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About boredom

INA WO(A)NDERS: Over long and short periods

No more boredom: our sense of time changes when we are on vacation. In her column, our author Ina philosophizes about why this is so and why we should take our curiosity about travel with us into everyday life.


In August I was on reverse vacation. I left the sea, the heat and the smell of sunscreen behind and spent three very rainy weeks in Germany. On one of the few days when the sun and a strip of delicate blue peeked out from under the clouds and the temperatures suddenly jumped defiantly above the 20 degree mark, I was sitting on a balcony in Mainz. And enjoyed the view of a very scrubby garden in need of care and the parking lot of the REWE supermarket opposite. And here, in the middle of Balconia, time flew by as if someone had pushed it along.

Time is a strange phenomenon: whether we perceive a period of time as short or long is entirely subjective. If too little happens, there is a lack of variety or we lack the initiative to do something fulfilling, minutes turn into hours. And every moment, no matter how short, turns into the universally dreaded one: boredom. The fact that we perceive unproductive and unfulfilling time as negative makes perfect sense from an evolutionary point of view. Because ultimately it's exactly this muddy feeling in the head that we need to develop the impetus to do something different, something new.

Never mind boredom – when travelling, time literally flies by

For example going on vacation. Even if the alarm clock goes off at an incredibly early hour on the day of departure and we save ourselves the otherwise tempting and tormenting snooze, time suddenly seems to tick faster. Between “I forgot something” and “Shit, here comes the train”, the minutes crumble like badly stowed butter biscuits. By the time we arrive at our destination, we often have a veritable odyssey of transport behind us, consisting of trams, buses, trains, airport shuttles, planes, ferries and rental cars. And time literally flies.


During the vacation days that lie ahead of us on the beach, in the mountains or in a city, most people want one thing above all: that the time will be as long as possible but feel entertaining. Fortunately, the many new impressions, the unfamiliar surroundings, different food, the deviation from everyday routine and the constant need to reorientate yourself ensure that boredom hardly has a chance. Even situations in which we would have immediately pulled out our smartphone at home to nip the onset of boredom in the bud - such as waiting for the bus - can become little holiday moments. Time periods after time dreams in which we listen with fascination to the sound of a foreign language, observe people as they go about their everyday lives in this strange place, and imagine what it would be like if we could just stay. Not a trace of boredom.

Vacation against boredom

Travel as a training camp against boredom and for more curiosity

Back to Mainz, to balconies. It had been a long time since I had seen a German summer. I had almost forgotten how green and vibrant this city can be when leaves are hanging on the trees. When people suddenly no longer just buy groceries from REWE, but instead wear sandals on their feet and a smile on their faces. I therefore believe that we are not so arbitrarily exposed to the perceived duration of a while - whether on vacation or at home. We decide whether to focus our eyes on our smartphone or on the world around us. Everything we see, hear, smell, taste and feel has the potential to inspire us. And ideally, a vacation is not just an escape from the boring everyday life. But the perfect training camp to see our world with curious eyes again. Every day.


Do you often get bored – and if so, what do you do about it? How does your perception of time change when you travel? Do you manage to keep your curiosity alive even after a trip - or do you pack it away with the sunscreen until your next vacation?

I am always happy to receive feedback, suggestions or questions – either as a comment or directly by e-mail [email protected].


© Photos: Ina Hiester, Judith Hehl

Ina is a digital nomad and travels through Europe by land and sea. The journalist is always on the lookout for special places for Good Travel, philosophizes about travel in her column, takes photographs, makes music and writes articles on all kinds of environmental and sustainability topics.


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