By Hannah Phillips
These twin sisters were once so anxious they didn’t want to leave the HOUSE – but now travel the globe as their full time job.
Claire and Laura Jopson, both 32, from Milton Keynes, Bucks, have struggled with anxiety since their school days – during the toughest periods struggling to even drive to work, complete a food shop or board a train on their own.
Aged 27, the duo had never even caught a train alone but in 2014 they decided to take control of their mental health by opening a travel-inspired Instagram account and blog.
Two and a half years later, marketing manager Claire and fundraising manager Laura quit their jobs to pursue seeing the world full-time – and have since travelled to 40 countries from Morocco to Abu Dhabi, Portugal and Germany.
Claire said: “We’d had enough of living our lives restricted by anxiety.
“We were getting through our 20s and still hadn’t traveled a great deal. I was 27 before I caught a train by myself – we lived normal lives, but anxiety kept our world small.
“It’s important to stress we didn’t go from one extreme to the other – from not leaving the house to effortlessly travelling the world. Mental health isn’t as clear cut as that and we can still struggle.
“We want to show that you don’t have to be a carefree, confident woman to travel and that mental health doesn’t have to define who you are.
“We don’t pretend we don’t still struggle with our mental health at times, but travel is our therapy.
“It’s gone from worrying about a train journey to London to jumping on flights to LA, but we wouldn’t be able to do it without each other.
“With twins, if one of you is feeling low, the other will automatically pick the other up. Laura has had to get me on a plane before.
“It’s important we have each other. We fight like any other siblings, but we move on quite quickly.”
The twins have both received professional support since they were diagnosed with anxiety, including cognitive behavioural therapy and medication.
Since launching their career in travel and quitting their former jobs, the pair have collaborated with tourism boards, airlines and brands which fund their adventures.
Claire said: “We were pinching ourselves on our recent trip to Abu Dhabi.
“We were fortunate to stay in a suite at the Emirates Palace which is usually reserved for celebrities and royalty.
“It was a once in a lifetime experience.”
The sisters’ first trip was to Washington DC to visit their brother after Laura surprised Claire with a ticket.
The pair now want to inspire other women living with anxiety to travel and have begun running their own tours to encourage them to do so.
Claire said: “When Laura bought me the ticket to Washington DC, I almost didn’t go.
“With mental health, there is no magic cure. We aren’t pretending to be perfect travellers and we have documented the process of our struggles.
“We get up to 100 messages per week from people who are too nervous to travel, but want to prove that it can be done. You have to remember that if one trip is hard, the next one won’t necessarily be like that.
“Social media changed our lives. We started an Instagram account when it was easy to find a community and it immediately made the world feel a smaller and friendlier place.
“Knowing there are kind people all over the world made us confident to travel.”
Claire lives 20 minutes away from her sister with her husband, James.
Laura said as well as pushing her out of her comfort zone, forging a business around travel has helped to manage her mental health.
She said: “I’ve always loved writing so being able to write about our travels for tourism boards and magazines has given me something really absorbing to focus on.
“I took a course in photography and find it such a mindful hobby that completely distracts me from worrying.
“Seeing my brands been used by destinations or brands has been a huge confidence boost which has been important in managing my insecurities and imposter syndrome.”
To see more: https://www.instagram.com/twins_that_travel/?hl=en