It has been some time since I have felt the passion and creativity to write a blog post. As I stepped off the plane after my last adventure, the UK was starting to enter into a period of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst I started the year feeling optimistic and unfazed by the events that were occurring in China, a sense of panic and anxiety caused by the unknown was setting in.
As with most people around the world, I completely understood the severity of the situation and respected that we all had to play our part. Not only to save the health service, but to keep our loved ones, especially those vulnerable, safe. That said, if you are a regular reader of my blog, you will understand that travelling and keeping fit have formed a major part of my mental and physical wellbeing. When the government announced the social distancing restrictions and lockdown measures back in March, I felt myself fall into a state of panic. Not only was I worried about the loved ones who relied on me on a regular basis, I also found myself over thinking, concerned about redundancy and my own well being.
Gone were my four spinning classes a week, running club and my ability to wander freely around the world and even our own country. I found myself rapidly heading towards that black hole. The whole situation was unprecedented, no one had any answers and no one could tell us when we could get back to “normal” life.
Since the lockdown began, it has been a consistent battle to keep my head above water. Luckily for me, working in digital marketing, work has thrived and my mind has been kept busy throughout the working week. Aided by the removal of news channels and some social media apps from my phone I have managed to keep somewhat of a level head during working hours.
However, evenings and weekends have been a struggle. With the lack of physical contact with friends and family, and the ability to work out as usual and travel the world, I feel that I have been in a constant fight with myself. Some weeks have been great, with me using the extra time to myself to hike miles and miles. When the restrictions lifted slightly in May, I was excited to extend my hikes to coastal paths within easy reach of home.
On the flip side, there have been weeks where I have found myself refusing to leave the house – feeling too tired mentally at the end of the working day to venture out for a walk, even to this day, and just getting into bed. Thereby, my physical health has been affected too.
The absence of freedom has played an unbelievable impact on all aspects of my health. And, whilst I am incredibly excited about the lift in some FCO restrictions to travel I thought it would be the best time to share my thoughts on how travelling can be a great benefit to your mental health.
Obviously, if travelling is not your thing, then it is not likely to reduce stress levels. However, if like me, you are one of the many in the world that classes yourself as a wanderlust, then travelling the world can allow you to break free from the monotony of day to life. Life can be unbelievably stressful, as we have seen in recent months, and travelling can give you the opportunity to escape. To wake up late, to laze by the pool with a good book or explore a foreign city at your own leisure without having to worry about time!
With lockdown in place and working from home, I have not had that segregation between work and life. In normal circumstances I work from home 4 days a week, however even I struggled with the adjustment as I was simply not allowed to go anywhere else.
When I go on holiday, the minute I step into the airport I feel free and excited. From picking out destinations for my next holiday from the departure board, to the copious amount of wine in the bars – every minute fills me with a sense of adventure and as such the stress levels deplete. I even enjoy the rigmarole of security!
So to not have this luxury……..
2. Travel can lead to a long term mood booster.
As you can imagine, everything relating to travel keeps me in an upbeat mood. The end of any great travel adventure keeps me in a state of adrenaline. And whilst I always enjoy coming home, to discuss the places I have been with friends and family, the first thing I do is plan the next trip. I always have to have something booked to help get through the day to day of life, because having an adventure to look forward to keeps my mood elevated.
3. Travelling gives you a sense of independence.
A little over a year ago I wrote a piece about travelling as a solo woman, and about how travelling alone has given me a sense of independence and freedom. I enjoy travelling with others too – but I have been less reliant in recent years of having someone to go with. Where I used to worry about being alone, foreign language and the fear of not knowing where to go, I now cherish everything. Many people say to me how amazing it is that I can just “take myself off” alone, even if it is a day hiking by the coast in the UK. To me this has become the norm. My partner doesn’t always want to travel like I do, he doesn’t want to go to places I want to go. So what’s the alternative? Wait for someone to go with me? I might be waiting forever if I do that.
4. Travelling is a change of scenery.
Travelling anywhere, UK or overseas, gives us that change of scenery that we all need. I love home just as much as I love to adventure, however slipping away to the unknown, into a hotel with crisp sheets (which you cannot quite replicate at home), to just get a break away from it all – it’s just bliss. We all need a little time out from time to time and travelling enables us to do just that.
Until recently, with lockdown, there was no change in scenery. We have been luckier than some countries with the restrictions that were in place, however when you have the freedom to move further afield taken from you it can be rather disconcerting. I struggled massively with this in the first month of the restrictions. Suddenly, everyone on earth had started running or training for the Duke of Edinburgh. My usual routes were littered with people, who since are no where to be seen. I had to find new routes around home, that were isolated and that gave me that change of scenery I needed. Local ordinance survey maps were purchased so I knew all the local footpaths in my area and hikes were plotted out to kill time at the weekend.
The point is, in lockdown and in regular daily life, we need that change of scenery.
5. Travelling provides education to new cultures and experiences.
Everyone who travels will know how exciting it is to land in a new country, a new city and experience the culture it has to offer. From local cuisines and customs, meeting local people and experiencing monuments you have previously only seen in books or on screen. The education you receive from travelling not only teaches you about the world, but it helps you appreciate what you have. Since travelling became a big part of who I am, I have less and less desire for the material things in life.
Okay, I still enjoy a splurge in the Mulberry sale from time to time, but generally I don’t have a want for “things.” For me, it is all about life experiences, of which travel is the core. Even my niece and nephews opt for a day out as a gift for birthdays and Christmas as they too see that experiences are a fundamental part of life!
With restrictions lifting and we start to form a new normal way of living, I find myself somewhat anxious of what will come. Our travel industry has by far been one of the most, if not the most, affected industries from COVID-19, not just in the UK but in locations far and wide that rely on the tourism industry to survive.
And whilst it has given us an opportunity to slow life down, to take time to read books, do puzzles and be with immediate members of your household, I for one cannot wait to get my mental health back to full capacity. To be free to wander the world, for new experiences and to support the travel industry getting back on its feet.