The joy of doing nothing

The joy of doing nothing

I’ve realized that I really hate doing stuff. I can usually handle one “touristy” thing a day: a tour, a museum, a historical site. After that, I’d rather just do a whole lot of nothing–in the best possible way.
Sunset in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii, USA
I’m starting to learn that doing nothing can sometimes be a good thing, a way to passively soak up the culture that surrounds us. The Italians even have a term for it: il dolce far niente. The sweetness of doing nothing–isn’t that just as far from Western hustle and bustle as you can get?!
The things that we often classify as not being “something” enough are valuable in themselves: it’s what locals do all the time without a second thought. Doing nothing is often just living, and enjoying it–and isn’t that better than sightseeing?
Bookstore in Newtown, Sydney, Australia
  • Browse a bookstore: Read the backs of fiction books. Flip through a travel guide. Drool over cookbooks with pictures. Take a seat in a big comfy chair. I get all my books from the library, but that doesn’t stop me from stopping in every bookstore I pass.

Coffee at DiBella Warehouse in Melbourne, Australia

  • Sit at a café: Bonus points if there’s a spare newspaper or magazine lying around. Sip a latte. Make friends with the waiter. Sip another latte. Order some food, if only to keep the table. Enjoy your food, completely.
  • People watch: On a bench. On the beach. In a park. On a café terrace. In a pub’s courtyard. On the tram. On a busy street corner.

Reading a book in the sunshine in a park in Melbourne, Australia

  • Soak up the sunshine. Read a book. Take off your shoes and take a nap. Get a tan. Put on some sunscreen. Watch the clouds roll by.
  • Watch the sun set. Watch the sun rise.

Cemetery in Stockholm, Sweden

  • Wander: Through alley ways. Through cemeteries. Through open-air markets. Look for street art. Look for hidden passageways. Look for courtyards. Don’t take public transportation. Don’t take taxis.

What’s your favorite way to do nothing?

  • Now you’re talking! I love doing nothing – specially the “nothing” that involves sun and people watching! 

  • I love the epicurean feel to your post 😉 We live in this society where we almost have to feel guilty for doing nothing, but there’s nothing wrong with it! Some people can’t sit still – I have no problem hanging around and enjoying the moment. Good post idea 🙂

  • I am totally with you on this one – I’ve gotten it down to an art form. And I can’t BELIEVE how many people don’t agree, it’s astounding to me. But the thing I love the best is when someone comes to visit and I convert them into a true believer in il dolce far niente. It’s awesome.

  • I love doing nothing as well. Lazing around in cafes, swinging in a hammock watching the sunset or reading a book, lying about on the beach, strolling in the park. Many of these things I can no longer do as I have a beautiful girl demanding I play barbie schools with her

  • Maggie

    doing nothing is a favorite pastime of mine…lovely to see you like it too!

  • Nothing quite like sitting on a hill with a spectacular view!

  • Your list of idle time activities is quite extensive!  I like them all but you could include gazing out over the sailboats in the bay or mountains to the list.  IMO people do not take enough down time.

  • I can totally relate to this 🙂  When I first started traveling I thought I had to see and do it all – in terms of touristy things.  Now I can go for days without seeing major sites and I might get stuck in a location for a while.  I find by doing less I see more.

  • I am all about doing nothing when I travel too! A small amount planned and then NOTHING! It is great.  I love going into grocery stores and pharmacies – they can be so fun!

  • Wait, can I say my favourite doing nothing activity is sleeping?  Okay it’s not really travel oriented but I still enjoy it. Visiting a cafe is definitely high on my list. Nothing like sipping a good cup of coffee watching other people.

  • Liv

    Doing nothing is a fantastic way to get a ‘feel’ for a place and indulge in a little people-watching, amongst other things – I like it!

  • The joy of doing nothing just sounds like the perfect situation for me.  After all I think most of us work hoping to be able to do nothing later (which sadly never comes).  Sitting down outside and people watching is one of my favorite things to do especially at a park or beach during sunrise.

  • I couldn’t agree more! The touristy stuff can get old and I think its sometimes a million times better to sit in a cozy cafe and watch the people walk by.(And I can definitely lose 2 hours in a book shop very quickly!) Great photos as well 🙂 

  • Choco_mademoiselle

    :)))) great post! il dolce far niente, true!!
    I loooove walking, walking, walking… 🙂 and sitting somewhere watching ppl passing by is fun, as well!
    have a nice day! 🙂

  • Cathi

    You just described exactly what I do when I go on vacation – we love to just wander the towns and soak up everyday life – it’s the best! We are going to Rome and London next month and are so excited! Wonderful post! xxoo 🙂

  • When I’m in a big city, I tend to have a lot of energy and want to do a million things.  However, when I’m in a tropical local…I want to do NADA!!!  Me + beach + cocktail = that’s all 🙂

  • Moving to San Francisco, I’ve really learned so much about this lately. I think there’s this assumption that we always have to be busy, often busy doing a couple things at once. Watching television while checking email, listening to music while eating, and so on. This isn’t something that’s new. Several hundred years ago Blaise Pascal wrote about how humans are unable to sit alone in a room. I’ve really found comfort in doing more of this. Sitting on a bench in the park, going to the beach, sitting in a cafe, and so on. It takes strength to resist picking up my phone or a magazine, but there’s been something about just being in the moment and doing nothing. Great read Christine!

  • Anonymous

    YES! Sunshine is key in making nothing enjoyable 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Luckily, I’m the most go-go-go of my friends–they’re pretty easy to talk into doing nothing 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Ahhh that reminds me to enjoy all the nothing I can do while I’m still single and childless… 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Glad I’m not the only one!

  • Anonymous

    Agreed! One of my favorite memories is sitting in the Swiss Alps with an ice cream and just thinking how absolutely gorgeous it was 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I do love walking out on St Kilda pier and watching the boats and the penguins 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Couldn’t agree more with that last sentence!

  • Anonymous

    Ahhh I LOVE grocery stores! I can wander through them for ages…so much fun!

  • Anonymous

    Napping in the sunshine? Winner.

  • Anonymous

    Glad you enjoy it as well! 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I really need to start waking up early enough to enjoy a sunrise….

  • Anonymous

    Definitely agree…cafes and bookshops are my absolute favorites in a new place!

  • Anonymous

    Ahhh yes…I spend many a day JUST walking!

  • Anonymous

    Have so much fun! Both of those are great cities to wander, as long as the weather cooperates!

  • Anonymous

    Yup–all I need is a beach and a book!

  • Anonymous

    Glad you can relate! I find it much easier to do in a new location where I’m not worried about being judged or running into someone I know than it is at home–being free of that judgment is so liberating!

  • Anonymous

    So it’s decided. After reading this post, I’m convinced we have to travel together at some point!

    This is exactly how I spent my first couple weeks in Bangkok – and absolutely loved it. Sure, I managed to fit in some of the touristy bits, but found just as much joy in simply wandering the streets, having the odd beer or coffee in the sun and soaking up the foreignness of the place. 

  • Driftingfocus

    If doing these things is doing nothing, then the majority of the time I’m not doing anything when I travel! 😉

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  • Anonymous

    Haha I know, right?! I do think that sunshine makes doing nothing SO much better.

  • Anonymous


  • Vanessa

    I adore doing “nothing” in a new place. It’s the best way to really get a feel for the place. Plus, if you’re doing “nothing”, you won’t have many time constraints, so you can walk & get a feel for life in that place ‘on the ground’ not just rushing from destination to destination.

  • Anonymous

    So true–couldn’t agree more!