Bored? Try letting your mind wander
A practice in approaching the world with awe.
I thought today’s newsletter was going to be about boredom. This past Saturday, I spent four hours in the car with my partner, Billy, and our 2-year-old (“two and a half!” she’ll make clear, if you ask). We drove from Atlanta to Charlotte, North Carolina, where we visited a busy museum during the day and slept in a plush hotel at night. The next day, we were on the road for an additional seven hours, driving from Charlotte to Pittsburgh, Billy’s hometown. Now, I’m kicking off our week in Pittsburgh by getting some writing done while Billy takes our daughter out exploring.
Given that I’m on vacation, I opted to put together a collection of observations and thoughts for today’s newsletter instead of a fully-formed essay. And, coming off of so many hours in the car, boredom seemed like the perfect theme. After all, there’s only so much you can do in a fast-moving vehicle; only so much to talk about, look at, or be entertained by. A boring road trip felt like it would be fertile ground for a random collection of thoughts.
In my quest to achieve peak road-trip boredom, I made a promise to myself to spend as little time as possible on my phone. And that’s where things backfired.
Instead of occupying my mind by scrolling — which can sometimes be interesting, but more often than not is a bore — I allowed my mind to wander. Letting my mind wander, I remembered, isn’t boring. It’s a delight. And I don’t do it often enough.
Margaret Talbot put it perfectly in her reflection about boredom for The New Yorker: “When people wish that we could all be bored more often, or rue that kids are too scheduled and entertained to be, what they may really mean is that they wish we all had more free time, ideally untethered to electronic devices, to allow our minds to romp and ramble or settle into reverie—and that sort of daydreaming isn’t boring at all.”
With that, here are some thoughts and observations from a not-so-boring road trip.