Now my depression prior to our around the world journey isn’t something I’ve ever approached as a subject since we started to travel just under two years ago. Not because I was afraid to talk about it – far from it – but rather it never felt like it was so important a fact to mention in what we’re actually doing by living our dreams and travelling to see the world. However, having seen several of my family and friends recently, some with emotional problems of their own, it became clear to me just how important it is for people with depression to have someone to talk with, someone to identify with and (as I would have liked also) someone to show me what I can do to help myself.
Perhaps by sharing my progression from depression to world travel will help someone head down their own path to travelling the world by convincing them that it can be done.
How I Became Depressed
Depression doesn’t just arrive without notice, in fact, I think I could have foreseen my own descent into depression quite a while before hand.
I’d actually been kicked out of college for lack of attendance back in 2001 and through the persuasion of a family friend found myself a part-time job building hamburgers at the worlds largest fast food retailers. Add in some time spent at the largest coffee retailer with their green colouring, a few years in a record store and by 2011 I was in my mid-twenties, my tenth year in retail and my life wasn’t quite gone the way I’d imagined back when I was a teen.
Working in retail can be amazing when you’re in the right place with the right mix of people, and whilst there certainly were some hard days and nights at those first two jobs, the people that I spent long 10 hour shifts with really made it something special. You laugh, you joke, but at the end of the day you all strive to be the best team together. Fast forward to my last job and I couldn’t have been more miserable.
I’d gone in to the job with such high hopes. As far as I saw it I’d found my calling. I love music, so what better job could there be than working in a music store?
Foolishly, I’d not taken into consideration just how much of a sinking ship music and entertainment retail on the high street really is, and what I came to discover only a little too late after leaving my supervisor job elsewhere was that my own personal chance for progression was stunted.
The company was shrinking, the number or people fighting for positions was not, and try as I might to stand apart, things just weren’t going to go the way as I might have hoped.
Going into 2011 was tough. Sales were down and getting worse and the company was in serious trouble (in fact, the store I worked at has finally shut its doors) and we’d be lucky to keep the doors open come the next Christmas period.
There I was, staring at my future. Staring at a road with a dead end with no turning to either side that might bring me salvation. I’d put all my eggs in one basket and I couldn’t see any way of breaking free.
That’s when depression began to take a hold on me. It began to cloud my thoughts, cloud my actions and slowly but surely, cloud my life. All I could see was the company going bust and myself searching for a job in a new company where I’d have to start the whole learning process again, and as much as I know I’d throw myself in to it, I was scared of the future. The future started to twist around in my mind as the lack of possibilities started to dawn on me; “where is my life headed?”
Where Am I Going?
It was a question that ran through my mind all through the day from the moment I woke, during the whole walk to work, throughout my day, and then all through the evening.
“If this is life, what have I done with it?
Horrible and consuming thoughts for someone so young I thought to myself, but during that path to depression that I took it only made things worse, that I’d wasted my chance at life, that there is only one, and I’d blown it. I began to question everything. “Why do we work? Why work for someone elses gain? Why are we here? Is this all there is, you go to school, you work and then you die? Is there nothing to live for?”.
Things began to get worse. I would go whole nights without sleeping, sometimes (if I was lucky) I might only wake up 4 or 5 times in a night, stalking around the bedroom like a man with the world on his shoulders. Then the worst came.
Each day had become an argument with myself. I’d wake from a night of stressful starts in the middle of the night to a day of questioning in my head. My brain was questioning everything. At that point I couldn’t figure out any more who I was or what I believed. I was so deep in the hole that I was having arguments with myself in the street. The one that hurt the most was about my love for Franca
“I Don’t Love You”
One day I stood with her in the kitchen of the home we were renting and explained things as best as I could. I explained that in my head were two opposing opinions, one side of my brain was telling me that I didn’t love her, the other side shouting “yes you do!”.
As hard as it must have been for me to deal with, I can’t imagine how Franca must have felt at that point, and even after talking with her repeatedly since that day about it, I still can’t fathom how she kept going, how she managed with knowing those thoughts were going through my head. How she continued to trust me no matter how much I told her I loved her, I don’t think I’ll ever understand.
Becoming A Rock
Getting things out in the open was a good start, but at the time it feels that the endpoint is very much a long way off.
After that day Franca was the foundations of my dealing with things, my support and reason for being. She suggested idea after idea of things I might want to do in order to put my mind back to where it had once been, with no more mind crunching questions keeping me awake at night or full of hate for everything during my working day.
One day, Franca surprised me for my birthday with tickets to Venice, the chance to travel and clear my head, for us to take ourselves away from everything and perhaps reset my thoughts a little
‘The Venice Effect’
Our long weekend in Venice gave us time to explore and see the quieter outer edges of the island city, but also enough time to see fantastic places such as The Peggy Guggenheim Collection which we both really adored, whilst still having time to sit next to the Rialto Bridge to read and sip an espresso.
Come the end of the weekend I couldn’t face the thought of returning to my own personal hell.
“Why can’t every day be like this?”, I thought to myself as I stared intently at the work of Jackson Pollack and René Magritte. And then it hit me, why not? Indeed, why isn’t my every day like that? Why aren’t I exploring the world that I barely know? What’s tying me down? What’s stopping me, and us, from doing it every day of our lives?
Returning Home, Doing The Numbers
As we returned back to Leamington Spa we really began to question if it was possible. Could we both travel around the world? Could we leave everything behind, quit our jobs and travel around the world with nothing but our backpacks and each other? Why not?
‘Why not?!‘ soon became our answer to everything, but more importantly for my state of mind and the depression that had consumed me. It became a reason to wake up every morning. It was the reason to go to work, earn as much as I could so we could save to travel the world. Our dream and new future of travelling gave me reason.
During the following 12 months I had days where I really struggled with my depression, but having given myself travel as something to aim had given my life a fresh start, a lifestyle choice like no other that has given me so much in two years that my whole life prior to that was missing.
Where I Am Now
In logistical terms I’m in Spain right now with Franca and loving the heat, but in terms of my mental health I’m somewhere else altogether. As I mentioned in my post about how things have changed between my family, friends and myself, I’ve changed a lot and I’m happy to say that my depression has changed for the better in that time. In fact, I’m as far away from depression as I’ve been in a long, long time and have had barely a low day during that whole time.
Over the past two years of travel around the world I’ve battled my depression with life experiences that I wouldn’t have ever found from staying where I was, both physically, and mentally. Instead of medical help, I chose the path of adventure, and during our world travel I’ve done many experiences that have been my drug against depression:
I’ve volunteered with dogs in Thailand, learning more about my own compassion and how the world looks and treats animals.
I’ve spent a month with 450 dogs surrounded by some of Asia’s luckiest elephants at Elephant Nature Park and learned a lot more about how humanity treats animals at the expense of their rights.
Met with people less fortunate than us who taught me to not take things for granted as I once did, to embrace and grasp every opportunity to learn and better myself, just as they do.
I’ve gone vegetarian, again due to learning more about the way we treat animals, but also about my own responsibilities as just a bit-part player in this big wide world.
And that to truly understand life you really must reach out there and touch it, that no matter how many books you read or websites you surf; there’s no replacement for meeting people and seeing the world outside.
Feeling The Same?
No matter how you feel right now there’s always something that you can do to combat it. If you feel like you need to make a change in your life, aim to make that change. Feel like it’s not possible? Take baby steps. Plan first, prepare second, do third.
There’s no reason why you can’t travel around the world too, just like I did. If opening up your own vegan bakery is your dream, you’ll find a way. Find something to cling too, some hope, and you’ll soon have your remedy to depression.
Talk To Me
If you’re feeling stuck in a rut that you can’t get out of, there’s always someone in your life to talk to, and if you don’t think that to be true, then speak to me privately via email, or leave a comment below. I’m more than happy to talk.