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Delightfully Boring Vlieland

Vlieland, Netherlands, October 2021 - by Jeffrey

Every year, Ira goes out of her way to be bored. Really. She does this by renting a cottage in one of the islands in Friesland, in the North of the Netherlands. Normally, she does this alone - after all, it is easier to be bored alone - but in 2021 she invited me to come along to be bored with her on the island of Vlieland. I accepted. I was bored. It was great.

Let's get the island over with so we can talk about what a wonderful and useful thing it is to be bored. Vlieland is an island of 39 square kilometres (15 square miles) that includes a single village called Oost-Vlieland (East Vlieland). There used to be a West Vlieland, but it disappeared into the sea nearly 300 years ago and no one has bothered to do anything about it since. About half the island, in the west, is a nature reserve used for training by the Dutch Air Force and so is off limits, especially as they occasionally use live ammunition there. Being shot would utterly spoil the notion of a boring holiday. 

There is little to do in Vlieland, especially in the autumn when it is too cold to go swimming. Your options include walking on the beach, walking in the woods or eating in a restaurant. If you get overly bored with walking, you can rent a bicycle and pedal along the beach, through woods and to a restaurant. That's about it. Boring. I know. To make matters worse, most of the restaurants serve traditional Dutch food which, between you and me, is boring (This is why there are probably very few Dutch restaurants in your neighbourhood).

Vlieland is nearly car free (tourists cannot bring cars on to the island) and only accessible by a suitably dull, 90 minute ferry ride or by helicopter. Apparently, there is a helipad on the island. But, we opted for the ferry ride as you can see. A helicopter would have been too exciting.

 

On the boat
On the ferry

In Praise of Boredom

I'll be the first to admit that having a powerful computer - complete with access to world knowledge, most of my friends and more (such as this blog) - tucked away in my pocket and instantly available is great. If I am curious about something, I can look it up. If I want to connect with a friend, I can message him. If I am bored, I can do cryptic crosswords. If I want to flirt with Ira, we can do a video call. Indeed with so much available in the pocket sized computer, that we oddly insist on calling a telephone, one can easily go for days without being even the slightest bit bored. The thing is, being bored from time to time is good. It gives the brain a chance to rest, process stuff and slip into default mode network (DMN), a part of the brain that becomes active when you are not focused on a particular task. When your DMN is active, you think freely, remember stuff, think about other people and day dream.  

When your DMN is working, you are thinking more freely and loosely than you usually do. As a result, you are far more likely to have creative ideas - even when you are not focused on solving problems. This is why you are far more likely to have brilliant thoughts while out on a walk or relaxing in a hot bath, rather than sitting at your work desk or scrolling Facebook.

In addition, when DMN is switched on and your brain is thinking all over the place, you are more likely to find solutions to intractable problems, reflect on life and appreciate friends. These, I am sure you will agree, are all good things. And the best way to do these things is to be bored. Put away your phone. Go for a walk. Relax in a hot bath. These are pleasant ways to be bored and let your brain go into default mode.

Or, better still, why not spend a long weekend on a boring island, where there is not much to do besides walk,  think, and be bored? This is what Ira does once a year. And, in 2021, I had the delightful pleasure of being bored with her.

Ira checking map
Note that Ira is using an actual, printed on paper map rather than Google maps

 

 

Tennis net on beach 
Tennis net. I expect there is more happening on this beach in the summer

  

 


Ira photographing the plants
Evening view from the beach

 

 

Ira and Jeffrey happily bored together
Ira and Jeffrey happily bored together on Vlieland Island

 

 

 

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© 2021 - Jeffrey Baumgartner