We all have our routines. We go to certain restaurants, drive certain routes to work and support certain gas stations, where we know we’ll get a competitive price, a friendly response from the attendant and rapid service.
When we travel, everything changes. We sleep in unfamiliar beds, flick the channels on television stations where the stations aren’t the same numbers as they are on Long Island, and navigate along routes that aren’t our familiar pattern.
Breaking the routine offers us a chance to step away from our lives and to experience something new. Maybe we’ll go to a museum in a new city or visit a place we’ve seen in a movie, which blends both the familiar and the unknown.
Our level of adventure and appetite for risk — as in, what happens if I don’t like the experience — can rise or fall depending on our travel companions.
Recently, I visited another city for a weekend with my daughter, who was traveling with a group of her teenage contemporaries and their parents. We all managed to get to our designated stops in our cars and to return to a hotel chain so ubiquitous that, with the blinds closed and without access to the local weather on TV, we could have been in Anywhere, USA.
We each had a GPS and an address for our activities which reduced both the stress and the adventure that came from the unknown.
While we could have gotten lost, the probability of that seemed slim. Getting lost, nerve-racking as it might have been 20 years ago, is almost an impossibility with navigation systems built into cars, phones and watches.
Following an afternoon activity, several of the girls decided they were hungry. One of the members of the group suggested a national pizza chain, to which the others readily agreed.
I wrinkled my brow at the suggestion and wondered, as a cellphone order was quickly placed, whether we might want to try a local pizza restaurant instead.
“No, that’s OK,” I was assured. “This will be better.”
I waited in a packed car until the order was placed, at which point the girl in the back transferred the address to her mother, who was riding shotgun during my weekend away with my daughter.
“Honey,” the mom said, “are you sure you dialed the closest restaurant?”
“Yes,” the daughter grumbled, shaking her head at her mother.
“I just checked the address for this restaurant and it’s two hours from here. You sure you want a pizza that far away?”
“Wait, what?” the daughter said, double-checking the address and the phone. Sure enough, the restaurant was on the other side of the state.
“Wait, before you order from a closer one,” I said, as she was already searching her phone for a nearby restaurant, “we’re sitting right outside a pizza restaurant. Don’t you want to try this one?”
“No, thanks,” she said, trying to be polite to someone else’s parent. “We want this one.”
When we got to the closer restaurant, we ran into another parent who was picking up pizza for his family. With so many other local choices, how did both families make the identical choice?
I suppose they might have discussed their food preference during the day. That was unlikely, given the social split in the group.
Alternatively, they have become so accustomed to the familiar that they prefer it, even when traveling.
I suppose when the opportunity for something new and different knocks, people don’t always feel the urge to answer the door.