Travel and PTSD

I love the ocean. The sound of it feeds my soul and grounds me. I can sit and watch the ocean for hours. It’s huge, sometimes angry and wavy, sometimes calm and clear. I love the taste and feel of the salt water on my skin and lips. It’s different and well, oceany. Also, I love the smell of the salt air. It touches something deep, deep inside of me. A knowing, a presence, a connectedness.

I live in MN 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. Ah, 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. I’m easily triggered. Not only by the typical anniversary dates but sometimes the wind can blow a certain way and BAM, I’m triggered which can quickly spiral into a flashback.

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, a dialect, and many other things. Sometimes, that can start a flashback, sometimes, I can get disoriented and anxious and sometimes it is just a general feeling of WTF is happening to me. When I’m at home, I can figure out ways to ground myself, get support or use one of my 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.  I love being in new and different places. That is part of the travel experience.

Another symptom of my PTSD it that I become very overwhelmed in busy, loud, places. Restaurants are one example. It’s really easy for me to get overwhelmed by too many choices. Menus can be a PTSD nightmare. There are so many choices and I can’t decide, my brain starts to shut down. At home, I can go to the same restaurants and figure out what to order. If it’s a new restaurant, my support system will nonchalantly offer me a few choices that they have scoped out on the menu and know what I will eat. If I’m with someone I don’t know very well, I will do that thing that I do, “what are you having? That sounds great, I’ll have that too.” When I travel, most places are unfamiliar, so I’m overwhelmed just by virtue of being somewhere new and different.  I love trying new food and going to restaurants that I wouldn’t have in my hometown. That is part of the travel experience.

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 other’s feel at airports are really pronounced for me. My anxiety is ramped up because my perpetrators often put me on a plane and me sent all over the world. So just by virtue of walking into an airport, it’s triggering.  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. That is 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. They get a break. I don’t feel bad about that, and they don’t feel bad about that fact either. It’s a necessary part of caring for someone who has an illness. It’s not an easy decision for them to let me go off without one of them with me. So a lot of moving parts has to happen before I can hop on the plane. My support works together to provide text support, phone or facetime calls with regular check-ins. I have to be mindful and respect the times that they are available for support, especially with a time change. It feels uncomfortable for me to know that I have to have this support. I want to just jump on a plane, hide out at a beach for a few days and think, write, read, relax. It’s part of my fantasy travel experience. But that is what is part of the give and take if I’m to travel right now and I’m grateful for the opportunity and the support.

Today, I am going to get on a plane and visit my friend who is sharing her beach house with me for a few days. I’m excited and know we are going to have a great time. I had to promise my support team that I wouldn’t wander around California alone and had to make sure my friend was going to be with me during the days. I had to promise to eat, and let my friend know that if I get overwhelmed at a restaurant that I need help choosing something. My tendency would be to not eat, and that’s not acceptable.  I have to make sure I’m in contact with the people here who support me.

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, and spend some wonderful girl-time with my good friend. I got the all clear to go after a dicey few days dealing with triggers. This evening I intend to look at the beautiful palm trees and have my senses filled with the healing ocean air.

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



Thank You for reading my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

51 thoughts on “Travel and PTSD

  1. Really interesting to read. I can’t relate to being affected by PTSD at all, but I’ve lived by the ocean my whole life and I can safely say that being away from it puts me on edge. Even something as simple as smelling it faintly in the air can make me feel as though I’m at home, wherever I might be.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I know these feelings all too well. Hotel rooms are a major trigger for me…especially at hotels that are unknown to me. I could single handed my ruin a perfect weekend getaway the second we opened to door to our room and I had no idea why I behaved this way until my abuse memories started to surface recently. I LOVE the ocean too….for all the same reasons. I hope one day to live near one…I also live in MN…
    I am ordering your book today on Amazon. It’s been so hard to find anything to read to help me feel like I’m not alone or crazy. I look forward to reading it. It’s encouraging to read how you set yourself up for success when traveling. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank-you! Wow, Im so glad we connected. Its a validating feeling to know how closely you can relate and at the same time Im so sorry that you have had to experience that kind of pain in your life. Love the blogging world, two Minneostans who may have never connected are now connected. Thank You for buying Untangled. I look forward to your feedback when you have read it. Have a good afternoon, Alexis

      Liked by 1 person

      • I finished your book yesterday…I have so many questions…I might need to read it again. There was so much I could connect with and relate to. My red pen got a workout…I would love to talk to you more if you are willing and interested.


  3. Thank you for sharing this ! I was diagnosed 3 years ago and just experienced my first travel and I had a friend go with me for all the same reasons. PTSD isn’t talked about much and it helps hearing other peoples stories related and then I don’t feel so alone. thank you again

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  4. The wife and I really love this blog and appreciate the creativity and useful information you provide. If you decide to take this blog to the next level by offering a Mobile App version my company Zenlight could provide service for an extremely low price, we appreciate the hard work you have put into this blog and wish you all future success in business and in life.

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    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’m blessed enough to live on the ocean, and I could have written that first paragraph myself. It grounds me. Every heavy conversation I’ve had to had during my PTSD journey this year, I’ve had at the ocean. Keep on keeping on, girl…xo

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’m by the river and it’s the same the sound of the water kissing the rocks , birds flying baby goose walking around. I had PTSD for 9 years now it’s not as bad as it use to be but it’s still there. I try to be in the now and tell myself out loud it’s not helping right now today date is my kids ages are look at new pics to help trick my mind that I’m safe it’s not happen right now. I listen to enya to help me

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  8. Pingback: Travel and PTSD — HarsH ReaLiTy – Healing Veterans one step at a time

  9. I understand exactly what you mean. I’ve been in this phase for almost 3 years now. 2 of which I tried my best to act like I used to be because noone understood what I meant or what a big deal it was. The past one year I have isolated myself from everyone and after a couple of months of trying to convince me what I’m going through is normal and nothing that you cant work over if you wanted to, they gave up.
    Now, am finally ready to try again. Not be fake but to actually try enjoying whatever I can whenever I can. Kudos to you. More power to you!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Reblogged this on Tiny Cabin On The Move and commented:

    I can’t ever seem to find the words to describe how living with my BPD and it’s accompanying PTSD affects me, and this person has done a great job. So I’m sharing her (I believe it’s a woman) words with you. I actually feel a bit better with strangers, as they have no connections that tend to trigger me (usually), but the underlying stress reactions are present for me nearly daily with different triggers. I also don’t have a support system as she does, which might make my situation harder…but I don’t know that for sure. Anyway, read on if you want a glimpse into life with BPD and PTSD.

    Liked by 3 people

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