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traveling alone with depression

Traveling solo with depression

It’s not a secret that I struggled with depression for 8 years. I’ve always been very open about it, but for those who don’t know might be surprised. How can I, a girl that has been traveling around the world alone for the last 3 years, suffer from depression!?

 

First, lets get something straight – what is depression?

I’m not talking about 8 years of feeling down, a little sad, stressed or tired. I’ve spend weeks and months unable to leave my bed, not wanting to wake up in the morning. A constant painful whole in my chest that made everything seem meaningless. Unable to laugh about anything.

Telling someone with depression to lighten up or just do stuff you think are fun, is like telling a person with a broken leg to “just walk” “just jog a little and it will get better”. Depression is an illness.

“Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity or apathy that can affect a person’s thoughts, behavior, feelings and sense of well-being”

 

In this post I want to answer these questions, and if you have any followup questions or want to talk about anything, comment below or send me an email at evelina (at) utterdahl.se

  • Why was I depressed?
  • How did I manage to travel alone despite having a depression?
  • How did traveling affect my depression?
  • How did I get out of depression?
  • Why am I so open about my mental illnesses with strangers? 

 

 

Why was I depressed?

There is no easy or simple answer to this. But some things are easier to pinpoint as things that made me depressed.

First of all, I started to take on way to much responsibility as a child. I thought too much about what my parents and other grown-ups thought of me and I wanted to please them all, so in a way I lost my childhood. I never allowed myself to be just a child. And that’s been hard for me to accept and I’ve been terrified of becoming an adult and refuse to become one because I mourn my lost childhood. So my depression bloomed when I became a teenager and got close to choosing what High School/gymnasium to go to. That meant leaving childhood behind for good and taking a step closer to adulthood. That’s when I realised I would never have the chance to live as carefree as every child should have. Every cell in my body screamed and fought against becoming an adult.

Secondly, I never felt like I belonged in this society. It has always felt shallow, boring and meaningless to me. What is the point of going to school to get a job to afford buying a house and pay bills, longing every week for the weekend to come and to enjoy only 5 weeks of the year of freedom from a job that you’re only doing to get more money!? I didn’t get it. I never did.

I’ve also spent more time of trying to please other’s that I forgot to focus on me and what I’ve wanted. It was like I never knew myself because I had never listened to myself.

 

How did I manage to travel alone despite having a depression?

My solo traveling started with a broken heart after going alone on the trip that I had bought for the boyfriend I had at that time. First day on the trip was painful and horrible. But when I woke up the next day I felt this weird feeling I hadn’t felt before. It was this strange feeling of being free. Free to do whatever I want, whenever I want. That day was one of the best one’s I’ve ever had.

The feeling of being alone, independent, unknown it a city I hadn’t been to before became addictive. I had no one to listen to but myself, and by doing this over and over again, I slowly got to know what I like and what I want to do with my time.

Being at home with the kind of life I didn’t want I had to get away as often as I could. I was working a job I wasn’t passionate about, I was in a relationship that was filled with love but didn’t make my life more exciting or fun than being on my own, I was paying bills but my mind and the lest of my remaining money went on what I loved the most – travel.

Sure. Not all trips have been fun. If you are depressed, you are depressed no matter where you are. I’ve cried and felt like I didn’t want to wake up in the morning in many different countries. But somehow, a part of me knew that traveling is like medicine to me. It was what I needed. It is what I love. I found out from my travels that I really dislike big cities, that I love early mornings, that I love hiking and that nature is what makes me happiest.

 

How did traveling affect my depression?

As I said above. Traveling helped me heal. It made me learn more about myself. It helped me find what I love and what I don’t like. My depression started becoming more like a roller coaster. Instead of being completely down all the time, I would sometimes get these high peaks of feeling amazing and happy. Usually I would be happy when planning or going on a trip, and then I would get really low when having to go home again.

And just let me be clear – traveling did not cure my depression. But it helped me get on the right path.

 

How did I get out of my depression?

Alongside traveling I also went to a therapist for a couple of years. That helped so much, and I could not have beat my depression without my amazing psychotherapist. However, the traveling helped me realise what I wanted out of life. What I wanted to spend my life doing. What mattered to me.

After diving into the world of traveling and travellers, I saw an option. A way of life that seemed so right. It was like they got it. What life was about. As if they had figured out the meaning of life.

Nomads.

People who live on the road. Who are free. They can go wherever they want whenever they want. Not tied down by uninspiring jobs, paying bills, having responsibility of an apartment or a bunch of stuff.

Going after experiences and not collecting more possessions.

I knew then that I wanted to become a nomad too. As soon as I learned about that option as a way of living, it felt so right. That dream has kept me on the right track and now I am finally doing it. I have told my boss that I am quitting, I’ve  moved out of my apartment and in less than 3 months I will be free. I will have gotten rid of the things that made me unhappy, and will pursuit what makes me filled with purpose and happiness.

 

Why am I so open about my mental illnesses to strangers?

So many people suffer from mental illness. And so few feel like they can talk about it without shame or fear. I want to end the stigma and the tension about the subject. Having a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, it needs to be approached and talked about more openly, because a lot of people don’t know anything about it, which makes them bias and it makes it harder for the people suffering to get the help they need.

I also want to show people with mental illnesses that they too can travel alone! And not let the fear of getting anxiety or panic attacks or have a breakdown stop them from traveling the world if they want to. Or chase any other dreams they may have.

I’ve always been very open about mental health because I grew up in a family where we often talked about feelings, so for me it was nothing dramatic, I knew a little bit about depression before I got it myself. But I’ve noticed through the years when I talk openly about it that some people freeze, get very uncomfortable or stiff. Not that I would talk about my problems but just mentioning that I have a psychotherapist or that I had depression in a passby conversation. And that is just as surprising to me every time. With so many people dealing with mental illness, how is it still shushed or stigmatised!?

 

Ending thoughts

Depression is not the only thing I’ve suffered from. General anxiety, panic attacks, social anxiety and a great fear of being in crowds are also problems Ive had or still have. Most of the time I won’t be bothered by them at all, but during times when I am very stressed, they pop up again. And that is a sign that I need to slow down. My biggest priority is me. My health, both physically and mentally. As someone who is very aware of her body and mind, I don’t compromise much at all any longer. I spent too much time in my life to please others, but now when I say no I mean it and I stick to it. Time is my most precious belonging and I want to spend it doing things that make me happy – not to seem fun, cool or interesting. It might sound selfish, but I’m not living my life for someone else. The only person I will always have around is me, and I want to treat myself in the best way that I can.

 

 

 

 

If you need someone to talk to or just want to went or share thoughts, don’t hesitate to contact me. I will do my best to listen and support. Comment below or send me an email at evelina (@) utterdahl.se

 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. The way that I look at it is from a very personal and subjective point of view. Do you feel comfortable talking about mental illnesses?

 

 

#skaffainsikt mental illness awareness insikt

My bracelets “DPRSSN” and “PANIKÅ”, which stands for depression and panic anxiety.
I ware them to support the initiative INSIKT that works to stop the stigma around mental illness

 

 

 

Do you need someone to talk to about this?

I now offer private skype sessions for those who want to speak to someone who had experience in traveling with depression, anxiety and social anxiety. Read more about it in this post:

 

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Eco warrior from Sweden traveling full time Former jetsetter who quit flying for the environment Plant based nature and hiking lover

Comments

  • 10th December 2016

    Wow. Such an important topic, thank you for being so honest! I’m glad your traveling made you find the right path and I wish you all the best on your future travels as well! I hope we’ll meet again sometime, somewhere 🙂 Big hugs from Norway

  • 10th December 2016

    A big thank you for being so open and honest! I think it’s very important to talk about mental illnesses since, like you said, so many people deal with it.
    I’m happy to hear that traveling helps you and that you are able to listen to yourself and follow your heart and that you are getting rid of the things that make you unhappy.
    I totally agree with you about the whole nomad life, that’s what I want too.
    Good luck now!! 🙂

  • 10th December 2016

    Wow I applaud you for being a nomad with your depression. For me the best way to deal with it is cry, stay in bed and wait for things to pass. When I travel, I always feel I should go out and explore and feel guilty for sleeping in and taking naps. I went on a trip once with my anti despression meds and it was a nightmare. I was supposed to stay away for 1 month and came home crying after 6 days. I just couldn’t do it.

    Glad you found a way to make things work. I am curious where you will start your new nomad life and where it will take you. Take care.

  • 10th December 2016

    Thank you so much for your bravery and openness in addressing this topic. It’s so inspiring to see you wear your heart on your sleeve in addressing your depression.

    I can relate to this so much, as I have anxiety and panic attacks, but traveling was really the thing that set me free. To some it sounds counter-intuitive, but being in a new environment and culture is really like a breath of fresh air. It forces you to be away from it all and just focus on the present.

    You’ve inspired me to write something similar about my experiences on my own blog. Thanks again for sharing!

    Alex, mindfulmermaid.com

  • 10th December 2016

    Thank you for being so open about this important matter. Know that you’re not alone <3 hugs from a fellow solo traveler who have gone through much of the same as you <3

  • 11th December 2016

    This makes me really happy. As someone who has struggled with depression in the part as well, I really appreciate the tone of your piece: neither brushing it off nor turning it into melodrama. Depression is an illness. The mark of it stays will you. But you grow beyond it. And I loved hearing your take on solo travel through it. Thanks for the words!

  • 15th December 2016

    Natalie

    Wow!! Tack fina du. Jag känner igen mig i delar av vad du skriver och det känns så uppfriskande med din öppenhet. Jag har själv länge planerat att få till en terapeut men det är så svårt att erkänna för sig själv att man behöver hjälp. Du är en förebild. Finis

  • 16th January 2017

    Oh dear, you are a star. Tack för att du delar, beskriver så klarsynt och självständigt. Med värdighet och utan omvägar. Du inspirerar!

  • 18th May 2017

    Joshua

    I just came across your site after googling backpacking in Ukraine.I have to say your posts are very inspiring and well written.I sometimes struggle to concentrate while reading ,however I find the way you write very engaging.It is great to see someone living a lifestyle I would also love to have,it makes you believe its possible.good luck with your travels.

  • 4th July 2017

    Kom

    At the first time in airport alone,how do you feel?

  • 6th August 2017

    Diyana

    Hi Evelina. Thank you for sharing your journey. I’ve been searching for my preparation before going abroad next year. I wonder how to travel alone with my condition. And it’s help a lot.

  • 2nd September 2017

    nisheet

    What a beautiful post!!. I am so happy for you.Wow, My reason to get depressed mirrors yours. It’s been 11 years since I am depressed and I notices the few happiest moments of my life is when I travel. I am not myself since 11 years and I know I will rediscover myself by travelling. I am thinking to become a freelancer to support myself. Any on SUGGESTION how to financially support myself during travel.

  • 17th September 2017

    Thank you for your post. I am so inspired by others who travel despite mental illness. I have found travel to be the most successful coping mechanism for my depression and I love hearing stories of others who do the same. Keep doing what you’re doing!

  • 18th January 2018

    anna

    Hi, you´re a lovely inspiration, and thank you so much for this post.

    I am a total rookie at solo traveling, and also suffer from depression, general anxiety, social anxiety, you name it..
    Right now I am stressing out because of a trip to Nepal and Bali that I´ve booked for the whole month of february. I cannot get out of my own head and my fears of going away for so long all by myself are totally taking over me. Right now i just want to cancel the whole trip, lie in bed and stare at the wall instead.

    How do you deal with the fears before going on a trip, the anxiety, and how do you actually manage to go on the trip even if you´re in a depression-like state?

  • 21st February 2018

    Evelina,

    I love this. I just wrote a similar blog post and when I tried to search for it on google I found this one instead so I decided to check it out. I agree that experiences are so much more valuable than collecting material things. Would you mind if I link to it? Thanks for sharing!
    Ryan

  • 28th February 2018

    Crystal

    This is truly amazing. Thank you so much for sharing!❤️

  • 9th March 2018

    Rafael

    Hi Eve, I came across your site searching for “Should I travel with deppression?” And also, me and my girlfriend just spllited up (heart broken, mostly because my state of mind). I have a remote work and I can work from anywhere in the world. Your shares trully helped me out… And I’ll use your experiences as a guide. Thank you very much!

  • 6th April 2018

    Elle

    Evelina
    Thank you for your inspiration !!
    I have been quietly starring into my ipad for last 4 weeks trying to execute the ‘pay’ button to travel abroad.
    My anxieties become so overwhelming that I just exit, close the site, and occupy myself until I try again, and again …
    Hopefully soon I’ll execute that button …
    Cheers for now
    Elle

  • 7th August 2018

    Rogelio Estrada

    Stop dwelling on negative thoughts. It is the key to peace of mind. Even if you have to fake it do it. You have no reason to be depressed. Trust me when I tell you that life has meaning.

  • 5th December 2018

    Dee

    That was powerful. The part about not feeling like you belonged in this world, finding it all too shallow. That sums up nicely how I feel.
    It is so clear to me that I too am a nomad at heart and much of my depression comes from not living that lifestyle.
    Thank you for your insightful writing.

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