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Meggie Tran of Mindful Meggie: “Lay out the many small steps towards developing your project”

Over the past few months since I began my blog and online presence, I’ve noticed that the mental health aspect of my travel blog has garnered the most attention. Many people have never seen a mental health niche in the travel blogosphere before, especially one that is so open about mental illnesses. Some blog readers, […]

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Over the past few months since I began my blog and online presence, I’ve noticed that the mental health aspect of my travel blog has garnered the most attention. Many people have never seen a mental health niche in the travel blogosphere before, especially one that is so open about mental illnesses.

Some blog readers, feeling less alone after coming across the Mindful Meggie blog, trusted me enough to share their own mental health struggles with me. Their trust is a rocket fuel of gratefulness and encouragement, empowering me to keep the creative juices going and share as many stories and resources as possible. It is always a good time to heal people and communities with empathy and understanding.


As part of our series about young people who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Meggie Tran.

After being diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) in August 2018 and undergoing therapeutic treatment, Meggie Tran realized the importance of normalizing the discussion about mental health and its illnesses. Two years after her diagnosis, she created a safe space on the internet for this, her Mindful Meggie travel blog.

As a lifelong travel enthusiast and mental health advocate, Meggie destigmatizes mental illnesses through an untraditional medium — travel. She writes inspiring stories about her imperfect mental health as it relates to travel and practical resources to help people with a mental health condition travel.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us about how you grew up?

I was only 10 months old when I took my first plane ride from St. Louis, Missouri, to Santa Ana, California. Throughout my toddler years, I would sit in the backseat of our family van between the two states. My parents and I made many cross-country treks to Southern California to visit my grandmother, diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I was too young to understand how grave the situation was. In between these trips, my love for travel began. I grew up staring out at the scenery outside the car window while gnawing on fruit.

My dad has always been a road trip enthusiast, planning many of our family vacations. I am fortunate to have visited lots of America’s cities and natural spaces as a child and teenager. My favorite rite of passage as a 16-year-old was planning our entire road trip through Utah’s national parks! Since then, I’ve been eager to start my own trips and take charge of planning.

Unfortunately, I didn’t know that all this time, I had underlying mental health problems. When I was a pre-teen, my OCD symptoms started to manifest. One of my first horrendous OCD cycles forced me to recheck for several minutes on end that the kitchen stove was switched to OFF. The more I checked, the more my OCD asked me, “Are you sure the stove is off?” My mind couldn’t be convinced, regardless of the time spent checking. I only pulled myself away from the kitchen out of exhaustion and stress, my heart racing and my brain feeling heavy.

More and more OCD cycles developed. I kept falling for my OCD’s illogical thoughts, which only wasted my time and energy. And yet, I was in a state of denial, wanting to believe that these were only awkward teenage phases, nothing more.

For years, nobody knew about my suffering. I kept hiding my symptoms with success — until the summer of 2018, when I visited British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, and made a new friend named Valerie. Not only did she notice my subtle OCD behaviors, she indirectly noted them to me.

True story here. In a restaurant, I stared at the money wallet in my backpack for a few moments because my OCD made me anxious about the slight possibility of accidentally dropping and leaving it behind. Valerie noticed my staring behavior and said to me, “Ummmm, okay…?”

I was wrong to think I could hide my symptoms from everybody. There was no more point in hiding my mental struggles. When I came back home, I told my parents all about them. They were so understanding during this time, even as older Asians who weren’t so educated about mental health. I will be forever grateful for their open mind and their efforts to learn more about my mental health condition.

After the disclosure with my parents, I visited a psychiatrist, who diagnosed me with severe OCD. My initial disappointment about having a chronic mental illness didn’t last long. I felt relieved that I had a name for my repetitive thoughts and behaviors — OCD! And my whole life, I’ve been a doer. No illness, no situation in life, nobody can change that intrinsic part of me. I soon attended an OCD support group and visited a therapist who taught me how to properly deal with the OCD thoughts. Since then, my quality of life — travels, included — has been improved.

All of our mental health journeys are lifelong. There is no such thing as a definite, resolved end. I am currently in a new chapter, which you’ll read all about in the next question and answer.

Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

In late 2020, a medical professional diagnosed me with social anxiety. Shortly thereafter, I discovered a young nonprofit organization, the Asian Mental Health Collective (AMHC), which soon became integral to my mental health journey.

The AMHC has a directory of Asian, Pacific Islander, and South Asian American therapists. I realized that if I wanted to make progress with my treatment for social anxiety, I needed a therapist who was culturally competent and could understand the dynamics of Asian culture, traditions, and families.

A Southern California-based Korean American therapist, Jeanie Vetter, LCSW, helped me understand how my experiences growing up as a second-generation Vietnamese American immigrant partly contributed to not only my social anxiety, but the negative and false core beliefs that I’ve stuck to for so long, like believing that I was inadequate in so many areas of my life. I emerged out of her sessions feeling much more reassured about my identity and accepting of my imperfect mental health.

I also attended the AMHC’s first conference in January 2021, called TransformAsian. Its various speakers of Asian/Pacific Islander backgrounds, whether they were therapists, advocates, or patients, taught me the mental health challenges unique to the Asian experience. I learned how my family’s immigrant experiences can pass intergenerational trauma down to me. In turn, I could better understand my own mental health. I also learned that lots of Asians with mental health struggles don’t get the professional help they need due to the prevailing stigma or denial of mental health in traditional cultures.

Since this conference, I’ve been promoting the importance of mental health while emphasizing my voice as a Vietnamese American. As a member of Mesa Community College’s Asian Pacific Islander Coalition, I’ve invited mental health professionals who identify as Asian/Pacific Islander to speak about Asian/Pacific Islander-specific mental health topics at panels. I am also working on expanding these efforts to my travel blog and online personality. Who knows, maybe in the future, I will have a collaboration with the Asian Mental Health Collective!

You are currently leading an organization that is helping to make a positive social impact. Can you tell us a little about what you and your organization are trying to create in our world today?

My organization, a travel and mental health blog called Mindful Meggie, normalizes the discussion about mental health and its illnesses. Being open about them is the antidote to the negative stigma. I hope that people will be encouraged to acknowledge their mental health struggles, seek help from a medical professional when necessary, and open up to supportive family and friends.

The travel aspect is there to liven up the discussion with fun and relatable content. (After all, lots of people love to travel, or at least, read travel stories). Many of my nonfiction narratives discuss both mental health and travel. I also have practical resources for travelers with a mental health condition, which equalizes the opportunity to travel.

I strive to make my Vietnamese American voice heard. That way, I can invite and empower fellow Asians in the travel and mental health fields, both of which are still not quite there yet in terms of racial and cultural inclusivity.

Can you tell us the backstory about what originally inspired you to feel passionate about this cause and to do something about it?

A few humans in my world knew about my OCD, including my parents, support group friends, and medical professionals. I wanted to take it to the next level by publicizing my imperfect mental health. Everybody would win. I would experience less personal shame about having mental illnesses. Meanwhile, other people would not feel so alone. I wanted to be their empathetic friend who could encourage them to take care of their mental health and lead their best lives.

Plus, I am all too familiar with the sad feeling of being left out. Although I was the unpopular kid in grade school, you could say I was the most social one. I found myself having an acute awareness of people who were left out by the larger group and acknowledging their presence.

As I grew older and recognized my mental health issues, the left-out theme returned when I learned that many people with mental struggles feel that way in our society. Like the little grade-school kid I was, I wanted to mitigate the left-out feeling in others. This time, I would do it in a way that was most relevant to my personal and professional interests. So, I envisioned a travel community in which people with a mental illness were welcomed and understood.

It was a random early morning in August 2020 when I decided to jump right in with a blogging business and writing career. Since then, blog post by blog post, I have been working towards fostering that kind of communal spirit.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

I was thrilled when, for the first time in my writing career, my work (a nonfiction narrative about travel and OCD) was accepted by a publication, a renowned national travel site called Fodor’s Travel, no less! To have Fodor’s willing to normalize mental health discussions within a readership of travel enthusiasts is a sign of the times. The topic of mental health is becoming more and more prevalent, which is a wonderful thing to witness.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Over the past few months since I began my blog and online presence, I’ve noticed that the mental health aspect of my travel blog has garnered the most attention. Many people have never seen a mental health niche in the travel blogosphere before, especially one that is so open about mental illnesses.

Some blog readers, feeling less alone after coming across the Mindful Meggie blog, trusted me enough to share their own mental health struggles with me. Their trust is a rocket fuel of gratefulness and encouragement, empowering me to keep the creative juices going and share as many stories and resources as possible. It is always a good time to heal people and communities with empathy and understanding.

How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

It means taking risks and sharing personal vulnerabilities to connect with people intimately, to equalize us to a level that is authentically and collectively human.

The most daunting step towards embracing vulnerability was when I made my blog public and posted on social media that I had OCD. Once I told people about my mental illnesses (on the internet, no less), there was no turning back! It was the most irreversible decision ever.

After taking that huge leap of irreversibility, lately, I don’t think twice about disclosure of my OCD and social anxiety in many parts of my life. Whether I am teleconferencing with other bloggers or introducing myself in a college course that has just begun, expressing vulnerability has become second nature.

Making a difference means exemplifying the normalcy of vulnerabilities because we all have some form of them. When you accept your own vulnerabilities, it becomes easier to share them with others. You uncap not only the pressure bottled up inside of yourself but also reassure other people.

Many young people would not know what steps to take to start to create the change they want to see. But you did. What are some of the steps you took to get your project started? Can you share the top 5 things you need to know to become a changemaker? Please tell us a story or example for each.

Click here to watch a video of me explaining the steps. You can also read about them below:

  1. It is amazing how much useful and wise knowledge can be condensed into something that can fit into your hand — a book. And be sure to read lots of them! I could be reading Cal Newport’s “Deep Work” to improve my concentration skills or Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai’s “The Mountains Sing” to learn more about Vietnam’s turbulent history and its resulting intergenerational trauma on my own family. Books will not only help you develop your project but make more sense of your life and our complicated world.
  2. To save time and prevent replicating common mistakes, have a mentor by your side. It’s mutual. You want to learn from them, and they want to see their student succeed. For my business and writing career, I am taking the Superstar Blogging and Travel Writing masterclasses offered by (Nomadic) Matt Kepnes. My career has rocketed into full speed thanks to the time and money I’ve invested into these mentorship programs.
  3. Our modern world has so many distractions (social media, news on the television, emails, and the like). To mitigate them, learn how to manage your time in a structural way. From “Deep Work” by Cal Newport, I’ve learned how to perform deep work on my project, thus investing quality effort in a relatively short amount of time. Meanwhile, I keep my phone and tablet far from my workroom. Notifications on my technological devices are switched to OFF.
  4. Make it a habit to work a little bit every day on your project. Although I am a full-time university student with extracurricular activities and clubs at the time of writing this, I still spend time working on my blog and developing my writing career every day. It is better to be consistent than to be perfect. An hour on your project every day is better than waiting until you are done with college or some other obligation. Even if a few people or nobody understands how much habitual effort you are putting into your project, keep doing it. Trust the habitual daily process. At some point in the future, all your good work will sharpen your skills and lead to increased visibility.
  5. Lay out the many small steps towards developing your project. When I first had that epiphany to be an author and run a blog, I sat in front of a fresh Word document and began to list a bunch of potential steps that I had to take if I wanted to transform my ideas into reality. Those steps may seem tiny, but in hindsight, they are the essential building blocks. Plus, deconstructing your project into small steps makes it easier to get started and do some work. “Setting up a website domain, buying a professional theme for my blog’s design, and installing essential plugins” are much more doable and concise than “setting up a blog.” And even then, those small steps could be divided into even smaller ones!

What are the values that drive your work?

Honesty, getting straight to the point, and disclosing reality. So many travel blogs and Instagram travel accounts show glorified photos of people living their best lives. I want to let people know that travel isn’t always super glamorous like the internet portrays to us all the time. Integrating mental health discussions into my travel content is my way of emphasizing the realities of not only travel, but life.

Despite my mental struggles, I have an uncanny knack for humor, which I incorporate into my written narratives and online personality. Humor strips away the traditional solemnness of mental health discussions, which in turn destigmatizes them. Like vulnerability, humor can bring us to an authentic, relatable human level.

And then there’s mortality. While I am alive in this temporary life, I might as well try to make a positive impact in a way that I know how to, destigmatizing mental illnesses through travel. The inevitable deathbed moments, just before the departure of this life, are not as grave as most people would think. It is a beautiful reminder that humans are mortals who have a limited number of years to set out and make an impact that can last long after death.

Many people struggle to find what their purpose is and how to stay true to what they believe in. What are some tools or daily practices that have helped you to stay grounded and centred in who you are, your purpose, and focused on achieving your vision?

“Why?” might be the most important question you can ask yourself any time of day, whether you are getting out of your cozy bed, in the middle of perfecting your internship application, or working on a daunting task in your project. Especially in those moments where you don’t feel like taking the next step, answering “Why am I doing this?” will propel you with more perseverance.

It can be difficult sticking to your original vision and mission when life gets busy and confusing. So, remind yourself of your identity, which nothing and nobody can take away from you. Try saying “I am” statements to yourself. In my case, I would say, “I am a travel writer, blogger, and mental health advocate.” Everything that comes afterward is natural. So, I don’t have to say to myself, “I write travel and mental health blog posts” because my initial “I am” statement is the catalyst of the resulting action.

If a person who means well comes up to you, suggesting that you take a time-consuming course of action, don’t do it just because somebody suggested it to you, especially if that suggestion does not align with your mission and vision. You know yourself more than anyone else does. While in college, I was told by some people, “Why don’t you take up a minor? Your academic work has been excellent in this subject!” But I know that path will not contribute to my mission and vision, so I didn’t take their advice. One of my friends found herself following this kind of advice, though. She ended up graduating college with two majors. Afterward, she didn’t see why she took this on in the first place, other than because it was someone’s suggestion.

What I had just explained was only one distraction. This world has so many more ways to distract you, veering you off from your track towards your mission and vision. Be aware of the distractions and realize they are not as important as you’ve originally thought. I don’t watch the news on TV. I don’t spend more than 30 minutes on social media a day, unless it is related to my business. So, please do your best to focus on the actions leading to your mission, vision, and quality of life.

Take it from me. As somebody who has chronic OCD, a mental illness that tries to distract me with its unwanted thoughts and behaviors, I’ve learned from treatment to be aware of OCD distractions that can come up anytime. This therapeutic experience with my mental health also made me see the dangerous prevalence of the external distractions in our everyday lives.

In my work, I aim to challenge us all right now to take back our human story and co-create a vision for a world that works for all. I believe youth should have agency over their own future. Can you please share your vision for a world you want to see? I’d love to have you describe what it looks like and feels like. As you know, the more we can imagine it, the better we can manifest it!

I visualize a world where people value mental health mastery. It doesn’t mean the elimination of or escape from our internal or external struggles, but rather, acceptance of one’s responsibility for their mental health. Whether one is practicing awareness of their own mind, thoughts, emotions, and behaviors throughout their day or seeking professional help when they know they need some guidance, any effort to care for personal mental health would be in balance with the trivialities and distractions of fast-paced, modern life.

Recognizing when to seek professional help from a psychiatrist and therapist should be normal, not seen as brave or scary. There’s a false portrayal of help, that it looks like an act of weakness. Actually, it is the other way around: getting help is an act of strength. It shows that you are accepting your struggles and that you are willing to deal with the challenges of recovery so that your mental health, and thus, quality of life, can improve in the long run.

To reach this vision, first, the mental health topic has to be normalized. At the beginning, it will take a few people gathering up their courage to be open about their mental health. Because stories are universal, powerful mediums, they have great potential towards normalizing the mental health topic and thus, inspiring people to take care of their mental health.

We are powerful co-creators and our minds and intentions create our reality. If you had limitless resources at your disposal, what specific steps would take to bring your vision to fruition?

Because mental health and travel narratives are traditionally told through wordy novels, I want to try a new format. How I would love to share my stories in a graphic novel memoir with beautiful drawings and speech bubbles. After taking a graphic novel course at Rio Salado College, I learned about the amazing potential and nuances of this overlooked literary form.

As told through graphic novel form, I hope that the mental health material would be more accessible and understandable. Plus, I want to deliver the travel and mental health subjects to an untapped audience of readers who enjoy comics and graphic novels.

Graphic novels can work with travel, a visual subject. And expressing mental health and my illnesses with art would illustrate intangible subjects to creative visuals, allowing a different way to understand them, veering off from traditional wordy paragraphs.

A book takes a team. Since I am a terrible drawer, I would love to work with an artist who would take the visual ideas I am already conjuring in my head become reality on the page. Of course, an agent, traditional book publisher, and editor would all be integral team members, too.

In the meantime, I am doing what I can to make my blog appear like a graphic novel wannabe. The featured images of my blog posts contain comic text bubbles, serving as funny, cute previews into my posts. What’s more, inspired by the Japanese Kawaii culture, my brand’s logo is an adorable little cloud character with a smiling face (which was drawn by none other than my Canadian friend whom you had met earlier, Valerie).

I see a world driven by the power of love, not fear. Where human beings treat each other with humanity. Where compassion, kindness and generosity of spirit are characteristics we teach in schools and strive to embody in all we do. What changes would you like to see in the educational system? Can you explain or give an example?

As your airplane is preparing for takeoff, the safety protocols instruct you that in an emergency, you should put on your own oxygen mask first, then kindly help the person next to you. To be kind to others, we must first learn to be kind to ourselves. Our outward compassion with common humanity will be much more viable and naturally occurring when we prioritize self-care.

The educational system should teach students about mental health, emotional intelligence, and resilience. That way, they will be proactive — not reactive — with life’s inevitable problems and learn mental self-care strategies. At the bare minimum, people should know how to reach out to loved ones and doctors when they think they need psychological help.

Besides lectures from teachers, books and stories can also teach these topics. They could be assigned reading in language arts classes or simply available to borrow from the school library. (Who knows, maybe my future travel/mental health graphic novel will be read by grade school students)!

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Young adulthood is a monumental developmental stage of your life, in which you are doing so many things at once: gaining independence, developing your identity, figuring out your role in society, standing up for what’s right, and challenging the status quo. Harness the energy and spirit of young adulthood into positive changes in our families, communities, and world. Young heroes are not reserved only to fictitious characters in young adult novels. They simply embody the hero you can be. You are the real-life hero in your own story!

Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

A meal with Mark Manson would be awesome! His realistic and gritty book, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a ****,” teaches important lessons about being resilient with our external world as well as our own minds. His writing became extra meaningful to me when he mentioned my mental health conditions, OCD and social anxiety, in a relevant context.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

My Mindful Meggie blog, where I destigmatize mental illnesses through travel. You will find enriching travel/mental health stories as well as practical resources that help people with a mental illness travel.

Social media:

Instagram: @mindfulmeggietravel

Facebook: @mindfulmeggie

Twitter: @mindfulmeggie

Pinterest: @mindfulmeggie

YouTube: Mindful Meggie

LinkedIn: Meggie Tran

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


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