Travel can be healthy

Shelby Niehaus, Columnist

During the last two weeks, I have traveled some 3,500 miles by car, bus, airplane and foot.

Originally, I did not intend my extended travel break to be therapeutic, but I needed to get away from Illinois for a while. Central Illinois, while a lovely locale, has been weighing me down.

Lately, the place I call home has been tainted by my rough winter. Even though the winter blues are melting away, I still remember them every time I pass through a familiar space.

When I got the chance to travel a little, first with a dear friend and then with my alma mater’s band, I jumped at those possibilities because I missed being on the road. After one of the roughest winters I have ever experienced, though, I looked forward to the trips as a way to rinse the sour taste from my mouth.

For a week and a half, all I needed to worry about was being on time to my next destination, not getting sunburned (a goal I sadly did not meet) and checking out everything I possibly could.

Travel was not a perfect cure-all. I still felt anxious and depressed on the road. There were times when I fell into nervous silence while sitting next to my best friend as we drove from Chattanooga to Nashville. There were times when I toyed with the idea of self-harm while I waited in line for roller coasters at King’s Island.

But the nice thing about travel has been how the good is starting to diversify against the bad. For every time I felt watched, there were memories of sprinting to the front of the ACHS band to film them as they marched through Washington, D.C., and how accomplished I felt to be taking video for a tiny town’s pride and joy, on display in the capital city. When I fixate on the mistakes I make, I can redirect to memories of Georgia’s Lookout Mountain and its view of seven states.

Obviously, travel is not a magic cure for mental ills. As I previously stated, the anxious, sad and guilty feelings did not miraculously evaporate when I crossed the state line. A mix of medication and therapy did most of the work.

The change of pace was, instead of a cure, a re-evaluation. After the close of a major chapter of my life, the impending end of another and the opening of a trip through mental healthcare I never thought I would take, uprooting my life and seeing myself in different situations was a welcome exercise. After working through warped thoughts and unfair self-concepts, it was nice to get back to the root of who I was, removed from the social structures that held me together back at home.

If you have the chance to travel this summer, please do. Your trip does not have to be glamorous or expensive—mine, a two-legged trip crisscrossing the spaces between Milwaukee, Chicago, Cincinnati, Louisville, Nashville, Chattanooga, Atlanta, Baltimore and D.C., certainly was neither—but it should be a vector for soul-searching.

Even if you only spend a day exploring the countryside, consider getting away from the daily grind. Change can be healthy.

Shelby Niehaus is a senior English language arts major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]