Traveling is often painted as being this luxurious, perpetually adventurous experience in faraway places. To some extent, this perception is accurate. However the much less glamorous and rarely discussed side of travel is… sitting. You wouldn’t think that it’s all that much, given that the portrait we see is the “fun part”: dare-devils bungee jumping off a cliff at the beach, an average joe surveying a picturesque vantage point, or lovebirds kissing in from of the Eiffel Tower. That’s travel. Right?…Right?
Not even close.
Here’s the ugly part of traveling that people don’t like to talk about, or don’t think to talk about. You sit. You wait. You stand in line. You sit some more. You’re awake at ungodly hours. You sit until your bum hurts. You wait. And wait. And wait.
And then the adventure finally begins.
Most of travel is in fact, stationary. If you think about it, the word “travel” itself inherently means the movement of one place to another, so you yourself are essentially sedentary most of the time while being transported from point A to point B.
“You sit on the bus. On the plane. In the waiting room. In the hostel or hotel room. On the train. In the car. On the boat. In lobbies. In terminals. It all seems nonstop, and if you’re not prepared, it can be excruciatingly dull and tiresome.”
This becomes your temporary home during those 10+ hour layovers.
However, if you are ready, these hours can pass by quicker than money draining from your wallet in Belgium. You can use this “sit time” to your advantage, with or without Wi-Fi (Seriously, only 30 minutes of complimentary Wi-Fi?!). The key is to plan these times strategically. What do I mean by that? Think ahead and organize what you could do based on which places have internet, charging stations, tables, a comfortable setting, etc.; use this information to guide your decision making. For example, if I have a long sequence of flights and layovers ahead, I make sure to have all my batteries fully charged for my phone, computer and iPod and then use them conservatively throughout my traveling. I charge up whenever I have the chance, even when I’m only down a few percentage, because it’s just smart to keep as full a charge as possible.
What else can you do while you wait, other than people watch (Although that’s totally an acceptable and entertaining pastime.)? If you’re anything like me, you can use this time to:
- Reflect on past travel experiences or just life experiences in general. Process everything you’ve done up to that point or even let your mind wander. You never know where it will take you or what new ideas your mind will spark up.
- Ponder future excursions. What kinds of things interest you about your new destination? What are your main priorities? Perhaps make a mental list of your “must-dos” and plot out the time you will have to do them (Rule of thumb: always plan too much time for everything you want to do. Trust me.) Take this a step further and…
- Plan what you want to do. Make some calls or send some e-mails to arrange bookings so that you can rest assured that when you arrive, everything is a go. If you have any plans already made, you could even call and verify reservations. Do your research to see what places are open on which days, and take local holidays into account. For example, some people would want to avoid Seville during Semana Santa, where other people would visit specifically for that purpose.
- Journal. I’m big on logging everything because there are so many things that happen on your journeys that slip by forgotten, but if you write them down you can look back and recall such moments fondly. I write about what surprises me, what I learn, or I simply recount the day’s events. You’ll guarantee yourself some nostalgic smiles in the future. Plus, this activity doesn’t require Wi-Fi! 😉
- Talk to those around you. If you are traveling with someone, engage in some good, open-ended discussion about complex topics. (Do people do that anymore?) Based on your surroundings and the overall mood of people around you, maybe striking up a conversation with a local or fellow traveler can help the two of you pass the time and help you learn something. Be judicious on who you talk to, though. Some people just like to be left alone while traveling.
- Keep up on your e-mails and other messages. Unfortunately we live in a day and age where we never really enjoy a “full vacation.” As much as well would all love to drop everything, forget all our cares and peace out, the cruel reality is that e-mails are going to be piling up in your absence, regardless. Answering them while you’re idle will take one more thing off your mind and allow you to enjoy, at least a little more fully, all the fun activities you have planned. However, once you get to the fun parts of your travels, ignore as you please!
- Catch up on that book you’ve been meaning to read. Even though I often complain about how technology is tearing us all apart, I will admit that it does offer some very useful advances. Instead of lugging around piles of books with you everywhere, you can simply download a book on a nearly paper-thin device and read it anywhere you go. The only negative to this is battery life, so whether you opt for electronic or paper copy is entirely up to you. (I vote paper copy. I love the feel of the pages, turning them, and smelling the book. Yeah, I’m weird.)
- Social networking is always fun to do while you’re doing nothing. My weapon of choice is Snapchat. In second place is Instagram, and the runner-up is Facebook.
- Listen to some jams. Got a new record that you want to listen to from start to finish? Well, there’s never been a better time! Added bonus: you can totally multitask while listening to music, killing two birds with one stone. Or you could even just carve out that time to listen closely to the music, if you want.
- Do nothing. *GASP* Is that possible? Can one really just sit there without their face in a device, but rather in the clouds? Do we have to be constantly entertained amongst this endlessly swirling stimuli we live in? It’s hard at first, but I encourage you to try it sometime. Take in the surroundings, read the signs, interpret the languages, observe the people and their mannerisms, think about whatever the hell you want, allow your brain to process where you are in the world and then to appreciate it. If you are spiritual, I find that sit time is a great time for prayer and just thanking God for the amazing experience, for safety and for everything going well. Think. Or don’t think. Either way, it turns out to be pretty constructive, believe it or not.
Traveling tests, and then develops your patience. I can tell you with 100% conviction that I am a much more patient person now than I was three years ago. Travel had a lot to do with that. You learn to be content with where you are. To not rush each step you take. To take each moment one at a time.
“Traveling tests, and then develops your patience.”
What do you like to do during your “sit time?” Do you do anything differently than anything I mentioned?
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