Taking the Road Less Traveled
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How one writer revitalized her daily commute by finding new paths

By Stephanie Georgopulos

 

I was in a rut, and it took my describing it to a friend to even realize it was happening. “Nothing is a surprise anymore, you know what I mean?” I said to S. “I know what’s going to happen before it happens, and how I’ll react when it does. It’s just…”

“Boring?” S. replied.

Exactly.

I’ve been acquainted with S. since I was 18, which means she knows me well enough to diagnose my problems over a 30-minute phone call or an instant message session. Now that she had given me my latest diagnosis, I needed a prescription.

“Well? What should I do?” I asked.

S. thought for a moment and then said, “I don’t know if this will help you, but I drive a different route to work every day. It keeps things interesting.” I wasn’t convinced, but I was intrigued. I decided to give it a go by plugging some alternate directions into my GPS, which you can do, too, with the available BringGo* in-dash navigation system on the 2013 Chevrolet Sonic, a car with big-time go-getter spirit and a healthy appetite for adventure.

I won’t tell you that taking a new path was a miracle cure. It did, however, produce some unforeseeable benefits that I’d recommend to anyone who feels like they’re living life on cruise control.

Visual Stimulation. Unless you work in a completely untraditional environment, it’s likely that you spend the majority of your days looking at the same things—the same computer screen, the same four walls and the same faces. You might not be able to change anything about what your office looks like, but you do have control over what you see before and after you report to duty. Taking new routes ensures that monotony doesn’t spill over into your mornings, nights and weekends. Not everything needs to be painted with the same boring brush.

Mental Stimulation. Moving through life on auto-pilot is easy, but it does nothing to flex your brain muscle. Familiarizing yourself with new paths helps to improve your spatial sense and the ability to develop cognitive maps. It keeps you sharp and focused. Be a shark, not a fish that just floats along with the current.

Discovery. There are so many discoveries to make when you break a pattern. For example, you might find that the route you stuck to all these years was not the most efficient—just the most readily apparent. I might even guess that most people figure out one way to get someplace and then neglect to ever deviate from that route. It’s simple. It’s easy. It’s BORING.

There’s also the possibility that a more scenic route exists. Why drive on a loud super highway when you could be driving on a two-lane parkway next to a babbling brook?

And, of course, there are endless opportunities to discover awesome prices on gas, a wonderful street art display, the best coffee in your city and your new favorite restaurant—all of which are absent from your regular commute. Shake up that routine you’ve stuck to all this time and give yourself a reason to look forward to driving to work every morning.

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Stephanie Georgopulos is an editor at Thought Catalog. Her work has been featured on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Awl, Gizmodo, The Next Web, Refinery 29 and elsewhere. Email her at Stephanie@thoughtcatalog.com or follow her on Twitter @omgstephlol.