Traveling Abroad with self-care: Helpful tips to support your mental wellness when away from home
Now more than ever, women are traveling solo and/or in groups of friends. With all of the changes happening globally, many are the first in their families to leave their hometowns to travel to countries never previously considered or didn’t know much about prior to traveling there. Consequently, many travel without guidance or the proper tools to maintain self-care and mental wellness while on the road.
“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous
As a mental wellness advisor, here are a few things I would suggest putting into place before a long journey:
When the inevitable moments of homesickness, loneliness, culture shock, or loss hit, we all need to be prepared for the mental stress that comes as part of the traveling abroad process.
This requires self-awareness, emotional management and healthy coping skills. Self-awareness ensures that you have the capacity to objectively analyze difficult situations, accept what you have control over and efficiently problem solve. Coping skills ensure that you are kind to yourself in the learning, re-writing, and re-shaping of life experiences. You can start building healthy skills by understanding your emotional triggers and grasping how to prevent or overcome them.
I say this because not all lessons on the road are sweet. This is where having clear goals and expectations are important. A quick getaway to a neighboring state requires a different sort of mental and emotional preparation than a 6-month journey of discovery on the other side of the globe. Travel will bring you face to face with an uncomfortable feeling of vulnerability.
Here’s how you can mentally prepare for a trip abroad:
- Research the country’s culture, resources, upcoming trends, and activities
- Ask yourself how your experience will align with your personal values
- Understand your emotional triggers
- Create and carefully map out a mental and physical self-care regimen
If you need to refresh yourself on your personal values, my “Reignite Your True Values” guide will walk you through the process.
Before leaving, ensure that you have a point person (or persons) who will check in with you or with whom you will check in with while on the road.
This can be a family member, close friend, or partner who will act as your wellness accountability partner. You and your wellness accountability partner will commit to being more proactive about your physical and mental well-being. It should be someone who will go beyond “What did you see?” or “How much did that cost?” to ask the more probing questions about your diet, health, moods, lessons, and even regrets. Make sure to select that person with whom you can be 100% honest.
Without these check-ins, it becomes alarmingly easy to fall off the self-care bandwagon. So, call that loved one up and coordinate a wellness plan together. You do not want to already be in the middle of a sticky situation in a foreign country and have to scramble for support!
Video Chat with a Professional:
As a mental wellness professional, I am aware of how difficult it is to access counseling services — especially when traveling or working abroad. Surprisingly, not many know that online counseling is available! You can easily have a video or phone consultation with a professional who can provide mental wellness support. This method is popular amongst my clients who are studying abroad, traveling for vacation, or living the expat and digital nomad lifestyle. My goal is to help minimize the barriers to care and offering online services has been a great method to expand outreach to those urgently needing support abroad.
While traveling, you can also research mental health or psychology associations in the preferred country. Using keywords such as “mental health associations”, “psychology associations”, “online counseling”, or “tele-mental health” will help you to maximize your Google search and hopefully, more easily locate the service needed.
BONUS! Mindset On the Go:
If you are on the go, or just want to keep track of your mental wellness, there are numerous apps available that touch on every aspect of mental health.
Here is a list of wellness apps to explore based on your need and comfort level:
- Mood Tools: Lift your mood with mood tools
- iMoodJournal: Understand yourself better by tracking your moods
- Breathe2Relax: A portable stress management tool
- CPT Coach: Cognitive Processing Therapy for those suffering trauma
- What’s Up: Cope with depression, anxiety, anger, stress and more
Please note, that there are no clinical studies related to these mental health apps, and they are not FDA regulated.
My hope is that you make room in your luggage to pack these tips! Go out there and be amazed! Volunteer, grow and learn, but do not neglect your self-care — your health is worth a lot more than a wealth of new experiences!