Overcoming a 5 year travel dry-spell | Why I travel

She’s an award-winning fashion, lifestyle & travel blogger under the name Faded Spring, a street art enthusiast, cruelty-free and vegetarian and we love her. But her life hasn’t been as totally easy as it looks though; through her blog she talks about some struggles with life and mental health she’s faced as she’s grown up, as well as showing how she advocates certain social issues. Here’s what she had to say after we sat down with Ana…

Ana De Jesus

Have you always wanted to travel or was it something that you became more gradually aware of?

I used to dream of travelling the world when I was younger and imagined myself exploring far-flung places where reality ceased to exist. I would hike across levada trails in Madeira and swim in tranquil Mediterranean waters, smiling in ecstasy as the sun would bathe me in its golden glow.

My holiday daydreams were often characterised by ‘the sun’ since I lived in England where the weather was often as temperamental as the people it housed and I would imagine myself feasting on fresh homemade food, while I watched the foamy sea waves lap at the sea-shore.

I used to create documents – inspired by The Lonely Planet – which became fact files for destinations I wanted to visit that were ‘off the tourist trail’. After all there are 6,909 living languages according to the Ethnologue catalogue of world languages and 195 countries, so why should we settle for exploring countries that have already been heavily chronicled in the media, when there are so many fascinating culture out there to explore?

 

You have a passion for promoting social issues and campaigning for social equality – what are the biggest examples of this you’ve come across on your travels? Have you been in a position to do anything?

Yes I am somewhat of a social justice advocate and have raised awareness of child abuse, animal cruelty and more. As I have not travelled as extensively as I would have liked to, I have mainly seen extreme cases of animal cruelty abroad, and this is something I have campaigned against enormously. In Madeira for example, I used to have a family friend who housed over 25 cats and 20 dogs in her (admittedly large) open plan house, all of which were strays. When she mentioned to me the horrific condition that she had found the poor animals in it did not surprise me.

I always used to get told off by my family for engaging with the animals as ‘they could have rabies or bite me’ but in truth I did not care. I could see the loneliness and the pain etched in their eyes every time that someone walked away and it broke my heart that I couldn’t take them all with me. But when my aunty wanted ‘cats and dogs’ I begged her to take in the strays that we had seen before and despite her initial misgivings at my bequest she later took them in and gave them a warm and welcoming home that they had not known for years.

Here there is no such thing as PETA or RSPCA, instead many strays are confined to a lifetime of loneliness, without a home to call their own. It saddens me but if we all do our bit to raise awareness then someday we can conquer this obstacle of ‘animal homelessness’.

And that’s not even the worst of animal cruelty, many animals in shelters or even homeless animals have been used in ‘scientific experiments’ , for luxury fashion and been used in the cosmetic industry. It disgusts me that some shelters betray their animals ‘for money’ by turning over these poor defenseless creatures, who eventually have their voices silenced for all eternity. You can read my post on ‘Standing Up For Animal Rights’ here.

 

Regarding your 5 year travel dry-spell and mental health issues, what was your main worry about going travelling that actually prevented you from going in those 5 years?

It is true that I hadn’t travelled abroad for 5 years but it wasn’t necessarily because I ‘didn’t want to’. There were points were I was on the verge of homeliness, had no money to my name and was also dealing with physical illnesses which had made me very ill, so the circumstances were difficult to overcome. I was also studying for an intense double degree, working a full-time job that I had to give up as it had made me so ill, and was dealing with depression and anxiety, so at that moment in time travel was the furthest thing from my mind.

I started blogging when I had graduated from university two years ago and eventually went full-time in August 2017, which is when I started thinking about travel again. I was dealing with my mental health issues in a positive and healthy way, had a secure environment to stay in and had started to earn enough to pay my rent each month from blogging alone.

I had quickly claimed that 2017 would be my year of travel but it seemed it was not meant to be. I was meant to go to Tuscany in September and Budapest in October, both holidays were unfortunately cancelled for reasons I cannot divulge at present. I felt deflated at the time but then I realised that no matter how long it takes to travel it will always be a journey that is waiting for me.

And I’m still dreaming of far-flung locations bathed in sunshine, so there is still a huge part of me that is a traveller at heart. My mental health has never been better than it is now at this moment in time and while I have my ups and downs I finally feel ready to go and explore the world one step at a time.

 

How do you feel about it now? What was it that helped you overcome it?

I never had a fear of travelling and I still don’t. Like I mentioned in the question above, having not traveled for such a long time was due to financial instability and the fact I had moved 8 times in the last 4 years (3 I one year when I moved to London a year ago) didn’t help either. I was sick for a very long time, and it is only in the past year and a half that I have started getting better.

In regards to my mental health, it largely stems from being physically and emotionally abused by my stepmother as a young child, further enhanced by severe bullying throughout secondary school which made me develop body dsymorphia, anxiety and severe depression. So while to the naked eye ‘I appeared to be happy and healthy’ I was a broken mess and struggled with intense critical thoughts, which affected my relationships with others and myself. Yet I was still travelling during this time and never saw my ‘issues’ as symptoms of severe mental health issues, I just thought I was being a drama queen like everyone had told me I was being.

It wasn’t until my third year of university that I actually acknowledged my mental health issues and what had triggered my physical illness too, after a friend advised me to ‘seek help’. So this was two years after I had last traveled to see my biological family (I was raised in care from the age of 10) in Madeira that it had finally clicked that I did have unresolved mental health issues.

I was so afraid to speak out about it for so long and it was not until I started blogging after I graduated 2 years ago that I began feeling like I was healing again. In part it was because writing has always been a form of self-expression and a cathartic tool of creativity for me but also because I felt good knowing that by sharing my story not only was I helping myself to heal but also I was helping others who had been abused, bullied or simply saw themselves as an outsider to heal and speak out.

Having mental health issues is not something that will ‘go away’ and contrary to popular belief is not ‘easily treated either’ but it is something that you can learn to deal with in a positive and healthy way so that you don’t let it control you. So in regards to what helped me ‘start thinking about travel again’ I can wholly cite blogging as the platform that helped me find my creativity again. It helped me be more confident, it showed me that it is ok to have and speak out about mental health issues and most of all it helped me develop a thicker skin.

I blogged about my childhood abuse here and here for anyone in need of a voice that understands.

 

 

What’s the reality of travelling with a mental health issue, was it really do-able?

Of course you can travel, even with severe mental health issues, although I know from personal experience that ‘just booking a flight’ without a thought of the consequences can be terrifying. There are many types of anxiety disorders and for me I have social anxiety – I am uncomfortable in large crowd – which also stems into my claustrophobia – feel socially awkward when I don’t know others, meaning that I overcompensate by being loud and over-confident alongside anxiety disorder, where even leaving the house can be a stressful occurrence. It sounds so silly but often I am late to events, meetings and seeing friends because even preparing myself in advance will still mean that I am late. This is usually because I remember that I have lost something and I will not leave the house until I have found it which while sounds silly, when it comes to travel can be a scary thought.
I am quite disorganised too, so although I like to prepare in advance and am not what you would call a spontaneous person, when it comes to the actual day I start panicking because I over worry about everything. I also over analyse every situation, although I have been able to deal with my anxiety and work on reducing my stress levels effectively, so it is definitely a work in progress. So you shouldn’t let your mental health issues dictate what you can and can’t do, I certainly don’t. Even though I feel uncomfortable in large social gatherings, I still make myself go because its important to make social connections, as I know that sometimes I am guilty of isolating myself from others. So it is the same with travel, although I know that in many cases what stops me from booking a ticket is lack of finances, rather than mental health per say. You can read about my mental health issues here and here.

 

Do you have a good support system around you for when you go travelling?

Now, yes. As you know I have not travelled in 5 years so when I travelled previously it was to see my family abroad. However if I traveled now, I know that through blogging I have made a great support network of people to travel to and many of them come to me.

Last year I had a blogger friend – originally from America and now living in Granada coming to London – and on Wednesday I have a friend from India coming so that should be a lot of fun. That is the beauty of blogging, it is such a supportive community and you can really meet so many different people worldwide.

 

You say that travel is a world away from your reality in London – what is your reality in London? And why is it different to travelling?

When we ‘fantasise’ of course our fantasies are a world away from our realities as it’s not ‘real’. So in regards to travel it is ‘real of course’ but I know that it is only a temporary reality because then I would return back home.

In truth I wouldn’t know how to describe the reality of living in London, because it is an interchanging landscape and my answer would be different now to what it would be a year ago. I was working multiple jobs and was unhappy as I felt that I was not being valued for my time, so the reality of living in London at that point felt far removed from the fantasy that I had envisioned.

Now it’s completely different, I see in colour, I marvel at the fact that I have my own creative control and love the diversity that London has to offer. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. You can read about why I love to live in London here.

 

 

You quit your full-time job to travel, how practical actually was that? Is there anything you would do differently looking back?

I actually didn’t quit my full-time job to travel, I quit it to do the thing that made me the happiest and became a full-time blogger. It was something that I had been dreaming about doing for a long time and things at work was getting bad for my mental health so I took life by the horns and quit. Naturally I wanted to celebrate this new-found freedom and when I won a holiday to Tuscany I was over the moon and couldn’t wait to go on my first holiday in five years. Unfortunately due to unforseen circumstances my holiday was cancelled but I am hoping to go again in the future.

Now I will be honest, blogging is not a well-paid job, in fact I am very much still struggling with finances but it does not mean that my travel dream has become extinct, far from it. So I have devised a rough plan to follow in 2018 and that is to pick ‘random and cheap destinations’ off the tourist trail, which will fit into my minuscule budget but also allow me to travel as I desire. And it’s not just abroad, there are so many amazing places in the UK that I would love to explore too. There really is a world full of wonder out there.

In all honesty I wouldn’t do anything different because you need to understand how ‘big a step’ going full-time in the blogging world was for me. Like I said I have anxiety and over think everything so to actually be spontaneous and leave my full-time job was an incredible feeling and I wouldn’t change a thing. Because for once I followed my heart instead of my head.

You can read about why I quit my job to blog full-time here and why I love blogging here.

 

How do you afford to travel? Is it mainly saving and budgeting?

At the moment it is hard to save since what I earn I spend on rent, travelling to events, meetings and places to review and food, so I am not often left with anything at the end of the month. I am also always in my overdraft so until I am able to earn enough to save money at the end of each month, at the moment I am keeping the ‘travel’ local and cheap. For example I do save to go back home to the countryside and what I do is go when I have been just been paid, as I know I want to be able to afford it when I have to pay my rent and bills.

So for me I definitely have to budget, so I keep expense sheets which chronicle potential and definite earnings, alongside everything I have spent money on each month. If I see something that is a luxury and is making up a large percentage of my expenses, then I know that I need to cut down on that to save more money.

 

Have you been solo travelling or do you prefer to go with people? Why?

Most of the times that I have traveled has been on my own, although I have traveled with others too. I do prefer travelling on my own as I can create my own itinerary and meet nomads along the way which is always exciting. I think the best adventures are often solo and who knows, maybe one day I might meet my future partner on my travels. Can you imagine how romantic that would be?

 

 

Why is blogging so important to you, and what do you think of the blogging community?

Blogging is important to me because not only has it helped me become a better person but it has also made me more honest, more willing to conquer my fears and above all has introduced me to friends for life. I never felt a part of anything growing up and always felt like an outsider, but in blogging we are all outsiders who have come together in beautiful harmony.

At times the blogging community has been challenging, there are people out there who discredit your success, share false information about you online and send threats but this is only a small percentage of the community. The other 98% are kind-hearted, compassionate, wonderful individuals who will be there to cheer you and others along the way.

 

Do you think it’s fair for smaller travel bloggers to compare themselves to bigger travel bloggers who get paid to travel the world?

No matter how big or small you are, you have the right to call yourself a blogger. Contrary to what the media may tell us ‘blogging is not a dirty word’. Whether you have 50 followers or 50,000 as long as you work hard and are true to yourself no one can take that away from you. If anything brands should be working with smaller, micro influencers anyway as they have the biggest level of engagement and influence. So you see size doesn’t matter.

 

 

 

You can find Ana’s blog here:

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Post Author: Olivia

I'm from Yorkshire in England so you can imagine I love drinking well-brewed tea. Lots of tea. I also love to travel and have adventures, while taking photos to capture the moment.

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