The Tempting Resting Place of Routine

Diwali Trip_MG_2334November 09, 2012
The view from the top of Wat Arun in Bangkok, Thailand. Speaking of being a tourist, we seem to be on a quite pathetic “one cultural site per visit” schedule when it comes to Bangkok. Which should probably tell you something. Whether it’s that we’re horrible tourists or that the food in Bangkok is just THAT good, I’m not sure.

There’s a wall we drive by on our way to INA market. Underneath a new flyover, the wall is slowly decaying, becoming less and less wall and more and more a bit player gradually taking on a larger role in the piles of rubble and refuse beyond, once hidden from view.

At one point in the wall, there is a near perfect circle missing–a person-sized opening a few feet between the top and the bottom of the wall. It looks like the sort of thing that might exist in a jailbreak scene of a movie–if a screenwriter could only ever achieve the suspension of disbelief required to think no one would notice a man-sized hole in a stone wall.

Every time we drive pass–at least once a week–I think to myself that I should get out of the car and stop to take pictures of that hole in the wall and then, just as quickly, I tell myself “next time.” Today Will is too tired, I’m too tired, there is a dinner to be made and emails to be answered waiting for us at home.

After 3 months in Delhi, I’ve reached a level of familiarity and comfort with our surroundings that makes it so tempting to forget how very little of this city.

The beautiful thing about those first few months in a new place is that everything counts as an adventure. Going to the grocery store is exciting, visiting the market is an adventure, even shopping for a bag of pipe-cleaners counts as an legitimately cultural outing because it’s all new and it’s all educational.

But it is so easy to confuse comfort with knowledge and experience with exploration. It’s so easy to find a few favorite haunts around the city and then let myself get comfortable, let go of the sense of urgency to explore and drink in as many sights, sounds and as much understanding as I possibly can from this place. Once the memories of that first night in a strange bed and the mountains of moving boxes fade, I forget just how quickly the time will fly before we’re back in boxes with the promise of another strange bed waiting for us in another new, strange place.

There’s a tricky balance to satisfying both the daily obligations of real life and the potentially once-in-a-lifetime adventures we have when we don’t worry about the traffic, get out the door and try something new.

We’re here a lot longer than the backpackers who pass through Delhi in the thousands at this time of year–and we certainly come with a lot more baggage–but those things are deceiving. As I’ve written before, being here longer doesn’t necessarily mean we understand or appreciate this city any better than they do. Staying for longer than the average tourist doesn’t count for much if we spend the majority of our time here at the same half a dozen places we’ve been frequenting since almost the day we arrived.

I’m a creature of habit, specifically the maybe next time” habit, but I’m trying to change. I have dinners to make, bills to pay, closets to tidy and a toddler to take to the park, of course. But there’s also that hole in the wall on the way to INA, among many other things, still waiting to be photographed–and there is only two years this time around to do it.


11 thoughts on “The Tempting Resting Place of Routine

  1. I totally hear you! However, I’m the one who gets very restless every few weeks and wants to do seomthing else. The hubby would rather stay home, go swimming and have a relaxed weekend. That’s why we balance each other perfectly hahah.

    • I think for the working spouse it’s harder-they like to get their downtime after having to be wiht people in an office all day all week whereas for us it’s more of the opposite!

  2. I was just thinking the same thing! And how I’ve planned all these trips outside of Laos. On the one hand I definitely don’t want to miss out on all there is to experience in this country. On the other, there’s always this nagging itch for something different than what I’m already familiar with here. Looking forward to your photo of that wall 😉

    • See you are so good though! You seem to get lots of local travel and siteseeing in. I feel like I’m not bad when it comes to the travel but the day to day stuff–I’m afraid I stick too much to the stores I like, the markets I like, the weekend activities I like instead of getting out and trying new things. It’s nice to return to our favorites but I’m trying to make a greater effort to make sure we don’t do the same things ove rand over again because they are easy for us to do.

      • Well from the outside looking in (through your blog), you do the same. You seem to be out every weekend and getting out during the week, too, with Will in tow. I know because I look forward to your posts afterward. I think we’re just driven to do a lot. In addition to “seeing” things, I’m also trying to learn how certain traditional things are done, like folding money into the triangles filled with rice that they throw during the string tying ceremony or how they make the folded banana leaf offerings adorned with flowers. These are ways that we can stay connected to the culture despite already feeling familiar.

        Btw, forgot to mention that when I travel to where the food is so good, cultural sites be damned, ha!

      • Yes! The cultural things! That’s what I feel like I’m really after but I’m failing at. Those understandings are the things that make living in a place feel rich and meaningful. I was just telling Chris the other day that I want to try making it a habit to read at least a few books on the history or anthropology of whatever country we are living in as well as make sure that if i meet someone who os willing to chat with me about what they do or how they live or what they think that i really take the time to stop and ask questions instead of hurrying along.

  3. “But it is so easy to confuse comfort with knowledge and experience with exploration. It’s so easy to find a few favorite haunts around the city and then let myself get comfortable, let go of the sense of urgency to explore and drink in as many sights, sounds and as much understanding as I possibly can from this place.”

    Exactly. We’ve only been at post two months, but already I’m battling my homebody tendencies to stay in. I think we’re doing a good job seeing new things — both within the city that is our temporary home and out of town — and balancing the downtime that we introverts (my husband and I both) need. I’m constantly feeling this sense of urgency/guilt like, “I can’t believe we’ve lived here [insert number of days/weeks/months] and we still haven’t been to [insert cultural site/restaurant/other destination]!” But then I think about all we have done and the places we have been, and I feel better.

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