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Breaking the routine in NYC

I was exhausted as I made my way across the main floor of Grand Central Terminal, awkwardly pushing through the bustling throng of New Yorkers in my path. Navigating the station's chaotic rush-hour foot traffic had become an annoying, yet necessary, part of my morning routine.

In my three months in this city, I'd adopted the aggressive tunnel vision essential to survival on the concrete streets of the Big Apple. Just get from point A to point B, the city seems to scream at you. Don't get in anyone's way. Don't smile. If there's a homeless person in your path, don't you dare make eye contact.

I shielded my eyes from the rays of sun cascading down from the terminal's towering skylights and lifted my thermos to my lips, forcing the scalding coffee past my tongue and down my throat, hoping the caffeine would propel me through the day.

New York breeds a particular routine. Every day, I woke up at 6:45, giving me just enough time to shower, get dressed, pack a lunch and make the 7:44 metro north commuter train into the city. From Grand Central, I walked three blocks over on 42nd street to the subway station in Bryant Park, where I caught the F train and took it nine stops into DUMBO, Brooklyn. From there, it was only a five-minute walk to my office at Passion Passport, an online travel publication where I interned this summer.

As an editorial consultant, my days were spent reading travel blogs to research story contributors, interviewing professional travelers and writing stories about their adventures around the world.

It was not lost on me that I was doing all of this from a solitary desk in Brooklyn, never journeying further than the coffee shop downstairs to which I would venture twice a day for a pick-me-up. In fact, the other interns and I would often lament the sad irony that our travel-focused internship involved so little travel. Repeating the same routine day in and day out, I often felt trapped within the confines of the biggest city in the country.

But whenever it began to feel overwhelming, I only had to step back for a moment to remind myself of where I was. I would stand on 42nd street and remove myself from the routine, take a second to pause and admire the rhythm of the city rather than feel lost among it, to remember that though I may follow the same schedule, I walk a different path every day in this city of intersecting dreams.

I may not have actually traveled much this summer, but I learned that no matter where we travel to, no matter where we end up in this world, we must never fall victim to the routine. We must never lose sight of the great movements around us and should approach each day not as if it were our last, but as if it were our first.

In today's travel section, we're bringing you a host of stories from students who spent their summers breaking their normal routine. Whether studying abroad in London, taking a personal road trip through the Outer Banks or embarking on an intense backpacking journey that tests the strength of a new relationship, all of these writers took advantage of their time away from Oxford and immersed themself in a new experience.

We hope that after reading their stories, you'll be inspired to do the same.