PTSD and Travel

With the holiday season upon us, there is a lot of traveling going on. Crowds are larger, increased stress around the holidays, delays, weather issues and heightened expectations are just some of the typical stressors many of us contend with, this time of year. If someone you know or love suffers from PTSD or other mental health issues,  perhaps this can shed some light on what they are trying to navigate (on top of the typical stressors) during this travel season.

I love the ocean. The sound of it feeds my soul and grounds me. I can sit and watch the ocean for hours. It touches something deep, deep inside of me. A knowing, a presence, a connectedness.

I live in Minnesota, which is nowhere near the ocean. When I get close to the ocean, and my senses begin to come alive, I know I’m now on vacation. Ahhh, vacation! I was once that person who worked to go on vacation. Road trip? Yep, I was the first person to raise my hand and jump in the car. I love to explore, I love new places, I love new people. I understand that my little corner of the world is not the be-all, end-all, and I want to see the world.

Then I was struck with PTSD and my whole world turned upside down. The things I did without thought have suddenly become a big production. I’m plagued with flashbacks, and my symptoms are easily triggered.

My trauma occurred over a 20-year period in many different places throughout the world. I can be triggered by certain smells, sounds, the way the wind blows, dialect, and many other things. Sometimes, that can start a flashback. Sometimes, I get disoriented and anxious, and sometimes it’s just a general feeling of knowing something’s off. When I’m at home, I can figure out ways to ground myself, get support or use one of the many tools in my distress tolerance tool-box to ride out the wave. When I travel, things are unfamiliar and it takes longer to come out of a trigger.

Another symptom of my PTSD is that I become overwhelmed in busy, loud, places — restaurants, for example. It’s very easy for me to get flooded by too many menu choices and a voracious appetite can become non-existent. Before, PTSD, I loved trying new food and going to restaurants that I wouldn’t have visited in my hometown.

Airports are triggering for me. The noise, the crowds, the upheaval, the lines. The anticipation of sitting in a tiny chair for a four-hour flight. The same anxiety that most others feel at airports is more pronounced for me. My anxiety is ramped up because my perpetrators often put me on a plane and sent me all over the world. So just by walking into an airport, it’s triggering. And yet, I love the speediness of getting to your vacation destination by flying, and how wonderful to be in this machine that flies in the sky. It’s part of the travel experience.

My support system is different when I travel. For my family, it’s often a good respite for them when I go out of town for a few days. It’s not an easy decision for them to let me go off without one of them accompanying me. So, a lot of moving parts must happen before I can hop on the plane. My support works together to provide text, phone or FaceTime calls with regular check-ins. I must be mindful and respect the times that are available, especially with a time change. It feels uncomfortable for me to know that I require this support.

I just want to jump on a plane, hide out at a beach for a few days and think, write, read and relax. It’s part of my fantasy travel experience. But the extra support is part of the give and take if I’m to travel right now, and I’m grateful for the opportunity and the support.

I understand that traveling with all my PTSD symptoms front and center is a huge challenge. But, I’m determined to have a great time, get my spirit renewed at the ocean, or spend some wonderful girl-time with a good friend. My intention is to look at the beautiful palm trees and fill my senses with the healing ocean air, and for just a few perfect moments, breathe with ease.

Traveling with PTSD is certainly a challenge, but not impossible.


Featured Image -- 1029Thank you for reading my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

43 thoughts on “PTSD and Travel

  1. Pingback: PTSD and Travel — Untangled – Bianca Salamanca

  2. So happy you can overcome the additional stresses that PTSD brings in order to continue experiencing something you love. Too often, PTSD and other mental illness can prevent us from enjoying things that once brought us joy. Thank you for sharing and helping others!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a great article, you are an inspiration. I work as a GP doctor (when I’m not travel writing) and I see lots of people suffering with PTSD. It can be life changing. But good on you for fighting to carry on living the life you love!
    Since I try to combine travel and health where I can on my blog, your article has inspired me to do a collaboration article about traveling with health problems or disabilities. If you’d like to be involved please message me on my Facebook page. Find me at

    Liked by 1 person

  4. An incredibly inspiring post! I can’t pretend to understand what this must be like, but this post perhaps gets me a little closer. Good luck with your adventures, I’ll think of this post next time I complain about waiting in line at an airport 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It is commendable that you purpose to stay on top of the PTSD and not let it stay on top of you, A. I appreciate how you work to ground and reorient yourself when you’re shaken. Strength isn’t about not getting knocked down or rattled but what we do when it happens.

    Happy Thgv.


    Liked by 2 people

  6. I completely agree, PTSD heightens every anxiety, making travel feel like this enormous task, because it really is. But then again, grocery shopping at a crowded store can be an enormous task for us that suffer from PTSD.

    I am glad you have support and are accepting help. Before I was diagnosed with PTSD I traveled to Australia by myself (that was the first plane ride I had been on since I was a kid) from NY.
    That was a trip for the books.

    I left my luggage in Sydney, didn’t go through customs when I got there, so I didn’t get my passport stamped, and then my flight home left without me while I was in the airport for an hour before. And don’t even get me started on all the things I left on the various planes, haha.

    My brain just couldn’t navigate all that.

    I am no longer embarrassed by this memory because I know I had more difficulty than another passenger and was living with this without any help.

    I am grateful to be in the process of recovery today, and I am grateful for blogs like this.
    Thank you.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I won’t be traveling for the holidays but I relate to this a lot. I was one who enjoyed traveling in the past, in my younger years. I used to drive quite a few places, one of those trips being all the way across country.

    I love the beach too. Luckily though it’s only about a two hour drive from where I am, although I have not been in a while.

    Enjoy the ocean and the warm weather.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Thanks Tina! I know going back to Greece can be stressful without navigating travel and with new puppy it will add another layer. I hope you get to hang out by that beautiful blue sea while you are there. Hopefully lots of pics while you are there. Hope all is well my friend. ❤️❤️❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  9. A great post and very important topic. The holidays, airports and flying combined are awful for me! My anxiety always gets worse too but I can only imagine how much tougher it must be for you my friend! Hopefully by visualising the ocean as much as possible,you can get through these difficult triggering moments step by step. The ocean is the same for me having grown up in Greece next to it! It just calms me in such a deep way!
    We are actually flying to Greece on the 3rd of December with our 4month old puppy and she already gets very anxious on short bus rides, so not sure how she will manage a 1hour 30 min train ride, the whole airport check in and a 2,5 hour flight! Then she will also have to get used to being in a hotel room for 3 nights until we fly home..I really hope we make it! ❤ Hugs to you both!x

    Liked by 3 people

  10. dbest1ishere

    This is so true. This is one reason I think the holidays upset me so much. Once of many but still. The stores are so much busier and louder and I struggle to go in them to begin with. It certainly triggers me and kicks my anxiety up a ton.

    Liked by 3 people

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