The Little Things

Routine is a luxury. When you’re changing countries, changing rooms, living out of a backpack, a routine is difficult to establish and maintain. I tend to travel in spurts—weeks and months go by without ever fully unpacking—but occasionally I’ll stay in a place long enough to stack my books, hang my clothes, and use my oft-buried moisturizer. I lived in Cambodia, in Bulgaria, in Turkey, and now, I’m living in Thailand.
I’m volunteering and teaching here on an isolated campus 45 minutes from the next town. Beside teaching and preparing my lessons, my days are entirely my own and I have eagerly grabbed this opportunity to establish my favorite luxury—a routine. Every day I wake up early, do some yoga asanas and meditate. I eat fruit, plentiful tropical fruit, for breakfast. I prepare for my lessons, I teach, I write. And every day I run.
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Rambutan tree in season
I head out as the sun sets, as the sky dances with color and the thick air releases the heat. I run on a gravel and mud path, splashing through  puddles created each day by the insistent and unpredictable rain. I run past hibiscus plants, banana palms, orchids. I turn a corner and run under a canopy of cashew trees and I look down at the path in front of me riddled with gray crescent-moon cashew shells. I turn another corner and now I’m dodging branches laden with rambutan. The lower fruit is tentacled with green spindly arms but the rambutan in the higher sundrenched branches is red. A truck passes, heading into the fruit orchard I’ve left behind. A man riding in the pickup smiles and bows to me and I smile back, putting my hands together and bowing my head in response. It’s not the first time we’ve passed each other.
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Shriveled cashew nuts in the shell
By now, my body is loose and my pace quickens and I watch the track in front of me. A line of giant ants, their bulbous jet black bodies tottering on long stilt-like legs, crosses the path diagonally. If it’s not too muddy I see them here every day, always crossing in the same place, always heading in the same direction. I wonder absentmindedly where they are going, but then the scenery changes and my mind is fluid and my thoughts are too slippery to hold on to. What am I thinking about as my feet pound the rain-soaked ground, as I leap over the one puddle which consumes the entire path?  I am consumed by the rhythm of my body, of my feet and my breath and my pulsing blood. I round another corner and begin the most uneven stretch of my run. Each day on this stretch the puddles shift; they move and shrink and expand with the fierce sunshine and the intermittent rain. So each day I weave between them, forging a new zigzagging path. Then, with sweat droplets peppering my face and splatters of grit peppering my legs, I run up the broken sidewalk toward my room. Instead of feeling relief that the run is over, as I used to do, I bound up the concrete stairs, dancing a little at the rhythm still playing in my head.
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Banana palm with a hanging purple banana flower
In my travels I generally prefer to never take the same path twice. When faced with a decision, I tend to operate on the Principle of Least Opportunity (don’t bother googling it, my friend Justin coined the phrase) which states that when faced with more than one option, you should choose the one you may never have the opportunity of taking again. Yet these days I sleep in the same bed and wake at the same time. I leap the same puddle, wai (bow to) the same man, and dodge the same ants as I go for my daily run. I revel in the little changes, the shifting puddles, of my daily life and ensconce myself in the luxury of routine.


  1. dad says pittas love routines. i love them too, but after a while need to blow them away and free-fall for a while (not the drug kind of free-falling!!!). then it is back to routines. routines add direction and bliss to my life, free falling adds fun.
    your article is very sweet. i can feel the contentment and bliss.

  2. A blissfull Break ... Keep enjoying it, Sarah.

  3. I'm back on the internet after a month long break up a mountain - I see I have a lot of catching up to do! Oooh what fun, catching up on Sarah's blog! :)

    I will be heading East at a quicker pace starting from September. Still in South-West Turkey now!

    Jo xx