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How to Find Support for Travel-Related Trauma and Depression

(photo: Kulli Kittus)
Support (photo: Kulli Kittus)

Traveling the world or even just your country is often seen as a life-changing experience for all of the right reasons. 

People proclaim that you get to experience new activities and cultures while getting away from the hustle and bustle of your everyday life. 

The act of traveling can feel like going on vacation, even if the reason for travel is a work conference or family reunion. 

However, as can happen in life, things can go wrong, and a vacation can end up leaving you changed for the worse.

Managing and Treating Trauma

Even though travel can be a life-affirming experience, it can also leave someone managing trauma they didn’t have before going on a trip. 

The most prepared and cautious travelers can’t account for everything, and some things are just out of their hands. 

Go Backpacking's founder, Dave, learned this firsthand when he was robbed in broad daylight while living in Medellin.

Additional examples of trauma that can occur while traveling include (but are not limited to):

  • Illness (ex: malaria, dengue fever)
  • Physical injury from a sports activity
  • Physical assault or rape
  • Car, bus, motorbike or plane accident
  • Natural disaster
  • Terrorist attack

Thankfully, though, there are ways to heal from the effects of a traumatizing travel experience.

Speak with a Therapist

The very first step that should be taken is arranging an appointment with a trauma-informed therapist. 

Although speaking with friends and family about the experience that left you traumatized may feel like it’s working and it’s all you need, a therapist could help even more. 

Arrange an appointment with your primary care physician and see if they have any recommendations. Oftentimes, they will be able to refer you to a therapist who they trust. 

You can also look for a therapist via the internet or referrals from friends or family.

Keep in mind, though, that a certain therapist may not be right for you. 

Don’t be discouraged if you find that therapy isn’t working or that you don’t feel comfortable enough around your therapist to speak with them about your trauma or depression. 

Sometimes, a person will need to visit several therapists before they find the right one for them. It’s normal, so keep at it.

Related: Is Anger a Warning Sign of PTSD?

Speak with Loved Ones

Although your friends and family cannot do the work of a therapist, that doesn’t mean you should exclude them from your recovery and management of your trauma. 

Perhaps you don’t tell your family about negative things that have happened while you travel. Or you don’t want to worry them when there’s nothing they can do from so far away. 

But they can help you, even if it’s just by listening.  

By allowing them to be a shoulder for you to cry on or a hand to hold to pull yourself up, or even just simple motivation, you might be able to assuage them of that guilt, and you’re able to remember that you’re not alone. 

Look for Support Groups

You could also try reaching out to support groups composed of those who have had similar experiences or are dealing with similar problems. 

Many of them have gone virtual thanks to the pandemic, and they are still virtual now, so it’s easy to log in and see if the group is a good fit for you. 

You might even make a friend or two while attending the meetings, which you'll then be able to add to your support network.

See also: How to Debunk Myths About OCD

Ask About an Official Diagnosis

After meeting with a therapist, you may want to ask them to refer you to a psychiatrist. 

If you have not yet received a formal diagnosis for depression or any other condition that may have arisen from your traumatizing experience, then it would be best to do so. BetterHelp has some amazing therapists that specialize in trauma, PTSD, and depression.

Your therapist can then use that diagnosis to more accurately offer treatment plans and options for you. 

Before a diagnosis, they have to go off of what they can safely assume about you, while a diagnosis opens up more possibilities for them and you. 

Putting a name to what you’re experiencing can also make the situation feel less overwhelming.

Trauma Does Not Define You

Lastly, try not to let your bad experience define travel for you. If you’ve decided that it just isn’t for you, that’s perfectly understandable.

Men's Health recently profiled Travis Barker's struggle with PTSD after surviving a plane crash. He gave up flying in favor of buses and boats, however he still intends to fly again one day.

There are some amazing places out there waiting to be experienced. Obviously, a traumatizing event can keep you from taking risks again. 

Traveling is always an option you can revisit once you feel more secure, so keep that in mind. 

Going on a trip may even help you to manage your trauma as you might realize what happened was well and truly out of your control.


This story is brought to you in partnership with BetterHelp.

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