#Unpopularopinion: travelling can be kinda, well, a bit boring. Cause here’s the part they don’t tell you about in the guidebooks; there is a hell of a lot of downtime, of dead hours spent sitting on a bus, laying on a bed, staring out of a window, waiting for something to happen. When that selfie you travelled half way round the world to capture is over at the flick of a shutter…what comes next? It’s either swapping the same old tales of the same old places over the same warm beers for another night, or you could use your time a little more productively until tomorrow’s adventure unfolds. With that in mind, here are 5 IDEAL ways to make the most of your downtime while travelling.

WRITE A TRAVEL JOURNAL OR BLOG

‘‘So, how was your trip?’’. No idea, but it looked good through the lens, at least….

If there’s a more soul destroying image than a hundred tourists on a beach, all seeing a sunset through their phones, then we haven’t seen it. But it’s true, these great moments do need capturing, for the sake of memories and posterity. So instead of using your holiday as an exercise in seeking validation from strangers online, why not turn them into a travel journal or blog; a space where you can reflect on what your innermost thoughts and feelings and relationship to the changing scenery you’re encountering. This doesn’t necessarily need to be for public consumption, more for your own record and perhaps for keeping your family and friends engaged with your moving and grooving. Because in our experience when travelling, a thousand words are actually worth far more than a picture.

EXERCISE YOUR BRAIN

There’s no denying that travelling is good for welding your brain. According to research, the complexities of getting out there and seeing the world can sharpen your mind; to get all scientific(ish) travel has the ability to ‘light up’ a whole range of neural pathways you don’t always use, leading to cognitive benefits. However, the ‘’use it or lose it rule” is something which the brain adheres to devotedly. In other words, those neural pathways can also get weaker when neglected. And although we hate to admit it, lying on a beach doesn’t exactly oil the mind’s cogs too thoroughly. It’s important to give your brain a little work out from time to time, to keep things functioning to their full potential.

There are loads of brain training apps out there to choose from to get the old grey matter pumping. Online games from sites like Eagle Bet feature popular games that can potentially give your cognitive cells a workout too. Indeed, any games that will condition the brain to become more agile and improve strategic thinking while you’re sitting there with the sand between your toes will do just fine.

DELVE INTO THE HISTORY OF YOUR NEXT DESTINATION

All too often a place of great historical intrigue or significance is seen simply in 3D, without the necessary stories which truly enrich the experience. But with context and background, a deeper and more appreciative cultural understanding can be achieved.  

A great way to spend an evening of downtime is to research the past and present of your current or next destination so everything has substance and meaning. You could carry a book with you, and pass it on to other curious travellers when you’re done, or download informative pieces on a kindle. Or simply use hotel wifi to get informed. Whichever way you want to do it, it’s up to you.

KEEP CONNECTED

Travelling can be a socially nourishing experience, where new friends are made in each and every new location, and bonds are formed over fresh, exciting adventures. Sometimes your family and oldest friends can seem a little stale in comparison, but it’s important to nurture your connection to home when you find the time, and check in to reassure loved ones that you’re safe and happy.

Travellers will often feel frustrated when finally back home at the lack of enthusiasm or interest in their adventures from friends and family. But by keeping them posted on your movements during your trip, there’ll be more reference points to touch on when you return.

A particularly useful way to engage and include loved ones is by taking them on a video call tour of where you’re currently at, particularly for elderly relatives who can no longer travel to far flung, exotic places, this can be a really invigorating thing to see. Of course, you’ll need a decent internet connection for this, but local sim cards are usually dirt cheap abroad and often offer affordable tourist packages with unlimited 4G connection.

FIND INNER PEACE

A long period of not working, participating in your usual hobbies or engaging with family on a deep level, can sometimes lead to a loss of personal meaning on the road. It’s a facet of travelling often not mentioned in the guidebooks, but sometimes things can feel a little empty far from home and without sufficient mental stimulation. It’s important, then, to regularly nourish your soul through daily meditation and reminders to be fully present in the moment.

Take the chance to get up and see the sunrise while the rest of the hostel is still sleeping off their hangovers; take a timeout in the evening to realign your thoughts with a simple mindful meditation; and use cues throughout the day (perhaps every time you see traffic lights, smell incense, or hear another bloody ukulele) to bring yourself back to the present moment. In doing so, you’ll find your trip doesn’t fly by unappreciated, but instead becomes incredibly meaningful.