Handling Veteran PTSD While Traveling…How to do it, tips, and advice

“His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy…He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready.” It’s not Eminem but instead a veteran with PTSD, going through airport security, managing crowds, and stressful situations trying to take the family to Disneyworld. Vacationing is something people look forward to year round, it brings joy and creates lifelong memories but for veterans living with PTSD it can be a challenge.

I want veterans to view travel as healing and part of the therapeutic process. But that’s impossible if PTSD is preventing them from going. Sitting on a beach in Mexico with a cold beer sounds relaxing, but not if getting there is a nightmare. Danny Mayberry, the host of the 1 Mile 1 Veteran Podcast speaks candidly that his PTSD limited his travel which in turn limited his life. Danny alongside his wife Leigh Anne are traveling the world and recording their experiences on Instagram, the good and the bad for themselves and other military families. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Danny as a fellow veteran with PTSD and travel enthusiast.

“For many veterans, including myself, PTSD can impact the ability to travel. The unpredictable and unfamiliar nature of travel can trigger symptoms and elevate anxiety. Large crowds and noisy environments have been particularly distressing for me in the past. Taking the risk to travel wasn’t an easy decision but eventually I had to confront my fears and limitations.”

– Veteran Danny Mayberry

Danny’s Thoughts

  • Personal Growth: I realized avoiding travel was limiting my personal growth opportunities and life experiences. By challenging myself I hoped to expand my horizons and gain a broader life perspective.
  • Embracing Life to the Fullest: Living with PTSD for myself and other veterans often leads to feeling of isolation and restricting our own freedom. Traveling is allowing me to break free from the limitations imposed by my condition to explore and fully embrace life.
  • Exposure Therapy: Exposing oneself intentionally to triggers can desensitize veterans with PTSD. Traveling let’s me gradually expose myself to new environments and I find myself developing coping mechanisms and eventually my anxiety decreasing over time.
  • Support Network: I have support from my family, friends, and mental health professionals who understand my condition and are willing to offer assistance. Knowing I have that network in place, even digitally, helps me feel better about the risks.

Danny and I share a mission to help our fellow veterans, fight against veteran suicide, and heal ourselves. Avoidance is one thing a lot of us with PTSD tend to do, that can trap us in our bubbles and within the confines of our comfort zones. Sometimes we need to push ourselves, for our sakes, the sake of our families and our responsibility to the veterans that aren’t here anymore. PTSD can make us feel like our lives aren’t our own anymore when we wrestle with flashbacks, nightmares, and anxiety.

My Big 5 Tips Before Veteran Travel

  1. Go places off-peak to avoid the crowds.
  2. Start small and ease in gradually, don’t dive in the deep end right away.
  3. Expect Murphy’s Law to rear its ugly head.
  4. Plan for downtime while traveling.
  5. Let others traveling with you know how to help and set boundaries.

We know from the military that no plan survives contact with the enemy and things are still going to go sideways. Danny’s first month exploring WW2 memorials in Europe he almost threw in the towel and went home when “life started to feel too difficult, nightmares worsened, time change issues, lack of community and I slipped into a worsening depression.” But before traveling Danny’s wife Leigh Anne thought ahead to what potential triggers might be. Leigh Anne said, “We discussed how we could mitigate those issues and what I could do to support him. For example, travel days are tougher so we got TSA pre-check to beat the lines and got access to airport lounges so we have a place to relax and decompress.”

Leigh Anne’s Words of Wisdom

Leigh Anne Mayberry: Military Spouse and producer of the 1 Mile 1 Veteran Podcast

“Be patient and show empathy to your veteran. Sometimes behaviors can seem irrational but it could be something like an anniversary of a painful experience.”

“Don’t neglect your own mental health and join a support group for spouses, have family and friends you can talk to.”

“We’ve had so many new experiences together, seen cultures and shared awe-inspiring moments – it’s amazing. I think traveling has brought us closer, there’s something special about long-term travel. It’s been something I’ve dreamed about for a while. I’m glad we put aside the excuses and worked together to find a way to do this.”

Travel at your own pace, in your own way, and create your own type of adventure. Check out my article on Travel Therapy to learn more about the mental health benefits of traveling. Danny encourages veterans to look at their own personal circumstances and not rush into difficult situations without first assessing the risk and seeking professional guidance. Listen here to our discussion on the 1 Mile 1 Veteran podcast where we talk travel, living abroad, my books and other veteran issues.

If you’re looking for a new challenge, check out my latest project, the #FreedomChallenge I wrote with NFL veteran Pat Angerer. It’s 90 days to your personal best and each week has a workout submitted by an athlete and a veteran. To take it a step further and move abroad, check out The Veterans Guide to Moving Abroad.

“Even though I don’t win every fight, I currently win most days”

Veteran Danny Mayberry

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