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The Need to Have Conversations About Mental Health

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There has been a lot of chatter since Sushant Singh’s demise. That evening, we had one of our pre-scheduled fun Insta live sessions. When it ended, I received a few messages on the lines of “These sessions are the best part of my week”. These messages surprise me because we have only 40-50 people tuning into each session. Plus, I never really felt we did anything earth shattering to receive such complimentary messages.

What reinforced in my head acutely that evening, was that a lot of people are having issues at home, at their workplace and are sad, depressed, suffering from anxiety. Covid and being locked up in a house has obviously compounded these anxieties. While our sessions should only be seen as fun and warm or informative, a lot of people calling it the best part of their week says something about how worrisome or stressful the rest of the week is.

A friend randomly sent me an audio recording at 340 am that night. It was sixteen seconds long. For sixteen seconds, a man was screaming at the top of his voice at his employees, including her, and insulting them. I replied, “That sounded awful! Do people really talk like that in office?” Her reply was “Neeraj, this is just 16 seconds of the three hours he screamed. This happens most days at my workplace, sometimes on Sunday too. So when I see your session and the bond your team has, it makes me happy”

I felt very strongly about the messages coming in, and scheduled an impromptu live session for the next evening. For the first time, we didn’t theme it around travel, and themed it “Let’s Talk?” . Throughout the day, on social media, I saw people rage or express grief about the actor’s death, about the need to address mental health issues more openly. I do not think of any of us in our team as experts to tell people what to do, or how to be. What we are decent at is initiating all sorts of conversations on trips – fun, banal, profound or philosophical.

That night was beautiful. Insta live sessions anywhere don’t usually last more than 40-45 minutes. People keep leaving the screen because of infinite distractions. Audience numbers drop. But our session went on for five hours. The numbers didn’t drop at all. Everyone was glued from 10 pm to 3 am!! I spoke to a tripper who was gay, and we spoke about a beautiful night in January 2017 when in a moment of closeness, he told all of us he was gay (for the first time in his life), and how everyone embraced him.

on his own trip insta live sessions

Another tripper friend told about how she was finding the lock-down hard and was suffering from anxiety attacks. Both received an outpour of love from everyone in the comments section, and couldn’t stop smiling. We called other trippers to speak on live about how so many tripper friends kept checking on them during this lockdown, how they surprised them with little gifts. It was five hours of sharing love and talking.

on his own trip

This weekend, we called this amazing guy who’s gay too and spoke to him about how he travels around the world, and if its any different for him. His energy was incredible, and he kept smiling and sharing anecdotes. We called this fifty year old lady, bound to a wheelchair, who didn’t let her handicaps bog her down and has been to six continents and 59 countries solo! It was amazing listening to her, at how happy and child-like she gets when she talks of travelling and all the people she has met.

insta live sessions

When people ask me how you are doing in the lockdown considering your industry is hit so badly, I smile. I am too consumed, too happy talking to such interesting people, and too engrossed in pursuing real stories and content, to worry about any personal business loss.

After the session, a very close tripper messaged me, “You realize we have our own Humans of New York going on, just that we call it On His Own Trip?”

To everyone who is saddened, suffering from anxiety, all Id like to say is that there are more people talking about it now, more people trying to learn or absorb what it means, and it’s a learning journey for all of us.

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Neeraj Narayanan

Neeraj Narayanan, a.k.a Captain Nero, is the founder of OHOT. In the summer of 2013, he quit his corporate job and went backpacking around the world. In a year full of (mis)adventures, he ended up being chased by a bear in a Croatian forest, being held at gunpoint by a mafia gang lord in Turkey, running with the bulls in Spain, and dancing in the clubs of Spain and Italy. A year later, he started leading group trips for people.

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