Soul Searching on the Road: a Journey to the West Coast

With her teddy bear, her boyfriend and some photos, she left home and wouldn’t return for over five months.  After a difficult year of panic attacks and a loss of motivation, Guinevere Sheafer knew she needed to stop her college studies to prioritize her mental health.

“While I met some influential people and learned quite a bit during my time in school, my mental health was suffering greatly,” she said. “I isolated myself due to my constant state of sadness and feeling overwhelmed.”

On June 16, 2017, Sheafer left Missouri with her boyfriend, Ryan Lupardus, in pursuit of the West Coast in his family’s motorhome.  Over 6000 miles later, the couple has traveled to Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada California and Oregon; and the journey isn’t over yet.RV West Coast Road Trip Motorhome Woods Forest TravelGuinevere Sheafer Hiking West Coast Road Trip RV Journey

“Ever since I was young, I’ve dreamt of travel,” she said. “In high school, while everyone was figuring out which college they wanted to go to, I was figuring out which places I wanted to explore.”

Out of all her visits on this journey, Eugene, Oregon holds a part of Sheafer’s heart.  “I loved the culture in this town,” she said. “Diversity and uniqueness was celebrated, and everyone had a deep sense of community.”

And for a woman who enjoys biking, Sheafer took advantage of over 20 miles of biking trails in Eugene.

Eugene also appeased Sheafer’s palate.  This town offered vegan options from donuts to ice cream, chicken to cheesesteaks.  “Both my boyfriend and I have some diet restrictions, and Eugene catered to those wonderfully,” she said. “It was a dream!”Voodoo Doughnut Vegan Eugene Oregon West Coast USA

The couple budgeted for their road trip, but they didn’t let these limitations get in the way of experiences.  Instead of renting inner tubes for $60, the two went to Walmart for $1 plastic rafts to float down the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon.

Fellow floaters watched the two on as they approached some manmade rapids on their Walmart rafts.  “Everyone was cheering us on as we hit rocks, popped our rafts and slid down the rapids unprotected,” she said. “We have some battle scars, but neither of us could stop laughing as it was happening!”Bend Oregon West Coast Walmart Rafts Float Trip

While Sheafer tasted much from sights to sweets, she acknowledged the difficulties on life on the road including the necessary care for an R.V.

“If the van isn’t clean at all times, you immediately feel like you’re suffocating.  We have to fill up with water and dump our sewage—gross, I know—every two or three days,” she said, “and it also takes a lot of work mapping out our travel route and deciding which places we want to explore while we’re there.”Guinevere Sheafer Travel West Coast Journey USA America

Beyond logistics, Sheafer finds her suppressed emotional turmoil to be the hardest aspect of this journey.  “When I was at school, I was constantly distracting myself from working on healing myself,” she said. “I felt alone and bitter; I wanted to hold onto resentment and blaming.”

But this road trip changed her perspective.  “Now that I’m free to meditate, pray, spend time alone with God and myself and journal frequently,” Sheafer said, “I’m forced to examine the state of my emotional body and begin to reshape my thought patterns and negative habits.”Mountains Travel West Coast Road Trip USARV West Coast Journey America Moutains

“While this is a difficult part of my trip, I couldn’t be more grateful to be in a safe environment where I have the freedom to do so,” she said.

This journey expanded Sheafer’s understanding of the world around her, specifically poverty.  “I’ve developed a deep sense of empathy for those who are less fortunate,” she said. “This trip has opened my eyes and expanded my perspective past my own little bubble.”

As for the future, she hopes to travel Europe and possibly apply to universities in England or Germany when she’s ready to continue her studies.Ice Cream West Coast Road Trip Journey Soul SearchGuinevere Sheafer Travel West Coast Mountains America

Sheafer will return home this winter, but her life won’t look the same.  “I’ve learned to be confident in myself, and I’ve learned to befriend myself. I was constantly blaming myself, thinking negatively about myself and putting myself down,” she said. “This trip has taught me to love who I am and love the characteristics that God instilled within me.”

She plans to live life at a slower pace and not get bogged down with the stress around her.  “When I return from this trip, I will take control of my own life and make decisions that will ensure the benefit of my mental health,” Sheafer said. “I will prioritize my passions and the things which bring me close to God, and I will refuse to sacrifice those things any longer.”

“I will rejoice with each coming day, for they are so numbered, and we shouldn’t waste them on worry and fear!”

{All photos courtesy of Guinevere Sheafer.}

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