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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Countryside Calls: Scotland’s therapeutic landscapes

By Nicholas Wise, School of Community Resources and Development, Arizona State University

Early in my professional career, I was fortunate to embark on an opportunity to live and work in Scotland. Years later, after a few more international opportunities, I made my way to Arizona. I grew up in the rural area of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and while I have been an urban dweller for the last two decades, I have always had a deep connection to the countryside. Late in my high school days however, somewhere along the way, I lost my appreciation for living in a rural area. 

Once I moved to Scotland and began to explore the highlands, cycling around the scenic lochs outside of Glasgow, my deeply rooted connection to the countryside began to return. I am not sure if it was the new pressures of working in a different setting, or just wanting to get out and explore, but riding my bike through these small, rural towns made me realize just how therapeutic the countryside really is. It would take me back to the days in my youth where I would ride for miles, carefree in my exploration of Lancaster’s landscape. Each ride in my new hometown would take me through new terrain, where I would race through the wide open green spaces if I wanted exercise, or I could just stop, relax, and enjoy the natural surrounds.

Whether moving fast or slow through the Scottish countryside, just being on my bicycle surrounded by picturesque landscapes made the setting and the experience enjoyable. Each weekend, the countryside would call again, and I would return on my bike to explore the landscapes of lochs, river ways and green rolling hills to feel a connection to the days of my youth. In Scotland, the natural landscapes were a sense of escapism, and I gained a whole new appreciation for my rural upbringing. I think it’s natural to seek something different, and while living in a city has its advantages, a certain therapeutic sense of wonder and being in nature calls us back to the countryside.

We think of Arizona as hot and dry and Scotland as cold and rainy. While Arizona and Scotland are worlds apart when it comes to how we might imagine the climates of each place, they are in many ways similar. The wide open spaces and scenic landscapes that each possess are like none other in the world. The trails of the Scottish highlands position travelers to take in the landscape of a place greener than anywhere most could ever imagine. And in Arizona, it is the array of colorful rocks and mountain landscapes, ever changing with each angle of the sun that inspire travelers and residents alike. In both settings, nature is restorative, and we each have the chance to choose our therapeutic prescription – whether it be walking, running, cycling, or simply sitting and taking in the terrain that naturally leaves us with a sense of awe and calm.

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