How Travel Didn’t Solve My Depression (But I Did)

Travel Depression Mental

I remember the first time I felt depression. I was around the age thirteen when puberty was just around the corner. I was given an excellent childhood with loving parents, siblings, and grandmothers. I had great friends and activities that I loved, but I couldn’t shake the weight that seemed to envelop my whole body. I felt like someone had tied me down for no reason and I didn’t know how to deal with it.

So I began imagining places. Places that I would go to when I was old enough. I read voraciously because it gave me a chance to see the world and learn more about it without ever having to leave my room. Escaping seemed like the ultimate way to trick the weight to falling off me.

Ten years later, I had been living in Italy for almost two years. I had seen dozens of places, tried new foods, and had achieved everything my thirteen-year old self had wanted. Despite relaxing in the Turkish baths in Budapest, marveling at temples in Tokyo, and looking over Machu Picchu, sadness followed me like Peter Pan’s shadow—almost forcing me not to grow up. I was far, far away from everything that I thought had caused me to be so sad and heavy, without really realizing a much simpler fact:

I was the one weighing myself down. I was the product of my depression.

I see so many bloggers and travel writers touting how travel has changed them and made them better people. Some even claim that travel happened to bring them out of their crippling mental issues. Sometimes I believe the articles I read, but most times I don’t.

Travel helped me shape who I am in a number of ways, but it did not rid me of my depression. In the end, it was the things I had run away from, the people I had run away from, who encouraged me to find some help. Traveling is an addiction—it’s a high that you can ride for a while before you coming crashing back down again.

New experiences can heal, but only if you are willing to heal yourself first. Journeying to different countries is not a solution, nor should it be taken as medicine as a way to cover up some deeper issues. I wish I could say I wasn’t cynical when I read stories about young people who travel and feel rejuvenated by life and how it magically solved all of their problems. The truth is that I know better. If you have a mental disease, it won’t go away, no matter where in the world you are.

Let’s try and see travel not as the solution, but part of many ways to reach that solution. And let’s also see travel as it is, a short escape from life, not a discontinuation of the life you have already lived.

Keep wandering,

Alex Signature Wander


14 thoughts on “How Travel Didn’t Solve My Depression (But I Did)

  1. travel.a short term fix,the very same description i have for’s the internal demons,you have to deal with

  2. I completely agree with your post! I too have suffered from depression from a very early age and always used the dream and hope of travel as a way to “get out of it.” I spent most of my childhood with my nose in the books reading and imaging all these wonderful places that seemed so far away at the time…that these places would be the cure to it all. But, I have traveled to some of those places and the truth is that it is not the answer. Yes, the high of the travel was great and fulfilling, but after sometime you realize that its something within you that needs to be fixed. I came across your post after you put it on the Girl vs Globe group, and I am glad that I did. I am currently coming upon this realization for myself and its encouraging to see that there are others out there too. Too many times travel is used to be the answer or the way to help someone, but in most times its not. Its helping yourself first, and then enjoying the travel.

    Happy Travels!

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! I completely agree with you–I’m glad that you’ve found some peace too and a way to enjoy travel, as well. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Thank you for posting this. I felt this in Prague and felt almost ‘guilty’ for not enjoying every single second (I was there for a year!) as it seemed like every other blogger was having the exact opposite experience. It’s so true, it all starts with you; and sometimes travelling is just running away from your problems. But it helps you discover them too, so you’re halfway there.

    1. Thanks for your comment. You’re right–I felt the same way traveling sometimes when all I wanted to do was sit in my room. I kept thinking on how I was missing out, but I didn’t care. Thankfully, I’m in a much better place now so traveling is not an escape–it’s simply something I do for fun and in order to expand horizons. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  4. I grew up in a very depressing household. My brother, mother, parents…everyone was depressed. That weighted heavily on me throughout my youth and afterwards. Travel, surprisingly was the only thing that made me get out of that funk. When I moved two states way and away from that toxic environment my depression alleviated some. I was able to be whoever I wanted without judgment and that was something that was very mesmerizing. I think it is something that is always there, however. Just maybe not as prominent.

    1. Thanks for stopping by! I agree–travel can help in a lot of ways, especially what you described. Getting away can be a good thing in certain circumstances, especially if you feel like your surroundings are what is making you depressed. I suppose it comes down to whether it’s your environment and the people you are with or whether it is your innate genetic and biological make-up. Even when I had every reason to be happy, I couldn’t be.

      I’ve overcome that now, but it definitely took evaluating what was making me unhappy (myself) and not so much what I was doing or where I was.

      Thanks for your comment and stopping by. 🙂

  5. Loved reading your take on this! For me, travel helped ENOURMOUSLY with my depression… It was a combination of finally doing something for me that I’d been dreaming about for ages, being around people who didn’t already view me as depressed and were therefore less likely to walk on eggshells around me, and just the distraction of being somewhere new. I knew at that point that I had to work on some things, and I think the sheer will to feel better helped as well. I agree though, you can’t just book a trip and hope to feel better. Whether at home or abroad, you are the key to healing yourself.

    1. I’m so glad travel was able to help you! I agree that it definitely depends on what you are doing it for. To achieve dreams? Absolutely? To escape yourself? Not so much. Now that I have a healthier view, I enjoy travel a lot more because I know I’ll be happier wherever I am. Thanks so much for stopping by and glad that you are following your dreams! 🙂

  6. This is very true. For me, I didn’t start traveling to get away from my depression. Rather, my depression snuck back in while I was traveling. It’s important to be very self-aware if you struggle with depression in order to not get caught off guard. I think you are a good example based on your post.

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