Trees with spiky arms reach toward the sky...
Dawn Huntley Spitz
This marks the start of my personal travel blogging journey. Because I'm attempting to build a health coaching practice, my travel writing will be infused with wellness thoughts and discoveries. Ones that I seek out through cultural immersion, but also accidental discoveries inherent in the nature of travel.
As a society, we spend countless hours on personal grooming: brushing teeth, manicuring nails, grooming beards. Ironing shirts (confession: I have never owned an iron), polishing shoes, spritzing perfume. All the while, neglecting our mental hygiene.
After some tumultuous late high school/early college years, I've prioritized actions that challenge and strengthen my mental hygiene and have concluded that for me, travel has been one of the greatest ways to do this. Two important components of mental hygiene are gratitude and adaptability. Travel forces both, among other things.
The abundance of tourists was actually one of my favorite things about living in NYC (despite feelings of rage evoked by getting trapped behind slow, touring walkers). While running through Central Park or hurriedly walking through any neighborhood, I would catch a glimpse of a tourist taking a photo and would remind myself to stop and see what they were seeing; to view the city through their eyes. I noticed and appreciated things about the city that I probably wouldn't have paid attention to otherwise. Encountered with new surroundings and removed from the monotony of a daily routine, we can feel a sincere gratitude not only for the new destinations we are traveling through, but also for what we have at home.
In the spirit of gratitude, I spent the Thanksgiving holiday in Southern California. Aside from Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island, I have probably spent the most time in California of any other state. Although I have favorite Cali destinations, I try to explore a new part of the state with each visit.
I spent a few days in La Jolla with friends and then wandered off for a solo journey to the desert. The ultimate destination was Joshua Tree, but I went out of the way to stop at Leonard Knight's Salvation Mountain in Niland, California. Leonard created the 50 ft mountain in the middle of the California desert out of adobe clay and donated paint. You can walk up the mountain on a 'yellow brick road'. Although covered in biblical verses, it seems the majority of visitors pay homage to the site as a work of art rather than as a place of worship (as evidenced by the teenagers that were snapchatting Britney Spears like dance routines in front of the mountain). The juxtaposition of bright paint amidst the brown tones made me feel like I was on a religious acid trip in which God vomited rainbows and universal love in the middle of the desert. It was weird, but it was fun. Take that desert trip.
My drive then took me Northwest along the Salton Sea. Despite it being the largest body of water in California, I had actually never heard of Salton Sea before this excursion. Highway 111 takes you right along the shoreline. From afar, the lake is a beautiful, stark blue engulfed by mountains. Lured by the eeriness of a "Bombay Beach" sign and what appeared to be a dilapitated and deserted beach community, I took a spontaneous detour to the beach. The houses along the way were in fact deserted, the beach was desolate and scattered with chunks of salt and dead Tilapia.
Charmed by the beauty among decay and slightly astounded and disturbed by the scene, I went back to the car to do some research and came across this documentary short: http://www.documentarytube.com/videos/the-useless-sea
If you happen to be a California resident, you can contact your state representatives to encourage forward movement of what has so far been a slow and inconsistent restoration effort.
I reached Joshua Tree later that afternoon and spent the following day exploring Joshua Tree National Park (National Park number 4 for the year!) with a friend who drove to meet me from Palm Springs. The park contains both the Colorado and Mojave desert and is a hiking and rock climbing paradise. The Joshua Tree Of U2 fame (pictured below) is only found in the Mojave Desert. Unfortunately we had a rainy day with wind gusts up to 50 mph, so didn't get to do as much exploring or star gazing as we would have liked. Bonus: rainbows!
The last day of my trip was capped off at The Integratron in Landers, California. The acoustically perfect structure was originally built in the 1950's by George Van Tassel, an aeronautical engineer, and is planted on a geomagnetic vortex. Van Tassel claims aliens telepathically instructed him to construct the building for the purposes of human rejuvenation and time travel. He died mysteriously in 1978, and the building, constructed almost entirely of wood, was taken over by three sisters. It is now open to the public for 'sound baths'.
Typically the baths have to be booked weeks in advance, but I was able to snag a spot with a days notice. The sound bath consists of laying in a comfortable position on a floor mat while a 'musician' play a series of quartz crystal singing bowls keyed to the energy centers of the body. Due to the acoustics in the structure and because sound travels faster through water than air (and our bodies are mostly water), the sound vibrations flow through your body. It felt as if the sound waves were gently tapping on my ear drums and dancing through my veins. The experience sounds (no pun intended) trippy, but was meditative, deeply relaxing and rejuvenating. It was like a massage for all of your senses; incredibly unique and worth the 25 bucks.
You can utilize the hammocks and crackling fire for the day in the outdoor space if you book a bath.
Mental hygiene? Check.