Switchin’ it up (reducing life’s routine)

Utah stateline

I’ll admit it. I would love to be taking giant bike adventures all the time. But of course, life is definitely not always a giant bike adventure. Sometimes, life is a routine. And sometimes, in that routine, it seems like the same sorts of things happen in the same sorts of ways in the same sorts of places, over and over.

In short, sometimes, things get boring.

I really dislike those times. If I were feeling particularly dramatic, I might call them the bane of my existence. And while it’s true that I may be especially sensitive to (i.e. annoyed by) routine and I may get especially grumpy about it, I think this applies to some extent to everyone: sometimes, you just have to switch things up.

But how?

Lots of ways. I’ve been thinking about this lately because it seems like this year I’m going to have much less time conducive to epic bike travel, so I’m trying to preemptively seed my life with mini adventures. This, I hope, will help allay the wanderlust that I can never truly get ride of. And while grand adventures to exotic and beautiful places are always welcome, a range of mini adventures in my own city, approached with an adventurous spirit, can be — I hope — just as fulfilling. That’s my theory, anyway; we’ll see how it goes this year:)

So how to switch things up without massive travel? I’d love to hear your ideas, since I’m still definitely working on this, but here are some thoughts I have so far:

1. Switch your schedule

I’m lucky that within certain confines I have a lot of autonomy with my schedule — so I can sometimes opt to work earlier than usual, or stay later than usual, or even switch around the days I have to be there. This is a remarkable help in not feeling like I’m doing the same thing all the time.

But even without that, I can always choose to get up earlier. The sneak-it-in bike ride or walk or run or phone conversation or whatever, the thing that I manage to squeak in before my normal obligations, always gives me a thrill. Enough of them strung together, I’m hoping, will make life in general feel like more of an adventure.

Mt Tabor fog(a sneak-it-in and magical morning walk to Mt Tabor:)

2. Switch your route

One of my favorite ways to get rid of a grump is to just start biking, and then make a turn that I normally wouldn’t — then I can follow random bicycle wayfinding signs to see where the Portland bikeways take me. (This is a great advantage to having a fairly comprehensive bike network, being able to follow a whole interconnected web of nicely bikeable streets.) Almost always, I end up finding things I didn’t know existed. Which is a great antidote to the feeling that everything is the same old same old.

Yes. This often means that my ride home is waaaay longer than it would have been. But that’s sort of the point.

3. Switch your company

In the course of daily life, I often see the same people over and over. Sometimes that’s because it’s the person I’ve, say, chosen to spend my life with, and it’s awesome that I see him over and over. Sometimes they’re the people I work with, who I really like but certainly didn’t choose.  Or sometimes they’re the people who work at the grocery store by my house, or the other people that become familiar because we have similar routines.

So something I’ve been into lately is trying to reach out to the people I really like but who I don’t necessarily run into unless I make a concerted effort. Conversations with inspiring people who have different perspectives are always a good idea. And no, I’m not advocating for replacing the people I already know with new and more exciting people. Rather, I’d like to be more intentional about spending time with the people I want to be seeing instead of simply the people who I happen to run into.

walklandia(more of these people in my life, please:)

4. Switch your habits

For weeks, I will happily make oatmeal every morning for breakfast, and then one day find that the idea of eating oatmeal makes me suddenly and irrationally angry. That’s the time to eat something else for a while. Or sometimes, the idea of putting on my running shoes and going to Mt Tabor just makes me tired — then I know it’s time to run from work instead of from home.

It’d be easy to just give up on running for a while, or keep eating oatmeal and just be grumpy about it. But I’ve found that switching one little part of a routine, like where a run happens, or what a meal contains, often makes the whole thing fresh and exciting again, even if it is the same basic structure.

5. Switch what you think is possible

Last Tuesday, I noticed over at Urban Adventure League that Shawn and his friend Brad were planning to camp at Oxbow Regional Park that night. Though I work on Tuesdays, I have Wednesdays free right now, so it was conceivable that I join them, so long as I was willing to make the 2ish-hour ride out there in the dark.

Normally, I wouldn’t have even thought about camping in the middle of the week, especially since I don’t get off work on Tuesdays until about 6:30, after it’s been dark for like 2 hours already. That seems like a pretty late start to a bike-camping trip in the middle of winter. Especially since I still had to go home and pack. BUT the fact that Shawn and Brad were already going to be out there with a campsite all picked out and everything made it seem that much more possible. I packed in a super-hurry, then relished the increasingly peaceful ride out under the winter stars, getting to Oxbow just before 9. And the next morning, how rad was it to get up in the woods and spend a whole day exploring the Sandy River? Thanks to the little extra push from Shawn and Brad, something that I hadn’t even considered doing before seemed not only possible but plausible. I definitely need more of that in my life.

Sandy River(the lovely Sandy River)

6. Switch what you notice (i.e see the city through a visitor’s eyes) (i.e. learn something new)

Writ a bit differently, this is sort of my new year’s resolution, to stay engaged with Portland the way I engage with the new places I travel through. You know when you’re visiting someplace for only a day or two so you want to make absolutely sure you don’t waste a single second of your precious trip? When you want to gobble up as much knowledge and experience as possible in your finite time?

Because Portland is always here, it’s so easy to take it for granted and forget that life is a finite amount of time. Even if I’m “just” at home, there is still an infinite world of knowledge, adventure, and wonder to find, and there’s still a finite amount of time in which to find it. I’m reminded of this whenever a particularly interested person comes to visit and asks all these great questions that I’d never thought about because it’s so easy to stop seeing my own city as a place to be discovered. I want to keep discovering. And that, I think, will also go a long way to making daily life feel like an adventure.

7. Your ideas?

Like I said, this is an evolving list. Anything you do to keep life interesting and new? I want to hear it, because I want to try it:) Lay it on me.


  1. Mon remède pour cela, c’était toi et ton frère. Sans vous, ma vie aurait été…comme la tienne maintenant. Il aurait fallu chercher le meaning, changer la routine, varier constamment pour chercher…quelquechose. Il n’y a pas de routine, si on aide un enfant à grandir et à apprendre. Chaque jour est fascinant! :-)

    Re: “Switch what you notice” — il n’y a rien comme l’expérience de voir le monde à travers les yeux d’un enfant! Rien de routine là. :-)

    • heh. I didn’t mean that my life doesn’t have meaning, I mean that I really dislike it when I let myself fall into too much of a routine. I think if we had kids I would be waaaaaay grumpier about being locked into a schedule (among other things). Which is why I like to borrow others’! :) I think I do a pretty darn good job of keeping it interesting; what I mean here is simply that without as much longer travel/adventure this year, I’m looking for ways to have lots of little adventures that hopefully add up to the feeling of longer travel.

    • Though now that I think about it, damn, having kids sure is a PERMANENT way to switch up the routine! heh. Until having kids IS the routine;)

  2. I like to change the coffee shop I go to in the morning. It’s a small thing but it also means that I take a different way to work and that I get a different breed of caffeination.

    • heh. You know, a lot of people have mentioned something similar to me:) Though I don’t have a morning-coffee habit, changing your coffee shop seems a little like what I was talking about with the oatmeal, where you’re not changing the whole structure but making a little tweak within the structure that makes it seem fresh and exciting:)

      Thanks for the thought! And happy caffeinating! :)

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