Emily Nagioff

I’ve been travelling for more than a year now, having been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I wanted to share my experiences of being a solo female traveller with mental health issues in the hope that people in a similar position will be able to relate and in turn feel less isolated and lonely. I’ve met a lot of people on my journey that’s taken me from South America, through to India and onwards to South East Asia. I’d hate to think people with dreams of travelling and seeing the world feel trapped and believe they can’t because of mental illness.

I write this from the beautiful island of Koh Samui. I’ve spent the last few weeks in Bangkok, Krabi, Koh Tao and Koh Phangan, hiking, beaching, eating, socialising and full moon partying and it’s been fantastic fun. There is a BUT to this story. It’s incorrect to assume that just because I’m in the most magical place ever, thoughts and emotions just disappear. I’ve never been good with change, and any remotely different environment usually involves me trying to control any situation, possibility, probability or outcome that may arise – which we all know is impossible, hence the angst.

I’ve also recently made the big decision to be completely alone again, which is a huge step. I’m without a safety blanket and have to start looking out for myself – and that feels desperately difficult and painful. I still struggle to be alone (it’s part of the reason I came here by myself). When travelling by yourself, it can be hard to know how to make yourself feel better when you start to feel low or anxious. Often, I’ve found that I have to ride the wave out until my mood starts to rise – for me that’s a few days, although right now with my lack of sleep, it could be longer.

So, with that in mind, here’s my list of five things I do to keep my mental health sane when travelling solo.

1. Karaoke shower time

Sorry to all those who have heard me sing/scream in the shower. There are a few songs that I know I feel better if I sing out loud and shower time is my time to do that. My top songs to sing when feeling low are: Whitney Houston, One Moment in Time; Wham, Wake Me Up Before You Go Go; Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody; S Club, Bring It All Back; Shania Twain, Man! I Feel Like A Woman.

2. Cheap face masks, Netflix and chill (by yourself)

This applies to females and males – sometimes, you just need to do little and very cheap things to feel good about yourself. For me, that’s feeling clean because a lot of the time, depression or anxiety tries to force you to smell as bad as they do. I think if you can get out to a local supermarket, buy yourself a face mask, you can feel a million dollars. Then watch something that makes you laugh.

3. Download Headspace

When my Grandad died, when my Dad was in hospital, when my brother was in hospital, when my ex-boyfriend and I broke up, I couldn’t sleep. Headspace has often been the only thing I actually passed out to; the last few days, I’ve listened to one of their sleepcasts called The Midnight Launderette. They’ve got lots of different options for relaxation, stress, anxiety and I’ve been enjoying meditating to the one focusing on Loneliness.

4. Download Wysa and start writing

I was recommended the app Wysaby a friend who also suffers from mental health problems and it’s absolutely fantastic. It’s an AI life coach that is essentially a little virtual, robot you can speak to, any time you want, about anything you want. Based on CBT principles, it can help you rationalise thoughts and is a nice place to start being open with your feelings. It’s a really nice thing to have when you don’t feel like talking to anyone in particular.

5. Listen to a podcast

There are some brilliant ones out there on Spotify, and I listen to a few random ones. There’s one called Twin Perspectivesfocusing on travels, blogging and writing, which is pretty relatable to me, because one of the girls suffers from anxiety. I also like Fearne Cotton’s Happypodcast. When I’m not in the mood to listen to anything mental health related, I have Those Conspiracy Guyson repeat which lets me zone out.

So those are my top 5.

I could have chosen a lot more: writing, reading, phone a friend, phone a family member and so on but some people aren’t in positions where they can. Let me know what you do to help your depression and anxiety. I’d love to hear. You can find me on Instagram.

Em x

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