Your true traveler finds boredom rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty — his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure. – Aldous Huxley
I beg to differ, Aldous.
While traveling, the following are (normally) guaranteed: location, culture, food, and company change regularly; there is little monotony; each new day is literally unpredictable – there is no wake up, go to work, come home, watch TV, then sleep type of schedule.
Though I have certainly been bored during my travels, it is usually short-lived. It’s certainly not the profound boredom that sets in over a long summer break, encouraging normally well-behaved kids to do something bad just for entertainment’s sake.
I’ve recently settled into a house in Bogotá and plan to be here for a couple more months. Though my day isn’t entirely predictable, I find myself feeling incredibly bored. This is quite different than the absence of activity I find myself in while at the beach, for example. Tanning, watching the sunset, and sleeping in are done pleasurably and by choice. Nor is it akin to having a rest day while actively backpacking, catching up on my blog and Skyping with my family.
No, this is the tedium that comes from having little to do each day except a few short hours of work. It’s the motivation killer that finds me researching average travel costs in Africa instead of writing, shopping instead of working on my blog, or taking too long to get ready for a one-block trip to the grocery store. When the boredom becomes too extreme, I find myself itching in my own skin and planning a way OUT.
An article by Dr. Comeau describes monotony as a major facet of boredom, and that our attention tunes out to stimuli that we’re exposed to regularly. But after less than a month?
I find this occurrence troubling as it seems I have unveiled an underlying defect of character or deep-rooted problem that has been hiding under the surface for some years now.
Is there something wrong with me? Do I travel not for connecting, not for learning, not for seeing and doing, but strictly as an aversion to monotony? When I’m old and grey, and unable to travel, how will I avoid boredom then? Take up sky-diving or high-stakes gambling? Go anaconda chasing or join a gang?
Normally, I despise dwelling in a problem and move quickly to find a solution. A few options I’ve come up with is to:
- Get a hobby: Yesterday, I looked at violins to buy to revive an old high school talent. I also plan on visiting a couple of yoga schools in town.
- Explore: Bogotá is gigantic. I could literally go to a new neighborhood every day and still not visit them all. Probably wise to avoid the ghetto though.
- Participate: The city will never feel like a home, albeit temporary, if I don’t get involved. I’ll be looking for festivals and events to attend over the next couple of months.
- Leave: Fortunately, there are tons of pueblos within an hour or two from the city. A weekend break every now and again would do me good.
- Be still: If this really is a sign of an underlying problem, it’s best I conquer it now. I need to strike a balance between moving and staying, and a bit of monotony is normal and something I should accept and transcend.
How do you conquer boredom and monotony?