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.