25 Things to do in the Middle of Nowhere

Shenzhen, China

Hiking in remote areas of Shenzhen, China

Bean and I have been in the middle of nowhere many times since leaving Chicago. We have never owned a television, so the adjustment for us is different than for most people. Arriving in China, I here of foreign teachers struggling with homesickness and boredom. For the times when internet access isn’t available, when there are no other foreigners around and the pubs are in another city, here is a list of activities to try. Bean and I haven’t done them all, but we have done many.

1. Learn to cook the local food- There is always someone who wants to share how to make their special dish. If you ask a few questions and are willing to learn, you can always be busy.

2. Take a walk- One of my favorite activities. I like to follow a path or street I haven’t taken. Even the most direct route has a detour somewhere along it. I am always discovering something new.

3. Go for a run- I enjoy going for a run every morning. I go to the local park, but anywhere is good. Unless I am lucky enough to have a running partner, I am the only foreigner present. It has been a great opportunity to meet people and start having a conversation.

4. Go for a hike- Just like with walking, most paths can be turned into a hike. If not, hiking trails abound in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes the scenery at the end of a long hike is awe inspiring.

5. Learn the language- It is always easy to find someone who wants to share their language. We have had random strangers walk up to us and volunteer to teach us Chinese. Whether it is difficult or not to learn the language, we are trying!

6. Learn a new language- If we already know the language, we can always start learning another language. It is like the man I read about who learned Spanish while living in Japan.

7. Play a board game- Board games from home may not be easy to find at the store, however, there are many native board games on the shelves. A quiet night with nothing to do is a great opportunity to learn how to play these games.

8. Learn to dance- I have discovered a great way to break out of my comfort zone and learn something new. It’s dancing. Even if the location is remote, someone should know how to do dance. Staying in a small community in France, I mentioned my interest in dancing to my host. She told me the couple downstairs loved to ballroom dance. Meeting them I found out about dancing in the area.

9. Learn to do woodworking- I have never taken up woodworking. Thinking about being stuck on a farm, I remembered there were lots of trees. I could have taught myself if I was bored enough. I suppose I could have learned basketweaving too.

10. Milk a cow- Milking cows has changed in our modern times. Not many people use a bucket to catch the milk. Following behind a few farmers, I have attached the milking apparatus to the cows at milking time.

11. Grow a garden- In small communities, people are always willing to share seeds and tools needed for gardening. They are also willing to let you work alongside as they work in their garden. If there is no one who likes to get their hands dirty, growing things, there is always a pot I can place on my windowsill. I can have my own indoor garden.

12. Learn to paint- I have read somewhere about people using natural colors of leaves, dirt and rocks to make paint. The idea is fascinating, especially if there isn’t an art supply store nearby. I don’t currently have the time to try anything like this out, but if I did, I might become the next big thing!!

13. Read a book- As much as I love the library, there isn’t always one around. I have my library’s app on my phone and I am able to read as many books as for which I have the time and interest. Reading is great for those early hours of the morning when I can’t sleep.

14. Write a book- Having no internet connection is a great way to focus creative energy on writing about being in a remote location with nothing to do!

15. Learn to bake bread- Bread requires very few ingredients, most of which can be found in practically any store worldwide. The smell of baking bread is so comforting. Having extra time, proper attention can be paid to adequately kneading the bread, letting it rise, punching it down and starting all over. The finished product is often well worth the wait.

16. Discover local history- Regardless of language barries, there is always someone who wants to share the local history. It is possible to communicate with our hands and gestures, making learning history something to laugh about (depending on the subject matter, of course).

17. Interview locals- Goes along with learning about the history. It would help to have a translator or a basic knowledge of the language.

Shenzhen Bay, China

Shenzhen Bay

18. Attend local events- Regardless of the size of the community, there is always something going on. One place we visited with less than a thousand families, there was a circus that came to town, a community center with nightly activities and the local epicerie. If I didn’t want to go out at night to the community center, I could always go to the epicerie and catch some gossip.

19. Learn to draw- I heard that drawing is just putting what you see on paper. Well, what I see never turns up on the paper. I could spend hours drawing something as simple as an apple and not have it turn out looking like what I see. Learning to draw is certainly an option when stuck in a remote location.

20. Repair or Build something- Being out in the woods, farm or far suburbs, there is always something that needs to be repaired. I am not very handy with tools, but given the opportunity, I can try. Whatever I make may be leaning to the side a little, but I tried.

21. Sew/ knit/ crochet- Whenever I think about being in the countryside, I always think about Little House on the Prairie books. They would sit by the fire at night and sew or crochet. I have been in foreign homes very similar to Little House in the Big Woods. I had my sewing kit with me, pulling it out at night to repair a hole. My very own Little House Experience.

22. Recycle or upcycle- The projects are endless for recycling and upcycling.

23. Teach something- Share knowledge. We all have something to share with other people. While I am here in China to teach English, I am knowledgeable about many things. Just as the people can teach me, I can also teach them.

24. Meditate- I have learned that there are times when I am supposed to be still and quiet. If I am in a quiet place with nothing to do, that is a good time for me to go with it…relax. It can not hurt me. In fact, it is useful when learning how to accept a situation that I can not immediately change. Meditating, focusing on the present moment and accepting are all states of being I will always have room for improvement.

25. Be a detective- Enjoy the adventure. Find something to do! If we seek, we will surely find.

My list was thought up on the spur of the moment, based on my travel and experiences. Your life is different than mine. I would love to know what you do when you are in a place with nothing to do!

2 Comments on “25 Things to do in the Middle of Nowhere

  1. Brilliant, a great and thoughtful list – some things more obvious than others! I have to say, I would love to be stuck out in the middle of nowhere lol!

    I have heard that “the Chinese” are prolific knitters (I realise this is something of a ridiculous generalisation…). As a knitter myself, I’d be interested to hear if you’ve come across it? I suppose that depends on the climate you’re in. But I have heard that it was very common to knit up garments that were regularly unravelled and reknit/reused for new garments multiple times because of a lack of resources, until the yarn was simply unusable any more. I could imagine that has changed, or perhaps knitting is considered too countrified, now?

    • Honestly, I have heard nothing about Chinese knitters. I am sure it is a thing somewhere, but we are in the middle of a big city where everyone has come from everywhere. The country people are trying to blend in with the city dwellers. Things they may have done in their hometown, they are not so willing to do in a modern environment. If I come across it, I will say something!!

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