Late last night, I finished three very full days of travel for work. Besides the usual inconveniences, on the whole it was a good trip and we accomplished what we set out to do without major incident. I am glad to be home.
While thinking about things I do and don’t enjoy about traveling, I confirmed something I had thought about for several months: I am a creature of routine, which for me is a good thing. With my temperament, I like to know what to expect and I prefer my days fairly scheduled. I don’t always welcome surprises in my schedule.
Traveling, especially with a group, of necessity breaks my normal schedule. Each day on my recent trip, we were up early and out late (by my standards), causing my morning routine to be severely truncated. I knew it would be and I planned for it as best I could, but I cannot imagine living my days in such a fashion. I have increasing sympathy for older individuals who prefer to stay at home with their routine rather than travel. I think there might be something to it besides just being “old and set in their ways.”
Being set in your ways is no fault at all if you have cultivated good ways. In a society that places an inordinate amount of value on being flexible and adaptable, it is counter-cultural to be habitual. As I have reflected on these pages recently, pursuing good habits is a means of sanctification.
I would not mind traveling so much if I could do it on my own schedule—keeping most of my normal routine and inserting “travel” into the parts normally reserved for work. However, I have yet to find traveling companions keen on such a “slow” schedule. Since this type of schedule would create low-density days in terms of covering ground, and since we value efficiency and “getting the most out of our travel dollar,” I have resigned myself to not expect to travel in such a manner anytime soon. Perhaps when I retire.
What does all this rambling have to do with developing Christ-likeness? To some degree, the way we travel reveals some things about us, especially when we get to choose how we travel. It reveals our priorities and what is important to us.
Trying to carry routine into vacation is not always good and we tend to rightly look askance at someone who can’t unplug from work while on holiday with family. That notwithstanding, I don’t see value in using a trip as a reason to disconnect from our regula, our patterns of devotion. We should still engage in morning and evening prayer. As much as possible, we should seek a parish to worship in on Sundays. We should not go on vacation in order to get away from God. As disciples, if we are working to fashion our lives into a series of disciplines to develop holiness within, we should cling to those routines.
Christ-likeness is the goal, not our routines in and of themselves, but it is hard to cultivate growth in anything without habitual effort. We must guard against busyness and other assaults upon our training in holiness. Ideally, we ought to be able to lay our routines aside for a few days and “stay the course” out of the habits of character we have cultivated, but those times should be few lest we slip into lethargy and lose that which we have gained.