If you've ever commuted from London at peak time, you'll be all too familiar with the dazed meandering as you leap, twirl, and shimmy through the crowds, with the sight of home comforts extending their arm towards you in the form of an overcrowded train.
But imagine you've just lost your job. It's the last commute you'll be doing for, well, you don't know how long. And it feels more bitter than sweet. That train from London back to Essex might say it's 35 minutes on a good day, but right now it feels like an eternity.
Nearly two years ago, my work pals and I lost our jobs. We were sucked in by the fluid and free nature of the startup, where the lack of bureaucracy was a selling point, only to be brought back down to earth when the reality of a company needing cash to survive far outweighed the commitment, hard work, and genuine enthusiasm which was amassed over the course of employment. It broke me.
I wholeheartedly support and champion the importance of mental health. Which is why I am writing this right now, because when I lost my job I didn't just lose my career. I lost my purpose, my drive, my enthusiasm, and most of all, I lost my confidence. All I could feel was loss. The loss of a chance I'd waited so long for, and the loss of a self of identity which working at a company I cared for provided me. The days rolled by and I was losing more and more of my soul. It completely threw me, and myyyyy god if you thought the salt mines in Krakow were salty, then you hadn't seen my puddle of tears.
But then it hit me. This was the best time to do what I loved the most...travel. So, I flew to Majorca with one of my close work pals (who was in the same boat as I was) for a 5 day break to try and pull myself back together, or at least bathe in the sea until I became the mermaid I always dreamed of and swum off into the sunset forever.
When you're feeling as low as you possibly can, it can seem like the worst idea to leave the comfort of home. But being abroad forces you to be brave and independent. It can be tough and uncomfortable at times, but so can watching The X Factor and I know which I'd rather choose.
Being away from home and all the negativity which it embodied at the time was the best thing I could have ever done. And I don't think it needed to be in another country either, though admittedly the book-reading time and vitamin D did help. When you're experiencing soul loss or no longer know what it is you want to do anymore, having space and time to breathe and think is the greatest cure. Travelling saved my sanity. 5 days of sun, sea, and yes...a few sangrias with my friend helped me replenish and rejuvenate. Because it was a chance to escape and create a new (albeit temporary) routine which involved reading, writing, walking, processing, and swimming instead of tubing, lunch-desking, and commuting. So much so I thought about the future more than the past. And that's something I wouldn't have done had I stayed hidden away in my room beating myself up emotionally and beginning to form a pattern of unhealthy solitude.
Travel saved my sanity because my sanity longs to travel. The lack of routine became liberating, not a source of despair. I wrote poetry for the first time in ages and listened to as much music as I could. I read plays and novels and Victorian poetry (because some things never change) and wrote down a list of what it was I wanted to do with my life. Being able to forge a plan when you're sitting on an empty beach surrounded by strangers and possibility helps clear your mind far more effectively than sat at home with the cat traipsing all over your keyboard.
And that's sometimes what you need when you've lost your way...an opening of new ways and the space to take a step back and see that while what has happened to you isn't what you'd choose, the next step you take could be.
Because it might cost a train ticket or a plane fare which might concern you at the time if your next pay day is no longer secure, but it might just save you your sanity. It might just save you. And the best bit? You can open that diary when you're on another beach somewhere in a year or so's time, take a deep breath, and think "Yes, travel helped me. Because I helped me. And that is what will always save my sanity."