Featured Guest Post Mental Health

Overcoming Depression and Traveling Despite the Odds

Here’s a story about overcoming depression and traveling, despite the odds that it might happen again. Living and studying in paradise proved to be too much and depression hit Kara hard while she was there, cutting her trip short. Fast forward twelve years, she is headed back down under, but this time she’s prepared.

Guest post by Kara Lockwood

In 2005, I spent a year working 35 hrs per week at a Subway shop to help me fund my epic trip abroad. At the time, I was 19 years old, excited and full of joy and zeal as I awaited the coming adventure.

I planned to spend 6 months backpacking and studying in Australia. This will be my big break, I thought with confidence. For over a year, I planned and prepared for this trip. Little did I know that within 3 short weeks after arriving in Australia, things would come crashing down.

Read More: How Travel Forces Me to Face My Fears

Kara at 19 with Lucy the koala in Australia. © Kara Lockwood

Depression strikes abroad

I landed in Sydney, Australia with my best friend in tow. We spent an amazing time backpacking up the East Coast from Sydney to Cairns but soon said goodbye to my friend as we went our separate ways. I was starting school in Townsville and she would continue to travel with her boyfriend. The excitement of being in Australia soon wore off as feelings of fear, doubt, despair, and darkness crept in.

Australia is such a gloriously beautiful country. I was in paradise, yet I felt like my heart, mind, and soul were trapped in a Hell I couldn’t escape. I spent my days bemoaning my plight to my classmates. Not able to get out of bed, I cried and prayed to God to save me from this agony. I was behind on my school work and not up to having fun or socializing.  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get control of my heart and mind.

Yes, depression had hit me in the most unlikely of places.

No respect for people, places or time

Yes, depression is a funny beast. It can rear its ugly head anytime and anywhere, even when you’re “supposed” to be happy. Depression does not respect people, places, or time. It will hit you like a ton of bricks straight out of left field and have you crying out for help. But the help, if you recognize it at all, will seem just out of your reach.

Depression at home is hard enough to live with, but add being young and far away from home in a strange environment and you have utter chaos. Chaos in the form of not wanting to get out of bed, the pressure to work hard and be happy like everyone else and dealing with thoughts of wanting to end my own life.

Our minds do a good job of protecting us from harm and danger and stop us from taking unnecessary risks. But, anyone could understand why my heart would not want to go through an experience like this ever again.

Read More: Anxiety and Being Alone Abroad For the First Time

Kara looks forward to seeing sunsets like this at Whangamata Beach, New Zealand. © Nicky Shakey

Learning to dream again

Twelve years have passed since that difficult time abroad, and I have made strides in strengthening my mental health since then. I’ve done the important healing work with the assistance of counseling, and I found medication to help with my depression. As a result, I am a lot stronger, mentally and emotionally, than I was back then.

So strong in fact that I put myself through school and earned a music diploma. I believe that I am now ready to take the risk of going abroad to pursue my travel dreams despite the challenges I faced while traveling in the past.

For my next adventure, I plan to travel New Zealand on a working holiday! In a little over 3 months, I will give up my job and my apartment, and leave behind my beloved family and friends. Also left behind will be my mental health team that has helped me arrive at this turning point.

In my mind, this trip doesn’t make sense, but in my heart and spirit, it makes all the sense in the world. I am going forward with the wild and free call inside me that is beckoning me to take the risk and travel the world. I am risking it all despite the odds.

Planning, preparing, and positioning

I am not about to take this risk blindly, though. There are things I can do to make sure I feel 100% prepared for my departure.

I will save up the appropriate amount of money, research my destination, make arrival plans, etc. Additionally, I will work with my mental health team here in North Vancouver to ensure I have the right amount and dosage of medication to take with me. My mental health team will also help me to ensure I have access to support and medication while in New Zealand.

Basically, I am preparing myself emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I am positioning myself for the trip of a lifetime, and I am preparing myself for success and greatness. This way, New Zealand will be awesome and I will have the best time yet!

We all have obstacles and things that get in the way of our dreams. I’m here to tell you that you have greatness within you, and you shouldn’t be afraid to fail. If anything failure propels us forward into the life of our dreams.

In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.”

On Kara’s NZ bucket list: Cathedral Cove, New Zealand. © Nicky Shakey

About the author

Kara is a girl who as well as her love for travel has a love for music, visual art, dance, photography and other creative mediums. She is based in Vancouver BC, Canada and is slowly making her way around the world. Creative Heart is the place where she documents her travels near and far through creative means.

Read more from Kara on her blog Creative Heart Travel.

Follow her on: Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

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  • Reply
    January 12, 2018 at 3:39 PM

    This is very inspiring. When I traveled in the UK last autumn I was hit with a mild depression (I lost a dear relative a year ago and the feelings of loss were exacerbated during the trip). Like you, I had a mental health or support group and they did a great job in helping me cope. It is so important to have those people whom you can count on during your travels. They are the only ones who can understand your feelings.

    • Reply
      Brittany Quaglieri
      January 18, 2018 at 4:53 PM

      Having a support network of professionals and friends/family is important. Both while at home and during travels. Thanks for reading, Marlena.

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