The Lost Art of Escape


With technology being ever-present in our lives, the lost art of escape is a very real thing. Here's why you need to brush up on your vacation skills.

The Lost Art of EscapeI’ve just emerged from more than a week without any connectivity: no Internet, no cell phone, no running water, electricity or buildings.

I practice this form of escape for a minimum of one week each year, though in the past I’ve cut myself away from civilization for upwards of one month or more.

Digital mobility – the art of traipsing the globe while working from your laptop – is an amazing lifestyle. It showers you with indescribable freedom. But it carries one drawback: if you can work from anywhere, you do. You never broadcast an “away” message. You never disconnect.

That’s a serious problem. A true vacation demands that you vacate. It requires you to escape, unplug, and smash your addiction to email. This is the Lost Art of Escape, and it’s a critical skill. Yes, vacationing is a skill, and it’s one that most people don’t practice enough.

Don’t Multi-Task the Sunset

True escape is the only way to declutter your mind, re-assess your priorities, and create a vision for the year ahead. Without this, you might waste years down the wrong path, simply because you haven’t taken the time to quiet your mind.

Unfortunately, most people don’t practice true escape. Most people bring smartphones and laptops into their personal zones. They “check in” with their colleagues or clients. They jump on email “just for five minutes.” They upload photos to Facebook instead of watching the sunset. (Worse, they’ll upload a photo while watching the sunset. People, please. Sunset is not meant to be multi-tasked.)

As a result, most people never leave their old paradigms behind. They never enjoy solitude and reflection. They’re too distracted by Twitter.

Nature = Rehab for Digital Addicts

If you suffer from email addiction, voyaging into the wilderness is like checking into rehab. You literally, physically can’t check your Inbox, no matter how much you’d like to do so.

Like any recovering addict, you might break into a cold sweat for the first few days. But by Day 6 or 7, your mind will have adapted to its new reality, and you’ll have the mental freedom to reassess your budget, your career, and your five-year plan. More importantly, you’ll feel free, happy, simple.

What if the wilderness doesn’t appeal to you? For some of you, there’s “glamping,” a glamorized version of car camping. Same nature, more amenities.

The rest of you, though – the cityslickers who won’t even try glamping — have a tough battle ahead. You’re faced with the monumental task of trying to disconnect while remaining in the wired world. I’m cheering for you, but I have to warn you that the road ahead is rough.

Severing yourself from email and phone while you’re in the “real world” is like breaking a coffee addiction while you’re at Starbucks.

It is possible? Yes. Is it easy? Nope. That’s why I recommend radically changing your environment. Go somewhere where checking your email defies the laws of physics.

Just try it. You might discover a new clarity.

Here are some of the things I discovered during my time disconnected:

  • Outcome Agnostic  — I’m not going to tie my stomach in knots about the quality of my blog posts. I’m not going to obsessively review each line before I hit “publish.” Either you’ll like it, or you won’t. The outcome isn’t up to me, so I’m not going to project any wild expectations of comments or likes or new subscribers.


  • Hamster Wheel — Here’s the definition of running on a hamster wheel: Wasting every hour of your precious life earning money. Then wasting that money, so that you can feel better about the fact that you spend so much time earning it. This is a ludicrous practice. It’s far better to use your money to buy time — by outsourcing and by creating passive income streams.


  • Simplicity is King. — Yes, it might be “technically” better to stack coupons on top of double-discount deals on top of rewards cards. But guess what? I don’t want to add that level of complexity to my life. Sometimes, I just want to buy a freakin’ loaf of bread, and I don’t want it to be so complicated. That’s not sloth; that’s ruthlessly guarding your most valuable asset: your mental space.


  • Limit Your Hours — There’s no heroism in working yourself to the bone. You can’t work 168 hours per week, and you can’t justify an out-of-balance life by patting yourself on the back about your high income. If your “business model” consists of 80-hour workweeks, something’s wrong. Remember: Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time that you give it. Limit your working hours, and you’ll automatically become more efficient. And then you can spend more time disconnected.


  1. says

    A few weeks ago I went to San Francisco without the laptop, but with an iPhone. I told my clients I was off the grid for four days. When I got out to the Marin Headlands Hostel (on the other side of the Golden Gate bridge) there was no phone signal! I spent two days only using the phone to take pictures. I kept the phone out of harm’s way when I was at the beach, which meant that I didn’t even think to use it. It was very nice. (I’m glad I had the phone for navigation and pictures, but had no problem ignoring email.) I had a wonderful time. Now I want to do it a lot more and for longer.

    • says

      That’s fantastic, Leslie. Promise yourself that you’ll make this a regular practice. I’m a firm believer that everyone should unplug and disconnect at least once a year. It’s an amazing experience.

  2. says

    I needed to hear this today. I had a very busy, happy and hectic summer. The moments I treasure were spent enjoying nature, and watching the stars at night while camping. Those moments make up mere minutes in my entire summer, but I treasure them.

  3. says

    Glad you’re back and love how you word this post, especially the ‘Hamster Wheel’ description! However, the paragraph that I can relate to is the one about limiting work hours. I know I need to change, but my excuse has been that it’s OK to work so much because I love what I do.

  4. says

    I took an Alaska cruise earlier this summer. The ship charged $0.75 per minute for internet access, so I ended up being completely disconnected for several days. It was the first time in years I had gone such a long time without working. So I know exactly where you are coming from with this post. Thanks!

      • says

        Of course, out there, despite the lack of internet and phone there is still much human connectivity! I enjoyed my 4th year this time around. Already excited to go back. Hope that a job change I am currently undergoing will not prevent me. But no matter what, I expect to be there again.

  5. says

    “No running water, electricity or buildings” – wow, you stepped it up a gear!! :)

    Welcome back. While I usually like to keep the benefit of running water whilst on vacation, I completely agree that holidays should be a time without any connectivity to the things in your normal life.

    If not, its just work in a different location.

  6. says

    “A true vacation demands that you vacate.” Wise words. As human beings, we are designed to take breaks. We must sleep every night, we must refuel with food and water and we need to replenish our minds with breaks. Vacations are intended to be that break. I adore this post.

  7. says

    Funny enough, last week I got back from 5 days at a camp site recommended by Jason Hull. Total technology black hole. And it was great. Just sat around the campsite reading, playing catch with my son, or swimming in the lake. I recommend some time like that for everyone.

  8. says

    Funny that you published this while I was on my own self-imposed hiatus. It was fabulous. So fabulous that I’d do it 52 weeks a year. I found that nothing truly important happened while I was gone. At least, nothing truly important external to me happened. Lots of internally important things happened, which, sadly, don’t happen often enough when I’m not disconnected from the world.

    I don’t think that you’re outcome agnostic. You care. If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t do it in the first place. However, you care to make it good enough, which is a far cry from perfect, and requires much less work.

    The formula I’ve lived by since I was in college: RD = FC. Rough draft = final copy. It simplifies life significantly.

  9. says

    I was thinking this same thing in the ‘multi tasking the sunset’ category when I read Sports Illustrated the other day and saw Mariano Rivera’s last game image and most of the people watching him come out of the bullpen were on their smart phones taking pictures. I get that you want to remember the moment but BE there, be fully present, you’re about to watch one of the most talented baseball players in the world play his last game. Look up pictures online, they’ll probably be better than yours anyways.

  10. says

    Escaping is getting more and more difficult. It seems technology just follows us everywhere. At the end of this month, I’m going to Peru to spend some time in Lima, and then 10 days in the jungle to literally unplug and find myself, and that’s my explanation when people ask. It’s not a complicated concept and yet people shrink away and cringe when I mention alone time to meet the real me, using pit toilets, having mosquito netting over my sleeping bag, and possible access to electricity from 6 – 9 pm. I feel so stressed out because I can’t get away, and I am glad that I’m not the only one who finds value/the necessity in cutting the cord for a time.

    I’m also glad that I found your blog today. As someone who is struggling to crawl out from a mountain of debt, wants to travel the world, and be financially independent sooner rather than later (hence my 3 week departure from work to unwind – I think I’m going crazy in here), I think this was perfect timing; the weight I’m under started to suffocate me, and I was becoming disheartened these past few months. This is proof right here that my goals are achievable because you are obviously extremely successful and happy for it! I will enjoy reading more of your blog!

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