Embracing the Unfamiliar

I love the familiar.  I like routines. I get up at 5:30, check email, read for a bit, wash my hair, get dressed, leave for work at 6:45.  You get the picture. I love holidays and the way we serve the same foods on the same plates to the same people in the same way.  I like the rhythm that goes with our family events. On birthdays, we always decorate the birthday person’s chair, serve their favorite breakfast (which always includes a few candles and some singing, of course),  then open cards followed by gifts. I guess all of this familiarity makes me feel safe. I feel like I know how this goes. I know what’s coming. There won’t be too many surprises.

I love to travel. I know this sounds a bit counterintuitive, but what I love most about traveling is that it hurls me into the unfamiliar. Suddenly there is no routine, I don’t know how to get around, the food and sometimes even the language are unfamiliar.  (During a recent trip to Italy, I wasn’t even able to order a cup of coffee! I asked for a “Cafe latte, per favore.” and ended up with a cup of hot milk! Traveling pushes me to try new things, to be brave, to be uncomfortable, to outgrow myself. It energizes me.

This week my husband and I traveled to Charleston, South Carolina.  We had to completely depend on my sister and her husband to get around (They live just outside the city.).  We ate new foods (I even ate a baked oyster, and I really don’t like oysters, but it tasted OK!). We were on a completely different kind of schedule. My sister and her husband are both self-employed, so their schedule goes something like this:  Wake up early and do some work. Cook and eat a big breakfast. Work for another hour. Head to the beach for a long walk with the dog. Come home. Work a bit more. Run a few errands. Head out to show us some sites. Come home. Put in another hour or so of work. Make some dinner. Watch the news. Eat. Watch a movie. Sleep. This rhythm was so completely foreign to the way my husband and I live and work. It forced me to completely let go of the familiar and embrace the unfamiliar.  It was hard. It was a bit uncomfortable. I had to push myself to do it, but once I did, it set me free!

As you might imagine, I do love coming home and falling back into the supportive arms of familiarity, but I’m already looking forward to our next trip where I can embrace the unfamiliar once again!

9 thoughts on “Embracing the Unfamiliar”

  1. Your post got me thinking about the rhythm of our family events… that line stuck with me. We do have a certain way things go- I like that.
    It’s sounds like you found the rhythm in your unfamiliar schedule while on vacation!

  2. This is a true slice of your life; it would be interesting to write again about your routines a year later, to see if they’ve changed any. We were just discussing the importance of routine at school, the safety children feel when they know what to expect from their days, and how often that gets disrupted. Does this build flexibility or uncertainty? One could argue both…

  3. I liked reading about your experience out of your usual routine. I especially like the anticipation for the next opportunity to step out of the every day life.

  4. I love “supportive arms of familiarity” I think it’s those supportive arms that give us the confidence to seek and embrace the unfamiliar! Really cool way to frame your trip to SC! Thanks for sharing!

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