Today
Mon 24 June 2019
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Kyle Taylor and psychologist Pasha Dashtgard introduce their concept of prescribing where to go and what to do as an antidote for your mood.

You may have caught one of my first few travel articles – “mood-based” travel – in recent months. Byline Times was groundbreaking enough to consider a different type of travel article – one based not on the “class” of travel or on ticking off a list but instead centred around how you want the destination – and your experience there – to make you feel. The idea didn’t come from nowhere.

In fact, my best friend – a social psychologist, and I – an intrepid traveller, were talking about the therapeutic effect of travel and how a destination – when approached with mood-based intent – could give you an entirely different experience. From that, mood-based travel was borne.

That is why we start with the mood. To frame your thinking and work through a wanderlust itinerary not built on sites or museums but on a journey through a place with pitstops, stumble-upons and hidden gems.

It is building reflection into the action; it’s not just travelling on its own, it’s not just travelling for the ‘gram, it’s travel to spur reflection; it’s travel to incite understanding.

There are no addresses to clutter the story because everyone has a smartphone. And there are very few museums because that’s not experiencing the place – it’s learning history.

I want you to move before sunset and before sunrise, through a city and feel it, to feel something.

Before I go back to travel, we wanted to explain a bit more what this is all about.

Kyle: So Pasha, why mood-based travel?

Pasha: Mood-based travel is a concept that recognizes the value of experience; beyond simple, momentary pleasure. People have historically sought out psychedelics or vision quests in order to understand something deeper and truer about themselves and their reality.

But travel means different things to different people, it means different things to the same person at different times in their life.

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Travel can be an escape, from a bad relationship, from a life-draining job, from a monotonous town. Travel can be an adventure – an opportunity to see wondrous things, to feel humbled and small, to lose yourself in something bigger, to find out things about yourself and/or your travel companion that gives you the kind of insight you can only attain when dislocated from your chosen routines.

The hope with mood-based travel is that people might re-frame travel as an opportunity to grow and learn; that you return from your trip not just happier and more relaxed (although that’s an accomplishment unto itself), but that you come back with insights and experiences that can help you navigate your world better and more effectively. It might be learning how other cultures approach personal space or propriety. It might be learning how to sit back and observe instead of trying to fix or optimize a situation. The goal is to tailor your travel experience to your specific mental and emotional needs, such that you return from your trip with tools to help address your unique life challenges.

Kyle: Can you really be “prescribed” a trip?

Pasha: Psychology is moving away from a deficit-based approach to mental health, and towards Positive psychology – looking at what we can do to build on people’s strengths, how to promote grit and hardiness, to see what happy people think and do, not just those who are burdened by mental disorder. So in this vein, mood-based travel seeks to provide people with positive, uplifting experiences, where they can make incredible memories, take those experiences and reflect on them, and hopefully incorporate those new life lessons and hard-won perspectives into their daily lives.

A fundamental principle of therapy is that the patient must do the work on their own. This is no different. Travel is hard sometimes, travel is messy and can get weird. Guess what…so can therapy. That’s all part of it. Paulo Freire, a Liberation Psychologist from Brazil, talked about this notion of Praxis, which is a constant cycle of Action and Reflection.

That is why we start with the mood. To frame your thinking and work through a wanderlust itinerary not built on sites or museums but on a journey through a place with pitstops, stumble-upons and hidden gems.

The idea for him was that we need to act towards our goals – whether that was becoming educated ourselves, educating others, advocating for change within a system, or whatever our intended goal is – and then take time to reflect on that action. The reflection is where the hard work gets done. That is where analysis, planning, and rumination happen. The hope is that action leads to insight, and insight – once contemplated and refined – allows for better more insightful actions.

That’s where mood-based travel really shines. It is building reflection into the action; it’s not just travelling on its own, it’s not just travelling for the ‘gram, it’s travel to spur reflection; it’s travel to incite understanding.

Kyle: And that’s why we’re going to start including reflection spots in the itineraries – places where you can stop, take a beat and think about all the action to get to the insight.

The goal is to tailor your travel experience to your specific mental and emotional needs

Now, final question – Who is Pasha?

Pasha: Hahaha. Well, I am currently a social psychologist at the University of California Irvine. I study toxic masculinity. I have worked as a therapist, a social worker, a substance abuse counsellor, a late night triage counsellor, a career counsellor, and a school-based community coordinator. Like you, I am an avid traveller and studied and worked in mental health in Amsterdam before returning to Southern California. I can’t take a compliment and I’m about 3 years late on any music trend. No, I haven’t seen that movie and I don’t know that actor’s name.

Kyle, same question!

Kyle: Fair is fair. I am a political activist and progressive campaigner working on really mundane issues like democratic integrity and waging war on fake news, running two non-profit advocacy organisations. Originally from Los Angeles, California I have lived and worked on 4 continents, travelled to over 100 countries and love London to a potentially dangerous degree. Travel is life. Also, I only listen to Top 40 music, I have definitely seen that movie and I do know that actor’s name.

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