Mental Health — Travel

Would You Still Travel if You Were Mentally Ill?

Is fear keeping you from what you want in life?

Almost everyone I know wants to travel. We fill our Instagrams with gorgeous photos of sparkling beaches in Bali and breathtaking mountain ranges in Sweden. There are thousands of travel blogs by people who never need to worry about money, doing things most of us could never afford to do. They make the rest of us foam at the mouth with jealousy and willing to do anything for one of those experiences.

Most of us would love to travel.

A very small percentage of people are comfortable right where they are and never get the urge to fly away to amazing destinations. An even smaller percentage of us would love to travel and dream of sifting our toes through exotic sand, but our circumstances don’t make it easy to pursue our dreams.

I fall into the latter category.

Ever since I was a little tyke, I dreamed of traveling the world and experiencing everything imaginable. First, I wanted to rough it in places with breathtaking views and vistas that looked like the covers of the books of fantasy I read. My first dream was going camping in Montana. I devoured books on wilderness camping and daydreamed of sitting on the edge of a cliff with a roaring fire and cooking something I’d foraged from the forest.

Later I wanted to roam the Scandinavian lands of my ancestors with a backpack and a camera. I even went as far as getting in shape so that I could trek up and down the winding roads in the mountains. Even later I would fall in love with Asian culture and want to see the places I dreamed about in the books I read sitting in a beanbag at the library.

I had big dreams, but none of them ever came true. I went camping once in the bayou of Louisana — my backyard at the time. I’ve taken day trips in my car around the southwest — a hop and skip from my home in Tucson.

I was over thirty years old before I even stepped foot on an airplane, and 43 years old before I left the United States.

Why didn’t I follow my dreams? Three reasons.

  1. I am poor
  2. I am scared
  3. I am mentally ill

Of the three, being poor is the cheesiest excuse, because if I wasn’t scared and I wasn’t ill, I would have found a way to travel. I am that kind of person.

Being scared was a product of being mentally ill, so in a way, you could say that my only issue is my mental health.

Do you think you would have followed your dreams and traveled even if you were mentally ill?

Photo by Sean O. on Unsplash

If you don’t know my story, I should qualify just how ill I am before I ask if you would have done what I couldn’t do.

My illness started in childhood with depression, anxiety, and psychosis (hearing voices). As I got older and the stresses of life added complexity to an already difficult puzzle, I graduated into self-harm, substance abuse, extreme psychosis, and regular panic attacks. I was a guest at five mental hospitals, I’ve tried to end my life four times — the last time five years ago — where I almost succeeded. I carry scarring all over my body because I spent many years with so much anguish, that the only way I could ease my pain was to hurt myself.

I’ve had several doctors tell me I would not live a normal life. A few were very surprised when I walked voluntarily out through the doors of the hospital after they told me I would never leave.

If you knew me, eventually you would say to yourself, “Damn, that dude is messed up!

Despite all that, I have five wonderful children and had the pleasure of marriage twice. I’ve been married the second time for eight years, and I can say with no reserve that I’ve never been happier at any time in my life.

But, even though, in 2011, I picked up my life and moved to the Philippines, I haven’t followed my dreams of travel.

I’ve had opportunities. Last month, I had the chance to go to Japan for three days, but during one of my frequent “episodes,” I convinced myself that I was too frightened of going by myself, and I canceled everything.

But still, the dream goes on. Even at 51, I want to see things that I’ve never seen before. I daydream that I’m another person, and I walk through exotic countries looking like a filtered influencer.

I want to travel somewhere before I die.

Photo by Capturing the human heart. on Unsplash

So, here is the plan. I encourage you to look at how you can finally do the things you dream of doing despite everything being against you.

I’m going to start slow. Next month the wife and I are going to Manila to get her passport. Getting her passport will open opportunities for us because Flora is willing to travel with me if I am scared to go alone. I am going to document everything for my new blog, podcast, and Instagram channel. I thought about doing video, but I’ve tried to be comfortable in front of a camera, and I know my path lies with travel writing, a podcast, and social media.

I’ve figured out a way to monetize the experience that has nothing to do with ads or sponsorships, and I know if I can get a fraction of my 1000 true fans, I could do well enough that my travel would be paid for. At least.

After Manila, I will visit places here around Iloilo City — to break in my walking shoes. Then, in March 2020, Flora and I will be going on the Japan trip I canceled. She has many friends and students in Japan, and we plan to let them show us around.

After that, the sky is the limit.

I want to take trips with my kids when they get old enough. Right now, Joey is only three months old, so it’s a little soon to be putting him on a plane.

Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

Here is where you come in. I am going to tell you how I plan to do all this despite the fear and my ongoing illness. I hope that you can find something in what I do that can help you move towards your dreams despite fear and bad circumstances.

Strength in numbers

Right now, I’m terrified to go anywhere by myself. So, until I get comfortable with my own company, I plan to drag my wife along on my adventures. She won’t mind because she too wants to travel in her lifetime.

I feel no shame in saying I’m scared. I know it’s not the “manly” thing, but it’s who I am. There is nothing wrong with fear — everyone feels it at one time or another.

If you are afraid, don’t push it down. Try to work with it in the hopes that it goes away eventually.

Be courageous

I’ve been working on myself seriously for eight years now. I pick one thing I want to work on and improve a little every day. The plan is to spend quite a few of these days working on building my courage and strength.

If you are not trying to make big leaps of faith and work to improve a bit every day, it’s much easier to get where you want to be.

Thanks, Nike — I will “Just Do It!”

At the end of the day, all this preparation will go to waste if we don’t take action.

You can’t expect that you can sit around and daydream forever. One day you have to buy those plane tickets, start that side hustle, publish that essay, or kiss that crush.

One day you have to step forward and move toward what you want to achieve.

In the end, you have to do it!

Let’s do it together!

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Jason Weiland is a writer, blogger, freelancer, and mental health advocate living a dream life in a place he only dreamed of as a kid. He talks about difficult issues but has never lost his sense of humor or willingness to understand others and help when he can.

He would love to connect with you on social media.

YouTube | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Substack

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Writer | Essayist | Video Content Creator | Future member of the two-comma club | Dreamer - I am doing it my way and it might take a bit longer. Don't wait up.

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