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On Returning to a Routine

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Snowy mountaintops in the area of Madonna Di Campiglio
Photo Credit: Guy Podjarny

During half term, we went to Italy to hike the trails near Madonna Di Campiglio and see some family by Garda Lake. We landed back last night, and today we’re technically straight back to the routine. I say technically because one of the young people in the house has stayed home, and I don’t feel like I’m back to my writing routine just yet, seeing as I have 139 unread emails to go through still.

This post really started with a word trail. I thought for sure the words ‘return’ and ‘routine’ came from the same word root. I mean, they are basically the same word, no? But apparently, English is a random language.

The word ‘routine’ comes from the root ‘route’, which means a way or a road, along with the suffix ‘-ine’, which just means ‘about’. In contrast, ‘return’ is formed from the prefix ‘re-’, which means ‘again’ or ‘back’, and the word ‘turn’, from the root ‘*tere-’, meaning to rotate. So return really means turning back, whereas routine means walking the same path over and over. There’s a slight gap between the two words.

My dad used to say you should never return the same way you came. He put that into practice by taking the longest, most roundabout route he could find to go back from a trip. He loved loop trails because you don’t have to walk the same path.

You know how you always know the best, wittiest retort only after the conversation is finished? A few months after my dad died, I realised you never returned the way you came because you’re not the same person anymore. When I return home, especially from travel but even from a day in the city, I always feel like there’s a little gap; sometimes, it’s almost imperceptible.

This gap between return and routine is the change that happens between the time we leave and the time we get back. Sometimes the change is significant, noticeable, and you know that things can’t be the way they were before. Sometimes, though, the change is small. It’s still a change, but because it’s so tiny, we think we should be able to return to precisely the same place. Maybe that’s why it always takes me a little while to find myself after I return home.


Hey there! Thanks for reading :) I would love to hear your thoughts about this. Just leave a comment below, click on the chat icon in the bottom right corner, or reply to the email.

39 views2 comments


Jun 06, 2023

Your dad followed an old Jewish custom when one leaves the cemetery. It should not be returned on the same path.

Jun 06, 2023
Replying to

I didn't know that one. Thank you! 💕


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