Dear Lifehacker, I’m about to hit the road to visit my family over the Christmas break. It’s a really long trip, and since I won’t be driving, I’d like to make the most of the time without going crazy from boredom. I could play video games or rip some movies, but that gets tedious after a few hours. I want something that works my brain a little more. Do you have any tips or ideas? Thanks, Backseat Boredom
Dear Backseat Boredom,
A long trip is an opportunity to catch up on sleep, do some reading, watch some movies or listen to music, or play some new mobile games. Those are all good ways to pass the time, but they’re not the only choices. Here are some suggestions that can transform boring journeys and educate you at the same time.
Catch Up On Podcasts
If you’ve been meaning to check out some new podcasts (or you already have a backlog to catch up with), a long trip is the ideal time to do it. Choose podcasts that will teach you something new or give you a different perspective on life. We’d suggest TED Talks, TWiT podcasts, 5by5 podcasts or Revision3 shows as places to start. Photo by Mingo Hagen. [clear]
Download some online courses and set up a mini-curriculum of “classes” to take on your journey. A selection of video classes and some downloadable exercises will improve your knowledge and help the time pass. Interleave these with other activities to avoid information overload.
If you want structured learning, head over to Lifehacker U for a selection of university classes we’ve hand-picked. (Choose one that doesn’t have fixed attendance requirements.)
You can also take a less formal approach, picking a topic and reading it up on the road. You may not be able to break out an Arduino or a Raspberry Pi while you’re riding in the backseat of someone’s car, but you can download some articles to help you get started (such as our guide to getting started with the Arduino or some of our favourite Raspberry Pi hacks and tutorials.) Then you can walk away from your trip ready to get hands-on with the real thing. Photo by Shiny Things.
Write A Short Story Or Start A Blog
We’ve mentioned before that being a model Internet citizen means contributing your own ideas and thoughts to the world. If you have time to kill, why not fire up your favourite text editor and start writing down all of those ideas for that blog you’ve been meaning to start? You could even write the first few posts just so you’ll have something to put up when you build it. Photo by James Whatley.
Similarly, if you’ve been meaning to write a short story or a novel but never got around to it, now is a great time to make up for lost ground. You don’t need access to a computer: brainstorming and outlining on pen and paper work just as well (and you can keep going on a plane during take-off and landing).
Learn A New Language
Learning a new language opens up new possibilities and changes your worldview. A short trip won’t make you fluent, but you can learn some basic vocabulary. You can pick up a language-learning podcast from Open Culture or just learn the basics and start practising.
Teach Yourself To Meditate
A long trip can be a good time to plug in your headphones, listen to some ambient music or nature sounds, and teach yourself to relax and meditate. We’ve discussed how meditation can improve your memory, focus and productivity, and it can also help relieve stress and improve your health. Check out our guide to meditation for the rest of us for tips. At least on a long trip you won’t be able to say you’re too busy to meditate. If you need guidance on the go, there’s an app that can help. Photo by MeditationMusic.net.
Those options should be enough to get you started. If readers have additional suggestions, we’d love to hear them in the comments. Enjoy your journey!
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