The Psychology of Travel

The original name of this blog was “The Psychology of Travel”.

But what does this term mean? Is it some weird form of therapy? Am I a shrink? The answer to these questions is NO but I sometimes get mistaken for a therapist as I do freelance PR for rehab clinics.

The psychology of travel is a means of preparing mentally for independent travel. I think it’s the most important thing to do before embarking on a long journey. It took me years and I wrote about it in my first travel book, 9 Months in Tibet

When travelling for up to a year, maybe on your own, you need to prepare psychologically. This is very different from “normal” travelling when you know exactly where you’re going and for how long. When you go on holiday, or a short trip, you don’t need to make any internal changes to the way you approach life. 

I developed the term after getting back from a trip to Thailand and India and suffering what is known as “culture shock”. Thailand had been so exotic and India so amazing that getting back to a grim and freezing homeland (Scotland) was really depressing. I also wanted to avoid what happened to me after that trip which was to become a pub bore on travelling in Asia, and that’s why I started writing.

Phases of Independent Travel

My intention with this article is to advise you how to prepare psychologically for the three phases of independent travel:

  1. Before – Mentally preparing for your journey into the unknown;
  2. During – The attitudes you need when you’re on the road;
  3. After – How to deal with the shock of coming home after a long time in somewhere totally different.

Each one of these phases is critical for the independent traveller: if you don’t learn how to “let go” of things at home you’ll never get away; if you don’t develop the right attitude towards people you’ll meet on the road you risk getting ripped off ; and if you don’t prepare for the psychological shock of coming home you could end up in a depression.

If you want to travel independently you’ll need to develop a series of skills that will help you to cruise through these challenges, but like any new skills you need to practice them.

When I first wanted to travel independently I had three big problems: fear, no cash and no source of inspiration. I overcame my fear by a series of near-death experiences, all described in my Tibet book; I earned cash by driving a truck (and realised this was the easiest problem to overcome) and found inspiration by reading Bruce Chatwin and Ryszard Kapuscinski. 

If you need inspiration to get up and go you might like the following articles, all of which have been written for people who want to start travelling independenly. 

Sources of Inspiration for future travellers

Get in Touch

I set up this blog to inspire people to travel independently and then write about it. I’m keen to write more articles about the psychological issues around travel, so I’d be very grateful if you would suggest a topic you’d like me to write about.

If you run a blog or publication and want an article (or interview) about the psychology of travel just get in touch. 

The best way to contact me is to leave a comment under one of my articles. I approve them all manually, it adds to what’s written in the article and I’d really appreciate it. My email address is wolfemurray [at], my phone number is +44 747 138 1973 and if you want to send me a card or letter (the best way of communicating) my current address is Whittington’s Boathouse, River Thames, Reading, RG4 8DH, UK

In terms of social networks, I’m most active on Twitter and I’d be grateful if you followed me @wolfemurray

Rupert Wolfe Murray
March 2018