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Meet Jacob: a Contiki Trip Manager who wants to advocate for Male Mental Health Awareness this Movember

contiki travellers in Europe

It’s Movember, a month where we advocate for male mental health, encouraging people to talk about their struggles and ask for help; and one of those advocates is Contiki Trip Manager, Jacob Duran. During his first season leading travellers across Europe, he finished every trip with a heartfelt speech about his own life journey, his struggles, and mental health.

In his speech, Jacob recounts the hardships he has faced. But he mostly discusses his perseverance and his ability to keep his head high and keep going – something he was able to do by sharing his burden with others.

We’ve interviewed Jacob to ask him about his relationship with mental health, his journey through struggles and failure, and to ask why Movember is so important to him.

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How do you feel that you’ve grown as a person? Has becoming a Trip Manager helped you grow?

“At school I always felt quite behind – I wasn’t the most popular and I compared myself a lot to my twin brother who was athletic and smart and well liked; and I felt like I wasn’t any of those things. Growing up, I was always a bit of a fighter, it felt like I had to be.”

“Now, I want to help other people who find themselves in similar situations. When I was at my Trip Manager training, I was always seen as the clown because I was a bit of a joker, and I didn’t mind being seen like that – some people were stressed or nervous as they wanted to do well, and I felt quite calm headed. It was nice to be there for them in a way that no one was there for me.”

“It’s been a very long time since I’ve been in a job where so many people have your back. You can’t choose your family, but you can choose your mates.”

contiki travellers going through Europe

Image source:Jacob Duran

Have you learned any valuable lessons in life that have helped you and that you’d like to share?

“Try not to care about what other people think. It’s easier said than done for sure, it feels like we’re always in competition and comparing ourselves to everyone. You have to realise that everybody is at different stages in their life, so don’t worry about them.”

“I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist, always striving for the best scores and the best results, but at the end of the day nothing is ever going to be perfect. It took me a long time to learn, but you just have to focus on the things you care about, the things you like doing, and on yourself. As long as you’re doing the best you can, keep improving yourself, that’s the best thing you can do.”

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In your speech you say that the last of human freedoms, when there is nothing left, is the power to “choose your attitude, and choose your own way.” This is a really wonderful sentiment, can you speak a little more to that?

“So, I was medically discharged from the Marines, and after that I had no idea what to do. The marines was all I wanted, I hadn’t thought of a plan B. I felt pressured into taking up an apprenticeship as a carpenter, I had very little support from my family, and I lived in a van to get by. But this felt like the easy route. I was content just being on that path. Until I realised I didn’t want that.”

“It’s that attitude that saved me – I turned around one day and figured ‘this is not me’, and I think that’s a choice you have to make. I started getting back in shape and taking up more charity challenges, I started to reconnect with my parents and accepted that my siblings wouldn’t accept who I was. I went on Contiki’s Croatia Island Sail trip and met two great Trip Managers, and I knew I wanted that life. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I should be doing more with my life.”

“There’s nothing wrong with showing emotion either, I hate that stigma, so be emotional and then get back on the horse. It’s not easy, but I guess that’s what I mean: you’ve got to choose your own way and look at what you want, do your crying, and get back out there. That’s the most important thing.”

contiki travellers travelling through Europe

Image source:Jacob Duran

You mention in your speech that you can’t have success without failure. What has failure taught you?

“I had a massive fear of failure and it took me a long time to get over it. But like I said you can’t have success without failure, so you need to learn how to fail. I think a lot of people are in the same boat, a lot of us are scared of failing.”

“I think it comes from a place of feeling embarrassed because things haven’t gone the way you wanted. I felt that when I first came home from my discharge in the Marines after my injury. No one understood what I went through or how far I actually came, it was just viewed as you either did it or you didn’t. And in their minds I didn’t.”

“Things are going to fail and you have to accept that. You just have to be able to adapt to it and overcome it and learn from it. But most importantly you have to keep going despite the failure, because one day there will be success.”

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Have you ever participated in Movember?

“Yeah, I’ve done a few charity things. Last year I pulled a Land Rover for two miles!”

“This particular challenge is one that stuck with me because I have a bad ankle, and I didn’t know whether it would hold up. But it did, and I pulled the car the whole way. Some of my friends who had also been medically discharged showed up and were inspired to get involved as well!”

Why do you think that Movember and raising awareness of Mental Health, especially for men, is so important?

“It’s important because it’s a reminder that it’s okay to ask for help, and a reminder to check on your mates.”

“I think a lot of us forget that everyone is going through things and we don’t always notice the signs. So, Movember is a great reminder to check on your mates and check on your family, see how they’re doing.”

“I think as a guy it’s important especially because for years it’s been drilled into our minds that you can do it yourself, you don’t need anyone else. I fall into that trap all the time, I really struggle to ask for help sometimes – I think that’s part of the military mindset as well. But it’s okay to ask for help, you should ask for help. So, I think Movember is a great and important reminder of both those things.”

contiki trip to Europe

Image source:Jacob Duran

As a Trip Manager, what would you say to any of your travellers if they came to you because they were struggling with their mental health?

“I’d do a general check up with them, you know, asking if they’re okay, if there’s anything that can help. Sometimes I’ll share a personal story and that might encourage them to want to talk some more.”

“But the biggest thing is just being there for them and being a figure of support and making sure they feel comfortable. We’re all in the same boat and you’re not the only one.”

If you would like to get involved with Movember and this important cause, you can donate here.  

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