BUTTER YOUR BREAD ON BOTH SIDES*

‘We fished for tuna and sailed every now and then to the main island of Isabela to pick up fresh vegetables.’ After a hectic career in advertising, the Dutch advertising icon Cees van Staal, who recently passed away, chose to lead a simple life as a yachtsman. The Netherlands’ most successful football coach, Louis Van Gaal, also showed his simple side in a recent TV interview: he spoke candidly about his wife Truus and Peyton Place. It’s also public knowledge that Dutch media giant John de Mol likes to play a round of cards at the campground when he’s not busy snatching stars from rival broadcasting company RTL. 

Simplicity is all the rage. We spend a fortune trading our pampered life for three weeks of back to the basics in a tent or a bonsai hut. With a croissant with camping butter in one hand and a plastic mug in the other, we ecstatically whirl black clumps of Nescafé. We happily insert a 50 eurocent coin and enjoy a three-minute lukewarm shower in the campground shower facility. It’s just long enough to become nauseated by the eau de toilette wafting out of the adjacent restroom facility. And you’re also standing right in the flow of the floating hairballs because the main drain is obviously in your shower cell. But that doesn’t matter because later today we’ll jump with the whole family gleefully into our inflatable jacuzzi we got at Alibaba.

What’s the point of this self-castigation? Well, people say boredom is good for you and the best medicine for a busy era. Hanging around doing nothing gives your overworked brain some much-needed rest. Holiday life is uncomplicated and as manageable as a dollhouse. At the end of the day we’ve all got a streak of autism. 

You don’t have to look far for worn-out clichés during the dog days of summer, but someone who really knows what he’s talking about is John Eastwood of York University in Toronto. Eastwood heads the Boredom Labwhere the phenomenon of ‘boredom’ is scientifically studied. And what do you know: boredom occurs when your activity does not fulfil a natural need for stimuli. And people despise boredom because it inevitably leads to introspection and that is confrontational. So at the slightest risk of boredom, we immediately start playing a game of Candy Crush or scroll across our endless timeline on Facebook. 

The moral of this story – it’s admittedly taken a while to get to it – is that we have to dare to be bored. Anyone who escapes into their smartphone the second there’s nothing to do is afraid to take a long look at themselves. And perhaps doesn’t realise that they’d be better off looking for a different partner or career. A new campaign, a repositioning of their brand or a complete transformation of their company. Campers have always known it: Idle hands aren’t the devil’s workshop, they’re the alarm clock of progress!

 

* This column came about during a moment of boredom at Bakkum campground.