Current Project

Travel, stress, and contextually specific depression

I suppose I know when I am exhibiting a certain amount of wanderlust/travel anxiety when I begin to stare endlessly at apartment rental sites (in Paris) in far off places. This is how I work off steam ahead of a string of daunting trips. Tomorrow I head off to London via Rekyjavik  to spend a few days before heading north to Scotland for my graduation from the University of Edinburgh. Not just mine. I suspect others will be graduating as well. 

This culminates a few years of study and curiosity about a far off place. Edinburgh. Scotland. London. All firsts for me. I have travelled quite a bit but have never made it to any of these places (aside from an unnecessarily long layover at Heathrow). But here I am. On the cusp of a journey that I actually want to take. And here I am finding myself wanting to avoid it. 

Why? I suspect it is just depression talking. A funk of a year or two casting a dark shadow over my head. A weakness/symptom that I have ignored for years. But here it is. I stare it down and it stares me down. And I wonder, with all the world’s mobility and endless movement, how does one go about sustaining an effort against it? I am off to the UK tomorrow, Australia in a few weeks, Seoul for a yearlong move soon thereafter. Movement. And so how does one address this issue of stress leading to fractures in structure leading to depression? Stress is really the culprit here as it attacks the structure one has established to defend itself. Schedules, achievement, building, progress. You build structures around yourself to defend against that. And you achieve not despite of that, but because of that. You just need to manage it. Nothing morose here, folks. Just an honest appraisal of something that has dogged, but not defeated, me my entire life. 

Montreal, May, 2010

I am not at the end of any tether. Far from it. I consider myself a highly, highly functional depressive (I hate the word manic) and I have and am seeking treatment. I have a wife who supports my pursuits, knows my limitations, and family that knows and helps resolve my anxiety. Nothing altgother unique, but I felt the need to introduce this wrinkle into the blogging equation as it didn’t seem to make much sense to pretend like this wasn’t a factor in my decision making strategies. I suspect individuals claiming to be turned around by motion-induced stress will increase significantly in the coming years. There is no basecamp in an environment like this, just places to stay for periods of time. Home shifts to people, contextual sitatuons, if not physical locations. That takes a toll, if only for the lack of cultural structures to draw upon. We are reinventing a vocabulary and way of being and that can cause stress. But motion should be pursued and not avoided. And that pursuit will cause stress and depression. Let’s address it headlong here and now. If I can contribute to the larger discussion, I will. So, here we are.

Off to London tomorrow. Off to Edinburgh. Then Australia. Then Seoul. Not a dog chasing its tail. A modern life unfolding and perhaps a modern approach to mobile depression taking place here alongside the normal bits on learning. I certainly will be learning along the way. More to follow, for sure. Most of it about mobile learning. 

Jen and Mike in Seoul

 

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About Author

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

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