Get Out of Town.
"It was important, I felt, to get out of town immediately." -Hunter S. Thompson
A few years ago, my life began to resemble a country song.
A relationship in which I placed great hope and meaning ended in disillusionment and heartbreak. My beloved dog, who had been my best friend, work-companion, and family member for eleven years, died two days later. Within a week, I was told that upcoming changes at my workplace meant that my job was in jeopardy, and that I should prepare to be unemployed within a few months.
My logical brain told me it was time to start socking away money for the impending "rainy day."
Instead, I bought a ticket to New Zealand.
I was talking to my acupuncturist, whom I was seeing for help with back pain (the "icing on top" from the stress of recent events), and was telling him about my upcoming trip. He looked me deeply in the eyes, furrowed his brow, put on his best attempt at a "therapist-voice", and said, "Jane, it sounds like you're just trying to run away from your problems."
"You're damned right I am," I said.
As a therapist, I have often warned people against the "Geographical Cure." This is the mistaken belief that just moving away to a new town, making a "fresh start" with all new people and surroundings, will cure one's ills and emotional pain. Our ingrained relational patterns, deep wounds, and poor coping skills tend to go with us wherever we are, unless we actually get help and do the hard work of making changes on a deeper level. It's an attempt to game the system, to avoid doing the deeper work by running away, rather than walking through, our pain.
Travel, I would argue, is different. Sometimes "running away from your problems" for a short amount of time can be an excellent tool for getting some outside perspective on your own life, restoring your sense that you're a small being in a very large and wondrous world, and returning to your own situation with fresh eyes. Spending time in glorious nature (OMG, New Zealand!) is a restorative balm for a wounded soul. Sometimes taking a break from one's life is a vital type of detox or fast, clearing out some of the buildup of riffraff and emotional clutter. It's no wonder that research shows that vacations make workers more productive and creative when they return.
Even if money or time is tight and you cannot make any substantial plans, incorporate the spirit of travel into your life when possible. Be a tourist in your own town. Instead of going to your usual places, visit some new spots/restaurants/parks and engage your curiosity. Most of all, practice looking at things with an attitude of wonder (the best gift of travel), no matter where you are. And don't be afraid to "run away from your problems" for just a little while.