Can Travel Improve Symptoms of Depression?

When I suffered from postpartum depression which lasted almost two years. One of the few things that actually lifted my spirits and put me in a better mood was travel, even with three children. Now looking back, I believe it was getting away, escaping my day to day by visiting a new country, experiencing a new culture that helped to lift my spirit.

So, can travel actually improve symptoms of depression? It certainly helped me tremendously. If you have ever been depressed, you know what it feels like. You feel down, you resent chores and responsibilities because nothing seems to bring pleasure and you can’t seem to find joy in most things anymore. When I was home, I didn’t want to do anything. I had to push myself to go on the vacation, but once we arrived at the airport and passed through security, the excitement hit. I was actually excited to escape how I felt back home. Travel was the one thing I looked forward to so we traveled each and every month.

So where did I escape to? I guess you can say my first true escape was moving to Sweden. Yes, we moved our family from Los Angeles to Sweden. This move helped to keep my mind busy with all the newness of a new country, culture and working to get the children settled into school, taking care of the baby and finding a new house.

After we were settled, it was quite easy to explore Sweden and all of Europe, and so the adventures began. I would say Copenhagen was the first major city we explored outside of Sweden. It was the easiest as it’s only an hour away across the Oresund bridge. I fell in love with Copenhagen. I believe the biggest reason is the juxtaposition of Sweden and Denmark. It is such a major contrast to Sweden. The energy and liveliness of the city are so amazing! Whereas Sweden is a bit more reserved and conservative. I loved that it was buzzing with so many cool restaurants, shops, bars, and people. Once you really get to know Copenhagen, you discover a bit more about the uniqueness of each neighborhood. It's now my favorite city in Europe!

Next was Paris. I’m probably the only LA native who had never been “joking.” It was definitely one of the most highly anticipated and at the very top of my list. Luckily, my sister was visiting so she joined us and helped with the little ones. Oh, the city of lights was love at first sight! Like Copenhagen, the energy of Paris is buzzing but on a different level, more whimsical. At moments I felt like I was Audrey Tatou of Amelie. We visited Paris three times this past year and each time felt like a new experience with so many things to see and do and new neighborhoods to explore.

Palma de Mallorca one of the Balearic Islands of Spain is a wonderful resort and beach break. With a much warmer climate than Sweden which makes it a very popular choice amongst Scandinavians. The city of Palma is fantastic you are immediately greeted by Gothic Roman Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma and the Royal Palace of La Almudaina. The city is buzzing on a more comfortable level with lots of nice shops and restaurants to enjoy through unique neighborhoods. The old town is a gem for exploring. Palma offers incredible hiking and cycling. The island is very easy to explore by car or cycling. I highly recommend exploring as there are so many beautiful places to see. Deia is an idyllic coastal village known as “an artist town’, Soller a lush valley of orange groves between the mountain and sea with a popular vintage tram ride from the town which is a must experience and lastly a visit to the medieval walled town Alcudia for history and charm. We’ve visited Palma three times this past year and each time offered a new experience, but now we feel we know it quite well.

Barcelona was such a short visit that I am feeling a strong desire to go back for more as I was so very impressed by the city but two days was too short. We toured and explored a few neighborhoods and enjoyed the truly unique Gaudi architecture. My husband and son made their way to Camp Nou, we were satisfied, but I do believe Barcelona has so much more to offer. I loved the people, culture and vibrant energy of the city and seeing La Sagrada Familia was such a wow factor. I am craving a return visit.

Spain and Portugal the surprise last minute add-on. We began our journey in Madrid which was a wonderfully dynamic and buzzing city, my favorite was the rooftop dining experience at El Cortes Ingles with magnificent views of the city. We took a train to Seville and oh my what an experience!!! Seville was quintessential Espana, a truly authentic experience. I think it helped that we were there during ‘Holy Week’ and what an experience. I’ve never seen anything like it in my lifetime. There were parades throughout the city, and everyone was out and dressed for the occasion. We traveled from Seville further South to Islantilla a charming resort town in Andalusia. We discovered we were less than a half hour drive to the Portugal border so we added a visit to the Algarve and it was so worth it for a taste of Portuguese culture.

We spent early summer exploring Italy from Milan to Bologna, Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre, Venice and added a visit to the French Riviera which included Monaco and Nice. We fell in love with Italy as a country, and Firenze is now my favorite city in the world. Milan was excellent for shopping and gastronomy. Bologna was beautiful for fascinating culture, the other leaning towers in Italy and it is a “foodie” town, Firenze was heaven on earth, the color and tone of the buildings were so warm, everything was so charming and wonderful, and the food and shopping were on another level. Oh, if you are in Firenze, you must try the cheesecake. We saw the leaning tower in Pisa and explored the town. We visited Cinque Terre by train and explored each town. It was beautiful just as pictured. We added on a boat ride which is a must to view the stunning seaside villages from the sea. Adding on a visit to the French Riviera was a significant bonus as Monaco and Nice were spectacular in their own right. But Venice stole the show, it felt like a fairy tale, and I enjoyed every second of it!

For those of you who have the time and are maybe feeling a bit down or depressed consider “travel” a positive way to uplift your spirits. I’m not a doctor or psychologist this is simply me sharing my experience with you. If you would like our assistance, we can help you plan a wellness vacation or journey to help lift your spirits.


Nicole Vaziri