The Art of Doing Nothing

February 7, 2012

This post is long overdue.  I had all the time in the world to write this post while in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua for 11 glorious days of beach town relaxation and fun, but I just didn't feel like it.  Don't get me wrong; I did not turn into a sloth.  I did not sleep late and nap all afternoon.  I did not zone out in front of the television (they didn't have one at the hostel, thank God).  I did not surf the internet all day.  That is not what I find enjoyable and relaxing.

In Nicaragua I learned the art of doing nothing, and it's a lot different than I thought it would be.

San Juan del Sur 71I never thought I could do nothing.  I always thought, “I am just not built that way.”  I have to be productive at all times.  Of course, I did not literally do nothing for 11 days; that's not really what it's about. 

It's about not making plans, not making commitments (not even to yourself), not having a schedule. It's about waking up in the morning not knowing what the day will bring.  It's about spending time relaxing and enjoying your hobbies and the people around you.  It's about deciding to do something (or nothing) in the moment.

I was broken of my “planning” ways by being in the perfect environment conducive to doing nothing. The hostel was relaxing and comfortable and overlooked the beautiful bay.  The people were tranquilo.  This is quite possibly the most over-used word in Latin America, but it was completely true in San Juan del Sur.  And I was with Juan who seems to have already perfected the art of doing nothing, and it quickly rubbed off on me.

San Juan del Sur 43I woke up in the morning when my body had enough sleep.

I usually only slept between 7 and 8 hours because my body was not stressed and did not need more than that.  I would enjoy many cups of tasty Nicaraguan coffee and perhaps work on my photography or walk to the market to buy ingredients for breakfast.

In the afternoon, I might hang out on the beach for a couple hours after the heat of the day passed.  Sometimes I read a book but more often I'd simply soak in the beautiful surroundings or even juggle (yep, there are pictures to prove it).

The afternoon might bring a rest in one of the many hammocks at the hostel, writing in my journal, interesting conversations with other travelers at the hostel, studying Spanish, or a walk to the ice cream shop.  The key was not planning any of it, just letting things happen and doing whatever pleased me at that moment.

The evenings were always my favorite.

Would we make dinner tonight?  If yes, walk to the mercado and carniceria for the ingredients.  If no, wander until we found some food that we were in the mood for.  Then maybe enjoy a couple of Tonas back at the hostel.  Although we were in the mood to go out a few times to the local bars, we typically stayed in and waited for all the young backpackers to finish “pre-gaming” at the hostel and go out for the night.  Then we had the place nearly to ourselves and could enjoy whatever it was we wanted to do, whether it was salsa dancing together or practicing our hobbies separately.  I went to bed when I felt tired and repeated the same routine the next day.

San Juan del Sur 133Juan and I would often joke about how we had a “very busy day” and needed to “rest a bit.” We kept telling the German guys we might go to Playa Maderas to surf with them mañana.  Then tomorrow would come, and we just wouldn't feel like it.  We'd much rather hang out at the hostel where we had more options to do or not do anything.  Everything would be mañana, but the beauty of it was that it wasn't actually a plan for tomorrow.  Mañana began to symbolize the whole concept of doing nothing, refusing to commit to plans.

If you've read this far, you probably have figured out that I'm not talking about literally doing nothing for days on end.  The goal is to be able to intersperse periods of doing nothing with periods of self-entertainment and enjoying all of it.

One of my goals is to learn to live simpler, and I think this is a big step in that direction.

We didn't need to spend a lot of money (only $20 combined for surfboard rental and transportation for a day of surfing) on organized activities in order to have fun.  The self-entertainment I witnessed for other travelers in San Juan del Sur was more like self-medication.  We actually nicknamed a 20-something kid from Austria Borracho because he was drunk and/ or stoned all of the time.  The kid didn't even sleep.  It was sad.  That behavior is actually the opposite of the goal.

After 11 days, we were not bored at all.  I wanted to stay forever. Of course, I don't think I can live every day of my life like I did in San Juan del Sur.  Since I left, I've been busy and have had plans to keep.  I traveled for three days through seven countries to get to a wedding in Puerto Vallarta where I had a blast seeing good friends and participating in the wedding activities.

After only four nights, I was on the move again to Mexico City.  Once I got to Mexico City, I realized there is so much I want to see during my four days here, and I've been on the move and enjoying the art and culture this city has to offer.  But I think it's important to keep a little bit of mañana with me. And when your body and your mind need it, take a break and do nothing for a little while.  Although I wish I had more time in this vibrant city, I am also looking forward to having two weeks standing still in Antigua, Guatemala over the holidays.  Hopefully, I will be successful at practicing the art of doing nothing while I am on my own.  Hasta mañana…

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