After finishing undergrad in May, I decided to take a risk and take a solo trip to Spain and Portugal. I am staying with a host family as an au pair (a traditional live in nanny). Thankfully, I was able to find a family in Northern Spain as a live in English tutor and it’s been quite delightful.
The process for me to finalize my decision on making this trip happen was one of the biggest risks I’ve taken. As being an anxious person, I was anxious with all the worst possible things that could happen to me.
I kept on telling my friends and family that I could have easily died anywhere if it was meant to be, as I was trying to calm my nerves.
I was paranoid that a pickpocketer may steal my passport, take my credit card or even take my phone. I bought all the travel gears you can possibly imagine to prepare myself for the worst.
It’s ironic how my first destination was Barcelona, which is known as the capital of pickpocketers. As I got off the plane, I changed my undergarment with secret pockets (yes, I really did that), wore my money belt, put a lock on my backpack and purse. It probably looked like I had laser beams coming out of my eyes as I was so aware of my surroundings.
As I began my trip, everything was great. I was able to cross off backpacking across Europe and traveling solo off my bucket list. Nevertheless, my mental health problems were still there.
On my third day with my host family (let me just say I´m in a small town with almost everyone only speaking Spanish), I started to feel sadness creeping in. Towards the end of the day, I almost couldn’t eat anything as I wanted to just start crying at the dinner table.
After excusing myself, I ran to my room to pull out my long lost enemy – Klonopin.
With some Klonopin and texting my friends back at home – I got over the initial hump from my depression. I was terrified that I may have made a mistake of making this trip happen, when my mental capacity wasn’t ready to handle something like this.
Being in a completely different country where you don ́t speak the language, is a change. Not only it took me a lot of faith in myself to make this happen, but my mental health took a big toll as I was preparing for this trip (from being overly anxious).
However, the most amazing thing is – even through my minimal spanish and my host family ́s broken English – I managed to share my mental health journey. Not only this encouraged my host family, but one of the daughters from the host family opened up about her history of Anorexia and her struggles with ADD.
I encounter so many people that are hesitant to travel thinking their mental health will hold them back. But the truth is, it is only yourself that is telling that lie. I can truly say making this leap of faith was not only the best decision I have made in my life, but it really has been a chance for me to learn a lot more about my self, and to realize, I CAN be an independent person even as I struggle with depression.
I know just picking up and backpacking across Europe is not something everyone can do, depending on circumstances. But friends, don’t be afraid to make bold moves in your lives.
I am realizing more and more – how much challenging myself and taking new risks has been so good for my mental health. Like the smallest thing of going out to eat by myself at a local cafe or asking a stranger for directions, it’s been immensely helpful for me to tackle my anxiety and depression.
Friends, what are some things that you want to or have tried in the past to take risks?