Why Doing Nothing Some Days Is So Important to Long Term Travel
It’s 4PM and I’m sitting at the same common room table at Singapore’s The Hive Hostel where I was found 7 hours ago. The weather was beautiful today – hot, but beautiful – and we decided to let today go without doing anything one would normally attribute to travel.
Yet what I did today – which was sit, read Harry Potter and drink coffee – is vitally important to sustaining a trip of this length.
Most normal days entail some sort of combination of meeting new people, venturing out into an unknown area, getting lost, trying new foods, getting lost again, fending off a tourist scam, seeing a couple famous sights, foraging for a cheap meal because you spent too much on the new food earlier, peeling off your sweat-crusted shirt and shorts just before succumbing to exhaustion and crashing face-first into your hostel pillow.
While this type of traveler’s routine is one of the reasons I love what we’re doing and is essential to getting the most out of any trip – it’s also a very easy way to burn yourself out if not tempered with the occasional ‘Do Nothing Day’.
I’d argue that any trip over 2 weeks must follow this same principal or you risk rendering the normal, exhaustive days less meaningful. If you’re having to summon significant willpower to get yourself out to see another temple or museum or kebab spot, you’re just not going to enjoy it as much as you would if refreshed which can only be attained by rolling out of bed with no alarm and doing nothing.
It’s like the Law of Diminishing Returns – the more days in a row you see and do amazing things, the less amazing they’re going to seem over a long period – unless you hit the reset button every once in a while.
At first, I found this idea a little hard to accept. How would it be possible to really fulfill the mission of 19,000 Days while watching the world pass by from the seat of a coffee shop? Doesn’t this mean that I’m wasting the day?
But too many times (mostly early in my travel career) I’ve forced myself to go places I really didn’t feel like going in the spirit of ‘not wasting a second’ and found that I gained absolutely nothing from the experience. I usually found myself hating the experience and was thinking more of my own misery than I was the wonder that lay just in front of me – and ultimately ended the day grumpy, pissed off and no more worldly than I had started it.
So now (in my wise old age) I’m happy to sacrifice a day here and there in order to keep the weeks in between a little brighter than they would have been otherwise…
…plus it’s a good excuse to drink coffee and read Harry Potter.