Nothing like a little distance to get out of one's own headspace.
It's fairly easy for me to get overwhelmed by daily details that are, quite frankly, infinitesimally meaningless in the great big scheme o' things. The problem is that when I'm in the thick of it, it doesn't seem all that meaningless. Things at work, making sure all family members get to where there supposed to be when they're supposed to be there, things that are wrong with the house, things that I'd like to make better with the house--all these conspire to drive me insane with anxiety.
For some reason, long highway drives help me get things back into perspective. I'm not even sure why, but seeing a variety of homes all along the spectrum from "so much better than my house" to "at least my house isn't as bad as that" makes me feel better about our house. It is, after all, just a building. Things can be fixed and improved; the things that aren't yet fixed or improved are still probably fine.
I'm sure some of it has to do with what I call the Trading Spaces effect. I had never done much thinking about what the interior of our house looked like, apart from arranging furniture in a presentable/functional manner. There was a period of a few years when Annette and I would regularly watch home improvement shows, especially Trading Spaces on TLC. Shows like this made me feel like I could actually do something to spiff up rooms in my own house.
So seeing houses from the highway where I can see a tidy little garden here or a smart-looking fence there tends to give me ideas I might use later around our own home. (Confession: a large number of these ideas get filed away in a black hole, never to be accessed again. But at least they lived for a brief moment.)
But even apart from noting the condition of homes and appreciating the aesthetics of them, seeing all these homes as we're whizzing by makes me consider how tiny one house full of people, animals, and just... stuff is, in comparison to the state, the country, and even the entire planet. Each house we pass is full of people I'll never meet with problems I'll never know about and experiences I'll never share with them. And we're past them in a matter of seconds.
Then I realize that I live in one of those houses for someone else--for a lot of someone elses. My small circle of friends, co-workers, and family will know and possible care about some aspects of my life. But by and large these worries I have, these anxieties I experience, feel as if they've shrunk quite a bit in just the couple of days we've been on the road.
When we get back, there's a pretty good chance that I'll fall back into the trap of not being able to see the world beyond my own backyard, but I hope to retain at least a little of the perspective gained from hitting the road for a while.