How Change in Routine Helps Me To Prioritize

On the most basic level, adventure of any kind forces a change of scenery, turns the tables on routine, and disrupts the usual day-to-day. Generally speaking, all of those concepts are a parent's nightmare when two small children are involved. It isn't always easy to break the forces of habit that tend to maintain normalcy, but it is always and inevitably a reward to pack up and push those limits.

Eleven days ago, my family and I hit the road towards our cacao farm in Rio Dulce, on the Caribbean coast of Guatemala. We are so lucky to have a beautifully simple, rustic and tropical farmhouse to stay in, built by my parents-in-law over 25 years ago.

There are screens for windows, a minimal stove-top burner, a small fridge, and no internet. I wash laundry by hand and hang it on the line to dry in the blazing sun, often disrupted by bursts of heavy tropical rain. There are spiders and ants and an occasional scorpion (seriously, not cool). Floor fans and mosquito nets become essentials for a good-night-sleep.

I'm always a little on edge those first 24 hours, worrying about work responsibilities, flinching at imaginary bugs, unpacking an excess of clothing, asking myself "why was this a good idea again?".

But then that first morning comes and the early morning sounds of the jungle rise to life. Birds of all songs, the gentle lapping of the lake. The kids sleeping deeply, limbs intertwined in the small shared twin bed next to ours. I'll gaze up at the thatched roof made by hand, or at the hardwood floors made with wood from our farm. I'm greeted by air plants and orchids and foliage of all species. My husband makes me a coffee and I'll head down to the dock for a stint, textile and book in hand, taking note of how lucky I am. Slowly but surely, the layers of my comfort zone begin to shed and I start to unwind.

Somehow we need less of everything and no one seems to notice. Work still gets done, just with a little less (unnecessary) intensity. The pace of life slows down and I become more aware of the fleeting light or the breeze or the funny conversation happening between my kids.

I'm always so grateful for change of pace because it is in those moments that I, for some reason, can more easily see my life from the outside in and I'm overcome with appreciation. I chalk this up to breaking out of my routine.

And now that we've finally made our way home to Antigua, my adorable, wild 2 and 5 year olds are a little browner, a little blonder, and the soles of their feet are a little bit tougher. I look at them and find relief in their sense of wonder and abandon that makes so many of those routines I rely on at home, feel less important.

What first felt slightly annoying and bothersome when we set off on our adventure, is now the exact thing I am thankful for: That my children took baths in rivers and lakes instead of the bath tub. Most of the time they were dirty and sandy and sweaty and happy. We let go of routines and habits and instead we went off rope swings and rode horses and boats. We enjoyed cacao and bananas and coconuts straight from the tree. We all learned a little bit more about what it means to live for experiences and to take risks and to say 'yes' and to make do.

And most of all, it makes me want to break my routine more often. Even if that means a day trip to the beach on a weekday, or having a sleepover in a tent with the kids in the garden. Because in the end, the memories that adventure inspires are priceless lessons on how to live in the present and love exactly where we are. And I firmly believe that when we can carry over this sentiment into our day-to-day lives, we are winning.

I'd love to know, do you experience the same realizations when you change up your routine? What do you do to help you shift focus and prioritize?