Shaw Medical Travel Consultants (SMTC) caught up with licensed clinical psychologist Sonia Wynter  (SW) to have a conversation about the impact of frequent traveling on interpersonal relations and relationships. This is a two-part series with the first part written below and the complete interview available on our YouTube channel.

SMTC:  How impactful do you view the effects of Travel (personal or business) on the growth of healthy relationships.

SW: There are several variables that can influence the impact of travel on the growth of healthy relationships a few of which are:

  1. The frequency of travel and the average duration of individual trips.
  2. The level of commitment to the relationship of each individual; committed versus casual, married, common-law, long-term or recently met.
  3. Whether or not the couple has children.
  4. The personalities of each partner.

SMTC: That’s interesting, how would all this impact? Would these act independently or compounding?

SW: Taking all these into consideration however, by and large, it is considerably easier for relationships to thrive when people are physically together – to state the obvious. Human beings are social animals, it’s almost as if “we are hardwired to dislike separation”* . 

SWTC: Is there any difference in the impact depending on the amount of time spent apart or together?

SW: For those relationships where travel results in the couple spending more time apart than together, the impact can be significant in that it can compromise not only the health of the relationship but the mental and physical health of each individual and any children in their family.

* Nadine Kaslow, professor and chief psychologist in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Ga.

SWTC: In this day and age of global commerce and travel, in your experience, what are the effects on the traveler and on the non-traveler?

SW: The emotional ramifications on the traveler can include intense feelings of guilt, disconnectedness and even anxiety for some. Unfortunately for many travelers, these feelings often remain contained for the duration of their trips and find voice on their return home with destructive results for their relationship with their partner.  Added to this is the physical consequences of stress related to jetlag and fatigue if the traveler fails to develop a consistent and effective mechanism for recuperation.

SWTC: And what about the non-traveler often left behind? What are the emotions they might be experiencing?

SW: For the non-travelling partner and other members of the family, there often arises feelings of abandonment, resentment, anger and loneliness and there are times when efforts to cope with these difficult feelings result in disorders or other consequences which negatively impact the stay-at home individual’s quality of life, including of course,  the quality of their relationship.

Tune in to hear the rest of this information packed conversation with Ms. Sonia Wynter to hear her answers to these and other questions and learn how to cope:

3) What are if any the long-term effects of chronic traveling on personal growth and on relationship building?

4) Are there any tips that either party in the relationship can do to maintain a health and sustainable relationship.

5) Is it healthy for parties in the relationship to take personal sojourns away?

Ms. Sonia Wynter

Founder and principal psychologist at Tea House Therapy (THT) in Kingston Jamaica, Licensed Clinical Psychologist Sonia Wynter holds a BSc. (Hons) in Computer Studies and Accounting and an MSc (Distinction) in Clinical Psychology from the University of the West Indies. Ms. Wynter pursued further training in couples and premarital counseling from the Gottman Institute in Seattle WA.  Utilizing evidenced based interventions, her expertise in strengthening individuals’ ability to relate better to themselves and those they love through her unique compassionate, cutting-edge approach is highly regarded.  THT is a private practice addressing the emotional and mental health challenges facing adults and couples, focusing not only on individuals but also groups in both local and international settings.

The extensive career of Ms. Wynter includes functioning as a clinical therapist at the UWI Center for HIV/AIDS Research, subsequently at the Mico Youth Counseling, Resource and Development Centre in addition to positions within the Psychiatry Department at the University Hospital of the West Indies.

Contributing to her experience dealing with personal interactions, prior to focusing in the field of psychology, for 20years Ms. Wynter worked in the financial industry. After holding roles in various departments including ITC, Financial Control, Trade Finance, and Training and Human Resources, Ms. Wynter was promoted to Resident Vice President, Human Resources at Citibank, Jamaica. She has subsequently held many corporate positions as an HR consultant to financial institutions, telecommunications corporates, manufacturing and distribution conglomerates, legal firms and private medical practices.

Ms. Wynter has authored research papers on the transmission of family values in Jamaica, the impact of child shifting on the Jamaican domestic workers and the psychological defenses embattling those affected by HIV/AIDs in Jamaica.

SLICE – How Wellness practices can benefit depression.

Wellness tourism is defined as travel for the purpose of promoting health and well-being through physical, psychological or spiritual activities. Popular perceptions of the importance of diet, fitness and healthy practices have transformed and empowered vibrant new business sectors into the wellness markets. Wellness tourism is defined by the nonprofit Global Wellness Institute (GWI) as “travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal well-being “. According to GWI wellness tourism is an extension of the values of the lifestyle of the traveler which is not just about the destination. The incorporation of elements of health, prevention, self-actualization, experience and mindfulness into daily lives is becoming prevalent around the world –  travel with an exclusive focus on Wellness centered experiences or destinations.

The question of is there benefit of Wellness travel to psychological well-being and how much can be achieved through Wellness travel and holistic experiences.

Depression is a disease very debilitating and potentially affecting many aspects of one’s life. In 2017 the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported up to about 7.1% of the US population was diagnosed with Major depression, with a biggest bulk of that being females 7.1% than males 5.3%. The prevalence of adults with a diagnosis of major depression was predominant amongst the age group of 18 to 25 years old, representing about 13.1%.  About 4.5% of adults above 18 had major depressive episodes that led to significant impairment, and up to 35% did not receive any treatment for their major depressive state. Per the World Health Organization, the reasons for not receiving treatment for their disorder are due to barriers like lack of resources, lack of trained health professionals, social stigma associated with mental disorders, and inaccurate assessment /diagnosis /misdiagnosis.  About 50% of adults with depression report some degree of difficulty with work, home or social activities because of their depression symptoms and 30% reported moderate or extreme difficulty.

Per the World Health Organization, depression is a common mental disorder, globally more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression. The burden of depression and other mental health conditions is on the rise globally. Depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. Close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in 15 to 29 yr olds.  Even during ordinary times women physicians, resident physicians, medical students face higher rates of depression then general population. Every year an estimated 400 physicians commit suicide with women physicians facing a much higher risk than the general population.

Traditionally grief and medical training has been considered weak or unprofessional and doctors have been encouraged to keep their feelings inside and they offer news the technique of compartmentalization and avoiding thoughts or emotions including isolation and distraction. As physicians the importance of self-care is important. Well known factors associated with physician depression include lack of sleep, dealing with death, making mistakes, 24 hour responsibility, self-criticism, and difficult relationships with coworkers and patients .these factors are likely to be compounded as physicians face increased pressures from COVID-19 pandemic (Rebekah Bernard MD, Medical Economics).

Benefit of holistic wellness experiences: – achieving balance ..

Many wellness practices have as a foundational principle that balance is the secret of wellness and ridding our bodies of illness.  Ayurveda believes that like increases like and that opposites balance. Balancing building, nourishing, anabolic in nature, while the other is reducing, lightening, and catabolic in nature. The stress response is unequivocally a taking away and catabolic in nature; if like increases like and opposites balance then the antidote to excess stress is to offer our systems an abundance of building up, and nourishing qualities through our diets, our lifestyle, our practices and our relationships.

Many other methods of achieving holistic Wellness and balance within our lives are practiced through yoga, Tai chi, Acupuncture, Tui Na, Cupping, herbs and other remedies and interventions.

Many of these practices benefit the treatment of major depression by working concurrently with traditional medical recommendations and possibly medications by addressing underlying conditions, removing toxins, and or directly on the depression symptoms individually.

Individual changes that you can make in your life can include the following:

…….remember SLICE

  1. Slow down thoughts and activities, reduce your To Do List, and learn to be present.
  2. Learn to appreciate calm, redirect energies internally, mind and body by practices such as yoga, structured breathing exercises, meditation etc.
  3. Indulge in quality self-care which involves learning to appreciate ourselves your individuality, become aware of your needs and your desires and what makes you feel good.
    1. Take a long bath.
    2. Drink herbal tea.
    3. Massage your feet before bed.
    4. Enjoy nature.
    5. Read an uplifting book.
    6. Write in a journal.
    7. Enjoy art – drawing, painting, writing stories, photography.
    8. Balanced diet, adequate rest.
    9. Supportive loving relationships.
  4. Commit to a daily routine – our routine is particularly important when you are trying to balance the effects of excess stress. Regularity is important for balance within our physiological and mental being.
  5. Eat a balanced diet – our routine is particularly important when you are trying to balance the effects of excess stress. Regularity is important for balance within our physiological and mental being.

Recent global stresses affecting our health, economy, personal and interpersonal relationships have caused many psychological and mental conditions to develop or worsen.  So let’s not forget the benefit of and the importance of Wellness and alternative treatment nor intervention that can work concurrently with traditional medical recommendations.


Healthcare beyond borders