A friend is a seasoned traveler. He worked for a major corporation as a “procurement officer.” That always sounded kind of dirty to me, so let’s just call him a “purchasing manager.” Anyway, he lived and worked all over the country and travelled all over the world. He bought raw materials for manufacturing. He could pack in a few minutes and travel with everything he needed for a weeks-long journey in a medium-sized carry-on.
We travelled some with this guy, mostly domestic travel, but on a trip to England and Scotland, he shared his three travel tips, distilled from years and years of experience. They are these: 1) Keep moving. 2) Get as close to home as you can. 3) Every man for himself.
He offered these in a sort of tongue-in-cheek way because he certainly knew how to be sedentary. “Mooching,” he called it. And he is so beloved by his friends that he has “homes” all over the place. Then, there was the time he was grooming a new staff member and while deep in the countryside of mainland China, she lost her passport. He didn’t forsake her and leave her to suffer the consequences. He stayed close while their guides and agents procured a new passport for the hapless gal. He mentioned something about “currency exchange”.
Readers of this column know how I look for ways to morph just about any statement or event into a mental health message. So, with that in mind, let’s review the “travel tips.”
Keep moving. A common element for people struggling with mental health issues is a sense of being stuck. They feel like they’ve run out of options. And there is even some sense of resolve when they give up. It’s the “Oh well.” or “It is what it is.” syndrome. Nonsense. A person always has choices. We can’t look for giant steps that solve giant problems. We need to look at what we’re thinking and doing and evaluate whether those thoughts and actions are moving us toward our goals. If not, we keep moving by trying something else and asking for help if we’re out of ideas. Small steps can work.
Get as close to home as you can. So many struggling people have no “home” in any sense of the word. While we certainly need a place to stay, we need to think of “home” as something different from “house.” We need to find various places of safety and comfort; sanctuaries. There are lots of places like this and not just where we hang our hat and sleep. A church is a type of home. The library, the Y, even a school or workplace anywhere there is satisfaction and a reward for our efforts can function like a home. These supportive environments extend the meaning of home so we can be close to the positive energy in many places.
Every man for himself. Again, this was tongue-in-cheek, a sort of “looking out for #1” concept. But think about it this way: struggling people have NO sense of self. They often feel like victims, or losers, or nobodies. They will need help to break out of this morass, to be sure. Some have never heard an encouraging word or felt a sense of accomplishment. Matter of fact, they probably heard and felt things 180 degrees away from that. Strange as it may seem, each and every one of you can be a powerful source of help for these folks. It’s easy and it costs nothing to simply engage the people around us. Greet people in the street. Have a kind word for a clerk. Go out of your way to compliment and show some appreciation for others. You might be the right person in the right place at the right time to really give someone else a sense of herself or himself as a person of value. Maybe she or he can start to be more “for herself” or “for himself.” That kind of growth is necessary.
So, there it is. Advice from a guy who’s been around the world, literally, and advice from a guy who’s been exploring our more personal, day-to-day, internal worlds. Both worlds offer exciting adventures. Have a good trip!