When the World Isn't Enough:Traveling with Depression

 I was diagnosed with severe clinical depression almost two years ago. I was put on anti-depressants and started going to therapy.

 But this isn’t a coming-out story of my depression. Instead, I’d like to talk about what it’s like to travel with this illness.

 For those of you not familiar with depression (not the kind where you get sad when your dog dies), it’s really really tough. It’s different for everyone, but for me it includes extreme fatigue and I can go for days without eating or eating too much, and gain weight very easily. Sometimes, during a depressive episode, I feel rage, but most often I feel nothing.

 You can understand my anxiety before we left. I worried about whether or not I would be able to handle the stresses of traveling long term. I wondered what would happen on the days I just couldn’t get out of bed. I prepared as best as I could—making sure I had enough meds, discussing things with Ricky. But in all honesty, there’s not a lot you can do to prepare.

 I did ok for a while.  The momentum of beginning such a great adventure carried me through fairly well. Because of the medication, however, I still suffered from fatigue. Some days were hard to get through simply because my body was too tired. On those days, I napped. Ricky would usually occupy himself with the guitar, or video games, or chatting with fellow travelers. And things were fine.

 They didn’t stay that way, however. After a while, when the novelty and some of the excitement of traveling wore off a bit, and the stress set in, the depression came back.

 On my bad days, I am barely able to get out of bed. I don’t want to see sights or talk to people or eat. I just want to sleep and cry. Sometimes this presents a problem when we are on a tight schedule with sightseeing or traveling to a new city. The last thing I want to do when I feel this way is be surrounded by hundreds of people with body odor on a train, or walk for hours looking at temples that kind of just look the same. I know it can be frustrating for Ricky when I slip inside myself, unable to talk or care about what we may have to do that day. Somewhere deep inside my brain I know I have to get out of bed or keep walking or simply communicate a little, but it’s as if the rest of me won’t allow it, and it’s all I can do to keep breathing.

 The worst thing, however, is knowing that I shouldn’t feel this way. I am here in China, or Laos, or Cambodia, or wherever we are at the time, seeing beautiful things, eating amazing food, meeting wonderful people, and all I want to do is sleep through it all. I hate feeling like I just don’t care about anything, especially the amazing time I could be having if only I found the strength. I feel guilty for not appreciating the opportunity I have to travel. That guilt adds to the depression which makes it even worse. It’s a cycle that often threatens to destroy any possibility of enjoying what I came here to do, which is simply to enjoy being here.

 Back home, I had more freedom and ease in keeping my depression under control. I saw a therapist once a week, had regular checkups with my doctor, attended Zumba classes 3 times a week and went running another 3 times, I ate healthily, and made sure to have quality time with people I cared about. It all worked very well for me.

 But traveling, it’s very difficult. Eating healthy food is hard, especially if you’re on a budget. We can’t cook for ourselves so we resort to fried rice, noodle soup, and other less-nutritious local dishes. Exercising is hard without proper shoes (I love my Keens, but not for running), and I often don’t feel comfortable enough in an unfamiliar city to go running (which I hate to do anyway, and without the motivation of a large class, I don’t last very long.). All said, it’s pretty difficult to do those things I know work to keep the depression down.

 Coping with my depression isn’t easy, for me or for Ricky. But we do our best. We’re trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t and what to do when I get really down. It’s a struggle, and both of us are learning patience as we try to work through it.

 It’s hard but it’s not impossible.

A Day at the Market

As I mentioned before, Ricky and I recently visited one of the largest markets in the world.  Now, we love to visit markets. There’s always so much to see that sometimes it can get pretty overwhelming.  This was our first market to visit in Thailand and it was a great first indeed.

Shops featuring handmade soaps and herbal balms offered fresh fruity and floral scents, while the pet section (puppies, kittens, birds, turtles, sugar gliders, and other exotic creatures) offered a scent not quite as fresh.  Clothing shops, purse shops, shops for toys and towels and amazing art filled the place. I was dizzy with the sights and sounds and smells of the market, loving every minute of it.

When I got hungry I snacked on a banana roti, glazed with sweetened condensed milk, and had a honey/lemon drink when I got a little parched.

We saw artists, hippies, lady-boys, beggars, and everything in between as we wandered the aisles.

I could go on and on about the wonders of the market, but instead, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves…

A monster iguana. Monsterguana?

Pipe fish.

An albino turtle, stretching out its neck.

Coconut phone charms

Predator, hanging out with the towels. And a scale.

This kid was having a blast playing that thing and dancing around, watching the coins clink into his basket.

A scorpion made from spare parts.

How did they get that tuk-tuk in there?

Handmade soaps, using lots of Thai scents like lemongrass, plumeria, and ginger.

Super Huge Announcement! We Have a Store!

Have we got news for you! Are you ready for it?

 2 Feet Out The Door now has a store!

 That’s right, now you can own a little piece of the places we have been traveling. We have some great items right now, but remember that the store is young still, and growing. Currently, we have pashmina and Thai silk scarves, wallets, keychains, and pouches that are perfect for holding iPods, cash, keys, chapstick, and other small items. We personally own a few of them and use them for iPods, daily medication/vitamins, and other small daily necessities. We hope to soon add some small antiques, figurines, and other things.

 Everything is handmade in Thailand, and your purchases help those that spend time to craft them. Go ahead and check out the store here. You can also find the store up at the tabs section of the blog.

Also, we are open to suggestions and requests. If you have something in mind, let us know and we will do our best to help you get what you want. There is beautiful and traditional jewelry, clothing, cool t-shirts, and my favorite—hippy pants! I call them that, but they are the most comfortable pants in the world, and I never want to take them off.

 If you are interested in anything I mentioned that is not in the store, let me know, and we can send you pictures and prices.

Leave a comment here or send us an email at 2feetoutthedoor@gmail.com with questions, comments or requests!

Bangkok, With a Pinch of Salt

When we travel, we like to talk to others that have been where we are headed and get their opinion on the place. Sometimes we find that our feel of the place differs greatly from theirs, and other times our opinions coincide. For example, a lot of people said they loved Siem Reap and hated Phnom Penh. Our feelings were just the opposite. We found Phnom Penh to be a cool and exciting city while Siem Reap was a tourist hole replete with beggars and hawkers.

We were told before we got to Bangkok that 2 days would definitely be enough in the city, and that it wasn’t a very nice place. Now, we take each warning or recommendation with a heaping helping of salt because we have come to realize that everyone’s tastes are different.

We got to Bangkok at about 10pm and headed straight for the tourist street with lots of shopping and guesthouses, because we figured we’d be able to find something cheap. Now, there we could see why some people might not like the place. It was crowded and loud and not very cheap at all. We ended up finding a room for $12, which is more than we have paid for a room since we left China.  We pretty much went straight to bed after arriving, having been on buses for about 14 hours that day.

Because recycling, that's why.
The next day we found out what tends to be true for most large cities we’ve visited—there is so much more to the city than the one tourist area that features numerous bars and McDonalds.  See, a family friend of mine has been living in Bangkok for 13 years and invited Ricky and me to spend a few days at his place. We took a taxi over, well outside the downtown area of the city, and were pleased to find a more mellow and welcoming area.

Ducks, just hanging out.

Like I say, we were pretty lucky in that we knew someone that could show us around. Thursday and Saturday we enjoyed Thanksgiving feasts with various ex-pats. I was able to get a taste of home, with a deep-fried turkey and pecan pie, and Ricky got to experience the most gluttonous holiday on the planet—twice.(He’ll write more on that later!)  On Sunday, my friend took us to the largest outdoor market in the world.  We walked around the place for a few hours, and still did not even see 1/20th of the place.

As an extra bonus, this friend of ours owns a Mexican restaurant, Que Pasa. Everything I ate there was the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth.  Travelers, if you find yourselves in Bangkok, you need to visit this place. It’s a ways out of the city, but well worth the trip, especially if you want to venture out of downtown and away from the tourist areas.

Ricky and his new BFF, killing zombies on the iPod at Que Pasa.

We ended up staying in Bangkok for about 4 days, and could easily have done more if we had more time on the visa. As it is, we are on the 2 week land border crossing visa, so we’re headed up to Chiang Mai for the sky lantern festival, where we’ll hopefully figure out what to do next!

I know this post is a bit of a rambling, but there are a couple of points I’d like to make. First, don’t take anyone’s word as gospel on where to go or what to see or do. Find out why they did or didn’t like a certain place; it could be that you like what they don’t, or vice versa. Second, get outside of the tourist areas! Eat local food with local people and enjoy the non-downtown areas of a city; there are lots of secret treasures to be found out there.

Like this place. 

Luxury Items You Can't Travel Without

We were all kids once, so we know what it’s like to not be able to live without that special something. Some kids have blankies or teddy bears or dolls. Others had action figures or other little toys. I (Talia) had my little orange Tonka truck.

Thing is, though, that doesn’t stop when you get older. It just…changes. There are things that you can’t go without. When you travel, these things are usually considered luxury items, because honestly, you really don’t need that Tonka truck when traveling through Southeast Asia. 

Ricky and I allowed ourselves one luxury item each, and no, our USB video game controllers for playing Mario Kart on the computer don’t count. For my item, I brought a pillow, which has saved me many a time on trains and buses when I really needed to sleep.  Ricky’s luxury item is a fly swatter because, as I have mentioned before, he hates the creepy-crawlies.   We both use our items frequently and are very glad that we brought them.

For flies, mosquitoes, and pesky children.
While we were in Otres Beach in Cambodia, we got to chatting to some other travelers and asked them what some of their luxury items. Their responses were quite interesting.

A couple of the girls we met said that they brought a bit of makeup, or a hair dryer, but one girl brought a “3-step facial care system.” Yes, three bottles of creams and lotions that she used every day. To her credit, she did have lovely skin.

Because when you're trekking through the jungle, this is all a girl needs.
Another girl brought a travel pillow—not one of the blow-up ones, but the real, stuffed, good quality kind. She didn’t have any room in her backpack for it, so wherever she goes, the pillow goes along, tied to the outside of her pack.

This thing.
Guys were a bit different. A lot of them said they didn’t have any luxury items. One of them brought his own coozie (or beer condom or whatever it is that you call that foam thing that goes around a can to keep your drink cold).  

Another friend of ours carried around his own insulated 64 oz Big-Gulp mug.
Because this is what you really need when hiking in the Himalayas.

The point is, we all carry around things that we don’t need but that bring us that little bit of comfort when we’re away from home. So, what are some things that you can’t travel without? Or if you haven’t traveled yet, what do you think you would absolutely need to take with you? 

It's Teddy, isn't it?

Recommended Posts