Travel Doldrums: Beating Travel Boredom

Written by Payton Lee in S. America

Have you ever been on a trip where your cash-flow seems to be going faster than planned or expected? Have you ever found yourself bored because you want a day off from spending your hard earned money, and all of a sudden you don't know what to do with yourself without paid entertainment?

When Breaking Trail went on our Colombian adventure we found ourselves in this situation. Six weeks of travel is a long time and money starts to add up even if you are in a poor country. You have to buy food every day, you have to buy water or drinks because it's hot, and you want to buy gifts and souvenirs for family members. Plus there is the money for entertainment. You spend a couple bucks or coins here and there for transportation. Then you spend some moo-la getting into the attraction or activity. And finally, you spend money again on keepsakes from the memorable place. This pattern of spending adds up, and you begin to notice how often you are face to face with an ATM.

If you are anything like us, this constant spending of cash is an unusual feeling. Back home I can go almost a whole week without spending a dime or swiping my card for that matter. Therefore, when this feeling strikes it is unsettling as if you are blowing your life savings in mere days. I double check my bank accounts, and add up in my head where the money has all gone. Most of the time it is completely within the budget I had planned for the trip, but the feeling won't go away. It's time for a break from this money flying routine.

Travel Tips for Eliminating Boredom

The Break:
When traveling in new places funny things happen to your imagination. It's like our brains have one track, I'm here to do it all because that's what I said I would do when I was back home. The museums, the statues, the boat trip, the scuba diving, the excursions, and so on are all part of the great plan. A great plan they all are, but sometimes a break is necessary and  your money doesn't have to be blown solely on entertainment. But then you freeze because you don't know what else there is to do with your time. It feels wrong to waste it laying around all day. How do you pass roughly 14 hours of time without pre-designed entertainment?

While in Colombia we hit a standstill. We had planned on doing some scuba diving or a boat trip to some awesome hiking area, but when we got there the cost didn't seem worth it. We had already paid for several other types of entertainment that were amazing. So this day, we sat on the couch with our thumbs twiddling, looking at each other for answers to cure our boredom. The doldrums had hit us. We were completely bored and mindless without our paid entertainment plans and our silly little minds had shut down.

The Doldrum Solution
An important travel lesson is that you can never fully plan out every day when you travel. And, unlike home there may be no mind-numbing activities like tv, video games, or internet to pass the time with. Therefore, be prepared to dig into that imaginative side of your brain and entertain yourself. Most of us did it as kids, now we just have to remember how again. Otherwise you risk wasting your precious time in a beautiful place.

Lucky for us, we were all experienced travelers and had seen this happen before. We came prepared with a few small items that helped us go from doldrums to fundrums. The following activities came from us using our brains to pass the time without spending a dime. And these ended up being some of the fondest memories made because they created great travel moments.


Active Activities: 

Fitness: Traveling can be one of the best times to get your body into shape. The shape you never seem to make time for back home.

1.) Go for a Run
Explore the area with a jog or run. You get to see the sights of the beautiful place you are visiting plus you get your heart pumping. Running on the beach or a local trail is exciting because it's all a surprise. You will feel revived and be ready to go eat all those delicious treats the locals tempt tourists with.

2.) Go for a Swim
Either you are on a beach with an ocean, a hot coastal city with pools, or a cold region with an indoor pool somewhere. Most of the time there is some form of water to go jump in and let off some energy. Swim some laps for an actual work out or create some fun water games with your friends for a non-traditional workout. We played silly water relay games in Colombia. (For example, the first one to butt skid across the shallow end of the pool without using your hands wins) Relays can be hilarious to watch or judge even if you aren't much of a swimmer.

3.) Go for a Walk
I have found that often times the best method for getting your bearings in a new place is to walk the streets. Jump into a few stores and have a look around, but just keep walking. You will feel the culture of the people as they try to sell you stuff, plus you get the sights, and to top it off you are getting exercise.
Another option for walking is the mall. Find a shopping center, yes, they are everywhere, and walk around the shops for some good exercise and people watching.

4.) Throw a Frisbee or Ball
A simple object like a football or frisbee can keep you entertained for hours. We brought a light-up, waterproof frisbee that led to some very exciting moments in Colombia. We played with it in the pool, got it stuck on a cliff-side with cacti after throwing it out of the pool, met some Colombians visiting from other parts of the country who joined in playing with us, threw it around in the dark on the beach, and took it along on a hike through the jungle. A ball or hack-y-sack of some sort would work the same way. These toys aren't just entertainment for dogs, us humans love chasing them too. Plus running after a ball or frisbee is another form of good exercise.

Relaxing Activities:
If you have had enough sun and enough working out activities then there are plenty of free relaxing activities to pass the time.

1.) Read a Book
You don't always have time at home to sit down and simply read for entertainment, so now is the perfect time. Find a quiet little spot on the beach or park where you can get your reading on. If you plan ahead you can download a bunch of books to your kindle or iPad to save space on packing actual books.

2.) Journal
There is no better time than while on your trip to write down and journal your experiences. The names and events are fresh in your mind and the details more vivid. Take this free time and put them on paper so you can remember them when you get home. It makes for a better story to tell if you can actually recall the random strangers name and the exact street where you juggled his jumping frogs with him.

3.) Organize your pictures
Another thing I found to be really helpful was taking the time to organize or categorize my pictures instead of waiting til I get home. When you travel to multiple places sometimes things run together. Places and landscapes start looking similar and you forget what a certain building was called. At each spot I tried to re-organize my pictures from the last spot, so that I knew exactly where they were from. Plus it saved a lot of headache for when I got home. 400 some pictures is a lot to organize after the fact.

4.) Play Card Games
I have learned that a deck of cards is nearly as important as your toothbrush when traveling. When it gets dark out and you can't see that ball you were throwing, or you didn't buy the light-up frisbee, and there is no tv, cards become the best form of entertainment. Learn some games before you go or simply make them up on the spot. There are hundreds of games to play with cards no matter the number of people in your travel group. One of our favorites on the Colombian trip was called "Tourrets".

All cards are held by the leader (usually high card draw determines leader). Starting right or left (doesn't matter) the leader challenges the next person in the circle to a duel. The duel consists of flipping a card face up and themustachefirst person to yell out a word that starts with the same first letter of the number or type of card wins. (For example, he flips a 2 so a word that starts with the letter T) The word cannot be a proper noun and cannot be repeated once it has won a round. Whoever wins the challenge keeps the card and gets to hold the deck. You continue around the circle challenging the next person in line until the deck is gone. At the end you count who has the most cards to determine a winner.

This may sound lame just reading the directions, but hold on to your seats as you start yelling across the room as fast as you can to win a card. Card games are great and can be very comical. Before you know it you have drank two bottles of wine and it's past midnight.

5.) Smart Phone Games

If you don't have cards it's ok. Use your imagination for some other games. I've seen battleship played on paper, gestures made up on paper, and several others. OR, if you live in the world of smartphones there is a new game us Colombian travelers call "Green Go". Smartphones have this great app that has a compass and a leveling device. We created a game that challenged your steady hand. Our version was for those 21 and older, but there is no reason the 21 part can't be left out. IMG_4511.PNG

All competitors must have their phones out and held in front of them with one hand. (For a more difficult version try with non-dominant hand) Once the competitors find level and their screen turns green or blue which ever is the indicator of level, the timer begins. Basically whoever can hold the level the longest wins. If you loose level you must get it back as quickly as possible. The timer watches the clock for a minute or whatever the designated time is. Taunting and comments to make opponents laugh is encouraged. The final decision comes down to the official timer and can be based on longest level, but also style and taunting points. (If you want the 21+ version email's a lot more fun)

6.) Debate a Topic
If cards and games aren't tickling your fancy, there is always talking. I know it's a strange concept in a a world of texting and facebook, but it can be a rare entertainment. My suggestion if you are really bored is to bring up a touchy or controversial topic and hash it out. Be careful of feelings because you don't want to ruin the trip. However, good arguing is mentally stimulating and who knows, you could actually learn something from your friends if you listen.

There are many other ways to keep yourself entertained when you reach the doldrums. The most important thing is to restart your imaginative side. Don't get stuck int he rut of $$ entertainment. That is not what travel is all about. In fact, it's a good challenge to include a day within your trip that you only do free entertainment and socializing. What will your crazy brain come up with?

If you have any other great free entertainment ideas that you do or have done while traveling, please share it with us in the comments section below so the good times can be passed on.

Payton Lee

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Constantly Teaching, Forever Learning.

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