Let’s face it. Traveling solo isn’t always a tiptoe through the tulips. By not having a travel companion, there are certainly times when I feel bored. Sometimes it’s a feeling of not maximizing my time while I’m there while other times, it’s about trying to find something to do since I’ve already visited and done everything I wanted to see and do. At some point boredom is going to set in regardless of how much you have planned.
So, how do you deal with boredom?
Make a list of places to visit
Before I go anywhere, I’ll hop on Google Maps and start saving places that I find interesting. It doesn’t matter if it’s places of interest, restaurants, hikes, etc. If it looks interesting, I’ll just flag it and before I know it, I usually end up with a map that has twenty or more saved places.
In the morning, I usually plan my day so I’ll figure out which site I really want to visit and then have a plan of getting there along with any other sites in the area. I’ll also plan out which routes to take to get to any other points of interest around the area after I’m done visiting. I do this because most times it doesn’t take as long as I think it will to see a site. This way I’ll already have a plan ready to go and I don’t waste time trying to figure out my next move.
I do my planning for the day in the morning just so that I have an action plan and a basic idea of where I want to go. This not only keeps me focused on the task at hand but also makes it easier to get things done since I don’t have to waste time during the middle of the day to try and figure out my next move. Remember that most attractions are only open during normal business hours so wasting time during the day is really inefficient because you’re losing time that could be spent at a site that’s open.
I find that being on the move is the exact remedy to boredom. To be fair, if you’re doing something, you can’t really call that bored. That’s why I love flagging as many points of interest before I visit a place. I don’t think it’s possible to have too many places because the point isn’t to visit them all but to attempt to during your short time there. You’ll be so busy visiting places and marking them off your list that you won’t have time to feel bored. More than likely, you’ll be so exhausted at the end of the day the only thing you’ll want to do is crawl into bed.
Write or keep a journal
I like to have a small notebook with me at all times just so I can take notes throughout the day. It just helps me collect my thoughts and it helps me recall certain things I did or places I went that might be noteworthy to me but not significant enough to share with others. Although I like to share my experiences with friends and family back home, I won’t necessarily talk about the restaurant names or small roadside places I decided to stop at for a quick bite or rest. However, if someone asks me in the future of where to go, I check back on my notes and I can provide those specific places that might help.
Writing also helps me pass the time while I’m on a train, waiting for my food, or just have a free moment. Since I don’t walk around with my laptop, I’ll keep a small notebook in my backpack since it’s easier and lighter to carry. Having a small notebook just helps me relive the day while it’s still fresh.
You don’t need to have a laptop when you travel (you can read my post on bringing laptops with you HERE). But I would certainly carry a notebook so that you can keep notes of your travels. At some point, you’re going to start to forget the names of places, people, and things and you’ll wish you had a written log of it. But more importantly, it gives you something to do. Boredom sets in when you don’t have anything to do and you allow your mind to wander. Just having a simple task of putting your thoughts to paper will help fight the boredom since it’ll give you something to do. Even if you’re not a writer, just writing down notes will help pass the time and when someone asks you for advice on where to go, you’ll be able to impress your friends with some great recommendations.
Keep in touch with those back home
Like it or not, people are glued to their phones. Whether it’s for the “epic instagram” photo or a simple tweet, everyone has their phones with them to the point of being an extension of ourselves.
As much as I’m not a fan of being on social media when I’m on the road, I think it can be a great way to combat boredom because it’ll force you to go out and do something that’s shareable. Maybe it’s going to try new foods, going to a popular nightclub with friends you just met, or seeing a sunrise over a historic temple. Whatever it is, it’ll give you a reason to go out and be adventurous and step out of your comfort zone. You certainly won’t have time to be bored if you’re constantly on the move, trying to get that perfect photo.
Admittedly, I’m not the best person to comment on social media because I don’t really like it. But I have to admit I do see the upside of it for solo travelers. Solo travelers have a different set of problems we deal with so if you can combat boredom with keeping in touch with friends and family back home via social media, then I’m all for it.
Spontaneous side trips
If you’re in a position where you’ve knocked off all the things you had planned and flagged before arrival, you can always take a spontaneous trip somewhere. I fill in gaps all the time because I usually end up moving faster and things take less time than what I had originally planned. This usually means I’ll have an extra day at the end with nothing planned. In those cases, I try to search for something that’s an easy day trip that won’t break the bank and easy to plan.
I usually start with any major cities or towns nearby that’s easily accessed by train. I find trains to be more reliable than busses because if busses get too full, they won’t stop to pick up more passengers (a lesson I’ve learned the hard way). Trains will typically always have unused seats and even if every seat is taken, you can just stand in the aisle. It may not be comfortable but at least you’ll get to where you need to go.
If a train isn’t available, look into short flights, ferries, or even hired cars. I have taken buses but I leave that as a last resort because I’ve been caught almost missing flights because the buses were so full, I couldn’t get on. But, if you have time, then the bus is going to be the cheapest option for sure.
Flights work because you can just take a day bag and an hour flight can get you to another city 250 miles away. I’ve also noticed that flights purchased in the country tend to be drastically cheaper than flights purchased outside the country so you may find that flying is a very affordable option.
If you’re coastal, don’t forget about taking ferries to neighboring islands or different ports. If it’s a popular destination, finding a ferry shouldn’t be too difficult. Some great examples are day trips to Macau from Hong Kong, Cozumel from Cancun, or even Catalina from LA. All are great places to visit and the change in scenery is drastic. You may not plan your entire trip around going to one of these places and it may not even have been on your radar of places to visit but if you have a day to waste, it sure beats just wandering aimlessly around town or staying in your hotel room.
Have a hobby you can do at any hour
Having a hobby you can do while traveling is a great way to keep you on your toes and busy at all hours of the day. Maybe you start to learn photography, drawing, or even cooking. Photographers tend to wake up super early because they want to get up when the light isn’t as harsh and there are fewer people out. It’s also nice since you can do it either in a group or by yourself so you can set your own schedule. Drawing is another hobby you can do especially if you’re the type of person who likes to sketch or doodle. The cost to getting into sketching is low and you don’t really need anything more than a notebook and some graphite drawing pencils.
Cooking could be a great hobby for those who want to learn a skill while vacationing. Cooking classes where you can learn about local ingredients and foods are becoming increasingly popular. Also, if you’re staying at an Airbnb or somewhere that has a small kitchen, you could practice your newly learned skill as well. And what better way to really learn about local culture than by going out and shopping for local ingredients and cooking them yourself?
Having a hobby you can enjoy is a great way to fight boredom and keep your mind occupied. I would suggest that you figure out what you enjoy doing first before you commit a lot of money to the hobby. But before you spend any time or money, make sure you really enjoy the hobby. It’s a hobby so you don’t want to force yourself to enjoy it. It should be something that’s enjoyable. I’m not saying you need to love doing it but it shouldn’t feel like a chore because otherwise you won’t do it.
Meeting people is either really easy or really difficult depending on the type of person you are. Some people just don’t enjoy talking to strangers while others have an outgoing personality and can seemingly make friends with everyone they meet. That said, there are a few ways to meet people.
Hostels are a great place to meet people because you’re typically surrounded by like minded individuals and the lobby or the hang out area of the hostel is really conducive to meeting people. However, that isn’t the only place to meet people.
Try taking a guided tour of the city. Whether it’s a street food tour, a segway tour, or just a guided tour of a museum, these smaller groups are a great place to meet people because you’re surrounded by people who find interest in the same subject matter. After your hours long tour of the city, you’ll more than likely find some other common interests with some of the members of the group. It’s easy to build off of that to make plans for the near future.
Cooking classes are another great place to meet people because you can learn a skill together. After you’re done, you may even find a few others who want to continue to cook and you can all get together for a casual dinner party later to practice your newly learned skill as well as try some other cooking techniques. It’s a common interest so it makes for the perfect ice breaker to meet people
If you like photography, you can even take photography tours of cities. Depending on how you book the tour, you may be guided by a local who can show you the “hidden” spots of the city or maybe you’ll be in a small group of people where you can critique each others’ works and learn from each other.
Meeting people, for me, is about finding a common interest and building off of that. I’ve been really fortunate to have met a lot of different people throughout my travels and it’s great to meet up with a group for dinner or an activity after you meet everyone. But I know everyone isn’t in the same boat as me. But if you can find a way to do some activities in a group setting, you’re bound to meet some people and that can certainly lead to some entertaining evenings which will certainly not be boring.
It’s very simple to feel bored when traveling solo. You don’t have anyone to talk to or bounce ideas off of. It might feel awkward going out at night and it would certainly feel easier to just stay at home. So it’s easy to feel bored when you’re solo. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to combat that. Sure, solo travel by definition is going to be solitary. But that doesn’t have to be boring. There are tons of things you can do regardless of where you are. It might take a little bit of work but if you’re really concerned about being bored on a solo trip, it’ll certainly be worth the time and effort to commit to doing any activity that will keep your mind occupied.