We all tend to get into ruts in our life, some big, some small. That isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, a good portion of the time it is quite a good thing.
Having routines is one way to keep our sanity. Having some of your brain work on auto-pilot lets your mind wander off and think about other things.
For a second, think about your taking a shower this morning or last night. Do you actually remember washing your hair? Not likely. You did it as a normal, completely thoughtless part of your shower routine. Then again, think about how many great thoughts you have had in the shower while your mind is freed up by the auto-pilot of your washing routine.
Routines and thoughtlessness can be a good thing.
One of the things that is difficult about extended travel is that you have to think all the time. I remember when I was working back home in Fayetteville, I could almost literally drive home blindfolded. I did that route thousands of times.
It isn’t like that when you travel. You don’t know where are you going. You don’t know where the good sandwich shop is in town. You don’t know how the bus system works. You don’t know which parts of town are safe or not. You don’t know if some places close during the siesta or if the town shuts down on Sunday. Heck, most times you don’t even speak the correct language to sort any of the small things out properly.
You have to think about every tiny, little, minuscule thing that you never waste a second of brainpower on back in the comfort of your home routine.
It can be exhausting.
Don’t get me wrong. I realize I am perhaps the luckiest person on the planet. I love my life. But it can get so damn tiring to lack a series of life routines that let my mind run on auto-pilot.
I have found though that I do quickly form routines when I get to a town. I am currently in Barcelona, staying at a wonderful apartment provided by Go With Oh that is two blocks from the Sangrada Familia, perhaps the most famous landmark in this amazing city.
Even in the few days I have been here, I quickly got into a morning routine. I’d get up, check some stuff on the internet (OK fine, I’d check to see if my baseball team won the night before and watch the highlights). Then around 8 a.m., I’d leave my apartment, turn right and walk right past the Sangrada Familia to a nice little coffee shop that does coffee the way I like it and has wifi.
This morning, I got up and set off to do the same thing, but when I excited my apartment building I stopped and asked myself why I was going to the same place every morning. It was comfortable. It worked for my needs. I didn’t need to think about it. It was a positive little routine.
So instead, I turned left.
Two blocks in the other direction was a cafe that just screamed perfection to me when I walked in. I sat down and immediately felt at home. I had a great five minute Spanglish conversation, complete with the requisite talking-with-hands motions about FC Barcelona’s football season.
There is no need to overemphasize it. It wasn’t a life changing morning. I didn’t have some epiphany that will change my life.
I simply did something that was not routine. And I had one of the best mornings I have had in weeks.
So perhaps as you read this today, there is something in your normal routine that you might want to shake up for one day. Take a different route home from work and stop at a cafe or store you’ve never stopped at before. Have lunch with a co-worker you’ve never shared a meal with. Read an online newspaper that you never normally read for your news, perhaps something like Al Jazeera English. Go buy a shirt in a color that you never normally wear. Something small that you normally wouldn’t think about at all.