Traveling Alone Helped Me Improve My Mental Health

Solo Travel Helped Me Avoid A Nervous Breakdown — It's Now Part Of My Self-Care Routine

It truly felt like I finally got a breath of fresh air, rather than constantly inhaling the stress of school and work.

Solo Travel Helped Me Avoid A Nervous Breakdown — It's Now Part Of My Self-Care Routine

I've always been the type of person who stays on top of their mental health care. I know myself really well - I can tell myself to stop doing homework when I've just had enough, leave a certain situation if it's making me feel uncomfortable, and other things of that nature. It was around my junior year of high school when I started to lose touch with this trait.

The stress of taking the SATs and ACTs was over-exaggerated by school faculty and my peers, causing me to stress out more than necessary. Taking the exams was a breeze, and I realized I had nothing to be anxious about as soon as I walked out of the testing room. Beyond this, I was working multiple days a week at a restaurant, juggling five college courses and their workloads, and finishing up high school. There came a point in time where I had absolutely no time to even think about improving my mental health. I decided I needed a break from this whole "life" thing, so I bought myself a roundtrip flight to Albuquerque, New Mexico. I know, not the most conventional vacation. But I was more than ready to visit some family and see and do the things I couldn't in Southeast Michigan.

My mom and I are extremely close, so leaving her for two weeks was hard for both of us. She wanted to see her 17-year-old daughter travel and experience new things, but like any mother, she was going to be anxiety-ridden from the second I stepped foot on the plane, to the second I arrived back in Detroit. I missed her and the rest of my family a lot, but as soon as I stepped onto New Mexico soil (or, sand I should say) I instantly felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt very independent during the flight, I checked myself in, successfully made a layover flight in Denver, and paid for most of my needs during travel.

If you have ever been to New Mexico, you would agree with me that the scene is extremely different from Michigan. I was instantly humbled by the sight of enormous mountains, different types of cacti sprinkled throughout the ground, and even by seeing a random tumbleweed — the first one I'd ever seen! These types of things made me forget about the tension in regards to school and work back home. Instead of having no time to worry about myself, I now had no time to worry about worrying about things! I was too busy doing my best to learn about The Land of Enchantment and all it had to offer (and also spending lots of time with my cousins, who I was staying with).

Unsplash / Jim Strasma

Seeing the natural wonders of the world really helped me find myself again. On my first trip without my immediate family, I was lucky enough to get to visit the states between New Mexico and Montana (New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana - to be exact) due to the family reunion we attended in Yellowstone National Park. Each state was so special in its own way and changed my view of our country. I love Michigan dearly, but there is so much more to see in this nation, and I suggest you try to see as much of it as you can.

Returning home was hard for me and the family members living in New Mexico that I only got to see once or twice a year, but I knew I'd be back again. My mental health was back to being in great condition, and I was confident and happy. I dreaded going back to school, this time with six college courses (16 credits), being Student Council president, and with a manager position at the restaurant. I loved everything I was doing, but it felt like there weren't enough hours in the day to do everything I needed to. It was basically a repeat of the previous year, my energy levels were going down like a phone without a charger, and by April, I could barely function without being on the verge of a mental breakdown.

I already had my plane ticket back to New Mexico, this time with more adventures planned. In need of an indefinite break from "life" again I quit my job and headed out west alone. This time, my cousins and I visited Mesa Verde National Park, among other tourist towns in Colorado, and Saguaro National Park in Arizona. It felt like a vacation from vacation, and I was on top of the world. I was happy I was able to fund my own airfare and lucky enough to be staying with such wonderful family members. It truly felt like I finally got a breath of fresh air, rather than constantly inhaling the stress of school and work.

This year, with a new job under my wing and many of my own responsibilities in school, I fully expect to be stressed out again and go through the same cycle as the past two years. I keep the mountains in my mind, knowing for a fact that I'll be back to see them lining the horizon of a painted sunset every night in just a few months.

Everyone deals with stress, as it is needed to balance our lives. Knowing how to deal with your mental health when it gets to be too much is very helpful. For me, getting away from real life for a few weeks is a definite cure. It may not be the same for you, but I suggest adding a bit of spontaneity in your life to learn more about yourself by being alone.

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