Travel and the art of doing nothing

Lockdown has made space in all our diaries for some daydreaming. Embrace it, says Chris Carter

Last week, we looked at the Japanese concept of ikigai, which, roughly translated, refers to your focus and drive, keeping busy, and what gets you out of bed in the morning. The Dutch concept of niksen is, on the face of it, the opposite. Literally the Dutch verb for “doing nothing”, niksen is about finding the time to consciously be idle by, for example, gazing out of a window. That “activity” is, according to a new book, Niksen: Embracing the Dutch Art of Doing Nothing by Olga Mecking, the quintessence of niksen, because, as Mark Smith puts it in The Times, “it can be performed at a moment’s notice without kit”. The Dutch even talk of lekker niksen, which means something along the lines of “doing nothing deliciously”. So, “stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone”, says Smith. “This lockdown the only thing on your leisure-time to-do list should be nothing… and feeling good about it.”

Make your not-to-do list

Doing nothing, of course, is easier said than done – especially in Britain, where being busy with work and spending time on self-improvement are venerated. “In the Netherlands, apparently it’s a common relaxation technique to stop whatever you’re doing and embrace nothing-ing,” says Katie Strick in the Evening Standard. “Here in the UK, the closest most of us get to switching off is scrolling through Instagram with a Calm podcast and calling it meditation. No wonder we’re all burnt out.” So, we must close the laptop, put the phone out of sight, and embrace what Mecking calls “doing something without purpose”. You might even write a not-to-do list and thereby free up your diary for daydreaming. “Perhaps the Dutch are on to something: in this world of productivity and accounting for every second, finding the time to do nothing suddenly feels like the biggest achievement of all,” says Strick.

But what if niksen doesn’t come naturally to you? “Mecking is understanding,” says Anna Maxted in The Daily Telegraph. If you’re not the type who can do absolutely nothing, then draw, listen to music, do a jigsaw, squeeze a stress ball. The last thing Mecking wants is for anyone to feel “terrible about failing” at niksen. “Honestly,” says Mecking, “anything that helps you relax is fine.” All it takes is a few minutes here and there. “Curiously,” adds Maxted, “I find that in the ­current conditions – when life feels tumultuous and exhausting, frenetic with constant change – a dash of niksen is priceless, and pleasingly organic.”

Head to the hills 

Loch Lomond

Autumn is a perfect time to visit Loch Lomond – Glasgow’s most beautiful autumn hideaway © David Scott / Alamy Stock Photo

Autumn is a perfect time to visit Loch Lomond – Glasgow’s most beautiful autumn hideaway © David Scott / Alamy Stock Photo

In terms of travel, most of us are not currently able to do nothing in the spiritual home of purposeful idleness: Amsterdam, with its lovely canals and colourful gabled buildings, will have to wait, as will the fields of flowers and pretty windmills of the rest of the Netherlands. Fortunately, practising niksen at home is as easy as turning a cosy chair towards a window, as Mecking recommends, and gazing out at the leaves on the trees. 

And what better time to start than now? “Autumn’s blaze of glory, all flame-red leaves and burnt-gold foliage, offers an opportunity to marvel at the brilliance of the natural world before hunkering down for winter,” says Alexander Turner in The Guardian. As nature goes into hibernation, more people than ever are visiting wooded areas and arboretums. “The experience of lockdown has changed many people’s relationships with nature and will undoubtedly extend our interaction with the arboreal beyond the traditional leaf-peeping season.” 

That said, the trees in the Howardian Hills, in Yorkshire, are at their “multi-hued best in autumn – the dazzling yellow of ash, chestnut and lime leaves complementing the rich russet and golden tones of beeches and oaks,” says Mike Bagshaw in Countryfile magazine. “There are no big forests here but some sizeable woods and lots of clumps and copses – dark pillows lying on a rumpled patchwork-quilt landscape.” Clent Hills, in Worcestershire, is another “perfect spot to witness autumn colour”, says Sarah Turner in The Observer, as is Loch Lomond – “Glasgow’s most beautiful autumn hideaway”. 

Recommended

Persimmon yields 12.3%, but can you trust the company to deliver?
Share tips

Persimmon yields 12.3%, but can you trust the company to deliver?

With a dividend yield of 12.3%, Persimmon looks like a highly attractive prospect for income investors. But that sort of yield can also indicate compa…
1 Jul 2022
The MoneyWeek Podcast: nuggets of positivity in an extended bear market
Investment strategy

The MoneyWeek Podcast: nuggets of positivity in an extended bear market

Merryn and John talk about he need for higher wages and lower house prices, and why the fact that this is the least dramatic bear market they’ve ever …
1 Jul 2022
Here are the best savings accounts on the market now
Savings

Here are the best savings accounts on the market now

With inflation at more than 9%, your savings are not going to keep pace with the rising cost of living. But you can at least slow the rate at which yo…
1 Jul 2022
Don’t try to time the bottom – start buying good companies now
Investment strategy

Don’t try to time the bottom – start buying good companies now

Markets are having a rough time, so you may be tempted to wait to try to call the bottom and pick up some bargains. But that would be a mistake, says …
1 Jul 2022

Most Popular

UK house prices are definitely cooling off – but are they heading for a fall?
House prices

UK house prices are definitely cooling off – but are they heading for a fall?

UK house prices hit a fresh high in June, but as interest rates start to rise, the market is cooling John Stepek assesses just how much of an effect h…
30 Jun 2022
The ten highest dividend yields in the FTSE 100
Income investing

The ten highest dividend yields in the FTSE 100

Rupert Hargreaves looks at the FTSE 100’s top yielding stocks for income investors to consider.
22 Jun 2022
The ten highest dividend yields on Aim
Income investing

The ten highest dividend yields on Aim

Rupert Hargreaves picks the highest-paying dividend stocks on Aim, London’s junior market for small and medium-sized growth companies.
29 Jun 2022