The growth of online therapy and mindfulness apps has been a lifesaver for many travelers. Online therapy is exactly what it sounds like, traditional therapy but done over the phone, and it’s ideal for a traveler who is always on the move. The idea of developing a relationship with your local therapist only to get up and leave for travel could be destabilizing, so why not let technology fix that?
This article will cover the types of apps that are available to travelers and digital nomads. However, before listing these, we will first explore the unique mental health challenges that digital nomads face.
Digital nomad mental health
Traveling is seen as a decadent luxury, and rightly so. By definition, it is a luxury, and it’s often the very thing many people dream about whilst sitting at their desk doing a job they dislike. This could very easily give you the impression that all travelers must live in a constant bubble of excitement and happiness because going on holiday makes us happy.
The reality is a little different. Although traveling is undeniably amazing, it comes with its own unique challenges. For example, digital nomads often struggle to build meaningful relationships, be it finding lifelong friends or finding a partner. If they’re not on the move, it’s likely that the people they’re meeting are also travelers, who will soon be on the move. This can make traveling a lonely place.
Beyond being lonely, there may be some other issues too. Traveling can make it difficult to have stability and routine, which can mean finding it hard to exercise and eat healthily, two of the most important factors in our mental health. Furthermore, it’s common for travelers to have their own unique anxieties around saving up money, putting their career on hold, or general feelings of displacement and not belonging.
These issues can be tackled in different ways, but it’s important to highlight what is unique to digital nomads and backpackers alike before searching for a solution.
Best mental health apps while traveling
Talkspace or Betterhelp
Online therapy apps are a great place to start because they are a way to gain professional help from a licensed therapist wherever you are in the world. We begin with two options here, because they’re industry giants yet are fairly similar to one another. It’s better to name both, so if you don’t get along with one, there’s always a second option.
These apps will allow you to develop a relationship with one therapist, using either text messaging, phone calls, or video calls. They do differ slightly, with Talkspace allowing you to handpick your therapist and has guaranteed response times, whilst Betterhelp offers one live video session per week in their subscription as well as providing “homework” to help you work on specific issues. Betterhelp is marginally cheaper, but Talkspace offers the potential for psychiatry.
Rethink is a smaller therapy site that is ideal for delivering virtual therapy for travelers. Rethink is competitive in its pricing, as well as offering psychiatric care and medication management, meaning almost every mental health condition can be diagnosed and treated. Rethink my therapy review highlights how it could be perfect for travelers who want on-going therapy around the world, and the 7-day free trial makes it riskless to try out. Plus, it’s ideal for working over issues you would consider to be “small” too, like loneliness and anxiety.
Woebot isn’t a replacement for therapy per se, but it’s a free AI-driven alternative in which a chatbot (not a real person) checks in on you to see how you are. The purpose of this chatbot is to help guide you through some level of CBT as it helps you to track your mood and learn skills to help deal with adversity. There will always be limitations with AI, but Woebot does a good job at nudging you to journal and document your feelings – a great first step when on the road!
Delightful: Gratitude Journal
Whilst not strictly a therapy app, the power of gratitude is profoundly effective in keeping us grounded and happy. Journals are useful to anyone struggling to digest their own feelings and experiences, as well as appreciate them, but it’s all the more relevant to a traveler, who mustn’t get complacent around the incredible lifestyle of seeing new places and cultures.
Mental Health: Support Groups
This app on the Playstore is designed to group together people online who share common challenges in order to vent, share, motivate, and support one another. Grouped communities are a powerful tool for tackling mental health issues, as it introduces a more social element to help tackle loneliness just as much as they can support other issues.
You have likely heard of Nomadlist if you’re a digital nomad, and it’s not strictly a mobile app per se, but it’s worth mentioning for the meet-ups. Beyond just the useful, crowdsourced information on different cities, the meetup feature means you can find new like-minded friends in new cities with ease!
Health and Exercise
Exercise and stretching are vitally important in maintaining a healthy mindset, as they give us confidence in getting stronger, better, as well as providing physiological benefits. Daily Yoga is a good free option (in-app purchases) that has step-by-step instructions that guide you. In reality, though, there are many great options on the App Store.
Strength exercise shouldn’t be overlooked either, as it can bring many psychological benefits beyond the mere confidence of feeling and looking great. Thenics is an app that guides you through calisthenics, which is a fancy word for bodyweight exercise. This is ideal for travelers because there are no weights or machines involved, meaning you can do most of it in a hotel room or local park.
Is it really effective?
Online therapy is proven to be just as effective as traditional therapy. So, the idea of getting real therapy from a licensed professional but at a fraction of the cost – and anywhere in the world – is quite remarkable. There is some extra information that can help guide your decision on what type of therapy app would be suited to you.
However, making use of meditation, yoga, workout, and online community apps isn’t mutually exclusive and can all be enjoyed together for free (or at very little cost). It may also be worth checking out some habit-building and diet apps too, two things that can be tricky when on the road.