Travelling abroad with a mental illness

Why is this not a topic that’s discussed more often? Mental health has definitely become a bigger topic than it used to be, however we still don’t really talk about it as often as we do about other disabilities.

Do you want to know what question gets me every time? “How can you feel depressed when you’re on holiday?” People, you do know that depression isn’t a choice, right? You don’t just wake up one morning and think to yourself that it’s a great day to feel empty. Yes, empty.

I can only speak from personal experience, having bipolar can be the most interesting rollercoaster of your life. Without the right medication you can have days where you are completely fine, but then the next moment you feel broken, alone and heavy. Trying to get out of bed feels impossible or you might go into hypermania and feel like nothing is impossible. But hey, you can always pop a pill and then be okay, right? Nope, some people don’t necessarily react well to the meds. You won’t have those “mood swings” however you will feel emotionally numb. Trying your best to portray the correct emotion for certain events, but not feeling any emotion.

While travelling you might have “escaped” your reality for a couple of days, but mental illness doesn’t take a holiday and I feel like it’s time we address this.

How can I cope with mental illness during travelling:

  • Verbalise your emotions. My biggest struggle was raising my hand and acknowledging that I’m not okay.
  • Be sure to surround yourself with a supportive structure. Ask a friend to go for a walk with you.
  • Never be ashamed to cry. Stop telling yourself that you don’t have a “real” reason to cry. You do not need a reason to let out emotions.

How to support someone with a mental illness while travelling:

  • Just be there. Sit with them or go for a walk, but be there, allow them the time to feel what they are feeling without the expectation of having them try and explain why they are feeling down.
  • Don’t say “Things could have been better.” / “It will pass” / “It’s all part of God’s plan” / “Cheer up” / “You have a great life and always look so happy?”
  • A simple hug goes a long way.
  • Respect their emotions and don’t compare it to something you went through if you don’t have a mental illness. I understand that you think it might help, but it really doesn’t.


Yeah, I know that mental illness is a touchy subject, and everyone deals with it differently and that this is only my personal experience and advice, but I would love your opinion on this.

How do you cope with a mental illness? If you don’t have a mental illness but a friend or loved one has, then how do you cope with it?

Go Adventure!

Linda Steynberg