I have always wanted to go to Italy. In 2014 I booked a cheap trip to Venice over Groupon with my partner at the time, it was to be my first excursion abroad without my parents to somewhere that I had chosen. Images of romantic Gondola rides along the river and strolls down ancient winding streets floated around in my mind, alongside expectations of cheap red wine and the most delicious authentic pasta dishes. Everything was booked and payed for out of my savings, I’d begun to allow myself to get excited about the trip. Then a few months before we left I found myself single, and another month after that I found myself in a psychiatric hospital. My dreams were scuppered. I convinced myself (and was probably right) that I wasn’t well enough to go. So I stayed home and allowed the shadow of my ruined dreams to immerse me in darkness while he went without me.
I wanted to begin this series with this story not to encourage you to go travelling while you really are too unstable to go, but to demonstrate that not being able to go now doesn’t mean that your dreams of travel should be put to bed forever. If I’d gone on this trip it could have ended badly and I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it, it would have been a disappointment and I would have felt more upset afterwards… this is all disregarding the damage that going on holiday with an ex boyfriend could have done. Because of this, I’m advising you to know your limits. If you know that you’re probably not stable enough to go travelling then don’t do it – being miles away from family and friends in a country where you don’t speak the language is not the best way to test yourself.
Having said that, don’t let the dream die! As long as you stay alive, there will be another chance. Engage with any treatment you may be offered, be responsible with your medication and allow family and friends to help you. Let that dream of yours simmer away in the background and spur you on towards recovery!
Two years later I was stable. My dream of going to Italy was reignited by the opportunity to meet a group of dancers over there. I jumped at the chance! This time it was Florence rather than Venice but in my head it wasn’t that different: this new place still held the beautiful views, ancient streets and authentic Italian food that I’d dreamed of. I saved up and booked my ticket to ‘Florence Lindy Exchange’, knowing that once I arrived I could meet up with other dancers and wouldn’t be entirely alone. This is point number two – don’t go alone, either go with a friend or meet other people there on an organised trip. Not only does this safeguard you against crime, loneliness and getting lost, it is also a great opportunity to meet new friends!
My third point is to plan well. My diagnosis leaves me vulnerable to ill health if something doesn’t pass as expected so I ensured that there was no space for this as I planned my trip. I asked the organisers for recommended hostels and requested a room of my own as I know that I need my own space. I found the schedule for the organised part of the trip online and added to it other interesting places that I wanted to visit. I printed maps of the city and drew routes to the places I’d be going onto it. I made sure there was plenty of time (probably more than I needed) between each stage of my transport from home to the hostel and back again. By the time I’d finished, there was little room for anything to go too wrong.
So before you go:
- Don’t panic if your dream of travel seems too far away, keep fighting and it will come within your reach
- Don’t go to test yourself or to prove people wrong, be sure that you’re stable before you go
- Don’t go alone, either go with a friend or meet an organised group while you’re there
- Plan well – make sure you’re staying somewhere safe, that you know where you’re going and that you’ve bought health insurance (just in case).