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Eight Effective Ways to Cure Boredom on The Road

Written by Jenny McWhirter on 15 / 09 / 2015

Gap Year Advice

Let’s face it: no matter how mad you are for gap year travel or exploring new and exciting countries, the actual travel part can drive you mad with boredom and frustration. Nobody enjoys spending hours on public transport, do they?

I certainly don’t. But there are ways to deal with these things and tactics you can employ to keep boredom at bay. Here you'll find eight tactics you can use to keep your journey exciting.

Play a Game

Games, such as cards, scrabble and Uno are great fun if you’re travelling with a companion. If you’re alone, see if there are any other bored-looking lone travellers in the vicinity and invite them to play with you. Didn’t bring any props? Fret not, because there are plenty of fun games you can play which require nothing more than a pen and piece of scrap paper.

Passenger bingo is one – take a stroll around the cabin and note the seats containing interesting characters, such as ‘Mohawk man,’ ‘Gollum lookalike’ and ‘Shocking tattoo lady.’ The other player then looks at your list and walks around matching the seat numbers.

A tad cruel it may be, but it’s certainly entertaining! Oh, and if all else fails? Do the Harlem Shake...

Open the Puzzle Book

It may just be because I’m a complete geek, but I can lose myself in a puzzle book for hours. Crosswords, codewords, sudoku, logic puzzles – you name it. There are plenty of puzzle books available in bookshops, newsagents and online. But if you’d rather save yourself the hassle (and the money), why not print them off the internet?

The crosswords section of Guardian.com has thousands to choose from. Not only will these keep you entertained, they’ll keep your brain engaged and stave off Alzheimers. Moreover, you can get the person in the next seat involved when you need help with a clue, so it’s a handy conversation starter too.

Chat to Strangers

As I've previously spoken about in 10 Vital Dos and Don’ts of Travelling Solo, talking to strangers is a guaranteed strategy for creating some of the most interesting travel moments.

I once had to endure a 33-hour train ride from Buenos Aires to Tucuman in the north of Argentina. The trains in that part of the world are very different to speedy, efficient ones that we’re generally used to in Europe or North America, and I was absolutely dreading it.

But as it started to pull away, the lady I was sitting next to began whinging about the train leaving late – yet again. I joined in with her little rant and we soon began laughing about it.

Next thing I know, she’s offering me coffee and biscuits and teaching me a South American card game, which we went on to spend hours playing. Not only was it a great way to pass time, but it also gave me an excuse to practice my Spanish, and I found the journey went surprisingly fast.

Do a Quiz

Quizzes are another fun way to pass time, whilst enabling you to learn more about your destination. Take this Guardian quiz on Africa for example – do you know what its newest country is, or what Liberia’s capital is named after? Perhaps you might be keen to learn how many black presidents there have been in South Africa?

A whole range of country quiz books can be bought from Amazon, so take a look and see if there’s one on your country of choice here. If you’re with a friend, you can take it in turns to quiz one another and make it more interesting by suggesting forfeits for every incorrect answer, or making it so that the one who gets the most answers wrong has to buy dinner that night.

Edit Your Photos

I can spend hours looking over the photos I’ve taken and smiling wistfully at the memories of each of the wonderful places I’ve been and people that I’ve met. Whenever I’m on a bus or a train, I find myself trying to perfect these images by adjusting the brightness, contrast, etc. and cropping out unnecessary aspects of each photo (it’s weirdly satisfying).

If you’re as much of a sentimental person as me, I can guarantee you’ll enjoy this activity in the same way, so much so that you may not want the journey to end.

Update Your Journal

I can’t stress highly enough how important it is to keep a note of everything you do whilst abroad as, no matter how memorable everything might seem now, you will inevitably forget it all years down the line if you don’t write it down. And a well-kept travel journal is a wonderful memoir, per Lyn Hughes on wanderlust.co.uk.

Long journeys are an ideal time to work on one, if you can face putting pen to paper on a bus. I have a rather vague recollection of each of the places I visited on my gap year, which was almost ten years ago now. Not only did I write about my experiences in detail - I also included pictures, tickets, quotes and messages from people I met along the way. I just need to get round to reading it all now…

Learn New Words

Travelling in a non-English speaking country? Why not use this time to learn a few new words in the language of the place you’re visiting? You can either try reading a basic book or magazine and noting down the meaning of the words you don’t know, or simply memorise lists of new words and phrases.

Handy phrasebooks can be bought from Lonely Planet, or you can download an app such as Bravolol, which is designed for you to learn English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and much more.

Or… Simply Spend Less Time on the Road

My number one piece of advice to first-time travellers is this: don’t rush. Base yourself in one place for a long period of time so that you really get to know it, and just see where you go from there.

Visit smaller, less well-known towns and villages on the way and don’t be afraid to leave out certain destinations in favour of spending more time in others. The more you slow down, the less time it will feel like you’re spending on the road, and the more you will benefit from the experience.

Ready, Set, Go

Have you got any other ideas for ways to cure boredom on the road? Let us hear them by posting in the comments box below.

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