack and the rest in two separate pockets in my main bag. That way, if
 I somehow lost one of my supplies, I would have at least a little bit of time 
to get to a pharmacy. That brings me to another little known point: you can
 easily get many types of prescription medication over the counter in Asia that 
you would usually need to see a doctor for in most Western countries, and for
 about a third of the price. The only thing holding me back from filling my
 entire backpack with a year’s worth of antidepressants was the thought of
 declaring it at customs.

3. Find a Safe Place and Wait It
 Out.

A wise friend and experienced traveler once gave me this advice, and I
 carry it with me as one of my most valuable and well-used tools in the
 box.

Wherever you are in the world, these places exist. Spend a few extra 
dollars and get a private room for a night if you need to. If you need to
 extend your stay in a certain place, do it. Don’t go throwing yourself into a
 New Delhi train station with a head full of stuffing. I once found a lovely 
little cafe with a cat named Moon, mulled wine, and a wood-burning fire place 
during a particularly dark period spent in Northern Vietnam, and I spent a 
large part of my time here waiting out the storm. You all know deep down that 
whatever it is in your head will pass – even when your backwards pain-loving 
mentality tells you it is permanent, deserved, and intrinsically you. Sit 
tight, allow your eyes to glaze over, drool if you must, and wait for the
 inevitably brighter days ahead.

4. Don’t Abandon Your Support.

I love traveling alone. I love being alone.
 Often, when I am experiencing the deepest reaches of my sadness, I believe
 there is no other logical way to move forward than to abandon those I love,
 thus sparing them from what suffering I cannot spare myself.

However romantic it might be to revel in your disillusioned
 independence, dependent on the nature and severity of your illness, this can be 
dangerous and reckless. If you feel as though you are healthy and ready to 
support yourself on that quote-on-quote
 truly-authentic-deletes-all-methods-of-contact-no-wifi-solo-mission, then by
 all means, cool. You be the judge.

Support can mean staying in regular contact with those at home –
something which has become so. incredibly.
easy. The development I can see in communication technology even looking
 back at my 2011 backpacking trip through Europe is in itself mind-boggling.
 Talk to them. Let them know you are okay. By doing this, you are also letting 
yourself know you are okay.

Support can also mean having a travel companion. Traveling with a
friend or loved one can be the best thing ever. It can also be very hard. I
 struggled with this for a while, constantly getting cold feet about leaving the 
country with a partner, before ultimately realizing there is no
”right” or “more authentic” way to travel, such as there is
no definitive “right” or “more authentic” way to live. 
Right now, I am traveling with my best friend. We have had incredible
 experiences, both together and apart, and we have had experiences that have 
tested our friendship. Inevitably, the latter only makes us more patient and compassionate
 with one another in the long run. Having someone with me who knows my
 history (medical and otherwise) has helped me in times when I could not help 
myself, and has been an important stepping stone in learning how to deal with
 my temperamental mind abroad.

5. There Is No Shame In Going Home.

You owe absolutely nothing to anyone. Not even that weird, angry,
volatile part of your brain that is telling you how much you suck for wanting
to “give up.”

Your trip is your own, and, most importantly, so is your health – mental
 and physical. Said you were staying for a year? Most likely, no one even 
remembers this (sorry). Afraid of what your friends and family might think? I
 believe the definition of friends and family quite possibly includes something 
along the lines of “people who generally prefer spending time with a 
physically-present version of yourself over a glitching, pixelated blob on
 FaceTime.”

More important questions: Are you in a constant state of distress? Do
 you need medical attention beyond that of a sketchy Cambodian pharmacy? Are 
you not enjoying yourself anymore? Dude. Get yourself on a 
plane. You can always go 
back on the road. Don’t ever think that you have backed yourself into a corner.
 Ask yourself if you would be blamed for flying home after breaking your leg in
 an unfortunate bungy accident. We all know the answer.

6. Travel.

Maybe — just maybe — traveling will help you in the way you hoped, but 
highly doubted (hey, anxiety!), it would. Maybe it will help your mind see in 
ways in couldn’t before, and help you find a place for the feelings that hurt you instead of burying them under a thin, translucent membrane of 
mundane routine.

Just try letting your mind wander when you are in the middle of a chaotic intersection in Ho Chi Minh City with motorbikes flowing around you 
like water. Crippling anxiety about your job? That you don’t have? Thought
 so. And how can you possibly be depressed when you’re eating the fluffiest 
rabbit-shaped pancakes you’ve ever seen!?!

First of all, you will be continually meeting people who will shine 
light on dark and angry corners you didn’t know you had, in ways you might not 
quite understand at first. These new connections, for me, have been 
integral in helping me recognize myself. You are seeing new things every 
single day. You are tasting foods you hadn’t even imagined existed, learning 
new languages, and deciphering the next currency exchange in this week’s country
 like it’s your day job (it is your day job, basically). Your brain simply 
doesn’t have time to build those black holes like it used to.

Believe me, it will try. And you will have your days. But there is
 something so naturally healing in surrounding yourself with a new environment,
 and new people, every day. You can no longer blame your mood on the dismal
 colour of your apartment walls. The quickness of it all, the force for thought 
beyond yourself, and continual processing beyond your menial daily tasks, 
ensures your mind is elsewhere.

Take a pill. Buy a ticket. Both. Neither. You will, over time, learn
 what works with your body and mind. There is — surprise — no right or wrong 
combination.

Journal

The Minority Report: Traveling Solo While Black, Female and Disabled

So you have been bitten by the travel bug, it was pretty much over from that point on. You are always on the look out for your next adventure, your next big thing. The next place to add onto the other amazing places that you have been that have simply taken your breath away.

But not so fast, you don’t have a passport and you have polio. The dream is over before it was even given an opportunity to start, and make you fall in love with traveling. I was a 5 year old immigrant from Nigeria who had just arrived in London, with no English language skills and a whole lot of malaria.

If I wasn’t interested enough, that right there would be more than enough to validate a choice to not travel. Or not to travel as much. But
I was always drawn to international people. So during my time in
university I lived with and got to know many students that were not from the UK. Please note, that while I did have a great time with them, remember to make friends with people that won’t leave after 6 months! Or in the case of my second year of university, don’t be the person that leaves California so easily! Find a (legal!) way to stay.

But as soon as I could travel, I did travel. And it was usually to destinations where my friends were, because apparently I just don’t know how to let go. “Traveling while crip” changes you, at least it definitely changed me. I have always loved the thrill of trying to outdo myself, everything is so much better when you are challenging yourself.

It’s certainly not easy traveling with a disability, everything is just harder, and requires more planning. Except when it comes to see the world, and my friends within it. I go the extra mile for that, and I always will.

So going through Belfast and walking on the Carrick-a-Rede in pouring rain? Been there. Done that. Nearly died while doing so? Yup. For me that’s where the thrill comes from, knowing that I should probably be “taking it easy”. But my life has never been easy, it’s like I have been collecting different minority statuses my whole life.

Not only do I travel with a disability, but I do all of this while [most of the time] solo. And, of course, there is always a concern about being a Dame Traveler going to new places and trying to stay safe. Thankfully, throughout my travels I have been perfectly fine and have felt safe as well. Even when I was on a night train in Chicago and this guy wouldn’t stop trying to sell me earrings, I was able to relieve any tension that there could have been. I believe growing up in London has helped me deal with my fair share of “interesting men”.

Advice that I would give to any female traveler, disabled or otherwise, is to assess the situation and see if it would not just be easier to engage in small talk with whoever is trying to get your attention. What I have found out it that they usually do not like being ignored, but obviously every situation is different. You should always follow your gut and if something doesn’t feel right, it most probably isn’t.
I am a woman of colour with a disability that really enjoys traveling by herself, often to places where I don”t know anyone. But what is life, if not for living? And traveling really does bring me to life, back home in London, I am not so interesting. Unless I’m in the US, of course, then I just play up my accent and soak up the adoration like the fiend I am. When I am not shamelessly soaking up attention, I am Couchsurfing! Most of my couchsurfing experience was during my 2 month traveling tour of USA, Canada and Jamaica. I had the pleasure of being hosted by some absolutely amazing people, both men and women. It can seem daunting at first, especially if you’re surfing as a woman by yourself. But when you get a great host, a friendship could come out of it! Which is always, always a plus. Who doesn’t want to meet up in Malmo, Sweden with an amazing woman that so graciously hosted her when she was homeless in Atlanta?

So when I was in the Duomo di Milano and could not make the last few steps to the top as I didn’t feel safe because of how windy it was, and how big [and oh so expensive!] my new camera was, I wasn’t upset. I had seen what I wanted to, and the extra few steps would not have changed much for me. And in my opinion, there is no point wallowing in self pity. As that would involve a river of tears, and I am simply not that strong of a swimmer!

During all of my travels, I have had to contend with figuring out how best to see the things that I want with a disability. And I feel that due to this, I have never really taken notice of myself as a “black female traveler”. But I have heard tales of POC having a to deal with a certain curiosity about their race, at best. Or having to deal with outright distrust of their intentions when they are traveling while black, or just not white white white. There has only been an instance in Geneva, Switzerland where I was obviously the talking point for a large tour group of East Asian travelers. I am sure that the combination of a black woman with a disability was just simply too interesting not to discuss.

My travels are taking me to Greece and Turkey in the next few months, and I am actually beyond excited about this. I have never been to either country before, and I am hoping to soak up as much culture, fun and food as possible! Including the famous Turkish ice cream. I am sure that there will be times where I will become frustrated with certain things that I can’t do. But where there is a will, there is most definitely a way, and I intend on finding it!

The most difficult thing for me would be not to be able to travel at all, in any capacity. As it is hard trying to figure out exactly what you’re going to do with your life, but if my life includes adventures to foreign lands? I will be more than happy with that. As traveling just makes me happy.

 

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Solo Travel

6 Reasons To Travel Alone

Although a good travel buddy is worth their weight in gold, I’ve always been a huge advocate for the solo journey. There are certain things you gain when taking a trip all to yourself that are simply invaluable.
Here are 6 reasons you should plan your next trip with you and you alone!

1. Personal Growth
Traveling alone is scary and challenging…and really frustrating at times. There have been many occasions in my solo travels where I’ve wanted to give up and go home early, feeling totally lost, defeated and lonely. But it always seemed the toughest days were followed by the most extraordinary ones. Pushing through those dark moments and being completely self reliant in the most uncomfortable situations builds character, courage & major confidence; ultimately forcing you to realize that you’re totally badass!

2. Openness

When your all by yourself you’re open to meeting new people, you strike up conversations more willingly and are easily approachable. I’m still close friends with folks I’ve met on my sojourns, amazing people I might not have connected to if I’d had already had a travel companion.

3. Valuing What’s Important

Far from the people you love with only a pack on your back, or a suitcase in hand, taking a trip on your own helps you fully appreciate whats important in life. You realize you don’t need much to be happy and quickly forget about your material possessions left back at home. What you don’t forget are the people you love most and how lucky you are to have them in your life.

4. Freedom

When traveling alone you’re the boss. You decide where to go, what to do, where to eat and who to meet. No bickering over travel itineraries, or who’s fault it is for getting lost. Stay in bed all day, or take a train to the next country — you have the freedom to do what ever you please!

5. Practicing Presence

All on your own in an unfamiliar place, it’s easy to spend a lot of time thinking of the future, or past — it can be a challenge to stay present and enjoy the incredible adventure you’re on. After an epic excursion you learn to practice presence and try to fully appreciate the amazing moments as they’re happening.

6. Secrets Only You Keep
No matter how many times you try to describe your crazy travel tales to friends and family…you’ll never quite capture the magic in those moments. Those terrifying, hysterical, bizarre, beautiful, breathtaking, unbelievable moments are impossible to translate into words — those are your special secrets and that’s pretty damn cool.

About the Dame Traveler:
Blaire is an enthusiastic travel lover and is always up for the solo-travel challenge. Whether sleeping in the slums of India, getting leeches in Laos, wearing a burka in Oman, or eating crickets in Cambodia, Blaire continues to find the joy and humor within each exciting endeavor and lives by the mantra, “It’s never a hassle, always an adventure!”

Be sure to head to Buy Conscious – a guide for conscious living – where Blaire contributes her stories & advice on impressive products, inspiring people and impactful choices that help create positive change.

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