Challenging the limitations of anxiety through travel
2017 seems to be the year of travel. The one where all the friends you had in high school are suddenly posting pictures of them snowboarding in Japan, or showing off their euro tan on a Croatia sail. And it’s no secret that we all want to be one of them. But what if there’s something greater than just money saving issues stopping you from living out your days as a Greek sun-kissed hippie?
That’s where my travel dreams sit. Somewhere between trying to save money, on my casual-job salary, and the panic of living with a mental illness. I know, to some, that travel and mental illness seem too far apart to ever cross paths. But for the one in five Australians experiencing a mental illness each year, this could be hitting pretty close to home.
Just about all of us long to travel at some point in our lives. And I know that, at least for me, I’m not going to wait until I’m old enough to access my super to start. I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety and Panic Disorder at the age of 19, in 2014, and it made sense of a whole array of behaviours I’d normalised, practically my entire life. Around that time, on my third overseas trip, is also when I realised that I wanted to travel as much as I could, for as long as I could.
Travelling to different places, experiencing different ways of life and meeting new and incredible people, really puts your own life into perspective. Having anxiety doesn’t change the rest of your life behaviours. It doesn’t change the things in life that you love and long for. It just gets in the way sometimes. It makes accepting challenge, and taking risks, seem a lot more difficult than usual.
So when I was able to feel the ease of breathing deeply, and the strangeness of living wholly in the present moment, I knew there was no turning back. I was completely engulfed by the feeling travel gave me, and the way it showed me who I truly was. Travel will never solve all of my problems, but it gives me something I can’t find in a ‘normal’ routine.
I have taken plenty of risks in my life; some more rewarding than others. And they have all shown me that life can’t be lived when you’re controlled by fear. I took a risk to join an international travel writing internship in June 2016, and it was one of the most enriching months of my life. It took a lot of second guessing; and back and forth with myself to make the decision to go. But I’m constantly motivated by the ‘now or never’ type cliché. I’d rather experience my life and seize every opportunity, even if it scares me sometimes, than sit at home dreaming of the day I had the courage to so. If I hadn’t taken that risk, and spent that month with Global Hobo, I don’t think I would have reached the creation of my website Adventurous Alysha.
Adventurous Alysha is a website dedicated to challenging the limitations of anxiety, and other mental illnesses, through travel and adventure. I began my site because throughout the roughest times in my life, I hadn’t really had anyone to guide me. Everyone can tell you that you’re not alone, and to just go for your goals. But hearing it from someone who actually knows the struggle you’re in, is the kind of refreshing energy needed.
Being someone living with anxiety and panic disorder, I second guess myself at every cross road. Sometimes before a cross road even presents itself. So being passionate about a life of travel is extraordinarily difficult at times. I figured if I can share my journey with as many people as possible, I can show that, even though I’ve spent a total of nine months abroad solo, I’m still learning. And that travel and taking risks still scare the hell out of me; but I go for it anyway.
I won’t let anxiety hold me back from doing what I love, and hopefully, I can ensure others aren’t held back either. There is too much to experience in the world to let a mental illness stop you from living life on your own terms.
YMCA Global Study is an opportunity that to a lot of you, I know seems risky. It’s something new and exciting, and you might decide to bookmark it on your desktop, to look at it later. That someday you’ll go out and do what you want. But honestly, someday doesn’t exist. If you’ve decided that YMCA Global Study might be for you, then you should go for it. It might take a lot of planning, and packing and re-packing, but you’ll experience something more in your Uni breaks than just a really long beer pong tournament; you might experience that too… just in another country with new friends.
You’ll get to be a part of an intimate group all challenging themselves too. You’ll settle into a new city and learn the ins and outs of it; the best bars, the best sights, and the best places to grab something to eat at midnight. While heading off with a travel company might show you 18 countries in 18 days, with YMCA Global Study, you’ll actually experience the place you’re headed to. You won’t have to take a quick photo of Tokyo’s Shibuya crossing and jump back on a bus, or lick an Italian gelato then have to run for your next train. YMCA Global Study encourages you get involved in a life experience, not just a tourist experience, or something to put on your resume; although a Global Study will look nice and shiny above your work history.
Living with anxiety means that taking things slow can be incredibly rewarding. Being around like-minded people, and challenging yourself, a little more than yesterday, is a lot more beneficial than you might think. So if you’re someone who longs to taste a little freedom, but is having fear step in at every chance it gets, wondering if you should take a positive risk this year, YMCA Global Study could be for you. The only person you need to answer to is yourself.
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