I am in Bariloche, Argentina, overall my favourite part of the country. There’s lots to love about this place – the beautiful lake, the surrounding mountains, the amazing views of snow coming in for the winter. Even the town is prettier than most.
Yet I’m sitting at home watching videos on my phone.
It seems like a waste, having traveled halfway around the world to do what I could have done back home. When I started traveling having slow days like this made me feel guilty, like I’m wasting a critical opportunity to go exploring, or sight seeing, or hiking, or whatever. But when you travel long term a mindset shift is needed. A shift that says this is life now, not just a 2 week vacation. That time is not horribly limited. That you can take it easy and relax. When you travel long term, every moment doesn’t count. You don’t need to stress out trying to cram maximum fun into your limited schedule because your schedule isn’t limited.
Which leads to the question of what do you do on those slow days? Of course what qualifies as good entertainment is subjective, but here’s a few things I’ve learned along the way.
I’m traveling by motorbike, and with a pillion. If you’re traveling light, space will always be limited, so choosing things to keep you entertained are equally space constrained. This leads me to the single best entertainment tip I have …
Get A Great Phone
Don’t settle for good if you can afford great. In addition to being a great travel tool in general, a good smartphone will easily provide the most entertainment in the smallest package.
Want to read a book? Check out Google Play Books, or the Amazon Kindle app, or load your own PDFs. Want to watch a movie? There’s Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, and a ton more options. Want to play a game? Chat with friends? Listen to music? Keep up to date with social media? Check, check, check, and check.
You’re probably carrying a phone anyway; we all do these days. Which means the added entertainment benefits take up no additional space, nor do they add any additional weight. Many people say to live in the moment, don’t look at your phone, enjoy the experience. I agree, when you’re not having a slow day. When you want to kick back and waste some time, the best phone will offer the best way of doing it, which is why I don’t mind paying a little extra for a phone I really like.
Get A Chromecast
It’s a game changer in many ways. I mostly live in AirBNBs, and most have TVs. However the services offered vary greatly, from nothing, to a full entertainment package. A Chromecast or similar means video on a big screen. This is not guaranteed of course – it assumes the TV has HDMI support, but most do.
The device is tiny so carrying it shouldn’t be a problem. Overall, it’s just great to have.
Get A Nintendo Switch
This only applies if you enjoy games. I carry my switch around without the docking station. I bought a case that lets me carry a few games along with the console, and I added a pair of headphones as well. It’s great at airports, on planes, ferries, and perfect for slow days on the couch.
The entire package fits comfortably into my backpack and since it’s charged via USB-C, I just use my phone or laptop charger.
Running Shoes Are Awesome
I enjoy running. I have big feet. But I compromised on space and brought my running shoes with me. Many travelers have a more minimalist mindset and use one pair of shoes for everything. I disagree. Running is important to me, and I love my running shoes for the comfort and pain-free experience they afford me.
Of course your tastes may vary. Carry whatever additional gear you need, maybe for hiking, or climbing, or whatever you like. Personally, knowing I can go out for a run and enjoy it is a huge win!
What About Tablets, Laptops, Book Readers?
Technically you can carry whatever floats your boat. I work on the road and for that I have a laptop. I use it primarily for work. Technically I can use it to replace many of the entertainment tasks I perform with my phone, but it’s just not convenient. I hate lying in bed with a laptop on my chest.
I’m still pro-phone.
Ditto for tablets and book readers. Yes, a Kindle offers a better reading experience, but the kindle app works great and I generally don’t sit in bright sunlight reading books anyway. And a tablet is just a big phone. Unless you really need it, save the weight and space and leave the extras at home.
I think everyone enjoys sitting back, relaxing, and just taking it easy once in a while. But this poses unique challengers for travelers, especially long term travelers. Keep things simple, and small, and light. Get a great phone. It’s probably your single best travel investment.