Routine is Deadly, Create your own Happy Maps

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Logic will take you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.

Albert Einstein

How often does the busyness of life dictate that we get from A to B via the shortest possible route?

We are so conditioned to shaving time off travel and maximizing our days that routine becomes the norm. Routine certainly has its place, its predictable, familiar and allows us to slip into automaticity. We can zone out because we are on familiar ground.

I love routine. Well, that’s not entirely true. I used to really thrive on routine and structure. I had every part of my life so very structured that it “flowed” without hiccough. After years and years of this and losing myself in the sameness of each day I started to branch out and seek little moments of beauty, change and difference. I chose joy over the safety of monotony.

imageDaniele Quercia gave a really cool TED talk entitled Happy Maps. Who wouldn’t want to listen to a talk with that title, right? As an inner city bike rider he got to thinking about how our mobile devices and GPS’s provide us with the simplest route between A and B, often this is the shortest route. By accident one day he veered off the simple route and discovered a quiet, un-trafficked road. Prompted by this discovery he is creating an app that offers users an option to the simple path – the most enjoyable path. He plans to offer different paths: the happiest path, the most beautiful path or the quietest path between two points. Decisions are based on random sampling of the public. What a smashing idea!

Daniele’s talk made me realise I’ve been doing this intuitively the last few weeks. Having begun in a new workplace I have an interesting journey to work. No longer do I turn up to a workplace with a designated car park. Now I park a good fifteen-minute walk from my building. This was initially a shock to my system. But the beauty of this current situation strikes me each day.

Not only has an old routine been changed, I now have so many routes from car to work available to me that I’m constantly changing things up to suit my mood, the weather and to account for the different times of day and foot traffic. I can make decisions based on the quietest path, the most relaxing (with green space) the funkiest option past groovy bookstores, cafes and neat architecture. There is one highlight of my daily journey that never changes. I pass by the Conservatorium of Music and by some amazing feat of engineering, whether by design or otherwise, there is a spot on the footpath where, by way of a piece of metal decoration, chamber music from within is channeled onto the street. Each afternoon I receive strange stares from passersby who wonder at my loitering on the street. Obviously they have not discovered the beauty and wonder of this seemingly anaesthetic piece of sidewalk.

Another afternoon I was delighted by a simple discovery. Instead of turning right out of my building I went left and around the block and came across a sight I’ve not see before. For twenty-five years I have seen a Brisbane landmark, the needle, towering over buildings from many locations. Imagine my surprise to find myself at its base for the first time in a quarter of a century. Incredible. Yes, yes, I know small things do excite me!

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Quercia, in his address, implores listeners to avoid the danger of the simple path, he encourages us to escape the fabricated world and experience our journeys.

Embracing change is hard when routine is habitual but hey life is too short to lose ourselves in the monotonous, the mundane, the simple path. Just one day a week go a different way. Stop to look at the way the buildings are placed in the landscape, check out that piece of public art you pass each day without noticing, browse the window display in the bookshop on the way. If you are driving do all this with care and caution of course.

Go well. Choose your own happy maps. Create change in your life. It really is as good as a holiday.

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Walking the pages of the world

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

Saint Augustine.  

They say once you’ve travelled you get bitten by the bug. I love to travel, with all its wonders and its difficulties. Every  couple of years now I head off on a new adventure away from my homeland and in doing so I have found a greater appreciation for the world,  its people and their cultures . I have also developed a deep love and respect for my own country as a result of leaving to explore the world.

Like St Augustine and many others, travel for me puts so very much into perspective and reminds me that there is so much more than my own existence.  I love too, that at any time I can simply close my eyes and revisit the places I have been and relive the sights, the sounds and the experiences I had while there. It is as Conroy claims;

 “Once you have travelled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”

For all the joys travel brings there are also some small hurdles along the way that force one to really acknowledge the important things in life. Travel forces you to minimise, to adjust to change and difference and to make the most of every day despite the weather, language barriers and lack of home comforts. I’m not sure I totally agree with Cesare Pavese, the Italian poet and novelist, that travel is a ‘brutality’, although at times it can bang you up a bit.  It does however, force you to “trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”

I love that when I travel my whole life is contained in a backpack.  The knowledge that I can do with less is a wonder to me and I am grateful for the simple things; a soft patch of grass to sit and eat the figs bought at a market, the stranger who offered help with directions, the cool breeze that dries a wet shirt after a long hike.

The impact of travel is not subtle. These opportunities for exploration and discovery are about more than discovering places. They are also about discovering and unearthing more of myself. For me it makes great dents in my ego, it tests me, feeds, fulfils and reshapes me. Each time I go away I come back changed. I think Theroux got it right when he said;  “You go away for a long time and return a different person – you never come all the way back”