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The True Benefits of Boredom

“Against boredom even the gods contend in vain,” replied Nietzsche according to Vonnegut. In light of this fact, I refuse to be bored. I just will not do it. If I am sitting at a dinner table just staring at two people having a conversation amongst themselves, if I feel like an invisible man amongst [...]

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“Against boredom even the gods contend in vain,” replied Nietzsche according to Vonnegut.

In light of this fact, I refuse to be bored. I just will not do it. If I am sitting at a dinner table just staring at two people having a conversation amongst themselves, if I feel like an invisible man amongst others, I stand up — I stand up and walk away. I find something else to do. I mean no offense in this action, obviously the other people are happy doing what they are doing without me, if not then I would hope they, too, would get up, walk away, and do something else.

There is no reason in this world to ever be bored. We live on too vast a planet, there are too many possibilities to sit sterile in any one idle circumstance. It takes very little to stimulate me, I have learned the skill of being able to find interest in just about anything. There will always be something to poke, something to fiddle with, something to daydream about.

Being bored is unacceptable.


A man who was certainly never bored

Manners is not a leverage ramp for boredom to permeate my days. If I have the choice to be polite and bored or rude and not bored, I take the latter option: I split out, leaving all semblance of courtesy behind.

“Boredom can kill even the strongest of men,” it has been spoken.

Given this, it is not my impression that impotent courtesy is worth staking it all on the line.

When I see mouths moving and sounds coming out that have nothing to do with me, I do not envision talking, I envision eating: these people are eating up the time of my life, and I am voluntarily feeding them.

I walk away.

I mean no offense, I do not mean to tell people that they are boring. If I am bored, then it is I who has the problem, and it is I who needs to solve it. The matter has little to do with others.

It is not possible to bore others, people can only bore themselves.

A person does not bore you by taking action that you find under-stimulating, you bore yourself by remaining exposed to such action.

There is never a real excuse to remain bored.


Once a person’s character tendencies are established within a group, they can be free to give them full reign. If you stick to your own patterns of living people will respect them, and they will come to not regard you as being “rude” but as being, “just the way you are.” It is an understanding. After you establish that you are the way that you are, you have a freer range of action than if you establish yourself as being a person who abides to the law of “social character,” the standards of the social situations your find yourself in.

If you take care to remain a free radical amongst others then you can safely enjoy a wider range of acceptable action. As soon as people start expecting things or behaviors from you, then you are caught — you have become a part of a social organism and have to abide by the rules of such: you can no longer just walk away when you are bored, you have to deal with it.

People seldom respect the self determination of other people. People tend to get offended when you don’t listen to them, when you become bored in their presence. Society demands that a person lies: you should lie and pretend that you are not bored. If a person was to get up and walk away from a dinner table whose conversation may not stimulate them, they may offend the other eaters. But being offended is not be the worse thing in the world, people get offended every day. It is not my problem.

If someone has a problem with me, then they have the problem — not me. I don’t have a problem with someone having a problem with me. That would be silly. If someone has a problem then they need to figure out a solution to solve it, it is simply not my ordeal.

I’m good. And I cannot remember the last time I’ve had a problem with anybody.

Or perhaps this is just the anthem of the misanthrope.

Perhaps this is why I travel.


“Your daughter is just like you: she refuses to be bored,” my wife said about our perpetually squirmy, adventure seeking baby, “if she gets sick of her toys she just goes out and finds new ones.”

Petra had deemed that the fan cord is more exciting than all of her colorful toys combined, though when I took it away from her she made a cell phone fill that void, when I took that away from her, she choose the lock that goes on my backpack. That was alright, but playing with a toy that her parents did not try to take away from her apparently was not as much fun, she got bored of the lock. She found a dead bug on the floor to play with instead. She tried to hide it behind her back when Chaya tried to take it away. Petra smiled and laughed. She refuses to be bored.

This is the model for how a good life should be lived. Even a 9 month old baby knows how not to be bored. It is funny that you lose these skills as you grow old — there are a lot of bored adults in the world. I have not yet met a bored baby.

Babies scream when they get bored. This I know.

There is nothing worse when you are young than being bored. The entire learning process of the human is based on constantly stimulating yourself so that you discover new things — so that you figure out how to crawl, how to walk, how to speak, how to interact in society, how to go out and make a life for yourself, how to live.

Boredom is perhaps the hand maiden of curiosity; curiosity perhaps provides the impetus to learn; learning leads to stimulation; stimulation is the slayer of boredom.

The cycle of human development begins with boredom, sitting idle and under-stimulated is the great impetus to move to the next stage of development.

The moment you sit back and accept being bored is the moment you ceased to develop. Once boredom does not stimulate you to act you are one step from the grave, you are finished, done, you have completed your life’s work, you are inconsequent.

I welcome boredom because it sparks the initiative to DO. Without the feeling of boredom, I would probably just sit around doing nothing all day. Boredom, perhaps more than anything else, is the great purveyor of accomplishment — for what is accomplishment but the successful accumulation of action, and what is action but the antithesis of boredom?


Boredom is not just some unfortunate event that inevitably happens, it is not something that you just have to deal with — it is not an inseparable part of living — but it is something that a person decides to experience through complacency. If you are bored, it is because you choose to be bored.

Choosing to be bored is like choosing to temporarily croak — your wheels come to a halt, you cease discovering, developing. I don’t like the sounds of that. I want to keep moving, continue discovering, making, acting, doing — I welcome boredom because that is the feeling that tells me it is time to move.

In the words of the great Bill Nye the Science Guy:

“If you ever say that you are bored, what you are in fact saying is that you are boring.”


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Filed under: Travel Philosophy

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3719 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

3 comments… add one

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  • Katja June 3, 2010, 3:02 pm

    Thank you; that was wonderfully refreshing!

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  • linda bussman June 7, 2010, 8:04 pm

    I guess my question is why you are bored as often as you are. To spend the time to write about how you perceive and deal with boredom is, in its very essence, boring. Perhaps you have missed the subtlety of respect in sitting tight, or you have a misguided belief that you and your every thought are more valuable than another’s. Perhaps you believe that your actions or lack thereof are inspired by self-righteousness, and you embrace this fault in yourself?

    This blog was strikingly narcissistic and surprisingly not refreshing. In fact, as a traveler you must have noticed that people in other countries, besides the United States, value energetic companionship. Perhaps, you have missed this subtlety in finding ways to avoid genuine interaction, which never involves only what you like or are interested in. Perhaps you have missed subtlety altogether? Perhaps you don’t know love or feel love?

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com June 8, 2010, 12:27 pm

      I am never bored, that was my point.

      This is a personal travel journal, it is narcissistic by nature.

      If this was so boring then why did you continue reading, let alone comment?

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