Finding Routine in Spontaneity

Like most people who travel, we were craving an escape from the responsibilities of daily life. The constant grind that wears you down slowly like the bending bristles in a toothbrush. Iceland was our escape. My boyfriend, Greg, and I had both visited before and it was calling us back. The land of fire and ice isn’t the first place one might think to go in the dead of winter but we were feeling adventurous. Our plan? For two weeks we would move as fast or slow as the Arctic wind blew us while camping our way around the country.

The next two weeks were spent navigating to tiny dots on our map, stopping at every waterfall, beach or view we just couldn’t pass up, and meeting up with locals and friends. Lucky for me and my numb toes, we also spent the rest of our nights hopping from Airbnb to hotel to guesthouse. As much as I was relieved to sleep inside away from the cold, I was also secretly excited to brush my teeth in a sink, go to the bathroom inside and read by the light of a bedside lamp. As the days went on, I was craving coffee shop hangouts before long days of driving. I looked forward to cooking dinner in a kitchen whenever they were available. In these small moments I found routine in the spontaneous, unplanned frenzy of our days. In these familiar moments I also found comfort.

While sinking into a food coma after dinner one night, Greg turned to me and said, “I’m tired.” From his eyes I could tell it wasn’t in reference to sleep deprivation. I was feeling it too. It was the kind of tired that happens when you’re on the go so much it leaves you feeling ungrounded and exhausted.

Some people thrive on the go, go, go. While it’s fun for a while, we often can get worn out and overwhelmed by the constant movement and immense beauty of the places we go. Greg and I were feeling overstimulated and swept up in the grandiosity of our 3000 km circumnavigation of Iceland.  I realized that those small routine moments I found myself craving were times of rest for my body and mind. They were times I could collect my thoughts and focus my energy on the moment at hand instead of the ever changing landscape that moved fast outside the car window.

Humans are creatures of habit, and a lot of us need a bit of mindless routine to recharge at moments throughout the day. Making a morning cup of coffee. Catching up on the daily news. Washing up before bed. Even on a trip where the goal is to escape the every day grind, it’s important not to deprive ourselves of what bring us familiarity and comfort. The moments not often captured by a camera lens or written about in our journal. Next time you’re being pushed around by the whirlwind of travel, work or life, know that it’s okay to take a break and lean into familiar habits to help keep you going.

Words by Steph Wright. Photos by Steph Wright and Greg Balkin.