The Depressives Guide to Traveling

I travel extensively during certain peak times of the year. The seasons of fall and spring have me hopping from plane to plane, hotel to hotel, city to city. Granted, I’m not traveling very far from home, but when you deal with anxiety and depression coupled with a job that takes you away from familiarity and comfort a good chunk of time, it can be exhausting for the mind and body.

From a very young age, I hated being away from home. My mother likes to tell the story of how every summer, our trip to Arizona consisted of me sitting in the backseat of our minivan calculating the miles from home and counting down the days until we arrived home. Insistent on getting me to actually enjoy vacation, my mother pointed out the beautiful scenery in each state we’d drive through and when we finally arrived in Arizona, a vacation lasting approximately the entirety of the summer season, she would do her best to get me to look beyond the fact that the Grand Canyon was “just rocks” or the Saguaro cacti was more than “just a giant green thing with needles.” Sad to say I was a bit jaded but also anxious being far away from home.

Plane rides were no better. I couldn’t relax while en route to our destination. I thought I would be one of the unlucky few to die in a plane crash. Before each trip requiring catching some serious air, I would work through each scenario of what “could happen” about a month before the trip even happened.

Now, I write this in my hotel room where I’m on trip #5 for work in less than two months. We are wrapping up a pretty busy time in our office only to be followed by another time-consuming season consisting of late nights and an intimate relationship with coffee. I can’t imagine being stuck behind a desk on a daily basis. I now get antsy at the thought of not having any trips in the near future. Whenever I’m flying into Chicago, I know below me is home but it’s simply just a word. Home is where I make it and I’ve grown to feel comfortable in just about any city so far. How, you ask? Well, it’s taken some time, but I think I’ve found a pretty solid routine in staying sane while on the road both for business and for pleasure. Here are some tips and tricks to keep you grounded while you’re up in the air.

– Certain scents that remind you of your happy place back home always bring me peace when I’m feeling a tad homesick. I carry around an essential oil that reminds me of the incense burned in my yoga studio and bedroom since I’m pretty sure I can’t burn anything in my hotel room. When I was younger and feeling overly anxious, I would spray my mom’s perfume on my clothing and pretend every time I smelled it she was sending me a hug. Whatever scent triggers a memory of home, carry it with you for those moments you’re feeling a bit detached from your roots.
– For me, exercise is key when on the road. When I visited my very best friend in Portland just several months ago, I brought my yoga mat and running shoes because I knew we’d be hiking and getting our “Ohm” on at some local studios. When I’m on the road for work, I always look up the closest yoga studio to my hotel and I definitely bring my Nike kicks with me. To stay balanced and focused, exercising—whatever form you choose—is an amazing way for depressives to keep the mind and body in check.
– Bring your favorite sweatshirt or Grandpa’s old sweater or pair of boots. I bring it all! I will shove everything into my suitcase because I know if I forget my coziest of cardigans, I’m down for the count. The rattier, the better. I’m not saying over-pack and spend an extra $75 on an additional suitcase, but I am saying you should take the essentials that make you feel like you’re right at home (but in your hotel room).
– OK, so this might be a tricky one, but let’s see if you can work with me on this one. I hate grocery shopping when I’m at home but I miss my full fridge of snacks when I’m on the road. This is a struggle, people, because my mom knows how to cook and stock a fridge. When it’s possible and free, mind you, I like to see if my hotel has any rooms with a fridge and microwave. This way, I can find the local grocer and stock up on healthy goodies so I’m not a regular at the McDonald’s every night. The “bad” food we put into our bodies definitely affects mood and emotion. The better we eat, the better we feel both on the inside and out.
– Research your city before you take off and find some local coffee shops or retail stores or sports bars to catch a game and make it like you live in that area. Sometimes, I pretend I’m familiar with the ins and outs of a neighborhood in hopes of tricking my mind into thinking I’m actually am a resident of (blank) city. But if you plan ahead and look up some cool spots to check out while you’re visiting, maybe make a routine of frequenting that place a few times during your stay. It’s good to try new places, but sometimes what we want is a just a place where everybody knows your name. Wait, I think I’ve heard that line somewhere before.

While this list could probably expand on many other points, I tried to think of the key ones that help me get through a long business trip or the idea of traveling to some place new. Every person dealing with anxiety and depression is different, but I think we can all enjoy the comforts of home in one capacity or another. What are some ways you maintain stress while traveling for fun or work? What are factors holding you back from traveling? What are some strategies you’ve used to calm or triumph over your fears and anxieties?
Stay awesome, beautiful human friends!

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