I use some variation of the word “catharsis” in a lot of my articles. I think it’s something a lot of veterans pursue—I think it’s something a lot of people across the board pursue. There is a deep-seated unrest scraping away at the soul of every human being and my experiences in the military, while as a whole were very positive and built me up in ways I could not have imagined, rubbed me a bit raw in some places, further exacerbating that unrest.
There are a number of things I’ve done to find catharsis in an effort to steady that unrest, to give it a moment’s peace. Getting a dog was one of the best things I could have done, and finally finding a healthy (though still imperfect) relationship was another. Yet another was realizing that confronting my own demons and pursuing self-knowledge has been a philosophy of great warriors since the beginning of time, and that pretending that I was not an emotional human being just like everyone else was just a way of hiding from my problems (don’t confuse that with crying about things all the time).
But sometimes it takes something simpler. Sometimes simply venturing out into nature is as cathartic as you can get, as you get in touch with that primal appreciation for all that is natural and basic in the world. However, unless you’re an outdoors guru who has no problem with jumping out into the woods for a day or two, it usually takes some amount of planning around work and family, preparations and packing. That’s fine, but it helps to have choices as life may not always allow for an impromptu hiking trip.
The next option is something I’ve found myself doing quite a bit this week—a road trip across the American countryside.
I didn’t grow up in America, so whenever I start driving around here it really blows my mind how big the U.S. is. Each state is like a mini-country, and there’s zero hassle going from one to the next. I could (and have) drive 30 hours with a buddy and still find myself in American territory. It would take me around 53 hours of straight driving from the Northwest corner of Washington until I hit the warm waters of Key West. As a teenager, we used to rent motorcycles and explore northern Thailand, which in retrospect felt like exploring the bottom half of Florida—after all, Florida is only a quarter the size of Thailand.
Key takeaway? America is HUGE, and I would highly recommend taking advantage of that.
I’m not any kind of Jack Kerouac, but here’s a certain romance and (I’m going to say it again) catharsis to hitting the open road and soaking in the American countryside. Like immersing yourself in nature, it allows your soul to take a deep breath and compose itself before diving back into the rigors and tribulations of everyday life.
If your schedule allows, consider hopping in the car for a day or two, maybe even just a couple of hours, and take a drive. Explore the vast stretches of the country we can so easily travel across.
Images provided by the author.