Europe, Mental Health, Travel

Sunday Travel: Being Depressed While Traveling

January 12, 2014

Sunday Travel: Being Depressed While Traveling - Sweet and Savoring

Today has been a down day for me. It’s not 5 degrees anymore, the ice has melted, and the sky is even blue! But this just goes to show that external factors often have nothing to do with a shift in mood. Of course sometimes they can have some influence, and I know I should be doing things like exercising, but even when I’ve been immersed in what I love most in the world, I have still been depressed.

That thing I love most, as many of you know, is travel. My last overseas trip was to Italy for a month in 2011, and I know from experience not to expect everything to instantly transform for me when I travel in the winter. But on this trip, I isolated more than I ever have while traveling and really beat myself up a lot.

One benefit of being depressed while traveling? I know what helps make it easier. Here’s a list of some tips if you are struggling with your depression while on the road. Even better, most of these things are useful even if you’re at home.

1. Let your hosts, or people you’re traveling with, know what’s going on. Feeling down and miserable is bad enough, but it only gets worse when you keep it to yourself. Your hosts/travel-mates might detect a change in your mood or energy level. Some clear communication can clear up any misunderstandings and frustrations, so try to be honest and just let them know where you’re at. 

2.It’s okay to take some alone time. In fact, when you’re traveling for an extended period and staying in other people’s homes, taking time for yourself is a necessity! You don’t have to feel guilty for going to bed a little earlier, or backing out of that last game of Scrabble, or politely declining that third glass of wine.

3. Don’t go away expecting you’ll have Internet access everywhere you go. Throughout my stay in Italy,  it was surprisingly difficult to find WiFi , or to connect my laptop to my hosts’ networks, or as in the case in  mountainous Tuscany, we sometimes lost our connection for a couple of days. I was in that mentality of MUST CONNECT OR ELSE!, and often that got in the way of appreciating where I was. I’m sure if I had gone into the trip thinking I have my laptop, so I can write, and if I get online too, that’d be a bonus. But I’m not going to Italy to be attached to my computer, then I might have been more in the moment. But I put too much emphasis on being able to ‘connect’, on getting in touch with loved ones, that it only upset me more when I found myself so disconnected.

Sunday Travel: Being Depressed While Traveling - Sweet and Savoring

4. Write to yourself. Documenting in words and photos is a must for me when I’m somewhere new.I always have a journal when I travel, even if it’s just for observations and commentary on my surroundings, and it comes in handy when it turns to stream-of-consciousness journaling and I can sort through my feelings. Sometimes I’m not even able to make sense of something until I write it down.

5. Send postcards home- even to yourself! Honestly, I just thought of the sending a postcard to yourself thing. But I’m absolutely going to do that next time I’m away. If I’m feeling depressed, I’ll write to myself how beautiful everything is, or how kind my hosts are, or what I’ll miss once I leave my temporary home. And as the person in my family who’s traveled the most, it’s always fun for them to receive my missives from different countries or cities. Part of fighting depression is getting out of your own head and doing something nice for others. Who doesn’t love receiving mail?

Sunday Travel: Being Depressed While Traveling - Sweet and Savoring


6. Play with animals. The two families that I stayed with on this trip both had pets: dogs, cats, and farm animals at one, and a dog at the other. Just type in “pets depression effects” and you’ll find endless articles on how beneficial owning a dog or cat can be. Cuddling up with a dog when I’m feeling lonely is so soothing!

7. Get outside and stay there! Another depression hack that has plenty of evidence out there. Spending time outdoors was easy: I was surrounded by great big skies and mountains straight out of The Sound of Music. And if I wanted to spend a day or an afternoon alone, short of holing up in my bedroom, I had to spend time outside. The nearest villages were always either several miles away or a strenuous uphill hike. Even better, sometimes I took the dog with me.

Sunday Travel: Being Depressed While Traveling - Sweet and Savoring

8. Speak the local language even if everyone around you is fluent in English. One of my hosts was an English expat, the others an Irish family who lived in Italy half the year. It’s easy to be lazy about practicing a foreign language when you’re surrounded by English speakers- but why not try to learn a certain number of new words every day? Every time someone speaks to you, ask them to repeat it in Italian. Read their newspapers and magazines with your dictionary close by. When we speak foreign languages, we’re exercising our cognitive skills and even triggering brain growth. That doesn’t leave much room for feeling depressed, does it? Even if you’re not practicing language skills, you can use your brain in other ways like doing Sudoku or crossword puzzles and studying maps.

9. Keep a gratitude list. Make a plan to stay consciously aware of the good things that happen. At bedtime each night, write whatever it is you’re grateful for, or what the highlights of the day were. It can be one thing, five things, or ten things. Maybe it’s the barista who made your latte that morning and wrote Good morning in the foam on top. Maybe it’s the little kids begging you to take their photo, or the dog keeping you company on the couch. Starting this practice before you’re feeling so down will help you to keep it going when you’re not having as much fun.

 10. Don’t beat yourself up for not feeling joyful every minute. Yes, it sucks to be depressed when you’re exploring a new part of the world, but it sucks even more to berate yourself for not being happy when you’re “supposed to”.  You are not supposed to be anything. Yes, try to appreciate where you are, but just feel whatever you’re feeling and that allowance might even make room for something more positive to come in.

Sunday Travel: Being Depressed While Traveling - Sweet and Savoring



Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.   –Anne Lamott


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  • Deb January 12, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    Wonderful sharing, Christy! Your insights and honesty amaze me, and humble me, all at once! I think I shall plan on following your suggestions, when I am on my next trip. Thank you once again, for sharing your inner self!

    • Christy January 13, 2014 at 8:07 am

      And you make me blush, once again! Thanks for being my biggest supporter!

  • Tamara January 12, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    I actually only had one experience of being very depressed while traveling, when I was a teenager. Not to say I didn’t have bouts of anxiety on other trips, but nothing like that first time.
    I wish I had told my companion – my aunt. It would have helped. She was pretty awesome about letting me hang back and write and yes, send postcards. And just brood. I was not depressed by the end of the trip, but I know it’s not always that easy.
    And dogs. Dogs were SO helpful! I fell in love with dogs on that trip.

    • Christy January 13, 2014 at 8:09 am

      It’s crazy how much of a difference confiding in someone can have. And lately I’ve been appreciating dogs more and more (and wish our landlords allowed them!). Thanks for your comment, Tamara!

  • Karen @ The Tasty Bite January 13, 2014 at 10:16 am

    Love your suggestions! #10 is especially true for me; sometimes I’m just too tired and don’t have the energy to feel joyful on my travels. Thanks for sharing!

    • Christy January 13, 2014 at 7:07 pm

      Thanks, Karen, and I appreciate you coming by!

  • Ellen January 13, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    I need this! Thank you for giving me a great reminder about depression whilst traveling!!! xoxo

    • Christy January 13, 2014 at 11:26 pm

      You are quite welcome, my dear! I’m kind of surprised that I hadn’t already written this post.

  • Karen @TheMissingNiche January 13, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    I love the idea of sending postcards to yourself, whether you are down or not! I am going to have my kids start doing this when we travel!

    • Christy January 13, 2014 at 11:28 pm

      It’s funny, I thought of the postcard one as I was writing this post. I’m so glad it resonated with you, Karen! I love your feedback!

  • Olivia @ Liv Lives Life January 13, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    Great post – yet again! These are such good tips for traveling, both when you’re feeling down and when you aren’t, I would think! Thanks for sharing.

    • Christy January 13, 2014 at 11:31 pm

      Hi Liv, glad to see you! You make a good point- it’s a list for traveling, or not, or feeling down when traveling- I’m glad they can reach such a wide audience and I didn’t even realize that when I had this idea for this post. Ha!

  • Shana Norris January 14, 2014 at 10:16 am

    Great ideas, Christy. I especially love your number four. I always have great intentions of doing this when I travel, but then it somehow slips my mind – the writing part especially – I’m usually pretty good at taking photos when I travel.

    I can see where letting the people around you know how your feeling would save a ton of misunderstandings. I’ve gotten better at doing this – with my husband usually – and it’s so helpful. That way he doesn’t sit around wondering what he’s done wrong!
    Shana Norris recently posted…Twitterature: January 2014.My Profile

    • Christy January 15, 2014 at 8:48 pm

      Thanks Shana! Honestly, I need to take my own advice and verbalize what’s going on to my husband more, too. The day I wrote this post was a classic example, when I was all weepy just couldn’t put any of it into words. Oy.

  • Michelle January 14, 2014 at 11:18 pm

    Excellent advice. I think that many of these tips will help whether you’re traveling or you are home. My pets always cheer me up!
    Michelle recently posted…2 Good Reasons to Include the Date in Your URLMy Profile

    • Christy January 15, 2014 at 8:50 pm

      Thanks, Michelle, I was thinking they’d work either way, too!

  • Christa Sterken January 17, 2014 at 9:04 am

    Good post, depression is so hard on many levels. Not the least of which you covered here, beating ourselves up for feeling it. Love reading honest stories that are so universal. PS, read your bio. I love abandoned buildings too. Would love to get into an old factory

    • Christy January 17, 2014 at 8:54 pm

      Thanks for coming over, Christa. Depression and feelings that I describe in this post are more universal than I ever knew before I entered the blog world. It’s been so gratifying to get such positive feedback as I continue to open up about it!
      Old factories can be dangerous, but that’s part of the thrill 😉 My husband gets into them a lot more than I do, but it’s fun, especially when I model in them! Hotels, too!

  • Gina H January 20, 2014 at 11:22 pm

    I love your idea about sending yourself a postcard. I’m definitely going to do that on my next trip and write myself a note about the biggest highlights I had during my trip.

    • Christy January 21, 2014 at 12:08 am

      Hi, Gina, I’m glad you like it! Postcards are such great snapshots of times & places, and as the world becomes more and more digital-focused, we can’t forget those tangible things that really seem as though they’re dying out. Mail! Letters! etc, etc 🙂

  • Denise Gabbard June 3, 2014 at 12:31 am

    Great post…you hit on lots of great points that
    In studies.
    help. Writing has been proven to be especially therapeutic

  • Denise Gabbard June 3, 2014 at 12:33 am

    Well that got all screwed up…in studies goes st the bottom…go ahead and laugh. It really IS the best medicine!

    • Christy April 15, 2015 at 10:32 am

      Thank you! You’re right, laughter is the best medicine, Denise! (I’m laughing at myself for answering this comment so late!)

  • Kerry July 5, 2014 at 10:54 am

    I know this is an old post but I just found it….I am in Australia and have never felt more alone and depressed. Everything seemed to be going perfect then it all got ripped away from me at the last minute….I am grateful that people who have known me a couple of weeks are helping me out so I don’t end up literally homeless and I am glad I can actually recognise that goodness…but i can’e top crying and wishing I was bacj in my bed at home under the blankets and not having to deal with all of the bad things!! I am drinking alot again which scares me and I don’t know a single person even a little bit well enough to share these. feelings and get help….I hope I start the process of beating the darkness all over again soon!!!!

    • Christy April 15, 2015 at 10:36 am

      Kerry, I know this is reply is long overdue and I apologize. I wish you had left your email address so I could have written to you personally, but maybe somehow, you will read this. I hope you are feeling better. I hope you are drinking less and feeling more hopeful. I don’t know where you were in Australia, but I know they’ve got some great mental health organizations and support there. Sending you love and hope, wherever you may be. xo

  • Ieva January 7, 2016 at 8:29 pm

    I’ve been travelling in SE Asia for the last 5 months and I think recently I have fallen into dark claws of depression. Feels better just admitting it. Thank you for this post

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