Claire and Laura (@TwinsThatTravel) write about how they overcame their anxiety and became the award-winning travel bloggers they are today.
Accidental travel bloggers with an ironic fear of flying. Also mental health advocates who share their battles with anxiety and depression.
You can read more about Claire and Laura on their blog. twinsthattravel.com
Introducing ourselves as full-time travel bloggers is still surreal, particularly when writing this post 40,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, had you told us both five years ago that we’d be travelling for a living – jumping on international flights to bustling cities far from home – we’d never have believed it.
"An unlikely idea born over two cheese sandwiches one hot summer’s day."
Full-time travel blogging was not an obvious career choice for two people who have struggled with mental health since childhood - particularly with anxiety. Travel blogging, we presumed, was reserved for the adventurous, the brave and the carefree; character traits we lack. In fact, travelling anywhere beyond our front door was, for a long time, almost impossible.
So, what prompted two, travel-fearing twins to start up a travel blog, we hear you ask?
An unlikely idea born over two cheese sandwiches one hot summer’s day, Twins That Travel didn’t come from a burning desire to see the world, but a burning desire to change – escape – our current lives. Tired of being ruled by anxious thoughts, the continual underlying sense of dread and severe panic attacks, we perhaps subconsciously knew that travel - however hard -might offer the chance to face our mental health disorders head on; to see what lay beyond all of anxiety’s smoke and mirrors. It was something we had tried but failed to do for many years, despite both attending therapy and taking anti-depressants.
"Writing and photography helped us to live meaningfully and away from our usual negative thoughts."
After launching our Instagram account and blog in July 2014, we quickly found (to our surprise) that Twins That Travel was fast becoming a place for us to find respite from anxiety. Within just a couple of months, TTT was an important part of our lives: writing and photography helped us to live meaningfully and away from our usual negative thoughts. It turned out that deep below that thick layer of anxiety, we were people bursting with curiosity and ready to explore beyond the boundaries of our hometown. Who’d have thought it?
Our first trip as travel bloggers was to Washington DC – a trip that was as terrifying as it was liberating. Boarding the plane one frosty December’s day, we struggled to remain calm; our anxious thoughts telling us this was a terrible idea. Despite the constant stream of negative chatter, however, there was a part of both of us that knew we had to get on the flight. We needed to face our anxious thoughts, not run from them, if we were ever going to discover what lay beyond them.
"Our travel blog has meant us doing just this: no longer running from anxiety, but standing our ground."
On that day in 2014, and perhaps every day since, running our travel blog has meant us doing just this: no longer running from anxiety, but standing our ground – facing it over and over again. You see, what lies on the other side of those thoughts and panic attacks is not what you think. It’s not terror or danger, but confidence and peace – like sailing through a storm. Returning from our travels is now almost as enjoyable as the adventure itself: a palpable sense of pride and new found confidence overwhelming us each time we step off the plane.
Travelling provides us with context and perspective; making our once imposing, terrifying hometown seem a tiny, friendly place - the wider world, too. Indeed, stepping out of our usual environment, we’re reminded that the world is not a scary place but one filled with interesting (kind) people, fascinating sights and endless opportunities.
"Our story has not always been an upward, linear journey from anxious individuals to carefree, confident travellers."
As with many people experiencing mental health disorders, our story has not always been an upward, linear journey from anxious individuals to carefree, confident travellers. There have been many times over the last four years when anxiety and depression have crept back into our lives. What we’ve learned, however, is to continue with what we love – refusing to let anxiety shrink our worlds back to their once small parameters. Instead, we employ strategies gleaned from CBT therapy, and websites such as Mind, that make anxiety a bearable habit rather than a life-limiting disorder.
Of course, the answer to anyone also currently suffering from anxiety is not simply to launch a travel blog (unless it’s something you want to do!) Instead, it’s to live a life that isn’t defined by those pesky intrusive thoughts or panic attacks. Facing fears head on, however terrifying, has taught us that we’re not defined by our mental health. In fact, below those layers of anxiety lay two people we didn’t even know existed.
"Travel, it seems, has been our antidote to anxiety and improved mental health."
Acknowledging and living with anxiety– whether that be in the crowded and overwhelming streets of Marrakech, whilst travelling the frozen plains of the Artic, or whilst sat quietly in the ballet theatres of St. Petersburg – can turn a once terrifying disorder, into a manageable companion.
Travel, it seems, has been our antidote to anxiety and improved mental health.
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