Seek out boredom.
I am currently in Van Reenen, the tiny village that has existed on the border of KZN and the Free State here since 1892. It is midway between Johannesburg and Durban. It is the perfect spot for a weekend away from the city. I am staying in a small stone cottage on a farm, known (unsurprisingly) as Kliphuis. It is rustic, chilly and beautiful.
I grew up travelling to the ‘normal’ holiday destinations: Sun City, Durban, Cape Town and the like. But these areas are boring compared to the far-flung places one finds on Airbnb these days.
My metric for a holiday is simple: how likely is it that I meet someone from my home here? If the answer is ‘likely’, I don’t want to go there.
As I get older, I’m becoming more aware of my need for solitude. Solitude is what I crave the most when leaving the city. And isolation is not found in other big cities or holiday destinations. Queuing to eat from a buffet or an attraction is hell.
For the last three years, I have made an effort to visit rural areas that do not form part of the average tourist’s itinerary.
I hunt Springbok in Richmond in the Northern Cape – a sparse, unforgiving land where thoughts and ‘boredom’ are your only company. Springbok hunting involves sitting in a field or on a mountain all day, waiting for the animals to get within shooting distance. It may take a few minutes or a few hours. I often take my kindle or notebooks to read or write. I remember each ‘hunt’ vividly as the boredom allows me to think – about ideas, my plans, my research, my writing etc. The environment forces you to be bored, and boredom is necessary to link the ideas in my mind. The hunting trip is less about hunting and more about thinking.
A good friend has a massive farm on the outskirts of Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape. I try to go once a year to hunt some bushpig. We spend hours in the Land Cruiser, navigating the rocky roads of his farm. We discuss biology, conservation, and assorted topics for hours on end.
To hunt a bush pig, the easiest way to do so is to bait it. Laying some maize, offal and molasses, the bush pigs are attracted to the scent and eat at the designated baiting spots. They are nocturnal animals, and waiting for them to arrive (if they arrive at all) also involves hours sitting or lying in the bushes surrounding the baiting area. With a full moon, the waiting period can be rather beautiful. The environment is teeming with life, sights and sounds one has never heard before. The goal is to catch a bush pig, but the joy is in the waiting.
Rural South Africa has many areas that emphasize solitude. As a city-dweller, the constant stimulation from media, the internet and TV numbs our senses and brains to the joy of having nothing to do. Boredom is inherently a mindset. It forces you to be creative. Boredom diverts our intuitions away from consumption and more to creativity.
So, when wanting to ‘relax’, pick a spot that has no internet. Pack some books you’ve always wanted to read. Get a few board games. Take some notebooks. Use boredom to your advantage – create the things you ‘don’t have time to develop.
Boredom is your friend – it allows you to think about things. Use it to your advantage, even if it means travelling to a cottage on a windswept farm.