Those of us who are long term travellers will know that familiar feeling of being between destinations, whether it's on a ten hour bus journey through the Himalayas or waiting for your delayed flight in an airport lounge. These periods of downtime are part and parcel of the travelling lifestyle and admittedly they're not always fun. But remember this: it's how you deal with them that counts. If you can fill these mundane moments with fun and challenging things, you will truly be making the most out of your travel experience. Here are some ways to do just that:
Make Use of your Digital Downloads
If you have an iPod, a tablet or even a kindle then there's no limit to the amount of interesting things you can teach yourself during a long stopover. For example, one of the best things you can do is to learn a few words and phrases in the native language of the country you're headed to. There are many interesting apps and websites to help you in that pursuit, including DuoLingo, which uses a gamification approach to teach you one of 16 popular languages and offers apps for iOS, Android and Windows devices. According to linguistic database Ethnologue, there are more than 6,900 languages spoken in the world but the most popular ones are not that many. Knowing the local language can open doors and will help you to meet local people and explore places that are off the beaten track. So, if you have a couple of hours waiting for a rainstorm to pass from your beach hut, or a morning waiting to change trains, then see that as an opportunity to make your travels even better in the long run. Or you could watch your favorite TV shows or movies!
Chat With Your Neighbour
If you're a solo traveller and you have some unexpected downtime, now is your chance to get chatting to some random people. One of the biggest learning curves of travel is developing your social skills and becoming brave enough to approach new people. Your stopover or unexpected flight cancellation is the perfect chance to do this. You'll be amazed how easy it is to strike up a conversation with a stranger once you've got over your initial shyness. You will learn that virtually everyone in this world has their own unique story to tell and you can learn something from every new conversation you have. Especially in terms of truly traveling rather than being a tourist, talking to people will bring you in touch with the local culture. Plus, you never know when the person next to you will be able to help you with exactly what you need: an interesting restaurant, hostel or bar recommendation you wouldn’t ever have gotten from a travel guide.
Practice your poker face
Like chess or scrabble, poker is one of those games that everyone assumes you know how to play. The beauty of it is, you don't need to be an expert to play. Once you've learned the rules you can set up your own poker nights in hostel dorms and backpacker bars, giving you the opportunity to meet and swap tips with lots of other travellers. Who knows, you could end up winning a tournament or two and at the very least you’ll have a lot of fun while passing the time. Even if you already know the basics, it’s a good idea is to print and carry a table of poker hands for reference, for those times you’re not sure whether a flush is a better hand than a straight. According to WPT, there are more than 100,000,000 poker players worldwide. Especially when language is a barrier, knowing a popular game like poker will enable you to bond with fellow travellers and locals quickly and pass the time in an entertaining way. If you don’t already know how to play, start practicing with other newbies. You'll have that poker face perfected in no time!
If you're lucky enough to have a quiet space nearby, then meditation is a brilliant way to de-stress and re-center yourself. This is a great thing to do if you've been stuck at a station or airport for too long and you're feeling restless. You can also meditate from your airplane seat or even in your hotel room. Having an iPod with a guided mediation can help if you're a beginner, or you can simply sit and focus your attention inwards. Try an app like Budhiffy, which offers specific instructions for a variety of situations, like “going to sleep,” “waiting around,” and our favourite, “travelling.”
Get your craft on
If you have some room in your backpack for craft materials, you could use your travel downtime to learn a new skill such as making bracelets or knitting. These activities can be very calming and they can also be a great conversation starter for solo travellers. If you have some talent with crafts you can be even more productive by selling your creations to other travellers.
Start a journal
One of the most enjoyable ways to while away the time when you're waiting for buses, trains or planes is to write a travel journal. All you need is a notebook and a pen to conjure up images of that amazing temple you saw in Thailand or the sunrise from that volcano in Indonesia. At the same time as making a travel journal you could also start your own scrap book with the ticket stubs, postcards and other souvenirs you pick up along your journey. Having these tangible reminders of your trip will be wonderful once you're back at home and you can even keep them to show your children years from now. And don’t forget, it’s also the first step to becoming a travel blogger.
Catch up on Sleep
If all else fails and you don't feel like trying any of the above ideas, you could always just catch up on some shut-eye. Sleep is the body's way of restoring itself and getting plenty of rest now will ensure that you reach your destination feeling refreshed and ready to explore. Just don't snooze so much that you miss your flight!
Photo Courtesy: Corey Warren, Founder of Live More Creative
Whatever you decide to do on your downtime, make sure it's something you enjoy and don't waste the time you've been given. Happy travels!