Friday

What It's Like to Travel with Depression

What It's Like to Travel with DepressionI've touched upon it a little before, but when you travel for any length of time there's a huge pressure to be having the time of your life, to savour every last minute and to just be, well...happy, all of the time. In reality it's impossible for anybody to enjoy every single moment and there are always going to be low points, but when you throw in a mental illness and being thousands of miles from home in a strange country things can get very difficult very quickly. The topic of mental health is one that I don't often see discussed within the world of travel blogging, and it's certainly not a conversation I've had with anybody I've met on the road so I thought I'd open one up myself because I know that there are plenty of travellers out there who suffer too. 

Today I'm sharing my experiences with mental health issues and the tips I have for managing them when travelling. I'm not going to insult you with the 'just choose happy' approach because I know you're not suffering because you're not trying hard enough to stay positive and it's offensive and harmful to suggest otherwise. Similarly none of these tips are life changers, but they might make life a little bit easier. 

This post is mostly going to focus on depression and anxiety as I can share my personal experience of both, but as there are plenty more out there and it's important that we have these conversations, I'd love it if you shared your own experiences and tips in the comments.

What It's Like to Travel with Depression

My experience

I'm not going to go into a huge amount of detail here, but I think some background into my mental health is important. Looking back I suspect I've suffered from anxiety and depression for a while, but it's only in the last few years that I've got an official diagnosis* and started to receive the appropriate help for managing both. I take a combination of 40mg citalopram and 10mg diazepam and though my depression ebbs and flows, I experience anxiety constantly.

I think I summed up depression quite well when, on our recent trip to Quilotoa in Ecuador, I said to Tom, 'I know this is a beautiful, once-in-a-lifetime moment, but I just can't find it in me to appreciate it. I just want to be at home, in bed with all the lights turned out.' I don't often feel emotional when I'm in a depressive state, it's just a constant numbness that makes finding the motivation to do the smallest things like brush my hair feel like an impossible task. Like I said though, I don't suffer from depression constantly.

Anxiety on the other hand is something I'm literally never free from. I have constant heart palpitations and sky-high blood pressure because I just can't calm down. Though I have the tendency to dwell on small issues and turn them into huge problems in my head, more often than not I couldn't actually tell you what it is I'm worrying about. The pit of dread in my stomach just never seems to go away. The best way to describe it is that it feels like I'm constantly being chased by something, even when I'm doing something as simple as watching TV. And if I'm not being chased, I'm on edge wondering when the chase is going to start again. Fortunately I very rarely suffer from panic attacks and the fear doesn't keep me awake at night, but I think that's mostly because I'm so exhausted from a full day of a racing heartbeat, pacing up and down and all that blood being pumped around my body. 

What It's Like to Travel with Depression



Tips

Despite all of this though, I'm still able to travel very successfully and I've gained a lot of happiness and knowledge from my time away and largely that's thanks to the coping methods I've found over the years. Like I said before they're definitely not a cure and they probably aren't going to work on your worst days, but they're a good starting point.

Travel isn't the cure - travel bloggers are really good at making you think that once you buy that RTW plane ticket all your problems will disappear, but you need to realise and accept that it won't before you even start contemplating travel. Managing your mental health when travelling isn't really any different from managing it at home, but you're still going to have to do it. 

Depression =/= ungratefulness - this is so important to remember, as people will always make comments such as 'you can't be that depressed if you're travelling', 'what do you have to be depressed about?' or, worst of all, 'some people have it much worse'. It's hard to shake that feeling myself sometimes, but suffering from an illness beyond your control isn't ever something you should make you feel guilty or ungrateful and you shouldn't feel like you have to hide yourself from the world until it goes away. If travel is what you want to do you have just as much right as anybody else to do it. I know I have a great life, I just struggle to see it sometimes. 

Keep a journal - Tom and I both kept journals of our time away (until Tom's got stolen on a bus in Colombia, but more on that another time...) and I make sure I only ever write about all the amazing things we've done. I find it really useful to look back on when I'm having a 'write off' day. Speaking of which...

It's okay to write your day off... - sometimes I just can't face a full day of exploring and it's absolutely fine to take the day off and just do nothing or quit in the middle of the day if things aren't going to plan. My favourite thing to do is just take my laptop to a coffee shop - it makes me feel like I've at least done something even if that something is just dick about on Twitter for five hours. It's okay if your biggest achievement today is getting out of bed.

...but try and stick to a routine - travelling long-term has ruined any semblance of routine I once had. I couldn't even tell you what day it is right now. But much as you're going to struggle to stick to a routine anything like the one you're used to at home, at least try to give your day some structure. Get out of bed, eat a good breakfast, drink plenty of water and take your meals at a regular time at the very least. 

Make sure you have enough money - travel is stressful and you don't need money troubles to make it even more worrisome. Set a budget before you go and take a little bit more than you think you'll need. Also make sure you have some money to come back to after your trip. 

Have a plan in mind - nobody is saying you have to stick to it, but having a rough idea of where you want to visit, when you want to visit and how to get there will make life so much less stressful than just trying to wing everything. Make sure you're not spreading yourself too thin though, exhaustion isn't conducive to enjoying your travels. 

Stop comparing yourself to others - stop worrying that everyone else is having a better time than you and concentrate on just enjoying yourself. If you're struggling, read through the journal from point three to remind yourself of all the amazing things you've seen. 

Push yourself, just not too hard - I really hate all those 'jut say yes' campaigns going round at the moment, because it's so important to look after  yourself and learn to say no to things you're not comfortable with. If you feel up to sitting in the common area of your hostel and speaking to new people that's great, but don't feel under pressure to go out clubbing with them every night, especially if that's not something you'd do at home. Only you know your limits. 

Take enough meds with you - going back to the very first point you'll still have to manage your illness when travelling, so as well as making sure your jabs are up-to-date and you've organised travel insurance, go to your doctor and get enough medication to last the length of your stay too. 

*If you think you might be depressed or suffering from an anxiety disorder, please don't self-diagnose. It's so important to see a doctor and get the right treatment. By self-diagnosing you're contributing to the stigma of mental health.

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What It's Like to Travel with Depression


Tuesday

How Much Does it Cost to Travel in Peru?

How much does it cost to travel in Peru?

Way back in the early stages of planning our three and a half month trip around South America I decided that I wanted to do this trip as cheaply as possible. I didn't want to spend years saving up, working in a job I hated - I just wanted to get out there and start exploring. It quickly became apparent that Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia were going to be our best bet and I set a budget of £25 each a day, excluding 'big spends' like Machu Picchu, the Uyuni Salt Flats and any air travel (though we've tried to stick to buses as much as possible). So, less than a year after I first began my research we were on a plane to our first stop - Peru!

Initially £25 a day seemed like a LOT of money, but we soon realised that covering huge distances in a relatively short timeframe can make costs mount up quickly, and buses took up a huge chunk of our budget. Still, it's been strangely fun doing everything so cheaply and without the luxury of throwing money at expensive gringo bars and hostels we feel like we've seen a more authentic side to South America, sleeping in guesthouses and partying with the locals. I always maintain that travel is only as expensive as you make it, so I thought I'd show you just what we spent during our month in Peru. 

We travelled from Lima to Cusco and the Sacred Valley then on to Puno, crossed the border and spent three weeks in Bolivia and then travelled back up through Arequipa, Lima and Mancora. The cost of hotels, food, activities and even a bottle of beer varied wildly between each city so I've broken down what we spent in each place. Obviously each traveller is different so this isn't a comprehensive guide to how much you'll spend (Tom and I are a couple in our late twenties for reference) but it does show you how far your money can go. We've stayed in private rooms, eaten in restaurants for most meals and treated ourselves a lot (evident from the food and drink section) so you could even do it much cheaper if you're willing to forgo some of the luxuries we did.

***

Some things to consider:
  • Each of these rooms was a private double or twin with en-suite bathroom. If you're a solo traveller or don't mind sharing a dorm accommodation will obviously be cheaper. Similarly, neither of us are big drinkers and usually stick to a beer or cocktail with our meal, which is why we spent so little on alcohol. 
  • Taxis aren't expensive in Peru, but if you're getting a taxi from the airport in Lima and you don't completely exit the baggage reclaim area you're going to get ripped off like we did. Pick up a taxi from the arrivals hall or leave the airport entirely if you're feeling brave and it will be half the price. Always agree a fare before you get in the taxi (and check they're quoting you soles, not dollars) and it's always worth trying to haggle a little for a better price. Alternatively we used eBus Peru when we travelled back to the airport to fly to Cusco and found it very reliable. 
  • Something I wish we’d given some thought to before we left is that the water in (most of) South America isn’t safe to drink so we had to drink the bottled stuff or fill up in cafes that offered a purified tap water. We could have saved a lot of money and a lot of room in landfill if we’d bought a water filtration bottle and used that instead. 
  • This is what we spent as a couple, not per person. 
  • Exchange rate correct at the time of writing. This means it works out at a little over £25 a day, but the exchange rate was more favourable when we were actually in Peru spending. 
What I Spent in Peru







According to the Rough Guides article I read a while ago, Lima is the tenth most expensive city to travel to in the world. I was surprised it ranked so highly because it's still (mostly) much cheaper than the UK, but it was very expensive compared to everywhere else we visited in Peru, especially in Miraflores which is where you'll probably end up basing yourself. It was much cheaper the second time round when we stayed in the historic centre, but Miraflores is definitely where you'll want to be if you're looking to meet other backpackers.

Accommodation

6 nights at The House Project hostel in Miraflores inc. breakfast – 730 PEN / £151 
3 nights at Hotel Paris in Downtown Lima, room only - 270 PEN / £56

Transport

Airport taxi to Miraflores - 150 PEN / £32 (ouch!) 
Bus transfer from Miraflores to the airport - 50 PEN / £10
Bus from Arequipa - 280 PEN / £58
Taxis around the city - 85 PEN / £18
Local buses - 25 PEN / £5 

Food and drink

Restaurants - 479 PEN / £99 
Water, juice and fizzy drinks - 74 PEN / £15 
Snacks and treats - 93 PEN / £19 
Coffee - 85 PEN / £18 
Alcohol - 82 PEN / £17 
Groceries from a local supermarket - 14 PEN / £3

Activities

Tips from two free walking tours - 50 PEN / £10
Entrance to the Larco Museum - 30 PEN / £6
Entrance to the San Francisco Monasteries - 10 PEN / £2

Other

Two loads of laundry - 57 PEN / £12

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Budget: 2500 PEN (£517)
Total spent: 2541 PEN (£526)
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How much does it cost to travel in Peru?


Cusco was much cheaper than we thought it would be, especially as it's such a huge tourist destination. We went over budget, but mostly because we bought too many souvenirs and visited the Planetarium which we definitely couldn't afford to do. It was so worth it though!

Accommodation:

7 nights at Hostal Goya Andina inc. breakfast - 610PEN / £126

Transport:

Airport taxi - 50 PEN / £10
Return collectivo to Ollantaytambo - 40 PEN / £8

Food and drink:

Restaurants - 572 PEN / £118
Water, juice and fizzy drinks - 43 PEN / £9
Snacks and treats - 148 PEN / £31
Coffee - 73 PEN / £15
Groceries - 19 PEN / £4

Activities:

Tips for two free walking tours - 80 PEN / £17
Entrance to the cathedral - 25 PEN / £5
Entrance to the Cusco Planetarium - 60 PEN / £12

Other:

Laundry - 25 PEN / £5
Souvenirs - 50 PEN / £10
Toiletries - 7 PEN / £1
Replacement sunglasses for Tom - 10 PEN / £2

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Budget: 1750 PEN (£362)
Total spent: 1812 PEN (£375)
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How to Visit Peru for £25 a day




We fell in love with Ollantaytambo on first glance and our wallets definitely agreed. Food, accommodation and alcohol are really cheap so it was a bit of a surprise that entry to the famous Inca terraces was going to set us back a full day's budget. Needless to say we decided not to bother and instead I went on a solo hike to see the Pinkuylluna Mountain Granaries. They were completely free and offered a great view of the valley. 

Accommodation:

3 nights at Hostal los Andenes, room only - 280 PEN / £58

Food and drink:

Restaurants - 246 PEN / £51
Water, juice and fizzy drinks - 41 PEN / £8
Snacks and treats -  14 PEN / £3
Alcohol - 30 PEN / £6
Coffees - 8 PEN / £2

Other:

Tampons and shampoo - 26 PEN / £5

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Budget: 750 PEN (£155)
Total spent: 645 PEN (£133)
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How to Travel in Peru for £25 a day


'What's all the fuss about? It's not THAT bad!' we raved. Until we saw the price of a pizza... Aguas Calientes is an awful tourist trap that you just can't avoid if you want to visit Machu Picchu (which you obviously do). This is just what we spent in the town itself, our actual Machu Picchu spends can be seen further down). I'm still not over paying 169 SOLES FOR A TWENTY MINUTE BUS RIDE! The only treats we really allowed ourselves here was cake to celebrate my birthday - we just wanted to spend as little as possible and get out as quickly as possible. 

Accommodation:

2 nights at Varoyc B&B - 174 PEN / £36

Transport:

Bus to Machu Picchu - 169 PEN / £35 (*sobs* - if you're luckier than us with the weather you could always walk it instead)

Food and drink:

Restaurants - 129 PEN / £27
Water, juice and fizzy drinks - 10 PEN / £2
Snacks and treats - 25 PEN / £5
Coffees - 10 PEN  / £2
Birthday cake - 34 PEN / £7

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Budget: 500 PEN (£104)
Total spent: 551 PEN (£114)
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How to Travel in Peru for £25 a day


I wrote a post about how I kinda hated Puno, but I still think it's a worthwhile trip. We stayed two nights to visit the Uros Floating Islands and Taquile and then spent another night here on our way back up to Arequipa. Inka's Rest as a terrible hostel, but Huaytusive is one of the best hotels we've stayed in. We spent a lot on snacks and groceries here because we only really used it as a travel spot, stocking up on lunches for long hours on the bus.

Accommodation:

2 nights at Inka's Rest hostel inc. breakfast - 140 PEN / £29
1 night at Huaytusive inc. breakfast - 65 PEN / £13

Transport:


Taxis - 11 PEN / £2
Bus from Cusco - 110 PEN / £23 (Cruz del Sur, 8 hours, semi-cama)

Food and drink:

Restaurants - 126 PEN / £26
Water, juice and fizzy drinks - 13 PEN / £3
Snacks and treats - 55 PEN / £11
Alcohol - 15 PEN / £3
Groceries - 35 PEN / £7

Other:

Tour of the Uros Floating Islands and Taquile - 70 PEN / £15
Souvenirs - 28 PEN / £6
Toiletries - 19 PEN / £4

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Budget: 750 PEN (£155)
Total spent: 676 PEN (£140)
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What Does it Cost to Travel in Peru?


5 nights was really too much in Arequipa, but with fast internet, hot showers and something other than bread and jam for breakfast we couldn't bring ourselves to leave.

Accommodation:

5 nights at El Albergue Espanol inc. breakfast - 332 PEN / £69

Transport:

Taxis: 28 PEN / £6
Bus from Puno: 40 PEN / £8

Food and drink: 

Restaurants - 398 PEN / £82
Water - 19 PEN / £4
Snacks and treats - 96 PEN / £26
Alcohol - 13 PEN / £3
Coffees - 63 PEN / £13

Attractions: 

Tip for a free walking tour - 50 PEN / £10

Other:

Two notebooks - 6 PEN / £1
Two loads of laundry - 32 PEN / £7

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Budget: 1250 PEN (£258)
Total spent: 1077 PEN (£223)
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How to travel in Peru for £25 a day


Colca Canyon is without a doubt the hardest trek either of us has done, but was so rewarding. We organised the tour through our hostel in Arequipa and although we originally wanted to do the one night tour, it worked out that it was better for our budget to do two instead. It worked out well as we had more time to recover from the hike each day, and we could take the time to properly appreciate the pools of Oasis. Load up on water and snacks before you go - it's expensive to buy it when you're there. 

Food and drink: 

Buffet lunch in Chivay on our final day - 60 PEN / £12
Water, juice and fizzy drinks - 61 PEN / £13
Alcohol - 15 PEN

Other:

Tour, inc. accomodation, local guide and all meals - 300 PEN / £62
Entrance to the Colca Canyon national park - 140 PEN / £29

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Budget: 500 PEN (£104)
Total spent: 576 PEN (£119)
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How to travel in Peru for £25 a day



Mancora was originally just going to be a quick stopover to break up the monster journey into Ecuador, but we ended up staying three nights and quite enjoyed ourselves. It's nothing special, but it is a good place to surf, drink cocktails and just laze around. Realistically we were never going to stick to budget here as the bus just to get here made up almost a third of the budget, so I think we did a great job of clawing it back.

Accommodation:


3 nights at Psygon Surf Camp inc. breakfast - 214 PEN / £44

Transport:

Bus from Lima - 387 PEN / £80 (Cruz del Sur, 20 hours, full cama)
Taxis - 19 PEN / £4

Food and drink:


Restaurants - 331 PEN / £68
Water, juice and fizzy drinks -  55 PEN / £11
Alcohol - 70 PEN / £14

Other:

Medication from the pharmacy - 40 PEN / £8

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Budget: 1000 PEN (£206)
Total spent: 1077 PEN (£230)
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TOTAL BUDGET: 9000 PEN / £1859
TOTAL SPENT: 8993 PEN / £1858


What Does it Cost to Travel in Peru?




This is the section for things that didn't come from our daily budget. It's definitely not impossible to do Machu Picchu/the Inca Trail within a £25 a day budget (Along Dusty Roads have a great guide on how to walk to Machu Picchu which would save a fortune on the cost for the train. We decided that we'd do everything the gringo way though, and budgeted a little extra for this part of our trip. The rest is just either things we needed such as clothes or blow-out meals. We decided we deserved it after eighteen hours on the bus...

Entry to Machu Picchu and Wayna Picchu - 304 PEN / £63
Train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes - 476 PEN / £98
Flights from Lima to Cusco  (LAN) - 827 PEN / £170
Clothing (leggings) - 30 PEN / £6
Meal at the Hard Rock Cafe, Lima - 190 PEN / £39

So that's it! It's not the cheapest we could have done it and it's made me realise that I waste far too much money browsing foreign supermarkets, but it just goes to show how cheap it can be! Have you ever been to Peru? Share any tips you have in the comments. 

Friday

Where to Eat in Cusco, Peru {Vegetarian/Vegan Friendly}



It didn't take me long to realise that being vegetarian in South America is no easy task. It seems here that a meal really isn't a meal without a slab of meat and at least two varieties of carbs and it’s not uncommon to find pieces of meat, bones (or a whole chicken foot!) in a ‘vegetable’ soup. Most recently in Colombia I ordered a seemingly innocent bean casserole which arrived covered in mince meat, huge slices of chorizo and a side of pork crackling. It was entirely my own fault for not double-checking the ingredients, but I think it illustrates my point well.

That being said though, it's not impossible to follow a meat-free or plant-based diet in South America, especially in major tourist cities like Cusco. In fact the choice of veggie options was so good I didn't get to try anywhere near as many restaurants as I’d hoped. These are some of my favourites!

Where to Eat in Cusco, Peru
{Green Point}
Green Point {Calle Carmen Bajo 235*} – I really admire anybody who has successfully travelled in South America without consuming any animal products, inadvertently or otherwise. It's difficult! Green Point though is an entirely vegan restaurant and is one of the best places I've eaten in South America. From what I understand they aren't huge believers in meat substitutes so almost everything on the menu is made from fresh vegetables and pulses. The food is really flavoursome and has a chunky texture that plant-based meals can sometimes lack, and the intimate seating arrangement makes it really easy to meet and share tips with other travellers. My personal favourite is the lentil burger washed down with a strawberry daiquiri. 

*There's apparently also a new location now opened in Plaza San Francisco but we saw no trace in March 2016

Where to Eat in Cusco, Peru
{Jack's}
Jack’s {Choquechaka 509}  – You really can’t visit Cusco without stopping at everyone’s favourite gringo haunt – Jack’s! While the food isn't necessarily anything to write home about, the portions are huge (and cheap!) and there’s a great selection of proper British pub grub with plenty of veggie and vegan options available. 

Where to Eat in Cusco, Peru
{Mr Soup}
Mr Soup {Calle Saphi 448} – Soup is pretty much the only lunch I ever eat at home so I really couldn't resist lunch at Mr Soup, especially with a name like that! I was so spoiled for choice with the selection on offer and there’s something for everyone from die-hard carnivores to vegans. The curry udon soups are especially good, but there are traditional vegetable soups on offer if you fancy more of a traditional Peruvian fare. In true South American style, the portions here are huge and cheap too. 

Where to Eat in Cusco, Peru
{TIKAY}
TIKAY {Plaza Rejocijo} - On our first full day in Cusco we were both battling a severe case of altitude sickness and I needed to get some work done. We thought we probably deserved some home comforts so headed to Starbucks, ordered a (really bad) overpriced coffee and opened our laptops. A few seconds in we realised we'd made a terrible mistake. The Wi-Fi barely connected and it was so loud we could barely concentrate even if we did have the means to work. Sulking we retreated back to our hostel. Step in, TIKAY. We found this cute little coffee shop and pizzeria purely by accident and it turned out to be one of our favourite hangouts in Cusco. I can't vouch for the availability of vegan cakes, but the juices and coffees are great, it's about half the price of Starbucks and the internet was probably the fastest we encountered in Peru. 

Where to Eat in Cusco, Peru
{Empanadas, Ruinas}
Empanadas - Stupidly I didn't get the address or name of the empanada shop on Ruinas (it's a few doors down from the Gato's supermarket, towards San Blas) but I still haven't had an empanada that lives up to the ones we bought from there. They're huge, there are lots of veggie options available (as well as one vegan one) and they're super cheap. We always stocked up on them to take on tours and day trips. If you're not veggie the lomo saltado comes highly recommended.

As always, add your recommendations in the comments too. I'll add suggestions on to the bottom of the post.