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mental health

Advice Journal

How Traveling Can Improve Body Image

Traveling to new places across the world (or even a trip to a new part of your town!) can offer a break from our daily lives. We are thrown out of our normal routines, and for some of us, that is a welcomed break. If you are someone who suffers from or is prone to anxiety, depression, an eating disorder, or other anxiety disorders, this break from normalcy can be fear inducing. As a therapist who specializes in eating disorders, here are some suggestions on how traveling can improve body image, and actually be a helpful way to break the constant rigidity and hyper-focus on body image.

Leave Your Rules at Home

Because traveling to a new place requires you to physically not be at home or in your familiar environment, this can be a great opportunity to “leave your worries behind”. Likely, and unfortunately, they will be there when you return. Give yourself permission to take a break from the structure and rules that may feel so important to follow. By doing this, you are allowing yourself to be more present, mindful, and really take in the experience of being somewhere new. It is always okay to bring pieces of your home with you to help ground yourself, though (i.e., pictures, jewelry, favorite sweatshirt, etc.). Some of the greatest parts of traveling are to enjoy the unfamiliar foods, the culture, and interactions with others. If you notice you’re spending that time thinking about how others may be perceiving you, it may be keeping you from fully enjoying all aspects of your trip. Keep in mind that depending on where you travel, other cultures may have different body image standards than where you are from. Therefore, comparing your body to others does nothing but reinforce beliefs that someone has to be “better” or “worse”.

“Don’t post that picture!”

Taking pictures, having visual memories and reminders of where we have been, can be some of the best souvenirs from a trip. Many people who have body image concerns may not want to be in these pictures, or if they are, may spend excess time thinking about how they wish their body would look a certain way. While it can be totally acceptable to not want to be in pictures, think of what kind of memory you could have if you were a part of those memories. The purpose of these pictures is to remember what we did at those times, remember the experience, the feelings of how it was to be at that place at that moment in time, and to remember the smells and the sounds. Instead of critiquing how you appear in that picture, consider that the purpose of the picture (and you being in it), isn’t about you at all – it is about the experience. You are in it to remind yourself that you were there. If we can allow ourselves to shift the focus from ourselves to the world around us, we can take a mental break from body critique.

What Your Body CAN Do, Not What It Can’t

Depending upon the type of trip you take, there may be more physical exertion than you normally have in your daily routines. Feeling exhaustion, winded, or sore can be a totally normal part of travel. When it can turn negative, however, is if it is taken as a sign of weakness. We may be more likely to judge our bodies if we perceive we “can’t handle” it. Instead, remind yourself of all the things your body CAN do. Your legs took you to this part of the globe, your eyes are helping you to see new surroundings, your senses are helping you interpret your experience, and your stomach is helping you to digest the new foods that help describe a new culture. When we can focus on what our bodies are doing for us, rather than the things it is not, we are more likely to appreciate our experiences and less likely to critique them. It is a privilege to have a fully functioning body, and we must appreciate this as often as we can!

If we are traveling for joy, intention, and enlightenment, being fully present will only enhance the experience. While intrusive body image thoughts may be present with you while you travel, we can work to decrease the power they have on your day. Leave your rules behind, being a part of those pictures, and loving what your body is capable of doing can also help you once you get home. These ideas can be used at any time, not just for traveling! And, having the opportunity to break from your normal routine can shake up the usual way we see ourselves. Knowing that we have seen different cultures, with different body expectations, can remind us that we are likely our own biggest critic – and that there are many more precious things in this world than what we look like.

Advice Interviews

We Asked Full-Time Travelers How They Stay Sane, Happy & Healthy: Here Are Their Travel Routines And Habits

We Asked Full-Time Travelers How They Stay Sane, Happy & Healthy: Here Are Their Travel Routines And Habits

For women living in and out of suitcases and airport lounges, creating healthy travel routines and habits can be an absolute god-send. Creating a peaceful relationship with the stresses of delayed flights, red-eye flights and jetlag might be as well be a superpower. Ready to learn some tips and tricks for mental sanity while traveling? We asked a collection of full-time female travelers how they stay sane, happy and healthy while on the road… here are their travel routines and habits!

Kayleigh Harrington

“If I’m looking for great places to eat and drink, I always use Foursquare City Guide. Without it I would have never found one of my favorite restaurants in Athens that was literally in an alley or the unassuming, al fresco coffee shop I went to every day for amazing smoothies and cortados while I was in Puerto Rico.
When it comes to outfit planning, I always pack a great pair of jeans and my favorite white sneakers, the M. Gemi Palestra. They are comfortable enough to walk around the city all day and stylish enough to pair with a dress or jumpsuit.
A great travel hack for hot, summer trips is to find a hotel that allows you to use their pool if you order a drink or food. In Athens we found a hotel with a rooftop pool overlooking the acropolis where we ordered snacks and Greek beers for a low-key afternoon.
Finally, my ultimate pro-tip is ABC – Always Be Charging. Whenever I’m in the hotel room, I’m charging my phone and the portable charger I carry with me so I have power when I’m out on the go.”

Follow Kayleigh on Instagram and on her blog!


Glo From “The Blog Abroad”

“Adapting meditation as part of my daily routine was one of the best decisions I ever made. It keeps me central, in tune with emotions, sane, and functional.
There is so much that’s foreign around us when we travel, so it’s so crucial to have a routine that helps your practice mindfulness so that you can be present during all your other moments.”

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Every corner of this country is blowing my mind, as I sit in an oasis in the middle of the Egyptian desert, with Saudi Arabia just a short boat ride across the gulf. One of the best things about solo travel is that I'm forced to talk to locals and "strangers" daily. Oftentimes when traveling with friends, we only chat amongst ourselves and stay within our comfort zone. Here, I'm at the mercy of a foreign language, culture, and way of life. The only way to understand it is by asking questions and engaging with the locals. Women here constantly approach me and tell me how beautiful I am, and while they're the ones that look like goddesses, I can't help but reflect on what traveling has done for my confidence and self-esteem. I've never been complemented more than when I've been traveling, because you go to countries where they have this one-dimensional (light-skinned) depiction of beauty and you present them with something different, and when they see beauty in that too, it hopefully broadens their perception of the different shades beauty comes in. In other news, I'm also getting used to my perpetual state of ashiness. I lotion and oil up every morning only for the dust to politely unleash the ash within. It's disrespectful to say the least 😭 I've only got a few more days left here and I feel like I've left no stone unturned thanks to @LadyEgyptTours sculpting the perfect itinerary for me. What a time to be alive 🇪🇬

A post shared by Glo Atanmo — Entrepreneur (@glographics) on

Follow Glo’s adventures on Instagram and on her blog!


Ray from “RayRayWanders”

“It’s really easy to become dehydrated while traveling. So I always make sure I drink plenty of water to stay hydrated during flights. I also bring a small bottle of thermal spring water spray with me to keep my skin refreshed.
For international travels, I find it’s better and cheaper getting local currency from an ATM than exchanging money at a local exchange counter.”
Follow Ray’s adventures on Instagram!

Renee From “Renee Roaming”

“I stay healthy, sane and prepared for adventures by making sure I am prioritizing self care and downtime.
I love getting home from a long trip and taking some time to myself to relax, soak in the bath and binge on Netflix. It’s totally okay to get travel fatigue every now and again but taking care of myself usually prevents that from happening.
I prepare for trips by planning ahead, not leaving packing to the last second, eating healthy, and making sure I get ample sleep in the days prior to heading off. This ensures my body is prepped and as ready as possible to make the most of my travel!”

Follow Renee’s adventures on Instagram and on her blog!

Davina Tan From “HeyDavina”

“I do all my research usually via Instagram before I go anywhere. Anytime I plan my travels, I bookmark all the places I want to go on Google Maps and I have the map ready when I’m in a new place. I also look to follow a few fellow ‘grammers from the new city I’m traveling to, so I get a local’s view on the place.”

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I'm almost never in my photos so here's a rare treat – me, @away in @lamamouniamarrakech! I may be a little more adventurous on this trip and do a few more with me in it, hope you're game! Thanks for the photo @cainite_ , and thanks for the hat @melissamale 🖤🖤 . #lamamouniamarrakech #marrakech #morocco #travelaway #beautifulhotels #passionpassport #dametraveler #guardiantravelsnaps #designinspiration #designinspo #interiorwarrior #interiorwarrior #theeverygirl #elledecor #apartmenttherapy #anthropologie #suitcasetravels #livethelittlethings #abmhappylife #chasinglight #darlingescapes #dslooking #prettylittletrips #petitejoys #thehappynow #postitfortheaesthetic #postitfortheaesthetic #tlpicks #cntraveler #heydavinaxmarrakech

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Follow Davina’s adventures on Instagram!

Lesley From “The Road Les Traveled”

“For me, I have to keep up with exercise when traveling. I’m on the road 24/7, so not working out when abroad is not an option. Whether it’s running a new city, doing ab exercises in my hotel gym, finding a local yoga studio, kayaking along the coast or hiking a popular nearby mountain, you won’t typically find me inside a hotel room for too long. It’s also an amazing way to beat jet lag and kick illnesses while away!”

Follow Lesley’s adventures on Instagram and on her blog!

Stephanie Be From “TravelBreak”

“I’ve been to over 250 destinations around the world, so “routine” was a word that for a long time, I used lightly. Here are my tips:
  • Force yourself to meet new people.
  • Stay in touch with the people you love at home.
  • Give yourself downtown.
  • Choose one thing that you can do every day, anywhere for consistency (i.e. I went through a stage where I’d always have an iced coffee. Some countries weren’t accustomed, so I’d ask for coffee and a cup of ice, and make my own to remind myself that I can take control of my “me” thing).
  • I used to be obsessed with Instagram (and I still love it), but the more I traveled, the more I became dissatisfied with social media. It’s become a whole lot more about what we are wearing and who we are dating, and less about what we are actually doing. So I’ve worked my bum off in the last year, to create BUENA, an app that makes it easy to discover and share things to DO for this weekend or on a bucket list trip. We’ve just launched and I’d love for you to join the waitlist!”

Follow Stephanie on Instagram and on her blog!


Chelsea Yamase From “ChelseaKauai”

“One unique tip I try to follow is as soon as I get on my first flight I try to imagine I’m already in the timezone of where I am ending up. This helps a lot with longer flights where it makes a difference if I sleep first then work or vice versa.
I also drink a ton of water and almost never get jet lag too bad!”
Follow Chelsea on Instagram and on her blog!

We hope you enjoyed learning about these amazing women’s travel routines and habits for better peace of mind and mental health! Be sure to give them a follow, if you aren’t loving their adventures online already!

What are some of your go-to hacks for calmer, enjoyable travel experiences?

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

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

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

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

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