By Andrés Muñoz

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of therapy? Most people might picture themselves in a comfy room, where they open up and share their thoughts and feelings with a specialist. Someone who asks questions and suggests appropriate courses of action and healthy mindsets. 

I love going; it’s extremely gratifying to be able to rely on someone who has the experience and skills to see things from an outside perspective. I tend to finish a session with an action plan to realign my perspective and embark on a path to gain said outlook.

That being said, many other literal paths can be taken to reach different levels of self-understanding. I’ve discovered almost the same number of things about myself throughout the years by travelling as I have by sharing my thoughts while sitting on the therapist’s couch.

Whether it is a weekend getaway with friends or months or years of international journeys, moving around is an empirical way to unlock truths about yourself while immersed in a constant state of learning and discovery. I’m referring to inner facts about who you are and how you face life’s challenges.

Journey Of Self-Discovery

While you might feel very comfortable in your home city or town, to say that you’re meant to unconditionally stay there couldn’t be farther from the truth. The world is a big, big, BIG place, and while you might have grown up in a single area or several, the more countries and locations you discover, the greater your understanding of how vast and diverse the world is. Knowing more cultures allows you to really figure out if the one you were raised in is the one you’d like to stay in. You’ll soon realise that there is so much to discover out there.

Also, travelling lets you determine your passions! During one of my first long trips, I became aware of my love of festivals. It had been a long time since I had gone to large events, and after being able to visit South by Southwest during my time in the United States, I was hooked. 

A few years and several countries and festivals later, I had defined my favourite style of trips: visiting countries to experience their music festivals. It’s a fascinating avenue to meet people from all walks of life who share the same passion for music and good times.  

Challenging Times

I lost my passport abroad (yes, it’s the worst) a few years ago, and the worry crept up on me as I searched all of the places I might have misplaced it. But nothing, nada, zilch, it was nowhere to be found. 

I was in the middle of graduate school, so there was no way I could return to my home country to get one without missing a ton of classes. I was effectively locked inside a foreign country until further notice. 

It was also my first winter ever, so I had to deal with broken water pipes, seasonal affective disorder, and the biting and unforgiving cold. I would later get in a car crash and be rushed to the hospital due to sickness during this time.  

Time passed. The consulate sent me a new passport, I haggled the car repair price at the auto shop, and the snow receded. I realised that despite all these challenges, I could roll with the punches life threw at me. There’s nothing like a challenging situation to make you discover what you are truly capable of.

Trips Don’t Replace Professional Help

Uruguayan musician Jorge Drexler says: “Distance can be an oasis or another form of lying”.  

Travel can be a fantastic way to discover both the good and bad things about yourself, letting you grow more as an individual. However, if you are seriously struggling with your mental health, don’t use it to hide or run away from your problems!

One might fall into the trap of running away from their issues by fleeing from one location to the next. Trust me on this one, the very last thing you want is a mental breakdown while you are alone in a distant land. Your mind spirals out of control in the blink of an eye. Been there, suffered that.

Look for help! Whether online or face-to-face, mental health professionals are there for you, no matter where you may be.  

As time has gone by, I’ve acknowledged that travelling is how I challenge myself, how I enjoy being a part of this world, and how I discover what makes me truly smile. I’m happy that the festival scene is returning, and I hope to embark on another journey very soon! I need it. 

Some find respite in art, others in cooking; for me, it’s travel. What are your own forms of therapy? Let us know in the comments section below!