Break the Routine
…travel formed me as much as my formal education. – David Rockefeller You’re stuck in a routine: hanging out with the same friends, rotating through the same trails, doing the same outdoor sports, following a weekly pattern of work, chores, then play. There’s nothing wrong with routine; it brings stability. I had to learn that a portion of that can be a healthy thing, a way to ground yourself, before I was able to accept it in my own life.
I lived from my car for three years, traveling North America. There was nothing routine about what I did, except the way I got ready for the day or prepped my car or tent for sleeping at night. Other than that, the schedule was open; sometimes I’d ski or climb, sometimes I’d hike or mountain bike, sometimes I’d just drive, or I might stay still and write. It was my choice. The wide open days, the opportunity to decide in the morning what the rest of the day would hold, even the act of traveling taught me a lot about myself and my place in the world. After a couple of years roving around, I started wanting stability. So I headed to a place where I didn’t think I could ever run out of adventure, and where my eyes never felt bored: British Columbia. Even there, though, I settled into a routine. My life certainly wasn’t all adventure; I had rent to pay, utilities, actual food to put in that fridge I suddenly had in my full-size kitchen.
And with routine comes comfort.
The comfort zone is never where I claimed to live — in fact, I fought against it and challenged others to do the same. But to suddenly have a place to sleep that didn’t require worrying if someone was going to try to break into my car, well, that was nice. After about a year of living in this comfort, it was shaken off; at least to a degree. At the prompting of another (my mom), I am now on a road trip again. Though my mother had a specific destinations in mind, I am in charge of the route. I picked a route that would help her experience a portion of what I did while traveling, as well as allow me a second chance to check out a few spots I missed. The days are open, hikes unplanned, nothing but the midway stop is known. We have hiked in places neither of us has seen and took the advice from others on views we shouldn’t miss. We talked to strangers and learned about their take on the world— well, at least as much as you can while hiking alongside them on a trail, or while stopping for lunch beside them.
Revisiting a life that taught me to be flexible, resilient, and to explore the land is helping me break out of my corner of the world that I became comfortable in. And after I return home next week, complacency will be at least a little shaken. I’ll still have my bills to pay, a nonprofit to run, my writing to do. But I’ll see my surroundings differently, take new trails, and look for the opportunities to open myself to others’ views of the world. Take a break from your corner of the world. Instead of using your weekend — or heck, your two-week vacation — to catch up on chores and do the routine trip to Yellowstone or a beach in California, head somewhere unknown. Plan as little as possible; let the lives and land of your destination dictate what your day holds. You will come back richer for breaking out of the routine.