Escaping Routine in Anna Bay

Buffalo artwork at Spectrum Cafe
Pressure’s on.

One of the reasons I travel is to escape routine.

Ironic, then, that routine is one of the things I miss when I’m on the move. For example, I recognize that I have an unusual (or so I’m told) obsession with breakfast. Every day I eat a bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon, coconut, chopped walnuts, bananas, and almond milk, even in the hot summer. I will be late to work before I miss out on breakfast.

Brunch, though – I’ve got no problems mixing it up there. Eggs Benedict, waffles, crepes; I’ll eat it all.

Anyway, this isn’t a post about breakfast, but I guess it’s easy to get sidetracked when you’re talking about your passions.

My point is, when I’m traveling my routines are not so easy to come by. I come to miss luxuries like having a full shelf in the pantry dedicated to baking, keeping my clothes in a closet, rearranging furniture, and hanging pictures on the wall.

The trade off is worth it, of course, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss those things. They aren’t the parts of the routine I’m trying to avoid but they do become the casualties of a traveling lifestyle.

When you are in a routine, it is easy to forget that you have the power to shake it up, anytime. For some people, this is second nature. For others, myself included, it takes effort. Spontaneity can quickly become a casualty of routine if you aren’t paying attention.

On Sunday morning, Jared was off work and we had no plans. The sun was shining and Australia beckoned.

“Maybe we’ll go up the coast,” Jared suggested. “To the bay.”

“Maybe we will,” I said. “It’s not that far.”

Port Stephens is less than an hour north of Newcastle, a stretch of beaches and nature reserves that we very rarely visit.

“We’d miss the market,” he said.

The weekend farmers markets are a weekly ritual in our household. If we didn’t go, we wouldn’t have any fruit and vegetables. Consequently, we’d have to come up with some Other Plan. It reeked of effort – we could just go to the beach down the road.

Or we could go to the small but friendly fruit shop in Carrington, our very own neighborhood, just for the week.

Half an hour later, surfboards strapped into the truck and windows rolled down, I couldn’t believe we’d almost stayed home out of a sense of obligation to our routine. We drove to One Mile Beach, just north of Anna Bay and 15 minutes shy of Port Stephens.

The winter waves weren’t perfect, but they weren’t rough either – great conditions for a perpetual beginner like me. We surfed until the cold started to seep into our wetsuits, then loaded up the truck and chose a lunch spot at random, a cafe we’d never heard of.

The brief menu listed items from Spectrum’s own organic garden; I ordered the pulled pork and Jared got the falafel wrap. We sat outside and listened to the live musician, sucking down milkshakes (chocolate for me, always vanilla for Jared) and demolished our food.

Milkshake at Spectrum Cafe
Again please.

It sounds kind of ridiculous, that something as simple as driving up the coast was all I needed to regain a sense of balance between routine and adventure. I know how lucky I am to live so close to the beach (believe me, after growing up in landlocked Indy I know), but no matter where you are, the shine begins to wear off once you stick around long enough.

Travel has taught me how important it is to make anomalies part of the routine; to leave room for last minute plans. I usually do a good job of keeping that in my life, but I still need reminders that striking a balance between the familiar and the unknown is always the key to my happiness.

That, and breakfast.

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