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Travelling Abroad with Mental Health Concerns: How to Prepare

Article by GVI

GVI

Posted: February 26, 2023

International travel can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it can also be a source of stress and uncertainty. This is especially true for those who have existing mental health concerns. But with the right preparation, it is possible to make the most of your journey while maintaining your mental health. This article will provide comprehensive advice on how to prepare for international travel.

Identifying and Understanding Mental Health Concerns

The first step in preparing for international travel is to identify any mental health concerns you may have. This can include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and any other mental health condition. It is important to understand the signs and symptoms of your condition and how it may affect your travel experience. If you are unsure of your diagnosis, speak to a mental health professional before you leave.

It is also important to plan ahead for any potential mental health issues that may arise during your travels. Make sure to research the mental health resources available in the country you are visiting, and consider bringing any medications or other treatments you may need. Additionally, it is a good idea to have a plan in place for how you will manage any mental health issues that may arise while you are away from home.

Exploring Support Resources Prior to Travel

Once you have identified and assessed your mental health concerns, it is important to explore the support resources available to you before you travel. For example, some countries may offer free counseling services or medical assistance. Additionally, there are many organisations that provide support and advice for travellers with mental health concerns. Researching these resources in advance will help make your journey smoother and more enjoyable.

It is also important to consider the availability of mental health services in the country you are visiting. Make sure to research the local laws and regulations regarding mental health care, as well as the availability of mental health professionals in the area. Additionally, it is important to be aware of any cultural differences that may affect the way mental health services are provided. By doing your research ahead of time, you can ensure that you have access to the support you need while traveling.

Planning Ahead to Reduce Stressful Situations

It is also important to plan ahead to anticipate and minimise any stressful situations that may arise during your trip. For example, if you experience anxiety in airports or crowded places, consider taking an earlier flight to avoid peak times. If you are prone to panic attacks, create a plan of action for coping with them in unfamiliar environments. Additionally, pack any medications and supplies you may need during the trip in your carry-on bag to make them easily accessible.

It is also helpful to research the area you are visiting in advance. Knowing what to expect can help reduce anxiety and make it easier to navigate unfamiliar places. Additionally, make sure to plan for rest and relaxation during your trip. Taking time to relax and recharge can help reduce stress and make your trip more enjoyable.

Creating an Itinerary with Flexibility

When creating your itinerary for your trip, it is important to include plenty of flexibility. Having a set plan can often be comforting, but it is also helpful to leave room for spontaneity and rest days. Scheduling extra time between activities can also help reduce stress levels in unfamiliar environments. Additionally, make sure you build in enough time for rest and relaxation.

It is also important to consider the time of day when planning activities. If you are prone to fatigue or anxiety, it may be best to plan activities for the morning or early afternoon. This will give you plenty of time to rest and relax in the evening. Additionally, if you are travelling with a companion, make sure to plan activities that both of you can enjoy. This will help ensure that everyone has a positive experience.

Finding Appropriate Accommodations

Choosing the right accommodation is another important step in preparing for international travel with mental health concerns. Look for accommodations that are quiet, comfortable, and provide easy access to the places you will be visiting. This can help reduce the stress of navigating unfamiliar places and allow you to focus on enjoying your journey. Additionally, research hotels or hostels with access to medical care if necessary.

Managing Travel Anxiety During the Trip

It is normal to experience anxiety or fear during international travel. To help manage this anxiety, it is important to practice calming techniques, such as deep breathing or mindfulness. Additionally, make sure you have access to emergency contacts in case of an emergency. You can also take steps to stay safe such as avoiding unfamiliar areas and traveling with a buddy.

Staying Connected with Family and Friends

Staying connected with family and friends while travelling can be a great way to manage anxiety and stress. Make sure to check in regularly with those back home by phone or video call. Additionally, if possible, try to meet up with family members who are living in the area you are visiting. This can help you stay grounded during your travels and provide emotional support in times of need.

Seeking Professional Help if Necessary

If your mental health condition worsens during your travels, do not hesitate to seek professional help from qualified mental health professionals in the area. If possible, identify a list of mental health professionals before leaving home so that you are prepared in case of an emergency. Additionally, research any potential language or cultural barriers that may affect access to care.

Tips for Returning Home After International Travel

Finally, it is important to prepare for the transition back home after international travel. It is normal to experience feelings of sadness or anxiety when returning home, especially if you have been away for an extended period of time. To help ease this transition, make sure to check in regularly with close friends and family. Additionally, it can be helpful to maintain a journal of your experiences so that you can look back on them fondly.

Overall, international travel can be a positive and rewarding experience. By following the tips outlined above, you can ensure that your journey is safe and enjoyable.

Volunteering with GVI  is a great way to see the world and have access to a safe and stress-free travel experience. GVI offers a wide range of volunteer programs in various countries, from community development to wildlife conservation. GVI ensures that all of their programs are safe and well-organised, with support and guidance provided throughout your trip. This means that you can focus on enjoying your experience, without having to worry about the stress and uncertainty that can comes with international travel.

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