In a small and simple RV life, we use ritual and routine to organize our daily life, reduce the chaos, and increase efficiency in the things we do. Although many dictionaries define ritual and routine as mostly the same thing, I would like to differentiate them by designating ritual as things we are accustomed to doing and routine as procedures we have worked out to perform certain tasks in a safe and efficient way. The way we set a table is an example of routine. The way that we hook up a trailer hitch, that is routine also. Ritual is a selection of arbitrary choices driven by preference or custom, routine is developed over time to be the best and often the safest way to do something.
Why Is This Important?
Ritual and routine are important in our small and simple life because they allow us to engage in mindfulness and can allow us to be more in touch with our life. Mindfulness is being aware, in touch, and thoughtful. It is what is often referred to as being in the moment.
As nomads, we frequently change locations. We go to new places, experience new situations. It’s important that we keep our head about us. There are lots of moments to make sense out of. If you’re used to seeing the same old stuff week in and week out, you’re less prone to pay attention. Who hasn’t had the experience of driving back and forth to work and not remembering what we saw? “What did you see on your way home today, Honey?” “Nothing.” What we really meant is we didn’t pay attention. We weren’t mindful. We weren’t in the moment.
Here are some examples of ritual. We like to have coffee in the morning. Lots of people do. We could have tea but we have coffee. Also, we have bacon and eggs for breakfast every day. We could have pancakes or cereal but we like bacon and eggs. I have a grey sweater I like to wear a lot and have for years. All these things are driven by preferences. But we’ve actually noticed them and talked about them. We look for different flavored coffees. Our preference for the same breakfast is not only driven by taste but by scheduling and cost planning. My grey sweater not only keeps me warm but connects me in a sentimental way to pleasant memories of my father. (It was his.)
Yet if we drink tea or eat cinnamon rolls or I buy a fleece vest, nothing breaks, no one is injured, it would just be another way of doing things. It’s a matter of custom. It could be different but not necessarily better.
Ritual is often grounded in community. We seek out the company of like minded individuals. Sometimes it’s a church and other times it might be an online community. Ritual helps us share identities and affiliations. In this sharing we obtain validation and confirmation that we are not alone. These things are hugely important because we have always been social creatures.
Now let’s look at some examples of routine. I get into the car, start it, check my surroundings and back up. Routine is often about safety concerns. I don’t back up before checking surroundings. That would be dangerous. Another example might be attaching the hitch in preparation for towing HaRVey. I have to remember to raise the stabilizers, jack the tongue, back the car into position, lower the tongue, do the doohickey to clamp the ball, raise the tongue, attach the tension bars, etc. Do all those things out of order and it might not work. Worse, something might get damaged or I might be injured. We develop or learn routines because there is a right way to do something.
Driving or hitching a trailer or, when I was in the Coast Guard, operating a small boat on a rescue mission, routine is your friend. It’s your protector and safeguard. Good routine makes sure everyone performs in an understandable fashion. Routine allows you to operate safely in a dangerous situation. And routine does the heavy lifting allowing us to be in the moment, being attentive and aware. We all have heard, “Train how you fight, fight how you train.” Practice makes perfect, routine removes uncertainty.
Here’s The Point
This all comes back to mindfulness. Ritual helps us feel comfortable in our surroundings. Routine helps us navigate confidently through our everyday tasks. Both remove unnecessary uncertainty and stress and give us the mental space to pay attention to the here and now. This capacity for attention and awareness enriches our life and provides a more satisfying experience. It also creates room to grow, to learn from new experience, and to be more deeply human.
We don’t think about walking but we observe the sights around us as we do. That’s the usefulness of routine. We move our families and belongings along the roads and do it rather safely. That is also the usefulness of routine. We might dress like a particular group or engage in secret handshakes or eat certain kinds of food, all to promote ourselves an identity. That is the usefulness of ritual. All this works to help us to create a space where we know where we are and who we are so we can figure out where we want to go and who we want to become. Because in a small and simple life these are the things worth thinking about.