This is the first of many blogs I plan to write on the topic of travel and post-traumatic stress. They will all be posted under the “mental health” category on the left and tagged with “ptsd” if you wish to search for more in the future.
AWARENESS. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT. MINDFULNESS.
3 ways I use travel to reclaim hope for my life and recovery from PTSD.
Awareness: Being grounded in your present reality. Fully encapsulated in the present moment: your environment, thoughts, and human experience.
Being in a new place, a new culture, requires that I be fully engaged in my present moment. I wont find my way through a foreign airport or metro station if I am stuck in my past fears/experiences. There is not a lot of room for flashbacks or dissociating in these situations.
Traveling forces me to be present and aware. I use these moments to reinforce my ability to stay present in all moments. This reinforcement generates hope for myself, and my ability to function in day-to-day life.
Acknowledgement: Fully accepting who you are and where you are. Your strengths and limitations. Your progress and your struggles.
There are many things I love about traveling. The biggest of those is how traveling always teaches me new things about myself. Travel pushes me to my limits. Physically (hiking, cliff jumping) and mentally. With every trip I learn more and more about who I am as a person: how I engage in my values, where my strengths are, where my limitations lie, and where I can still experience growth. It gives me the opportunity to step-back and re-evaluate my experiences.
This space to re-assess and learn comes only when I am able to acknowledge myself and my current existence. It allows me to generate hope for my future and the process I am on. It challenges all the negative/false beliefs that come with a PTSD diagnosis such as I have no future, I don’t deserve a future, I am weak. You know what I am talking about.
Mindfulness: the ability to focus on your current external and internal experiences. Its the ability to navigate thoughts and emotions in healthy way.
Mindfulness is similar to both awareness and acknowledgement in that it requires both awareness and acceptance. The difference is that mindfulness is more about the ability to focus inward, to focus on thoughts and emotions that are empowering.
One of the things about being a “good traveler” is learning to be in touch with your thoughts/emotions/intuitions and following those as much as possible. When are you somewhere new, you don’t know where the “safe” and “unsafe” places are- you have to rely on internal hunches. Traveling also creates space for empowerment and validation of self.
Travel allows me to 1) practice being mindful of my internal ques/emotions and 2) gain trust in those internal ques and emotions.
This generates hope in my recovery because it develops a stronger, and more trusting relationship between my body and my emotions: a relationship that gets damaged with PTSD.
*I plan to write a blog in the future on travel developing trust in self as a means to healing. Stay tuned.
**this blog is inspired in part by a post from the younique foundation.
***photos are from Dawson City, Youkon. See more about this location here