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What Shall I Do Now

Sweden-boredom-dusk-BTI have come to this place to be bored. It is a little corner in the southwest of Sweden where boats gently rock against the shingled shore. It is a landscape of barren beauty, where the summer sun lingers reluctant to bid farewell. 

Sweden-boredom-harbor-BTThere aren’t any monuments to dissect, no grand natural features to explore. I’m not on the hunt for any interesting stories. My days will be simple rounds of perambulating the wharf, stopping into the grocery, and watching from my window as a motley of meteorological cloaks garb the maritime topography. I’m looking to be mired in a repetitive cycle of quotidian tasks. I’m anticipating the moment when the excitement of observing the island’s single ferry docking will wear off. 

Sweden-boredom-houses-BTThe locals, descendants of Viking fisherfolk, guard their privacy here. Aside from pleasant nods during my morning walks, they leave me to myself. There are a few books in the house to occupy me, there is a television. However, I don’t plan on using either. Even my journal lies unopened. 

Sweden-boredom-roofs-BTI’m doing nothing on purpose. I’m endeavoring to overcome my inner voice berating me for being unproductive. I’m applying myself to monotony, giving my faculties a chance to lay fallow. Like the seagulls whirring round the pier, I’m attempting satisfaction with existence. This is a time-out — a concept of punishment I never understood because it seemed to me a reward, a chance to be alone with my thoughts, to steep in my mental disarray. 

Sweden-boredom-sailing-BTIn the precious hollow of this boredom I’m hoping new dreams will hatch. Perhaps the tide’s tedious swishing will unfurl hidden communities. Perhaps the repetitive clanging of rope against mast can enliven lost senses. On the other hand, no fruit may bear from my dormancy. I will make peace with that too. 

Sweden-boredom-rain-BTMy period of inactivity, of sitting in pause mode, isn’t a process. It is a short-term goal. A different way to be for me. I’m carving out a linear portion in time’s infinite loop, devoting that slice to cognitive wandering, an uncomfortable session with the space inside my brain. This will be another form of traveling, a journey into my interior landscapes.

Sweden-boredom-window-BTUnfamiliar places can be wonderful. Novel experiences can be invigorating. But, I also long for those childhood summer months when my family and friends simply let me vegetate. There were no reading lists to accomplish, no supplementary lessons, no extracurricular pursuits, no planned escapades. I would hide out, unseen from adults and playmates, to daydream. From these reveries would spew forth rocket designs, fantasy tales, fortress blueprints, mystery plots. 

Sweden-boredom-yachts-BTI’m embracing that release which boredom grants me. I’m appreciating the disengagement, the not wanting. Who knows if I’ll devise grand schemes to fashion an empire or people the pages of my next book? The serpentine circuitry to that destination will be marvelous. 

sweden-boredom-sunset-BT


TRAVEL NOTE:

Daydreaming is enjoyable in a cozy Swedish interior. Swedish style today is synonymous with the national brand IKEA, but originated from the creative designs of Karin Bergöö. Educated as a painter, Bergöö transformed her home — Lilla Hyttnäs — into a functional, airy habitation. An innovative artist, Karin eschewed the typical dark, stuffy Victorian decor of the period by introducing the use of unfinished birch furniture, handmade fabrics, and white-and-blue as predominant color palettes.

 


Is boredom useful to you? What bores you and why? If you wish, tell me in the comments below.

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154 replies »

  1. What a gorgeously written post complimented by equally rich photos. Yes to boredom! As you might already know, especially in lieu of my latest social media and phone post, that many these days fight boredom with their phones. In fact, I think what they experience instead is frustration if anything. But there are too many distractions for them to feel “without something to do” and embrace it.

    I spent a lot of time alone growing up despite having a sibling. And I fell in love with reading at the right age, so spending time alone is necessary, required, and cherished.

    But what bores me? Waiting. Since I live overseas, there are times when I have to wait a looongg time, and after a certain point, like an hour and a half later, I hate it.

    • Thank you! Waiting in lines is usually no fun, but I try to spend the time people-watching as a way to combat the frustration. I do agree with you that our current culture puts a premium on always having something to do, and vilifies the idea of the stasis mode. Thanks so much for your insights.

  2. I am never bored, but I do love the opportunity to just be quiet and have nothing to do. I would love more of it in my life (preferably near water.) Thank you for these lovely photos; they were, indeed, very peaceful, and I, too, would have enjoyed the simple repetitions of the sea, the life in this town. Actually, it sounds like heaven.

    • Ah, doing nothing by the water is always so wonderful isn’t it. Thank you for stopping by with your lovely comment! Wishing you more opportunities ahead to sit quietly beside the waters.

  3. Some people have a very hard time doing nothing when they travel. It seems as though they are afraid that if they stop, they will miss something grand. I do hope that some new dreams were hatched in Sweden.

    • I used to have that fear too! It’s been life-changing being able to ignore that voice and allow myself to immerse in a place, to get to know it, and therefore truly enjoy myself there.

  4. Insightful post! I think it is a blessing to be able to do what you are doing. Reminds me of ” mastery inactivity and watchful expectancy.” I think most of us want to live in the present reflecting on the past and dreaming of the future. Cognitive wanderings….. what a wonderful expression!

    • Thank you for that delightful insight. I really like the idea of “watchful expectancy.” Ideally we should all be in the moment, but it’s such a balancing act. Wishing you a wonderful week.

  5. What beautiful words and images. My desire to explore Scandinavia has been reignited! However, I too am in need of a pause first. We can be so busy “doing” that we forget the value of doing nothing for a while. I look forward to reading more of your posts.
    H

    • I’m so delighted to hear you’re excited again to explore Scandinavia through my post! I’ve fallen in love with Sweden’s landscape. I do so agree that as adults “we forget the value of doing nothing for a while.” Somehow, “productivity” took on huge significance in my life, rather than simply being — on my own or with loved ones. Wishing you a wonderful and rewarding period of “doing nothing”!

  6. This sounds a little like my children’s summer, nothing on the agenda…I’m loving it! Sometimes a little nothing is needed in life, enjoy and may you find the opportunity to schedule more nothingness down the road when required.

    • Ah, your kids are having the perfect summer. I remember back fondly now on how my parents letting me have some time when nothing was scheduled really fed my sense of freedom, my imagination, and my love of exploration. It’s been a much needed component for my adult life and I’m looking forward to scheduling more of it. Thank you for your sweet encouragement!

  7. What a wonderful place to lollygag as I enjoy a morning sans boat work. The lighting in your images is magnificent. And of course I adore the sailboat photos. Hugs from Madagascar 🇲🇬

    • So happy you’re taking a bit of time off to gather yourself for the next adventure. While doing nothing along the coast of Sweden I was thinking of how much you would marvel at the beauty of this landscape and enjoy sailing along these lovely waterways. Sending all the best wishes to you in Madagascar. 🤗

  8. It sounds like you try to practice something that is called Wu Wei. The Dao De Jing teaches: ‘The Way never acts yet nothing is left undone.’ This is the paradox of Wu Wei philosophy. It doesn’t mean not acting; it means ‘effortless action’ or ‘actionless action.’ It means letting go of ideals you may otherwise try to force too violently on things. It invites you instead to respond to the true demands of situations, which tend to only be noticed when you put your own ego-driven plans aside. It invites you to let others act frantically, and then lightly adjust yourself as you see the direction matters have evolved in.

    • Wow! I love how poetic this makes my doing nothing sound! Thank you so much for this inspiration. I now really want to give thought to what ‘action-less action’ would mean to my life, especially in terms of responding “to the true demands of situations.”

      • Glad you’ve like my comment. I would like to apologize for having been absent for a while, but I was in the middle of a promotion campaign for my first novel and then had to fly from Barcelona to Berlin and Brussels to arrange some private matters. The campaign kicks off tomorrow, but now that everything has been set up, I can also practice a little Wu Wei. Once you gave a plant soil, water and a good place into the sun, you can lean back and watch to see if it grows.

      • Thank you. Launching a first book requires lots of restrain for not constantly tinkering at the campaign. It’s also a huge distraction from what I should be doing; writing on the draft of my third part. I hope you find what you’re looking for on this island in Sweden. Usually people are getting unhappy with their familiar self when there are certain areas of experience or Self-knowledge that are beyond their reach. One way to discover these fields is to extract from the present environment. Every form of new organization or integration inside the psyche is preceded by a certain degree of deregulation. The less someone is feeling adopted by a family or other social connections, the more he feels the urge to distinct himself as an individual. Originality asks for the courage to break with accepted norms.

  9. Well… what can I say. I totally envy you in this post. I think it is incredible, awesome, special and necessary to allow yourself to just be once in a while, and to let the world take over. Let it go by without interfering. Let those thoughts quieten or refocus. To go on “a journey into my interior landscapes” – what a wonderful expression.

    I never, ever, ever get bored. And, I’m “worried” I never will be bored either. So many things to do, to see, to visit, to experience, to read, to write… And, even if/when I’m burnt out, my thoughts and ideas are never-ending. I have a mind that is 100% active, 100% of the day and night – stupid thoughts, grand ideas, exciting dreams, writing blogs and stories in my head… If I would have the money to finally go on a real vacation, I’d love to take a time-out, from life, from myself, from thinking… Well done, you! 🙂

    • 😊 I wish I always had such a constant flow of creative ideas as you do! Thankfully, doing nothing isn’t costing me anything extra other than time, which is indeed a privilege for me.

  10. We don’t know how lucky we are as children to have all that ‘boredom’ time. I’m not often bored as I was an only child so knew how to amuse myself! But your boredom bodes well, with some wonderful words and pictures coming out of it.

  11. We rarely get moments like these on our trips. Our trips are always about motion and getting those feet moving. 🙂 On the rare occasions, when we do manage to catch our breath, and just observe: it’s sheer bliss. I guess, as travellers, we’re lead to believe that we need to keep moving and take in as much as possible. We’ve been lucky to stumble upon idyllic villages/towns and it was liberating to not want to see a famous sight or eat a local delicacy. We were happy to sleep under a canopy of stars and watch fireflies light the forest path. And it’s alluring to want to live a life like this forever. But it’s also difficult to predict boredom. You never know when and how it will strike. 🙂 Love your captures and I’m such a fan of your writing!

    • You’ve put your finger on it. There is something very enchanting to me about the hermit-philosopher’s life, but I don’t have the courage to pursue it as a career. I’m always striving for that ever-elusive balance between planning for the future, reflecting on the past, and being in the present. It’s rather a yo-yo act for me. 🙃 Thank you so much for the praise and encouragement. It comes at a much needed time. I’m deeply grateful for it and for your understanding. 🤗

  12. What a treasure, this post! A little breathing room….the analogy to childhood summer vacations is perfect. And the wisdom that even if it doesn’t yield “results” the interlude is valuable is key. I like the way the rainy photo interrupts all the perfect vistas – very real, and delightful. I don’t think I need to wish you luck or anything – all is well.

  13. “…applying myself to monotony.” Love it. This is a worthy pursuit. There’s so much wonder and energy in what happens while we’re still and the world moves around us. Enjoy every minute!

  14. Sounds like a wonderful vacation to me! Sometimes doing nothing is the best gift we can give ourselves. It’s a chance to reconnect with some of our innermost thoughts and feelings, and to simply experience what it going on around us with no agenda and no schedule. Enjoy!!!

  15. This kind of “pretty” boredom is exactly what I was looking for for my next getaway. Shame I am nowhere near Sweden and I have to “make do” with the California coast. Looks amazing

    • 😁 I’m certain the California coastline is delighted to hear you will “make do” with its beauty, but it is a shame you are nowhere near Sweden. You would love the tranquility here.

  16. This sure sounds like a wonderful idea to me!! Better than wonderful, actually.
    Boredom is most definitely useful to me. I just wish I had a bit more of it. 🙂
    For me, it is so useful to just decompress, and empty my head of to-do lists, schedules, etc.
    Enjoy every moment of your boredom!

  17. What a great thing … to take a time-out! Many of us place too much emphasis on being ‘productive’, thinking about the past and worrying about the future. Our brains need a rest from time to time, to just wander. I always remember this … ‘we are human beings, not human doings’. Great writing and photos … I love the blues and reds.

  18. What a beautiful idea. I sympathise completely with your need to sit in silence and do nothing but observe and overcome your inner voice. What better a location than in Sweden? It sounds very similar to a “silent” retreats I’ve been considering.

    Good Luck – I look forward to reading about how your silence serves you!

  19. Oh, how well I recognise that feeling of doing nothing … it is not boredom! It’s being, living, feeling. Every summer I have the chance for a few weeks in Sweden to do just the same, meeting family and friends, view the boats, walk on the rocks, explore the forest. I wish you a fabulous time and definiitely no ‘inner voice berating me for being unproductive’! Creativity needs the chance to rejevenate, refresh … everything in good time. xx

  20. I think the word boredom is wrong for the mood you are describing. Boredom is definitely negative whereas a period of inactivity, a ‘resting’ mode, can be used to refresh the spirits and re-charge the batteries. I often strive for this, in fact, I’m having one today after a hectic long weekend. Reading my emails and replying does not constitute work even if I spend more time on them than I wish, but blogging (which require a bit more input) and other mental work is out for today. We find our own way of relaxing, so do what suits you, and SW Sweden is a perfect spot.

    • I’ve always thought of boredom as doing nothing, which is probably why I don’t see the word as a negative, but perhaps I need to invent a more positive word for my version of doing nothing. “Resting mode” as you phrased it, sounds more in line with what I had in mind. Enjoy your own ‘period of inactivity’ and thank you for stopping by to chat with me.

  21. I believe that boredom, as you define, allows one to become attuned to a place, to gain a deeper understanding of its nature and subtle changes, of the wonder of waking to a new day and being in that moment. A satisfying way to travel, to live, to be. One day you might decide to do something else, experience something new and that is the right time for that.

    • You’ve put it so precisely for me. That is how I have been thinking about boredom and how I wished to talk about it in this post! Thank you for so beautifully stating what I was fumbling to explain.

  22. I love how you began this essay: “I have come to this place to be bored.” You had my attention right away!

    I’m someone who struggles with Productivity: I feel I should always be productive & feel guilty when I’m not. This is a wonderful thing you have done; you have inspired me.

    • Yes, I know that guilt extremely well. It’s deeply rooted in my conscious and has difficulty letting go. I think the more I deliberately practice periods of daydreaming, the less I’ll hear that voice. I’m so thrilled to know I’ve inspired you. Wishing you a lovely time in your own place of satisfaction with existence.

  23. While this place looks beautiful on your photos and we all need some time off, I know I am unable to do nothing even for a day. It isn’t so that I would be regretting quiet moments, but I just need something: writing, painting, sketching, sewing, designing, whatever. I am workaholic, that’s for sure, and I think that is what suits me very well, being always busy is great. When I cannot be very mobile, I still do something which does not require much standing and walking.
    If you have made it your goal, good for you. Time can be very slow in such places, like really slow, and that is when one discovers a lot about themselves.
    Well, I do regret now any days which were spent without achieving something. The older I get and the less time is left, even if it is theoretically, the more I value every moment, every minute. I am 60 soon, and that is a number which says that the most important things one should have accomplished. I haven’t. That is why I am not satisfied with anything so far and I am trying to make sense of every minute. Health is a big issue and causes terrible slowdowns.
    I wonder if you are still young that you can afford such an incredible luxury as doing nothing for a while and letting things happen whatever way they may? It is fantastic, it is a great method to recharge and return to life’s challenges as if reborn.

    • I’m incredibly lucky that I have the luxury of doing nothing for a bit and equally lucky in health. I cannot imagine how my perspective will change when I don’t have either of those. I often feel time flying too quickly, but I’ve been feeling that if I don’t pause and recharge, I won’t be able to function as well. Thank you for sharing your own counterpoint to this and for your encouragement!

  24. Is not doing anything the same as boredom? I do not see this as boredom, but as a time to enjoy the little things. The time to think about many things … It brings me peace and insight to things. It brings me inspiration … I never get bored, but enjoy the time when I do nothing! 🙂 Amazing pictures! And again I enjoyed your story or interpretation about boredom 🙂
    Best regards, Heidi

    • I suppose it depends on one’s particular definition of boredom. Perhaps we think of boredom as a negative. Some think of doing nothing as a negative. I’m defining boredom here as doing nothing, which for many of us is highly enjoyable. 🙂

    • Hi Bespoke Traveler,
      I have nominated you for the Liebster Award! I did this as an appreciation and respect for your amusing travel stories with pictures and inspiring blog work you spend on it! Feel free and not obliged to or not to go into it. You have earned the nomination anyway! But if you would like to answer my questionnaire or to read my post and answers about my nomination, please check out my post …
      https://darkflowersite.wordpress.com/2018/06/19/liebster-award/

      My congratulation and thanks for following my site! Have a nice week!
      Warm regards, Heidi

  25. I don’t see it as boredom. How invigorating it is to breath in salty sea breeze, to enjoy ever changing scenery of rolling waves, beautiful sunsets, and sailboats. It’s great to daydream about the Vikings, who lived there centuries ago and meet their decedents at the grocery store, on the streets and on the waterfront. Is it true that when you are not looking for a story, the story will come to you? In your imagination maybe. I should try it too. Thank you for a great idea. Photos are very beautiful as well.

    • Sometimes when I haven’t been looking for a story, it comes to me. Other times I have to do a lot of work to search for the story. Your comment just gave me the idea for one. Thank you.

  26. Coincidentally a few weeks ago I read an article about how being constantly busy — thanks to the Internet and our smartphones — has killed creativity. The writer reasons that when humans are allowed to be bored, to be in a situation when they have nothing to do, that’s when creativity kicks in. It is in our nature to create something useful or simply entertaining to kill our boredom, and by doing so we contribute to humanity.

    • On the opposite side of things, I read an article that claimed many wars were fought because of boredom, so I remain uncertain about its merits for humanity. The fascinating thing about manmade inventions is how they quickly evolve from magical solutions which will lead us to utopia into objects of culpability which are hastening us into new hells.

  27. I don’t think I could plan to be bored, it would not work. What might work is to put myself into a beautiful location, like this Swedish village, and give myself time to take in all the goings-on. I am pretty certain that I would find inspiration, and I am pretty certain so will you! 🙂

  28. Sounds meditative. Recharging the batteries, introvert style. Stop and smell the roses (but maybe not the lutefisk). A good state of mind for photography.

  29. This is a wonderful heartfelt blog and Your photos are always so lovely..
    I look forward to following along.
    Greetings from the beautiful Rhine-Highlands / Germany …
    Rosie

  30. Interesting isn’t it, our need to schedule in “boredom”/”unscheduled time” when it used to come so naturally as kids?! Now it takes me considerable effort to simply “just be”. Maybe it’s a function of getting older? This little pocket of Sweden looks like the perfect place to “embrace the release granted by boredom”. Enjoy!

    • Thank you. I had a marvelous period of doing nothing. It’s very interesting that so many things we did as children naturally are taught out of us because they are deemed inappropriate for adults, but which have no logical basis. I was just in the store where a kid wanted a pink truck. His mother’s first response was, “Oh no, pick a different one. That color’s for girls.”

  31. Summer calls out for disengagement and languor, but most of us don’t heed that call. I try to – even if just for a few minutes each day or a few days each month; it’s so restorative. How long will you be able to sit still and think? Sounds like a heavenly time and place!

  32. Hi, Atreyee. This is a time-honored tradition. To let the mind lie “fallow!” I’m so glad you are giving yourself “permission” to do this. I truly think that if more people did this our world would be less frenetic and there would be more peace within us, our communities, and throughout the world! Of course, the writer in me wants you to record your thoughts during this time! But I understand your discipline of doing “nothing” (which in fact is doing something!). Keep us posted as to what happens.

    • Hello Patti. Believe me, it required a lot of discipline not to open up my journal or any of the available books. How superbly you put it: one of the things I discovered was that what I thought would be doing nothing was actually an activity in its own right. What a lot of random, disconnected thoughts I had rushing through while I was bored! It’s difficult to simply be, to let my mind empty.

  33. I never allow myself to be bored. I always have to have something to do. And yet I read this piece and long for it, that freedom to do nothing. Complicated. I am curious to see what happens for you.

    • The most difficult part about not doing anything that wasn’t part of an everyday (making meals or washing dishes etc.) necessity was not feeling guilty about it. Once that went away, it was very therapeutic. I’m hoping to schedule in some more chunks, because I think with practice, I’ll really profit from it.

  34. I love this post and the photos are particularly serene – wonderful colors. I think it’s great that you had a time in your life without a schedule. I can’t remember that in mine.

  35. Ah, the luxury of hours and hours of daydreaming! I agree that the release from “things to do” opens up a space in which one can allow the mind to hatch new plans, ideas, or adventures. Like you, I find that an unfamiliar place, without too many distractions, is ideal. I consider a place that strikes a fine balance between nature and human activity to be just perfect for this purpose, as I love the calming energy of nature, while people watching often stirs my thoughts in just the right way to create sparks fueling my imagination. I hope you find the inspiration and creativity you are searching for.

  36. But are you really bored when you’re not fulfilling culture’s definition of « productive »? I doubt that being with yourself and your own thoughts is boring. 😉 Au contraire. I bet you discovered all kinds of things in that little village, revelations about your life, ideas for writing, other random treasures. I purposely set time aside to do nothing but wander the forest and let my mind soar. I receive so many ideas and solutions. The comedian George Carlin once said, « All children should have three hours of mandatory daydreaming. » But I think that should apply to adults, too. 🙂

    • You caught me out. 😁 I’ve never been bored in the sense people complain of…this was more setting aside of a portion of human-constructed linear time in which to wool-gather. I gave myself permission to not feel guilty about it and I’m going to do it again – only in weekly chunks rather than Carlin’s three-hours-a-day prescription.

      • It’s true that very few have the luxury of three hours a day. On working days I don’t, but I make up for it on days off. 😁 Its too bad that people in this culture feel the need to give themselves permission to not feel guilty.

      • The thing is…the only person who probably notices these infractions is you. Seriously. You’d be surprised how little others notice. When you realize this, life becomes really fun. 😁

  37. Lovely images! This place would draw me, being around water, quiet folk, the sereneness. I live on a harbor that looks similar to your photos. Watching the comings and goings of the boats and wildlife is quite enjoyable. 🙂

  38. What a fascinating concept. I really like it and can totally relate to those lazy non-productive summer months of my teenage youth. I wonder what ideas and dreams will come from this. So interesting.

  39. I love your idea of “applying yourself to monotony.” It seems like the perfect antidote to the malady of multitasking that afflicts most of us in this modern age and robs us not only of our ability to concentrate, but to create. When you’re ready to reflect on this fallow time I will be very eager to hear whatever you care to share about your experience. In the meantime, at least you are getting some STUNNING photos.

    • Sweden in the summer has some fabulous lighting, which greatly helps with the photos and with doing nothing. My daydreaming time was fantastic…and I’m looking forward to doing more of it this season.

  40. Ah opening your mind with solitude will open new doors and bring destinations and realizations you might not find in a hectic environment. We all need to slow down and be calm every now and then. Savor this moment.

  41. This sounds perfect. To be honest, I’m not very good at it: I’ve preferred to be up and doing. But I’m slowly learning, and where you currently are looks like a great place to start.

  42. Sweden is very much underestimated as a destination. I’ve been there several times in the past and always enjoyed it. Once you get to know (Swedish) people they will open their heart. I stayed on Öland once for a week or so and when (after 8 or 9 years) the guesthouse owner had his holiday in my neck of the woods, he visited … Well that says something. Stunning land/sea/city/village-scapes; wonderful vistas and an inland boat ride from Göteborg to Stockholm sticks into your memory for a lifetime! No; I’ve never been bored in Sweden! 😉

  43. I hated boredom. Boredom to me is being 6 again and not knowing what to do, a vast ocean of time lying ahead of me and I don’t have a clue how to fill it. After that I have never been bored again. There always is something to do, to see, to think about, to read, to wander and wonder, to take pictures of – to dream. I don’t understand how people genuinly can be bored, except in situations one does’nt want to be. The lesson is: don’t be there. Be somewhere else. Like in Sweden or whatever place where one can set his/her mind free. 🙂

    • There are an infinite number of things to fill in boredom in today’s world. 🙂 I’m deliberately choosing not to take advantage of any of them. It’s not so much that I’m bored in Sweden as that I’m taking the time to be in abstraction once again. I’d like to go back to that moment when, as you so delightfully phrased it, I had to sink into the “vast ocean of time” and dwell there. I think it’ll have interesting results for me.

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