Flight delays, crowded airports, hotel reservations, jet lag… Travel is stressful for everyone, but especially people with schizophrenia. Host Rachel Star Withers and co-host Gabe Howard discuss the risks and rewards of traveling while having a serious mental health condition. Laura Motta, editorial director of Lonely Planet, joins to share some tips about staying safe while traveling — and some cool destination ideas.

Laura Motta

Laura Motta is the editorial director of LonelyPlanet.com. Previously, she was leading content teams at ShermansTravel for nine years. Before that, she held positions at Travelzoo, iVillage, and EverydayHealth, and lived in Paris. Follow her travels on Instagram.

Rachel Star Withers

Rachel Star Withers creates videos documenting her schizophrenia, ways to manage and let others like her know they are not alone and can still live an amazing life. She has written Lil Broken Star: Understanding Schizophrenia for Kids and a tool for schizophrenics, To See in the Dark: Hallucination and Delusion Journal. Fun Fact: She has wrestled alligators.

To learn more about Rachel, please visit her website, RachelStarLive.com.

Gabe Howard

Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations, available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author.

To learn more about Gabe, please visit his website, gabehoward.com.

Producer’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.

Announcer: You’re listening to Inside Schizophrenia. Hosted by Rachel Star Withers, an advocate who lives openly with Schizophrenia. We’re talking to experts about all aspects of life with this condition. Welcome to the show!

Rachel Star Withers: Welcome to Inside Schizophrenia, a Healthline podcast, I’m your host, Rachel Star Withers, here with my wonderful co-host, Gabe Howard. Gabe, the world is opening up. We talked about that last episode. The pandemic is, quote unquote, ending. You know, we all need to take precautions, but everything’s opening up. And of course, with that comes travel. Short distance, long distance travel, and travel is stressful for everyone, but especially people with serious mental disorders. Coming up, we have an incredible guest today, we have Laura Motta, who is the editorial director of LonelyPlanet.com, and she is going to give us some tips about staying safe while traveling and some pretty cool ideas.

Gabe Howard: Rachel, as you said, what we talked about last month was the world opening back up and transitioning out of the pandemic. And I am super excited because I can get back to my real job of public speaking, which involves an awful lot of travel. So we’re not just talking about vacations here, right? We’re not just talking about visiting grandma, going to the beach, we’re also talking about work travel. And as we discussed last month with the quote unquote, new normal, there’s a new normal with traveling, but there’s also the old normal. Traveling is difficult for everybody, but it’s more difficult for people managing schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or any physical or mental illness. And those are the things that we want to address this month. But we also want to say we get to travel, Rachel! Whoo!

Rachel Star Withers: For my people who are listening, like, OK, well, I don’t really have money for a vacation or I don’t have a job that requires travel, you know, you also have family events, different kind of life events that are going on, whether it’s a happy thing, like a wedding, getting to see your new nephew, just to something like that’s a lot harder to deal with, like visiting someone in the hospital and even medical procedures, having to go to different states to look into medical procedures. This isn’t just talking about having fun on vacations, you’re going to have reasons in your life that you have to go places.

Gabe Howard: I could not agree more, and it’s important to understand that even if you’re not traveling now, traveling, it could be a goal for you at some point in the future. I strongly recommend never counting it out entirely. The world is a vast place and I strongly recommend trying to get as far away from home as possible at least once in your life and explore what other cities, cultures, societies have to offer, especially for those of us who are managing mental illness. It’s nice to see outside of our bubbles. So if you are not traveling yet or have no plans to travel, I definitely think that it’s a great goal to set for yourself. Rachel, you live with schizophrenia and you travel as much as I do. And for many people listening, they’re like, wait, you’re on a plane a lot? You travel a lot? You drive around the country a lot? Do you think that there is a stigma in the way society looks at people with schizophrenia moving about the country?

Rachel Star Withers: There’s some fear and one of my biggest issues and pretty much everyone when it comes to travel is planes. You know, we have the heightened security, which tends to make me nervous. We’re cramped in this little tiny box. Flying on airplanes is by far the worst part of traveling for me. I’m very wiggly, so I have a hard time sitting still. I don’t like being like how close, especially if you’re stuck in a middle seat, like just how close everyone is to you. Kind of squished up against you. And I am talking economy. You might have just tuned out and thought, well, people never touch me, if you’re in first. I’m talking to economy. You know, they’re pretty like right up against you. You can kind of feel them breathing against your arm. And even just being in the airport for me can be really confusing because I have a hard time reading numbers. And like, when you look at those big screens with all the arrivals and departures, you know, you’re trying to find your gate. That can be really hard for me to read. I always go out of my way to get to the gate at least an hour early because I’m usually at the wrong gate anyway.

Gabe Howard: Do you find that these small little things, like getting there an hour early, you know, asking for assistance reading the thing because you know that you struggle with it? Is this truly a case of an ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure? That this preplanning and awareness of these struggles makes it not only easier for you to travel, but maybe even possible for you to travel?

Rachel Star Withers: Yes, so much with schizophrenia is this preplanning. I can’t just show up 30 minutes till take off and know that I’m going to be able to just stroll right into my gate and everything, be OK. Because even when I’m feeling that everything’s OK, that’s usually when I look around and be like I’m not in the right place. Like the better I feel about it, the worse the situation probably is where I am completely in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Gabe Howard: When people think about challenges for people with schizophrenia when it comes to travel, obviously we think of airplanes because a lot of people struggle and we think about being away from home. But one of the biggest things that you said to me as far as a challenge when traveling is sleep. You have issues keeping your schedule and sleeping.

Rachel Star Withers: I have troubles with sleeping just at home. Perfect situation, me at home with my weighted blanket and my dog. I still have a hard time just going to sleep at night. Unfortunately, I have to take sleeping pills most of the time and that does not really give me the best sleep. So when you add travel to all this, it just really messes me up. Even when we’re talking about hotels, Gabe, I came and stayed with you

Gabe Howard: Mm-hmm.

Rachel Star Withers: At the beginning of this year, and you had a very nice guest room that I stayed in. Very nice pillow and bed. No, no complaints, wonderful.

Gabe Howard: Queen sized bed furniture, we even gave you your own bathroom.

Rachel Star Withers: Yes, and you gave me your dog to sleep with, that was like

Gabe Howard: That is true.

Rachel Star Withers: The best best thing. That was the best part.

Gabe Howard: You stole my dog.

Rachel Star Withers: I did I did, I had to, like, lock him in the room with me because he wasn’t feeling me at first. But

Gabe Howard: He was very confused.

Rachel Star Withers: Oh, yeah, you’re going to snuggle doggy, even if you have no clue who I am. But even with that great accommodation and everything. Oh, I had a horrible time trying to sleep at your house. And luckily I brought my sleeping pills to knock me out. I always have to just know that that’s going to be a part of it. And I always like when I’m planning a trip. I know that first night is going to be the worst. Checking in, I usually know, hey, I have to take my sleeping pills before this time. And it can be frustrating, but that’s going to be a normal part of life for me and for most people with a very serious mental disorder. Where we’re talking schizophrenia, bipolar or anything like that.

Gabe Howard: Our visit is sort of your stereotypical friend visit, right?

Rachel Star Withers: Yes.

Gabe Howard: It’s like visiting friends and family.

Rachel Star Withers: Yes,

Gabe Howard: Now, you did not have to sit me down and say to me, you know, Gabe, I live with schizophrenia and I have some challenges and I need some accommodations and I need to, because we work together for so long. But not everybody has an awesome friend like Gabe and Rachel. Right? What do you recommend for folks who are traveling to family member’s house, either by plane or car, you know, some long distance. They’re going to be staying in an unfamiliar place. You know, maybe it’s grandma’s, maybe it’s their sister’s house, maybe they’re just visiting a friend from high school, but they want to have this conversation with somebody and say, hey, look, I’m not going to be my best on day one. I’m going to have these struggles. I might have to take a sleeping pill. I might space out. That helps. Right? It’s certainly better to have that conversation before you arrive.

Rachel Star Withers: If you are going to stay with someone who, for instance, has kids, who has a lot of pets, who has a schedule where, you know, hey, every day they have to wake up at 4:00 a.m., their house gets really crazy when the kids are all up trying to get ready for school, let them know this ahead of time that, hey, I’m not saying you need to change your whole world for me, but I need to give you a heads up about this, because if not, you’re going to be there, you’re going to be miserable, and that’s probably going to ruin your entire trip. I wish it was something that I was better at. I’m the kind of person who I really just suffer in silence. But then, like, I’m in a bad mood for my trip. So I like it does affect everybody. It affects, you know, people are like, well, how come you’re not having as much fun? It’s like I didn’t sleep. I haven’t slept in four days. So I do need to learn to speak up more for myself. And yes, I think all of us need to be realistic about what it is we can and can’t do.

Gabe Howard: Rachel, I know that there’s some real risk factors for people with schizophrenia who are doing any kind of travel, whether a couple of hours away from home or rather across the country in an airplane.

Rachel Star Withers: Everyone has issues with travel. The World Health Organization actually says that mental illness is one of the three main health crises that people experience during air travel. Like that’s one of the main ones. The next ones are physical injury and then cardiac events. It’s just everybody is prone to it. Thinking about how many people have a fear of flying, fear of enclosed spaces and then just crowds. And of course, we all tend to be a little bit on edge because of the thought of terrorism, of something happening like that on a plane. The longer the travel, the higher the risk of a person with schizophrenia developing a psychotic break. I gotta be honest, Gabe, in my life, that is true. Thinking back like among my travels. Yes. Yes. No, the times the longer I was in a place, even that I thought maybe I was enjoying it, the worse I got. And for people with schizophrenia, we can’t always tell when things are going downhill for us mentally. The worst, I know I was spent four months in the Czech Republic when I was younger and I got very, very sick and delusional. And it’s only by, say, luck or the grace of God, however you want to go with it, that I’m still here because. Yeah, no, I really shouldn’t be because it got very dangerous for me in my mental state.

Gabe Howard: Now, during our research for this show, we came across a concept called travel related psychosis. Can you expand upon that for our listeners?

Rachel Star Withers: Yes, because travel related psychosis isn’t just with people with mental disorders. This is just something they found in everybody across the board. So it’s what happens when you are traveling to destinations that might have a high religious or spiritual or cultural type value to them. One of them is the Jerusalem Syndrome, and that’s brought on by strong religious feelings. And a lot of people travel to Jerusalem and Israel, the hub of so many religions which started there. And it’s not just there, but any kind of strong religious place. Rome is another one where you’re going to Rome to visit the Vatican. People can be overwhelmed by religious feeling and feel that God is talking to them or has a plan for them. And usually when the person is out of the area and like back home, that plan goes out the window. Another one is the Florence Syndrome. And that is where you see fine art and you’re just taken into the art and the art speaks to you.

Rachel Star Withers: Now that that’s just, like I said, normal people that might have psychosis that haven’t before. The other thing that’s scary and, Gabe, if you remember at the beginning of the year, we had an amazing guest on Bethany. She was in our episode about homelessness. And it was funny because when she was talking, she was saying like when she was younger and in college, she traveled all over the world and she had religious delusions and different things. And it was funny when she was talking because I was thinking her life sounds exactly like mine. And I just remember that, like, kind of sticking in my head as being odd, not even said, hey, we should talk some time because it’s funny just how on point all of her, like little travels were to mine. And it didn’t occur to me when I was listening that might have something to do with schizophrenia. But this is something is called schizophrenia traveler type now that has never, ever been an official type of schizophrenia, but it is something they’ve noticed where frequent traveling actually had to do with people who were diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Rachel Star Withers: And a lot of the times it’s due to the delusions. Now, what’s interesting is it’s not connected to the hallucinations. Popular culture tends to think that, like, you hear a voice telling you to do something like go to Africa and do this and this. It’s usually more of the delusions that the person feels they are called by God. And when I was reading all of this, it was scary because I was like, oh, my gosh, this is like exactly like what Bethany was talking about in that episode with homelessness. And it’s exactly what I had thought. And they found that a lot of people with schizophrenia, they do leave home very young and travel to amazing places. I don’t know, maybe 15. I went to Panama, China at 17. And then I graduated school early at 17. I went to missionary school and then I went to the Czech Republic. You know, it all this is like before I was age 19. And not to say that everyone who travels has schizophrenia, but I don’t know. To me, that was a very interesting thing to think about.

Gabe Howard: There’s not really solid good research that says everybody with schizophrenia will try to travel. However, it does seem to be common enough that there was a lot of writing on the Internet about, hey, what should you do if your loved one with schizophrenia announces that they’re going on a world tour? What did you find out as you were looking into this, Rachel?

Rachel Star Withers: As I was mentioning, delusions, unfortunately, can play a big part in someone with schizophrenia, making decisions to travel across the world. So not just like visiting grandma, some major life event. So if you are a loved one and you’re kind of in this situation, no one do not try and just like destroy their dreams. Do not say, no, you’re wrong. You can’t do this because usually that’s going to push the person in the opposite direction, try and like be constructively supportive for one. Be like, OK, let’s talk about money. Do you have the funds to do this? That’s the very first thing. When it comes to tickets, make sure that they have the ability to and do purchase a round trip ticket. Usually people that are suffering from delusions tend to purchase a one way ticket and then get stuck in the country, which is actually the exact thing that happened to me. And my parents had to work very hard to get me out of the Czech Republic. So that was very wonderful that I had them, as, you know, a safety net to be like, OK, we’ve got to get her back here. So roundtrip to but cannot stress how important that is and making up like some rules, like, look, we might not agree with what you’re doing, but we do support you. But you’re going to have to check in regularly with family. We also need to know where exactly you’re going. You’re not just going to buy a ticket to some random country or place. And we’ll see what happens when you get there. Where are you staying? So just kind of things like that can help the person with schizophrenia.

Rachel Star Withers: I’m not saying it’s going to bring them out of that delusion, but it can make them safer, especially if they go through with that travel. I do have a friend who has schizophrenia and at one point had this delusion that the Aztec God was calling her and she was pretty much going to sell everything she had and move to Mexico in response to start with. She does not speak any Spanish. So there was like so many holes in the story. And her family members did notice that there was something very wrong and ended up having her hospitalized and she was able to be stabilized on drugs and everything. I can see this happening to me also very easily. Gabe, I don’t have the moment feel any intense need to go to another country, but it’s definitely in my blood. Oh, yeah. So is this something like you might be very well medicated at the moment, but if you have schizophrenia, I think it’s important to talk to your loved ones and family about like, hey, this is a potential problem I could have in the future at some point. And I want you to be aware of it. And this is what I want you to do. So for me, I’ve told my parents, you know, sit me down, kind of go through it with me and double check that I have the ability to do these things and that, yeah, I’m going to be checking in with them and I actually places to stay and all that.

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Rachel Star Withers: And we’re back talking about managing our schizophrenia while travelling.

Gabe Howard: Let’s stay on that concept of traveling out of the country, because obviously other countries work differently than America. What things can you do to give yourself the best odds of having a good time?

Rachel Star Withers: Do your research. Knowing how is your mental disorder perceived in that country should you have an issue. Me, when my brain starts to get off my words slur so it can seem that I am intoxicated or maybe that I’m on some type of drug and certain countries are going to react differently. They might not accept the fact that you’re having a psychotic episode as an excuse and really might just think you’re a crazy tourist hopped up on drugs.

Gabe Howard: Rachel, there’s this part of me that thinks, OK, well, if you live with schizophrenia, you should always bring a travel buddy. Is that advisable? Because it sort of seems sort of stigmatizing, right? Oh, Rachel, you want to travel? Well, make sure you bring along some help.

Rachel Star Withers: You know, to be honest, Gabe, for you, you’re married. So I would assume when you’re saying this, your travel buddy is probably your wife, correct?

Gabe Howard: Yeah.

Rachel Star Withers: Yeah, I’m not married. So, you know, if you’re like Rachel, make sure you bring a travel buddy. I’m like I mean, I could ask a friend like that’s what comes to my mind like, you know, they’re going to expect me to pay for their ticket if they’re coming just to make sure I don’t go crazy, you know? And then the other option would be my parents, which, yeah, that really puts a damper on my wild partying weekends. I’m kidding. I don’t party. But still, you know, you kind of feel bad, like, oh, I have to have my mom come with me everywhere? So I don’t know, Gabe. I do think it’s a great idea, like, hey, everyone should travel with a buddy, but I don’t think that it’s possible for many people with schizophrenia.

Gabe Howard: Obviously, I like to travel with friends, and I think many of us like to travel with friends, but you do raise that good point. If I have a compatible travel companion and it makes my time more enjoyable, hey, that’s a great choice for me. But I have to imagine, as somebody living with schizophrenia, if the whole world looks at you and says, well, Rachel, you’re free to go anywhere you want as long as you bring a chaperon, that does sort of grate because you’re just trying to live your best life in spite of this illness that you didn’t ask for. I think that many of our listeners might think to themselves, oh, I could never go anywhere without a chaperon or a travel companion. And we sort of want to break down that stigma a little. But I know that many people listen and you’re like, well, I wouldn’t feel comfortable if my son, daughter, friend, loved one, went anywhere without a chaperon. And while that may be the best decision for them, it is important to understand that it does become limiting for the person that you’re speaking about. And some understanding of that goes a long way.

Rachel Star Withers: We do have so much technology that we’re able to check in constantly. Think how far technology has come. Whether you’re checking in with loved ones, being able to just pop on the phone and let them see you. For me, when I start to mentally get off, my eyes dilate. People always will tell me, Rachel, your eyes look wild, or your eyes are looking crazy. And what’s happened is my pupils have dilated. So that’s something to think about. You know, if I’m going to FaceTime my mom or my dad checking in once I’ve gotten to a hotel, that’s something they can notice really quickly. Just they’re talking, you know, hey, your eyes are dilated. You need to get to bed, Rachel. There is so much technology that I think makes it easier for people who can’t necessarily have that best buddy kind of coming along.

Gabe Howard: Rachel, I think it’s important also to say that people without schizophrenia have problems traveling. It’s quite possible and in fact, likely that you could go on vacation, you could go on an airplane, you could go out of the country and you could have a whole bunch of problems that have absolutely nothing to do with your schizophrenia. And I do want to point that out because so often it’s like, oh, Rachel went on vacation and had a bad time, the schizophrenia. And it’s important that we don’t do that to ourselves. It’s possible that, hey, spending eight hours on an airplane is just inherently awful. And it’s really important that we don’t do that to our loved ones. Oh, you had a bad time on the airplane? Well, you do have schizophrenia, so that’s understandable. We want to keep a more open mind and not just blame every travel issue on schizophrenia.

Rachel Star Withers: Yes, I mean, I just don’t like flying, period. That’s nothing, my schizophrenia doesn’t make it better. But no, I mean, there’s just a lot of parts to flying I just do not like. Even when I came to visit you, I looked at like my flight options and I was like, I will pay, it was like ten dollars more. I will pay ten dollars more to make sure that it is a direct flight because I hate changing planes. And I also just hate that up and down feeling. I get really just motion sickness, nothing to do with schizophrenia. I just get, you know, sick to my stomach. So I’m like the less up and downs I can go through in a day, the better I’m going to be when the person picks me up from the airport. I won’t be like clutching my stomach, like, oh, my God.

Gabe Howard: And as somebody who has picked you up from the airport, I appreciate that. Now, Rachel, whenever I book any type of travel, the very first thing that the computer or the travel agent tries to sell me is travel, health insurance coverage or travel insurance or just. Now, will this pay out if you have mental health issues? Is this a good idea for people with schizophrenia to buy? I understand that you’re not advising anybody that you’re a lawyer, but what has the research turned up in this area?

Rachel Star Withers: So, unfortunately, read the fine print. Know your own personal insurance. Does it cover you out of state? So, for instance, mine does not. So even just like traveling, let’s say, to go visit my brother and his wife, I know that my basic insurance, unfortunately, will not help me. And I know all of our wonderful listeners aren’t based here in the US. For one person, they were telling me that their mother actually had schizophrenia and she traveled to the US and they’re in a country that has universal health care. The mother was unfortunately placed in the hospital here in the U.S. and the bills were insane and they were trying to get the mother, you know, out of the country just for one because of the price of everything. And, yeah, whenever you’re traveling, look into how that how health care works in the country, you’re going to.

Gabe Howard: Rachel, I really like what you said about reading the fine print, I think that’s just good advice. I don’t think that’s good advice for people living with schizophrenia. The devil is absolutely in the details.

Rachel Star Withers: Oh, yeah.

Gabe Howard: One of the hallmarks of having a good travel experience is to have a good plan, and that’s not a hallmark for people with schizophrenia. That’s just that’s just a hard stopping moment right there. So all of the same rules to have a good travel experience apply to people with schizophrenia is just like another little subsection. Let’s go ahead and talk about our guest. Everybody’s heard of LonelyPlanet.com, very cool travel website. And we were able to snag a great guest to help us understand not only travel, but traveling with schizophrenia. And as always, our very own Rachel Star got to interview her. So here we go with that interview.

Rachel Star Withers: Speaking right now to Laura Motta, who is the editorial director of LonelyPlanet.com and quite the extensive traveler. Thank you so much for being with us today, Laura.

Laura Motta: Thanks so much, Rachel, great to be here.

Rachel Star Withers: I’m going to say you’re going to be my expert, go to travel person. OK? So

Laura Motta: Ok.

Rachel Star Withers: When me, a person with schizophrenia, a serious mental disorder, let’s say I’m planning a vacation. What are some resources that are available to people like me?

Laura Motta: Sure, I mean, I think that the most important thing is once you sort of know the kind of trip that you’re going to take, I think that the resources in that destination or at the place that you want to go can really be the most valuable to you. So I think that if you know which hotel you want to stay at, that’s the hotel that you want to reach out to and have a conversation with them about what they offer, about what the experience is like, about what they what they can do for folks who have specific conditions. That to me is probably the most important thing from a planning standpoint, but also, the Internet and social media are your friends. There is so much, whether it’s on Instagram or in message boards, where you can find other travelers who are like you and learn from their experiences and kind of see what they’ve done, where they’ve gone. There is a wealth of information out there. Some of it’s not exactly spelled out and put in a neat box for you, but there’s lots out there to help.

Rachel Star Withers: Are there any certain trips or excursions or even destinations that you think might be better for people with schizophrenia or severe mental disorders?

Laura Motta: Yeah, I mean, that is kind of like the giant, it depends, right? It depends on where you are in your life with your condition, the kind of support that you’re going to have both at home and as you travel. So are you traveling solo or you traveling with a loved one or are you traveling with friends? To me, that’s kind of the most important thing that you need to figure out if you’re going to travel. So, for example, a cruise can be a really great thing for someone who has schizophrenia or someone who has other kinds of disabilities or health conditions, but not all cruises are created equal. There are some cruises that are going to be on really big ships that are going to feel like a shopping mall slash gaming casino. That’s not the right experience for everyone who wants to travel. There are other cruise ships that are really small, that have between 20 and 100 passengers that have very different experience in terms of shore excursions, in terms of how long you’re on the ship versus off the ship. And that’s something that you kind of need to do some thinking about, like where you’re at with your condition before you can make those decisions. So I think resorts can be that way, too. I think there are some that are going to be really quiet and relaxing and will not have distractions. And there are others that are basically like designed to have a giant party. That’s the most important thing to me is that it’s not about there being all one kind of trip or one kind of destination that is really good for someone who has schizophrenia or someone who has any health condition, if it’s about what’s the right one for you.

Rachel Star Withers: Now, what are your suggestions when it comes to contacting the hotel or the resort or whatever it is you’re and letting them know ahead of time? Hi. I have this issue. Do you encourage people to do that or?

Laura Motta: I think if you feel comfortable, I absolutely think that that is something that people who work in the hospitality industry are equipped to answer those questions, that that’s what they’re there for. And they can tell you about whether they have rooms or their entire property is OK to bring a service animal, for example. They can tell you if there are special kinds of rooms that are wheelchair accessible. They can tell you if there are Braille menus in their restaurant. They can tell you if there are rooms that are good for people with autism or they include special programs or they have quiet hours or they have support for medication or they have health professionals at the property, like they will absolutely be able to help you and answer those questions. That’s really what they’re there for. Take advantage of that as much as you can, again, if you if you feel comfortable sharing that information. I think that if you do feel comfortable, you absolutely should, because I think it can really I think it can enhance your experience and make it more comfortable for you and also offer you more support.

Rachel Star Withers: When it comes to flying. How do you what do you suggest with people with mental disorders about letting the airline know ahead of time? Do you think they should do that? I know, unfortunately, with all of the restrictions, with covid and different things going on, some people are actually more afraid now to let them know. I’ve always let the airline know, hey, by they way, I now usually walk up to the front desk because I’m checking in and say, hey, by the way, this there shouldn’t be a problem, but I like to give you guys a heads up. Should there be. What are your suggestions on that?

Laura Motta: That’s such a great question. I think because we’re sitting in this spot where travel has been so disrupted for the past year that I feel like the advice that I would have given pre pandemic may be different than what it would be now. All of this advice, too, is couched in the idea that air travel as a baseline can be pretty uncomfortable. For anyone, right? like nobody loves being sort of like crammed into a small seat and having to sit in one spot for a really long time, and now you have to have a Mac. And now all of the airlines have done away with this idea of social distancing on flights that you’re really close to. People, again, I’m describing like a really unpleasant experience. So.

Rachel Star Withers: It sounds like my last flight, so no, keep going.

Laura Motta: If you are willing to disclose that to an airline, I think that more information is better. Flight attendants and gate attendants are going to be better at being able to help you and address your specific needs. Certainly, if they know what’s happening and I think to. If something happens during the course of the flight where you’re feeling uncomfortable or you’re feeling claustrophobic or you’re feeling like you’re too close to people or whatever, all sorts of things can happen while you’re in flight. Any kind of foreknowledge that you can give to the flight crew, I think would be helpful. I think that it gives everyone a minute to sort of like think about that before it actually happens. And if it doesn’t happen, great. All the better extra information, it can always be a good thing. But also too, I completely understand the reluctance to disclose because, you never know how that individual person is going to react to that information. Maybe I’m sort of too trusting here, but I believe that people who work for airlines are there to help you and they are there to make an easier flying experience for you. So, hopefully, everyone who works at an airline can live up to that.

Rachel Star Withers: Do you have any tips for navigating large travel terminals, whether it is the airlines or bus stations?

Laura Motta: Yeah, I mean, that, I think, is something that is like an overwhelming experience in general, right?

Rachel Star Withers: Yes.

Laura Motta: Is when you’re I mean, just think about like stepping into I mean, it’s one thing to me to step into, like, you know, JFK Airport. But now add to the element of overseas travel to that right. Where you have signs that are not necessarily in a language that you understand. You have the added pressure of needing to get places very quickly. I mean, we’re dealing with just a high stress situation. The thing that I would do in that case is that forward planning and planning ahead is, is your friend here. Most airline apps offer maps that are built right into their travel app. So this is something that if you have Wi-Fi on a flight or you have a couple of minutes beforehand, just take a minute to look at the map and sort of understand where you’re going to be landing at the airport and where you need to be going. And most apps, when you’re flying will display that information pretty prominently and the flight attendants will tell you too. They’ll tell you what terminal you’re landing into and they’ll also give you information at the end of the flight.

Laura Motta: You have to listen to it. Sometimes they do it really quickly. They’ll offer information for connecting flights about where to go or who to ask. And that’s really important information to pay attention to and also too, if you ever step off an airplane, don’t really know where you are, you can always ask the gate agent immediately to your right or left. As soon as you get off an airplane like, hi, where am I and where am I supposed to be going? They are there to provide that help and to demystify this very complicated process for travelers. And that’s a situation where you don’t necessarily have to disclose that you have a specific health condition or that you have a specific concern, you can just say like, hey, where am I going? Or how do I find the restroom or where can I get a giant pretzel with cheese? They will know the answers to those questions and can really help.

Rachel Star Withers: I’ve used those apps and not so much, actually, for my schizophrenia, for when I’m traveling with my mom, I’m like showing her, OK, so when we get off, we’re

Laura Motta: Yeah.

Rachel Star Withers: Going to go this way. I’m like, I’m already preparing her because I’m like, we have to get there in 15 minutes and we’re going to take two shuttles. So, yeah, I

Laura Motta: Yeah.

Rachel Star Withers: Love the airports that, I already have that info, like easy to access.

Laura Motta: Yeah, absolutely, I mean, I think the app is a great thing because it sits in your pocket, right? And you can sort of look at it at any time. That’s something that can be really useful.

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Gabe Howard: And we’re back discussing travelling while living with schizophrenia.

Rachel Star Withers: Now, Laura being the editorial director of Lonely Planet, I guess you get insider information about a lot of different trips, about destinations. Is there any that kind of highlighted that you’re like, hey, this looks like something really cool that people might want to know about?

Laura Motta: Oh, goodness. Well, again, I think that right now is such an exciting moment for travel, because we’ve all been in the spot where we’re mostly have not been traveling for the last year or so. It’s really interesting to be in a moment where everything feels new, where I think in the past it was kind of like we were really focusing on like a new hotel opening or a new cruise line sailing. And now it’s like, well, the process of travel is new again. The thing that we’re watching right now, of course, really closely is where can you go? Because, of course, you can’t go anywhere right now, especially if you’re taking an international trip. But the things that have me really excited are exploring closer to home. So this is something that really started during the pandemic. And I feel like it’s going to continue on into the future. So travel doesn’t need to be flying halfway around the world and spending 10 days in a hotel. Travel can mean going to a new brewery that has opened in your town. It can mean taking a cooking class that’s maybe a couple hours drive from where you live on a farm or at an agricultural center.

Laura Motta: I think that what the pandemic did is that it really kind of made us all sit down and reevaluate what the idea of travel is and what are the cool things in your backyard. I mean, I grew up in northeastern Massachusetts and they’re like, I’ve never been to Walden Pond. And I mean, that’s probably about a thirty five minute drive from where I grew up. I think this is an opportunity to really kind of explore that, which is incredibly exciting to me. And of course, internationally, everyone is, of course, thinking about like how quickly can I get to X, Y, Z favorite destination that has not reopened yet? So a lot of that conversation right now is around Europe. Of course, American travelers in particular are really, really popular to go to Europe in the summer. So as Europe is reopening, everyone is watching really closely. When it’s Italy reopening and Italy is doing a thing where they’re doing special flights, where everyone will be tested and we’ll go through a specific process of screening and then also do the broader EU is doing something where they’re doing vaccine passport. So it’s there’s a lot to learn right now. Things that were very simple in the past. We’re all kind of going back to square one and really trying to understand how do we travel and do things that seemed very easy and straightforward in the past.

Rachel Star Withers: So definitely, across the board planning, not just planning

Laura Motta: Yes.

Rachel Star Withers: When it deals with schizophrenia, but planning with just making sure that you dot all your i’s and cross all the t’s when it comes to these locations that maybe you might have been to in the past, but are different nowadays.

Laura Motta: Absolutely, absolutely, and I think I think traveling with schizophrenia or traveling with another health condition is sort of another layer with that right where there is the planning that you always have to do if you have a specific condition. And now there’s this other planning layer that you need to do just to kind of understand how and where to do things and how to take the trips that you have taken before. The earlier you can start with your planning, the better. Certainly.

Rachel Star Withers: Awesome. Now, now, just asking a personal question, where are you planning on going next?

Laura Motta: Well, let’s see, there are so many places I really want to go. I have spent the last probably six months looking like wishful thinking flights and then canceling them, because I was saying, oh, well, you know, such and such a destination will be opened by April. And then, of course, it wasn’t. So I have a flight now that I’m hoping will hold. It’s to Milan in September. And Italy is one of my favorite travel destinations. I’ve been a number of times. I have family there and I’m really hoping that this trip will stick. So I’ve done a lot of travel in southern Italy where my family is from, and this time I kind of want to do the Italian Riviera and the Proterra. So hoping to really take advantage of the fact that there might be fewer travelers there right now. Who knows? That’s like a giant guess that might be busier than ever come September. But that’s my that’s my gamble right now.

Rachel Star Withers: Awesome, now, with my schizophrenia, I always I’m always trying to prepare for anything, and I feel like I’ve done a good job. Is there anything that, let’s say, pre pandemic to post pandemic has changed that I might not be aware of when it comes to travel?

Laura Motta: Absolutely, and one of the most important things that has changed is around rental cars, and this is something that’s really happening and that you’ll notice right now, rental cars this summer are both scarce and really expensive. And of course, it’s because everyone is trying to find a really kind of close to home, easy drivable vacation. So I would say if you’re going to be booking a rental car this year book in advance as far in advance as you can, and also to I would try and explore some public transportation options that can really help you out, because there have been some stories about people renting you halls and moving vans because they weren’t able to get rental cars. So really, if you can take an extra preparation step there just to make sure that you have a way to get where you want to go.

Rachel Star Withers: Is there any trips that you’ve taken that you’re like, hey, Rachel, if you could go anywhere, you definitely need to add this to the list.

Laura Motta: Oh, goodness. There are so many places in the United States that have really surprised me, places like Richmond, Virginia, or Long Beach, California, where there are great restaurants and there are really unique museums and cultural institutions. There is a contemporary art museum in Richmond, Virginia, that is new and it’s kind of staggering and is not something that I would have expected to be there. And Long Beach is a place where, like a great place, if you want to, like, have a slightly less expensive California beach vacation than hanging out closer to Los Angeles or things like that, I think are super interesting. And not so far from home. Like I said to me, like the the best surprises for me have been places that are that are close by. You know, I went to Stone Barns, which is like an hour north of where I live in New York City this week. And I walked around this beautiful farm and walked through all these hiking trails. And I even know that was there. And that feels like travel to me. It gives me the sort of buzz of a travel experience. But, you know, I didn’t have to get on an airplane. I just took like a local train up there.

Rachel Star Withers: Now, how can our audience follow some of the travels of yours?

Laura Motta: Well, the first thing they can do, of course, is that they can tune into LonelyPlanet.com, which is we have we are so fortunate to have this wonderful iconic travel brand that has created guides for basically almost every destination on Earth. And then my travels, if you want to follow me specifically, you can follow me on Instagram. I am @LauraMariaMotta on Instagram. So really looking forward to getting back on the road and traveling again this year.

Rachel Star Withers: Thank you so much for all this wonderful info, and we will definitely be checking out more of these kind of locations and travel tips on Lonely Planet. Thank you so much for being with us today, Laura.

Laura Motta: Thank you so much. Have a great day. Take care.

Gabe Howard: Rachel, as always, excellent job.

Rachel Star Withers: Thank you. She was a joy, I’m like, I want to go traveling with her. I was checking out her Instagram, like going through all of her photos and being like, I want to go those places with her.

Gabe Howard: Travel is super fun and her tips were super great, can you dial them in a little more for a person living with schizophrenia?

Rachel Star Withers: Yes, so over and over one of the biggest things we kind of heard her stress was to plan ahead, which that’s one here on Inside Schizophrenia, we’re always talking about. Prepare for what could happen tomorrow, like that’s just part of schizophrenia is that you never know what could happen. So be prepared for, hey, I’m doing great today. Tomorrow I might have a psychotic episode. So how can I kind of prep my friends, family, work to know what to do when that happens? So same thing with travel. And what’s really cool is everyone out there, if you have schizophrenia, if you’re a loved one, look into creating a travel medical portfolio. I like the word portfolio, though. Makes it sound official, because if I named this, I would have just said travel medical folder. But in this portfolio, or folder, obviously, you need to have your emergency contact person and your home health care providers. So your doctor, physician, anybody like that, your counselor have their info in there should something happen that they’re able to get a hold of, these people have your current medications and dosages.

Rachel Star Withers: Now, one thing, if you’re traveling to another country where English is not the main language, you might want to look ahead and find out what the names of those medications are in that country, because a lot of times they’re under different names. That’s something I’ve never done before. And when I read that, I was like, oh, that’s common sense, because you definitely don’t want to be trying to tell people like, oh, yeah, I take such and such. And you’re telling me the brand name that they don’t even have, but they might have the generic version of something. But of course, it’s going to be a different word. Have a letter from your doctor. This is especially good for a psychotic episode kind of situations. You have something that explains what could be happening. I’ve never done this, but I have played around the idea of getting a medical bracelet. Have you ever done. Have you ever seen Gabe, I guess, a medical bracelet for bipolar? I’ve never seen one for schizophrenia, but I do know that they exist.

Gabe Howard: I’ve seen them for physical health.

Rachel Star Withers: Yes.

Gabe Howard: But I haven’t seen them for mental health, although, like you, I do know that they exist.

Rachel Star Withers: One of the articles I was reading about traveling with mental disorders was suggesting you wear one of those. I don’t know anyone who’s come out and told me they do that. But I did like the idea that it was something that when you’re traveling, it might be a good precaution. So for myself, I do think I’m going to look into that. Another is having like a medical card of some sort that you can hand people. And I have done this. And so the card that I had basically said, you know, hi, I have schizophrenia if I’m acting a little odd. And yes, when I was having troubles my younger years. I had a card similar to that, though, that should something happen, I could easily hand this to someone. If I wasn’t able to talk and kind of get those words out of my mouth, I will say I used it twice both times on an airplane. Once was with this old lady that was sitting beside me and she, you know, was kind of becoming antsy because I was acting odd. And it goes back to really it wasn’t the schizophrenia. It was that I just don’t like to travel when the up and down.

Rachel Star Withers: I was getting sick to my stomach and I kind of just handed her the card and she was like, oh, sweetie. And then she’s like rubbing my back. And it was like, trying to help and calm me down. But anyway, before you go, definitely consult your doctor, counselor, therapist to ever tell them your travel plans, get their feedback, get feedback from other people. Hey, is this OK? If you know you’re going to be gone for an extended amount of time and you might need a prescription refill, get that figured out before you go. I cannot stress that enough. I know for me, I can’t just go to any pharmacy and whatnot where my drugs would be free here in the state that I’m in me just like going out to California, they’re not going to be free. So, yeah, definitely have that stuff figured out. If you do long lasting injectables, make sure that your injections kind of line up with your trip.

Gabe Howard: Rachel, that is all practical and excellent advice for planning your trip. Now you’re on the plane, you’re heading to your destination or you’re in the car, you’re ready to go. What practical advice do you have for those scenarios you’ve now left home?

Rachel Star Withers: Do your best to book the most direct route possible to your destination, you know, avoiding layovers, avoiding long hours in transit, make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to get through security checks, especially with schizophrenia. I know that I can like I said earlier, my words can and people can think I’m intoxicated. I’ve had that issue where I’ve going through security checks and I’m antsy and they’ll kind of like flag me like this girl is up to something. So do give yourself some time with security checks and things like that just because you might not be having a good day and it might raise some red flags with the wonderful TSA and different things. Same thing. Train stations, bus depots, any kind of place like that, give yourself extra time and do know that most of them have some sort of, like, medical facility. So if there’s an issue like find help. One of my favorite tips I saw was bring a comfort item like a stuffed toy or like your favorite pillow or even like an anxiety type toy, something though that you can like just kind of feel. So if you are, like, starting to get on edge or you notice yourself, just having that little comfort item, Gabe, mine is a stuffed porcupine because a porcupine is my spirit animal.

Gabe Howard: I love it. I have a fidget spinner, which I know is not fluffy, but it’s distracting and it’s tactile

Rachel Star Withers: Yes,

Gabe Howard: And that’s something

Rachel Star Withers: Yes.

Gabe Howard: That I can fit in my pocket. And of course, most people don’t even realize that I’m playing with it.

Rachel Star Withers: And once you have arrived at your destination, do your best to establish a routine, familiarize yourself with your surroundings, kind of figure out what activities you’re going to be doing and don’t push it. That’s something that I just need told to me constantly when I travel is don’t push it because I’m always like, go big or go home. And I unfortunately will destroy myself mentally trying to do every activity possible. Yeah. So no, no, your physical limits and don’t be afraid to step back because keeping yourself mentally sane and having a good time like those two are connected. You’re not going to have a good time if you fried your brain doing too much and do your best if possible. And I know this is going to be one of those luxury requests, but do your best to book an extra day both before and after your trip for me, especially after, it’s like I have to mentally kind of come back home and readjust to the lifestyle. Whether I’ve been traveling for a few days or a few weeks, it’s like I need to get home now and like readjust like, OK, time to be normal. Rachel again. So try and do that. It is also good if you’re dealing with time zones to give yourself some extra days to adjust back to the time zone, especially if you have to work or any important meetings you might have to go to.

Gabe Howard: Rachel, we have covered just an incredible amount. It’s a lot what’s the summary of all of this? Because what we want people living with schizophrenia to be prepared. We don’t want to scare anybody away from traveling because it really does add to the fullness of life. And again, traveling can be a vacation. Traveling can be for business, but traveling can also be to visit friends and family that live in other locations. So we really want to encourage people with schizophrenia not to just say, no, no, no, I’m going to stay home for my own safety. We want to empower them to safely move about the country.

Rachel Star Withers: And for their loved ones, the caretakers, to also know that I think sometimes you could be a little bit like sheltering and you worry about someone like, oh no, what will happen if this will happen? If that’s the great thing about all this preplanning is you have an answer to all those questions. So what if she has a psychotic break? What if she gets confused? You will have already thought those things through, sort of also give a lot of the caretakers, loved ones out there, you know, that reassurance. People who have schizophrenia, who are actively managing your schizophrenia. Yes, you can travel safely as long as you plan out your trip, keep in touch with your mental health care professionals and your friends and families.

Rachel Star Withers: Let them know what you’re up to. Let them know what your plans are. Stay connected to them. Do check ins. To my friends, family, loved ones, caretakers out there, the person in your life who has schizophrenia, I know you worry about them, but they do need to live their life. So help them if they’re planning on doing a trip, help them in any way possible, you know, go over with them, OK, what are we going to do if such and such happens, help them with that preplanning, because that’s going to help you. You’re not going to worry so much because you’re going to have set plans. You’re going to know where they’re at because they’re checking in and, you know, and you’re going to know where they’re going. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Inside Schizophrenia, a Healthline podcast, please, like share, subscribe and rate our podcast. We’ll see you next time here on Inside Schizophrenia.

Announcer: You’ve been listening to Inside Schizophrenia, a podcast from Psych Central and Healthline Media. Previous episodes can be found at PsychCentral.com/IS or on your favorite podcast player. Your host, Rachel Star Withers, can be found online at RachelStarLive.com. Co-host Gabe Howard can be found online at gabehoward.com. Thank you and we’ll see you next time.