When I first met Ellen we immediately hit it off, so to speak. Ellen is a Dutch regional development consultant working and living in Tirana, the capital of Albania. We had coffee together, talked about business and how to market. I agreed on helping with her husband’s hostel in Durrës no idea that it was a perfect practice in dealing with boredom.
Durrës is a beach town at the Adriatic Sea in Albania. Ellen her Albanian husband, Ben, runs his hostel with almost only volunteers. Since December is not my favorite month of the year I decided to help them out. I ended up working and living in Durrës for four weeks. Including Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Ellen warned me that it would be very quiet with not much customers and since Durrës is a small town there would be a lot of time to kill. Since dealing with boredom was a skill I wanted to manage, this was the perfect opportunity.
The hostel is located at the beautiful town square decorated with palm trees. A five minute walk from the beach and town center with enough places to shop, eat and drink. Apart from the amphitheatre and some historical buildings, Durrës has not very much to offer at wintertime.
Dealing with boredom
There were four of us at the volunteering team which meant one shift and one day off. The shift were not much more than keeping the fire burning and helping with guests. So enough time to do anything else as long as you where available.
This is when boredom comes in. Just sitting and be present. We tend to avoid boredom. We want to get entertained so we cling to our phone or television. We search for external input in stead of looking inside ourselves. Take the time to be mindful. Learn to look at everything as if it was the first time you saw it. The way babies and dogs look at the world: amazed without judging.
I like to talk, so I took the chance of dealing with boredom by listening. To the noises in the room, the silence, the talks amongst guests and the interesting stories about traveling from my fellow volunteers. Just listening.
A few weeks later I saw this documentary about Mirjam Lancewood: a Dutch woman living in the wilderness of New Zealand. In the beginning of her adventure she also had challenging times when dealing with boredom. What to do in the wilderness when you have no phone, television, books or newspapers?
She learned to deal with the situation, be grateful for the opportunities she had and just be amazed by the beauty of nature. Now she can sit for hours just watching and appreciating what is. Not what should be or what used to be or what could be. Just what is.
So for the first time in my life I could just sit. Nothing more and nothing less. Not filling the void with talking. Sitting still in the corner of the couch in hostel Durrës. Observing and listening. And from time to time having great meaningful talks. I learned a lot in Durrës.