When you are traveling, especially for a longer period of time, you will most definitely find yourself in situations where you have to kill some hours, either because you have to wait or transfer, or because your means of transportation requires. For example, trains in India are an easy, cheap and convenient option, since you can reach most parts of India with it. However, the railroad system is quite outdated, meaning ‘express’ in the name of the train does not have the same meaning it would have in The Netherlands. Train rides of more than 10 hours are therefore quite common and, after doing some mouth to mouth research and asking local people about their longest train ride, the winner told me he once took a train from Hampi to Varanassi that took him 48 (!) hours. Go figure. Many hours to kill. My longest journey so far was ‘only’ 14 hours. However, the last couple of months I have found myself in many different traveling situations where I had plenty of time to kill. Therefore, should you ever find yourself in a similar situation, here are some tips and tricks I learned on-the-go that might be helpful for you too:
- Catch up with lost sleeping hours. Sleep is very important for our health and lack of sleep can cause a lot a issues, so put on your sleeping mask, insert your earplugs and say goodbye to the world around you for a couple of hours.
- Socialize with locals or other travelers and get the best tips on where to go and how to arrange stuff. Besides, socializing with locals gives you an excellent opportunity to get to know the local culture and customs. And before you know it, you’ll be sipping a chai with biscuits with your new local BFFs.
- Get hooked on some new reading material. I never travel without my ereader. This time, just before I left for India, I got totally hooked on Haruki Marukami, an amazing Japanese writer. Hence, my ebook contains eight of his books (yes, I always go all-in in life). Except for these, I also downloaded lots of free (!) older books, such as Alice in Wonderland and the fairy tales of the brothers Grimm from the website of the Project Gutenberg. This amazing project has collected tens of thousands of books of which the copy rights have expired and placed them online for all of us to download for free. Say what?! Yup, for free. Go check it out.
- Write a letter or postcard to a friend or family member. Remember how much fun it is to receive an actually written letter or postcard with a stamp from a foreign country you do not expect? Surprise!
- Listen to that new music album of your favourite artist or rediscover old music on your portable music device or mobile phone.
- Meditate. Really. You probably are like ‘WHAT? I’m in a freakin’ crowded train/bus/boat and people might steel everything and, and, and…’ First (and this also counts for sleeping obviously) lock your bag to some strong looking material so people can’t just take your bag. To be honest, I only do this because it makes me feel more safe about my – crappy cheap backpackers – stuff, not because I really think that people will steal my stuff. I think a lot of Western people have heard to many ghost stories about traveling in South East Asia and of course, there are situations of theft so one always should be aware and prepared for that, but I also believe there is a difference between being aware and prepared, and clinging on to your belongings and being constantly afraid to fall asleep or go to the toilet because somebody might steel your stuff. Because most of the times it simply does not happen. Just find a family or friendly face and ask if they can look after your stuff when you go to the toilet. And if you happen to be one of the unhappy few that does become the victim of theft: everything is replaceable. Yes, it really is. Just make sure you keep your most important belongings, such as passport, money plus some emergency money in an international currency such as US dollar or EURO, credit/debit cards and mobile phone, are with you at different places on your body (e.g. money belt, small hand bag, socks, bra) and you will be fine. Yes, it’s fucked up to lose your laptop, camera, etc. Cry a little. Scream a little. Curse a little. And then contact your travel insurance and go to the local police for a report. The latter being a complete new adventure and most of the times, a true lesson in patience 😉 But getting back to the topic of meditation: another reason to meditate in crowded areas is that what may look as an impossible thing to do, since there is noise and movement everywhere, you may find yourself in a perfect situation and environment to really train the mind in staying focused, even in an extreme environment like the current one. You will be disturbed by that person who wants to pass. Or that peculiar smell. Or loud noise. Welcome to life. I believe that medation can be practiced anywhere, not only in quite serene peaceful spaces. Of course, it might be easier to start in the comfort of your own sacred and clean space, however, if you’re up for a challenge (and who isn’t nowadays?) try the bus, train or airport. Getting disturbed or distracted? Just acknowledge that without any judgement or aversion and gently bring your attention back to your breath or any other point of focus you’re using in your meditation. Over and over again if necessary. Major advantage: practicing in crowded areas makes it easier for you to train your mind and keep your mind focused during the day when you reached that busy city or are back home, in the hectic Western society where everything goes fast, faster, fastest for 24/7.
- Play a card game or any other game with your neighbour. ‘I see, I see what you don’t see and the color is…’ is an easy one. Or ‘Name 10 countries/cities that start with the letter … ‘.
- Practise mindfull eating, i.e. eating with full attention to what you put in your mouth. How does it look? How does it smell? How does it feel? How does it taste? Close your eyes while eating and do not combine eating with any other activity such as listening to music, reading a book, using your mobile phone or talking to anybody; just focus completely on the activity of eating. Enjoy!
- Write in your travel diary.
- Stare outside the window and enjoy the amazing view outside and the experience of traveling.
- Draw the person sitting opposite of you.
- Do some easy leg, arm and shoulder stretches.
- Write a blogpost on how to kill time while you’re traveling.
- Structure those thousands of pictures of the last couple of weeks – or days – on your laptop, save them and/or clean up your camera/laptop storage.
- And, last but not least, if you happen to be at one of the bigger airports, enjoy that guilty pleasure of having a Big Mac, Oreo milkshake, or hot dark choco latte. Life can be very simple and easy sometimes. Treat yourself when you feel like it and, most important, enjoy it to the max!
Hope above tips are helpful for you while you’re on the road. I am sure you might have your own ones too and am curious to hear them so feel free to share!