I certainly talk a lot about food here on TLT.
But food is only one of the ways we can discover the habits of another culture, and step out of our own familiar routines. Another one is sound: for example, exchanging your city life with electric-appliance-hum, police sirens, and random yelling people for quiet and crickets and birds (yes, that’s a raven, and yes, they got very close).
Another way, that often comes with sound, is scale. I live in Washington, DC, where there are no skyscrapers, parks are squeezed into whatever space they can keep (except for the Mall, of course), and there are suburbs as far as the eye can see.. which is not far, because of all the developed land. Take me out of that environment and plop me into a forest high above a valley, and I have the chance to become a different person.
Yosemite National Park, where I visited this July, is a familiar place to me. My family has gone there for summer reunions since time immemorial (at least in my lifetime) every few years. Even though it’s familiar, I learn.
With the valley floor that far below me (over 7,000 feet down, or 2,200 meters), I seize a feeling of expansiveness and freedom, like being let out of a cage. While I do my best to keep my creative machine going while I toil away in D.C., when all the restraints fall away in a setting like this, it’s easier to see what your life looks like, what’s working, what’s not. In a sense, you’re stepping out of your life when you go on vacation, and from there you can examine ‘how the plane is being flown,’ without having to ‘fly the plane.’
One of my favorite themes here at TLT is delight, and delight is one of the benefits of getting out of the routine. Sure, you can feel the satisfaction of a job well-done when you accomplish a task or project, but delight implies a bit of surprise: you admit there are things in the world that you don’t know about and you don’t control, and sometimes they sneak up on you and delight your senses. Sometimes I can find this on walks around D.C. when seasons are changing, and this is my intentional stab at routine-smashing while at home.
The Pocono Trail weaves between forest cover and rock promontory as it winds from Glacier Point to the Wawona Tunnel near the Yosemite Valley floor, and one of the scenes that gave me the most delight was the forest-filtered light hitting this silvery-green ground cover.
Besides sound and scale, there is a third change of scene that will recharge your batteries and refresh your mindset: different people!
I don’t encounter a lot of little kids in my daily rounds, so connecting and spending time with my niece and nephews made me think differently (“No, I don’t suppose that table edge WILL taste good.”). And even though they were rowdy and always in motion, kids can give you occasional moments of quiet, where you feel balanced, collected, at peace…
…when you’re tired and a little cold from swimming in the water-hole of the Merced River, but feel alive and connected to the late-afternoon golden sunshine, the tamped-down path trod by other Wawona vacationers, the breeze bending the rye, and these two people walking in front of you.
This trip to Yosemite was a nice break. I connected with people, disconnected from ‘real life’ (more to come on that in future posts), and took the space I found with me.
What helps you get out of your routine, either at home, or while traveling? Do you have criteria to add to the list? Let us know by leaving a comment!
And a special welcome to readers who have come via A Dangerous Business, where I guest posted today- thanks for checking out Taste Life Twice!