Routine vs. novelty

By Caitlin Kelly


My former employer, The Globe and Mail, an espresso and a yogurt — a typical breakfast!

I love trying new things, and am often easily bored by routine.

It’s why I generally do better being self-employed, as any truly tedious gig is easily-enough ditched, soon to be replaced with something more interesting and challenging.

But, like everyone, I also find real comfort in the familiar, the tried and true, the reliable and known.

It’s one reason, I confess, I return on vacation to places I already know — my hometown, Toronto; Montreal, Mexico, Paris and London (all of which I’ve lived in), D.C. (to visit friends) and New Mexico (where Jose was born and raised.)

My recent week in Toronto offered both; I deliberately chose to stay in a downtown rented flat, the location and the apartment a novel choice for me. Loved it!


I tried a few new-to-me restaurants and cafes, and also enjoyed a cafe I’ve been eating at since I left the city for good in 1986, The Queen Mother Cafe. I love its booths, its oddly Asian menu and ohhhh, the cakes!


One afternoon I headed out, looking forward to trying a new-to-me restaurant — only to find it empty and closed. So much for novelty! That’s the challenge of a city with rapidly-accelerating property values and rents. Your beloved whatever may well be gone the next time you visit a favorite city or town.

In daily life, it’s a challenge to keep mixing it up, balancing a thirst for the new with the stability of reliably knowing that some things won’t change, at least for a while.

Between birth and age 30 I changed cities four times, countries four times. I’d attended five schools. I’d lived in 13 different homes, from apartments in Cuernavaca and Montreal to a student dorm in Paris to a stone cottage in Scotland; (this doesn’t include five years in a Toronto boarding school and nine summers spent at four Ontario summer camps.)

I’ve now stayed in the same one bedroom apartment since moving to the U.S. in 1989.

The thought of packing/sorting/moving/adapting again? Brrrrrr!

I was burned out from moving too often too quickly; between 1982 and 1989 I’d moved Toronto-Paris-Toronto-Montreal-NH-NY. I was fried. I wanted roots. I wanted to find and nurture new professional and personal relationships, which I have.

I’m still using the same doctors, hair salon, library since I arrived and am 17 years into my (happier!) second marriage.

But these days, finally,  I’m feeling a bit restless and so I’m actively seeking out some novel experiences.


A favorite Toronto store. I always visit and always find something fun to buy

This week, (however small it may seem), I’m reading a collection, a best-of 2015’s science fiction and fantasy. Loving it! As someone whose normal media diet is news and non-fiction, reading in this genre is a stretch for me but one that’s really proven pleasurable.

I’m now absorbing less news, unusual for me.

I may (gulp) sign up for a decorative arts course in London this summer, as I’ll be there anyway. It’s not cheap, but it’s focused on two of my passions, combined — antique textiles and Asian art.

I dread intellectual sclerosis!

Here’s a 27 year old woman who set two Guinness World Records for seeing every country in the world, as the fastest female to do so…talk about new adventures! She began in Palau and ended in Yemen. (The video I link to here is 22 minutes long.)


Riding the Red Rocket, Toronto’s streetcars…this one, the King St. car,  blessedly empty at noon.

Which of the two, novelty or routine, do you prefer?


28 thoughts on “Routine vs. novelty

  1. like you, i am a hybrid of sorts in this area. when i was divorced, years ago, i moved many times, all in the same area, one year rentals, all in the same county. when i bought my house/cottage in the early 2000’s, i vowed to never pack up again. i love new experiences and also love the joy of coming home and the familiar comfort of routines.

    as for your current adventure, i love the name of the shops you’ve featured and hope your adventures continue –

    1. Moving can be exciting — or enervating! 🙂 Much as I loved getting to know Montreal, Paris and (less so) rural NH, I was glad to finally stay PUT here. It really takes time to get to know a place well and feel rooted. At least for me.

      Thanks! I am super excited about our trip to Europe in June. Many more posts to come.

  2. “I’m now absorbing less news, unusual for me.”

    Oh god, me too. Too depressing for words.

    “I may (gulp) sign up for a decorative arts course in London this summer, as I’ll be there anyway. It’s not cheap, but it’s focused on two of my passions, combined — antique textiles and Asian art.”

    Good for you. Where? At Central Saint Martins? That’s where I took a black and white portrait photography evening class when I lived in London for a year. They have a mind-blogging … sorry, mind-boggling … array of courses on offer, all arts-related.

    1. It’s through SOAS University of London. I have no recollection of signing up for their emails but love everything they offer. Usually it’s out of the question, but since I’ll be there anyway….It might also make a great story (and business deduction!)

      1. The SOAS is in one of my favorite districts: Bloomsbury! Right near Planet Organic, the British Museum, the London Review Bookshop with their fabulous cake and tea salon, Marchmont Street, etc. All my fave addresses of that area are on my blog. Lucky you.

  3. That’s an interesting question for me, especially since I’m on the spectrum and that means I kind of enjoy a little routine. In fact, I find it somewhat comforting at times. Still, a little break from the norm every now and then allows me to reenergize and even find new inspiration for stories.

      1. I know. Which is why I love doing something new every now and then, or just shaking up the routine. Today I saw a movie with my sister, stopped by the library, and in a bit I’m going to head out and grab something quick from Target. Pretty unusual for a Saturday.

      2. And after I replied to this comment, I was invited out by a friend for a late lunch at this Japanese shopping center for some soba noodles and shopping (I bought a lucky cat statue!). It’s definitely been a weird but fun day.

    1. So true. For one thing, I’ve lived in this apartment sooooo long — but have changed the wall colors several times and am about to change one room again very soon. I like the stability of staying, but I also need a fresh look occasionally.

  4. I’m like you in that i need a mix of both. I feel deeply rooted in the landscape I live in, that’s really important to me, but I like new experiences – new music, new writing, new angles for turning familiar views into something unfamiliar, new skills, new adventures… but it all works better when I have somewhere cosy and familiar to bring it back to, and familiar people to share it with.

    1. So true!

      I really look forward to returning to my home here in NY (even after a week in my hometown of Toronto), and am so glad to have friends in both and always finding new things to enjoy. Only if you stay for a while, can you watch that happen.

      I’m making 2017 the year of trying new things. It’s a little scary, but that’s the whole point.

      Thanks for commenting! I love the place you live as well…

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