As regular readers of my blog will know, I have struggled with anorexia for over 5 years. This is a mental illness, of course, which means a great deal of work has to be put into psychological recovery and I wholeheartedly believe that travel can become a part of that.
For much of the past 5 years, travel has simply not been possible due to my low weight and erratic eating patterns. I must stress that physical recovery is paramount. During the months of wellness I experienced, of which I had a few, I have been able and lucky enough to venture abroad.
My first trip, with a friend, was in 2014 where we flew out to Sri Lanka to teach English.
Out there I learned that I could be of use. I was needed, I could be helpful, I could be useful to other people. That meant so much to me because I had spent an awfully long time convinced there was no place for me.
It didn’t matter to the people I met out there what size I was, or what I looked like, it mattered that I could speak English and that I was open to helping and educating.
Alongside this, I managed to learn to escape from my own mind. I was exceptionally busy and had to keep that way. I saw the most beautiful places in Sri Lanka and I was truly grateful for being able to experience it.
I realised what recovery enabled. It enabled life.
I contrasted this to the months I had spent stuck in an inpatient unit years before and I took a sigh of relief as I looked at where I was and what I was doing.
Last Summer, I was lucky enough to be offered a position teaching English in China for two months. Crawling out of a severe relapse, I used it as motivation to get better or at least to keep my weight stable and it proved to be a very effective technique. I arrived in Shanghai slim, but healthy.
And I had the time of my life.
I truly learned how to live and be independent. I took charge of my lessons and in turn took charge of my life. I laughed. I embraced the day. I saw so many cool and extraordinary things.
I made friends with people who had no idea about my previous struggles which proved to me that I was made of more than my illness.
I thrived. After my teaching, myself and two fellow teachers travelled to Taipei and Tokyo. We explored and got lost and met people from all over the world. I gained confidence and I couldn’t have been happier.
I arrived back in the UK safely and with such incredible memories. My weight was the same as when I had boarded that first plane two months previous.
I ate foods I had never previously heard of, I ate all my meals with chopsticks, I tried new things, I put myself on center stage twice a day teaching…
If I could do that, I could do anything.
Travelling gave me confidence and it showed me that outside the thoughts and insecurities in my mind, there was an entire world.
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