How do you get out of the blue? Image by Flickr user jessicahtam.
We’re pleased to debut the fresh voices of the third cohort of the Wanderful Blogging Program! Stay tuned for new articles from new contributors. Don’t forget to tell them what you think in the comments!
Everything we’ve learned about being on the road suggests that we’ll find ourselves. But what happens when that experience makes you feel lost? Join me in shedding light on the issue of the travel blues.
I shouldn’t be feeling depressed.
I’ve been living abroad in Seoul, South Korea, a venerable expat’s wet dream filled with cultural charm and never-ending nightlife, for three years. My home is walking distance to the center of art and queer expression in the city.
I have a long-term, powerhouse relationship. I’ve paid off all my students loans, saved money for retirement, and embarked on a four-and-a-half month backpacking trip through southeast Asia…all in one year.
On paper it seems like a pretty perfect existence. But here I am, struggling with my mental health.
There’s a misconception that travel frees the mind. With the stress of being thrown into a culture not your own, those with pre-existing mental heath issues might find themselves in a dark place. And for many who never knew they had any mental health issues at all, travel can bring those problems to the forefront.
In Korea I felt a deep sadness and cavernous void inside myself. I knew I needed help. I turned to the trusty Internet to find a therapist in Seoul. The results were disappointing. Not only did I need to talk to someone about depression, but I’m also gay, so finding a counselor who understood those specialized needs wasn’t easy.
A Korean friend mentioned they saw someone for mental help, but it seemed inaccessible to me based on the language and cultural barriers. Not to mention, the councilor interpreted dreams, and, as much I find that incredibly fascinating, I didn’t think it would quite help my situation.
At the very end of my three-year experience in Korea, a different friend casually mentioned she was seeing a therapist who could prescribe medication. It struck me then that I had never thought to reach out to my social network to find the help I needed.
And I can’t be the only one…
If the stigma surrounding mental illness limited my ability to get help, there have to be other travelers suffering with their mental health issues in silence.
With the help of Wanderful, I created this column to help travelers looking for a place to get insight or advice about mental health help.
And who am I to facilitate this conversation? I’m just like you: a female traveler with a drive to explore the world. I also run a blog with my partner, which focuses on lifestyle and travel.
LEZ BACKPACK has been featured on the Matador Network as an LGBT travel Instagram to follow. We have also been published in Girl Gone International’s online magazine and were nominated by the Korean Observer for best LGBT blog.
After three years of teaching in South Korea, I’m back home in the United States, changing careers and developing my skills as a writer and social media expert. Despite never finding help in Korea for my mental health, I continue to succeed through work and my relationship.
This column will be a safe space to share stories and ask questions.
I will discuss tips on how to maintain good mental health abroad as well as how to help yourself before you even take off.
I want to hear from you.
You can ask questions on various topics — from which travel insurance covers mental health to exercises that help relieve anxiety and depression — and I will do what I can to help you find answers.
I want to listen to readers in any way I can, but I am not a doctor or medical professional. If you feel that you might be a danger to yourself or someone else, you should seek professional help right away.
This is an excellent opportunity to banish the stigma surrounding mental illness and start talking about issues that deeply affect female travelers. I hope you’ll help me on this mission.
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