A recent study conducted by the American Psychiatric Association determined the best form of mental health pre-ventative medicine is a road trip to the middle of nowhere. The study found that people who intentionally took aimless wanderings to places with names like "Truth or Consequences" or "Redemption" or "Wisdom" (all real towns in the middle of BFE America), are less likely to use psychotrophic medication and need long-term psychotherapy.
Like there was such a study and like I really know jackshit about preventative mental health. If you really feel like jumping off a bridge, by all means, get some professional help. But, if you're feeling a little down about your lot in life and talking to Dr. Giggles about your most personal and private thoughts makes you a little sheepish... then Go West Young Man!
I've had a love affair with the American west since I was 21. I blew off college graduation to hit the blue highways and have returned often. The mix of scenery, history, adventure, and sense of freedom has made for one powerful and enchanting spell, an especially strong hex on those of us whose daily existence often involves combat traffic, rude people, work deadlines, and factory smokestacks on the near horizon. Nothing clears the head of the useless clutter and debris strewn about by the cyclic loading of modern life like a desert sunset.
Roadside memorials glimmer with candles that are always lit. Pictures and memorials tell of young soldiers lost in battle and of the old ones who lived long and fruitful lives. In the upper midwest, you die and are buried and forgotten. The only roadside memorials are the white crosses hammered onto the telephone poles where some poor driver creened into it. If I were to be killed in such an accident, the last place I'd want to be remembered is the pole or tree I ran into.
Everywhere you go there's something cool to look at and learn about. Old pony express stations, abandoned mining towns, preserved cliff dwellings, historical battle sites, and gravesites of famous Indian warriors dot the barren landscape. Critters appear and make known to the casual wanderer that this is their home and you are but a visitor here, tolerated as long as you give due respect.
Recognizing that under every crevice is a tarantula, along every trail edge is a rattlesnake, and under the high bluffs live the mountain lions, a sense of situational awareness develops. Life's petty worries fade and heightened senses bring about fresh perspective on real troubles, such as waking up and finding Boris the Spider here crawling in the warm folds of your sleeping bag. The lover who dumped you five years ago or your stagnant career frustrations become minor problems, never again to consume your thoughts.