How to not be bored and why "Boredom" is just an excuse
21 July 2015 — Todd Smidt
“She refused to be bored chiefly because she wasn’t boring.”
― Zelda Fitzgerald, The Collected Writings
It seems that my days of spending giant chunks of the year abroad have come to an end. Before anyone pities me know it was my choice. I felt it was time to start a new chapter. But choosing to stop traveling as my main vocation comes with fears and risks. It’s weird to me how so many people have fears of traveling and leaving everything behind where my biggest fears involve coming home.
My initial fear, post-Australia, is that once I get back I’ll be bored. I’ve been traveling off and on for the past two years. I’m worried that I’ve forgotten how to live a “normal” life in the same city. I’ve become so used to traveling, exploring, and week to week uncertainty that these days I like to think I thrive in chaos. I pride myself on my adaptability and resourcefulness; in not knowing where I’ll be working or even living in a few weeks time.
I’ve not only been surviving but enjoying this lifestyle. I haven’t had to worry about how not to be bored in awhile.
My more intimate worry is that for the past few years most of my relationship come with a ‘me leaving the country’ expiration date. Which is great if you’re making friends at hostels but not so much when you genuinely like someone and want to spend time with them. Whether I want to admit it or not constantly saying goodbye has changed my mentality on friendships and probably not for the better. How will I handle seeing the same people everyday? Will being able to establish and actually develop friendships again be a positive or will I get sick of people quicker than ever because I’m so used to relationship turnover?
To be fully honest, I don’t know.
I’m not even sure how I’ll react to being in a city without a predetermined departure date. I don’t know how I’ll handle doing the same stuff day in and day out. Will I find it boring? Will I become boring? My distaste for remedial mundane daily activities is half of the reason that I wanted to travel to begin with. Oddly enough, the last few weeks I was in Australia I missed having a routine. I needed a daily direction and I didn’t have one. The aspects of my return that I’m most nervous about are also the things that I’ve been missing the most.
I found myself missing my old friends (especially having multiple groups of people to choose from in regards to doing stuff.) It was hard watching their lives from afar as they got engaged, promoted, and achieved other milestones. (I can’t tell you how many weddings I traveled myself out of. But what can you do. You all have my best wishes) I was beginning to miss working towards non travel related goals. Doing something other than crossing a city off a checklist. I wanted to use my talents to improve not only my life but the lives of others. I needed a new direction one that travel alone wasn’t providing.
That’s when two things hit me.
First, that I’d spent the past few years searching for something. To most this was obvious from the start, but sometimes we’re too close to our own reality to see the obvious. For the life of me I can’t tell you exactly what I’ve been looking for. I can’t tell you if I was running towards or away from something.
While in Australia, I realized that as important as experiences and adventures are the relationships you form and maintain in your life are just as critical to your happiness. The best example I can give is this: you can go to the nicest club in the world but if you go with shitty people you’ll have a terrible time. The opposite end of the spectrum is you can go to a complete hole-in-the-wall bar (RIP BlueJay Bar and Grill) and have a blast simply because you’re surrounded by people you love and care about. Before I started traveling I had taken those people and that situation for granted.
There’s a reason solitary confinement is a prison punishment. We are social creatures. We need human interaction. It shouldn’t be a surprise that as an outgoing person I need that social aspect in my life more than most. I spent two years traveling in by and large alone. At times I loved it. It’s one of the best things you can do to learn about yourself and what you’re capable of. But the downside is I didn’t have anyone to share my stories with. It’s one thing to tell someone what you’ve been doing but it’s not half as good as enjoying a nostalgic moment with the person you did it with.
The second thing I learned is the reason I felt compelled to write this post. It’s something I think we all struggle with. I realized that one of the biggest reasons I wanted to keep leaving the United States, the place where most of my friends and family are, was because I thought being abroad made it more difficult to be bored.
Don’t laugh, there’s truth in that logic. It’s hard to be bored when you’re constantly moving and seeing new stuff. It’s a great distraction filled with learning and challenging yourself but ‘fear of boredom’ is not a good reason to keep traveling. Simply put, I was running from my own fear of boredom. I was scared that settling in one place would make me uninteresting. And to me, the worst thing someone can be in life (after ignorant and narrow-minded) is uninteresting.
Using Omaha as my homebase for the past couple years I would routinely be asked what it was like there or in Nebraska. The typical adjectives I used to describe my home state: “Great people. Low cost of living. Nice place to raise a family. Shitty weather. Boring.” At this stage in my life, the last two outweighed all the rest leading to my inevitable and frequent departures.
We’re all guilty of that at some point in our lives. It doesn’t matter who we are or where we live. We fall into a routine. We see the same people, go to the same places, do the same stuff and complain that we’re bored. We think our city is the problem. We’ll never admit that we are. We’d never think about changing up our routine. After all, it may be inconvenient to do so. We think we have to get away to be able to try something different. We have this unspoken belief that once we go far enough we won’t be bored and then we can be happy. Because in the words of Barney Stinson “new is always better.”
Fun fact. That isn’t how life works. That’s what I finally realized. Wherever you go you take yourself with you. Don’t get me wrong, I love the person I’ve become, but it was my fault I was bored. Not Nebraska’s. Not Dolni Bousav’s. Not Melbourne’s.
Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in Letters to a Young Poet “If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches. For the creative, there is no poverty.”
That is one of the truest things I’ve ever read.
Quick Tangent: In 2015 there is really no excuse to be complain that you’re bored. We have access to more information, activities, and technology than any generation before us. Travel is the cheapest it’s ever been. People are more connected than ever. If you find yourself ‘bored’ read a book, go outside, go for a bike ride, get on stumbleupon, go on Youtube and learn how to do something new, or discover a new hobby. The list of things we have to occupy our time is endless. The only reason for boredom in this day in age is laziness. Don’t be lazy. Don’t complain. Get off your ass. Make your time count. You only get one go in this world and it’s best to not waste it. End of Tangent
My ‘mid-year’ resolution upon returning back to the States is to constantly keep exploring my new city (Kansas City). To never complain that I’m bored. If I find myself getting ‘bored’ I will know it’s time to change up the places I’m going or the people I’m around. To try something different. (Free tip- the best places are down side streets and alleyways).
Regardless of where you live, your city will always have hidden secrets waiting for you to discover them. You just have to be willing to call forth its riches.
Want more life thoughts and stories?
No time like the present to join the cool kids club. Sign up to have our latest tips and stories sent straight to your inbox.