At the end of a long journey, I often experience a longing sensation. It’s a specific and peculiar feeling: not an eagerness to go home as much as an eagerness to return to a routine.
The feeling always surprises me, because I have an uneasy relationship with routines, habits and planning.
We all are entrenched in habits and routines, of course, even if we remain largely unaware of them. We road map our workweeks and our lives to greater or lesser degrees of success. We may do things the way we do them because we like them that way or because we simply don’t know a better way to be. We stop noticing where we accommodate and make extra work for ourselves because the routines are so automatic and self-propelling.
Travel is great because it knocks us out of those routines and gives us a chance to ask if those routines are really serving us. Often the disruption of travel can open up new ways of thinking and living.
But travel can also point out what works about our home-based habits. At the end of a long trip, many people are anxious for their own bed, or their own shower. They can’t wait to read the morning paper at their own breakfast table or cook their favorite foods.
Me? I just want to make my own cup of (strong) coffee first thing in the morning, without having to wait for everyone else to be ready for breakfast.
More than these small creature comforts though, I’ve been thinking about how constructively-designed routines can make our lives simpler and more productive. How minimizing decisions frees up both time and mental energy for other creative projects. How not running around like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off might be the first step in learning to stay.
I don’t have the answers on how to do this, but it has been on my mind and the minds of others I’ve been chatting with recently. While no one wants to be dull or rigid, I think many of us are beginning to realize that a scattershot approach to life may be just as limiting as a closed-off point of view. By automating even a few routines, we leave room for serendipity, headspace for joy and fertile soil for new ideas.
All things that, ironically, I travel to create.
Picture taken by me at MKE,
where, I must say, the TSA lines were
short and as pleasant as such things can be expected to be.