Sunday, 6 October 2019

A less considered topic: how travelling can affect your mental wellbeing

Sorcha explores the impact of travel on mental wellbeing
- Sorcha

As summer draws to a close and the academic year begins, students may be planning their winter skiing holidays, embarking on their year abroad, or simply starting at a new university away from home. These events, while motivating and exciting, come with a variety of challenges that we might not even consider. This post will consider ‘mental wellbeing’ and travel, an issue that’s probably not spoken about enough, but one that affects so many.

While abroad you are often more vulnerable and out of your comfort zone; dealing with different currencies, laws, and even weather! Transport alone can trigger anxious thoughts for some people, and these factors combined can seriously impact your time away. I think many people can relate to feeling overwhelmed or homesick and questioning why - you’re meant to be relaxing on holiday, right? But, the physical tolls of travelling are so closely linked to stress and anxiety, so is there any wonder we feel this way?

Unsurprisingly, I wasn’t alone in these observations – I decided to ask around and I found some common travel-related issues and solutions:

Alice said: “Travelling just makes me feel homesick, even if I’m not going very far, and the language barrier makes me feel out of place!” I asked what helps Alice when she feels like this and she replied “well, home is only a phone call away, and after a couple of days of settling in I tend to feel better – especially if I keep busy immersing myself in the culture.” 

Another pressure of travelling is drinking. Chatting to Ben, he said: “There’s a huge pressure to have the ‘time of your life’ when abroad as a student. In reality, drinking excessively makes me feel vulnerable and a bit sad the next day! However, you always have a choice about these decisions, and if you feel uncomfortable, you don’t have to do anything you wouldn’t do at home or that might compromise your safety.”

Silly mistakes! “Once my friends and I went swimming in the sea, and left our bags on the beach. They were all stolen – passports and all! We had to go to the British Embassy who were very helpful and we can laugh about it now – but at the time it ruined the holiday! I would say just make sure you plan your day ahead and be responsible.” – Grace.

So although travelling is exciting and full of amazing opportunities, there are always precautions to take. Planning your trip carefully can really help. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has a useful travel checklist to complete before you set off, including checking the entry requirements of the country, finding the nearest British embassy before you go, and even ensuring your phone works abroad. Check this out here!

If you do struggle with mental health issues that have been diagnosed, or that you take medication for, the FCO’s Mind How You Go is the ultimate guide to enjoying a stress-free and enjoyable trip. Simple tips like Googling what mental health services your destination has before you go can really set your mind at ease – even if you don’t end up using them. This is especially true for students going on holiday with a group of friends or a university sports club, its’s understandable to feel worried about opening up to peers you may not know that well, and its completely different to going abroad with your family! Planning ahead in this case provides solutions before scenarios even arise.

If you are at all concerned, contact your doctor before setting out, and if you need advice while abroad, here is a list of relevant organisations that may be able to help:

  • Student Minds (of course!)
  • Samaritians
  • Bipolar UK
  • Turn2Me
  • Friends in Need


With this in mind – enjoy your travels and stay safe!

For more information on looking after your mental health whilst travelling/ living abroad, see here.







My name is Sorcha, and I'm a third year history student at the University of York. I love to travel, having spent 6 weeks living in Italy and a month inter-railing around Europe during my gap year. I learnt so much from these experiences, and want to share my insights with other students!









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