I like to check Le Monde’s website (one of France’s most popular newspapers) every now and again to bring me up to speed on French news. I read a very interesting article today called “Ces syndromes qui frappent les touristes etrangers.” (These syndromes that affect foreign tourists). Here is the link for those interested: http://www.lemonde.fr/societe/article/2009/09/01/ces-syndromes-qui-frappent-les-touristes-etrangers_1234348_3224.html
Obviously it’s in French, so if you can’t read French, well sorry!

About a month ago some Russian lady threw a cup of tea at the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. The painting is protected by bullet proof glass so the famous work of art suffered no damage at all. The Russian visitor was brought to a psychiatric hospital and was said not to possess all her mental faculties.

The article then goes into depth about Stendhal Syndrome, a disorder I’ve never even heard of. First coined in 1990, the syndrome is applied to people who are overcome with feelings of incredible emotion, usually brought about after visiting places of historical importance in the art world or just places with a powerful and emotional history. Places like Rome, Florence, India, and Israel which all are key locations in religious and art history apparently are hot spots for tourists who are diagnosed with this syndrome.

Honestly I think it’s just extreme culture shock. There are many people out there predisposed to emotional imbalances and outbursts. Or people who just feel things more deeply and who become disturbed or upset when placed in locations they are unfamiliar with.

The article ends with very wise advice:
Dans tous les cas, on ne fuit pas ses démons et mieux vaut partir au mieux de sa forme plutôt que de croire que les voyages seront la solution à notre mal-être.

Translation: in any case, we should not flee our demons. It is better to leave one’s country when one is in good physical and mental health, instead of thinking that a change of scenery will solve everything.

So true. Unless you want to find yourself running around the streets of India kissing cows or nearly drowning in the ocean because for some reason you have it in your head you must swim all the way back to your homeland, don’t think that taking a trip is the miracle cure (both real cases according to the article). If you recall, a friend of mine in the Toulouse program ended up leaving in the middle of the semester. Being in France only exacerbated the issues she had been dealing with before she left home, to the point where she couldn’t deal with it anymore.

So if you are considering traveling somewhere in order to escape your problems, please reconsider. All joking aside, I wouldn’t want anyone to have to go through that kind of emotional or physical stress.

Going abroad isn’t for the faint of heart. There are some people who just can’t be away from home for a variety of reasons. Please consult a health professional if you have any doubts at all when it comes to your well-being.

I did experience awe and wonder at some of the places I visited and obviously culture shock, which was unavoidable. There were highs and lows. But it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle, even though I was scared out of my mind when I arrived in Spain that first day.

I always encourage people to go abroad and I got frustrated in the past with people who showed no interest in traveling beyond their own backyard. However now I will think twice before harrassing someone about it. Going abroad isn’t for everyone, just like eating green vegetables or solving mathematical problems isn’t for everyone (specifically me).

So yeah, just thought I’d share this psychological aspect of traveling.

Now I’ll go back to freaking out over my hectic college life and my future.