Emergency Break
Emergency Break

A five-step guide to slow travel for fast people.

You live at a hundred miles an hour. Actually, scratch that. Old cliché. You live much faster than that. And you live it in the ten directions of the universe at once – managing work communication, the work itself, PTA and spinning and CrossFit and yoga, maybe some night classes, Fortnite tournaments, bedroom spice updates, a little gardening, endless Instagram (endstagram?), keeping up with the news, blah blah blah.

I get it. And I get that you need a break. More importantly, I believe I know just the sort of break that’s going to actually return you to your life with more vitality. Because while tossing back syrupy tequila concoctions on some remote slice of beach set aside for affluent effluence might sound like a glorious break, I doubt it’s what you need.

If you’re like most of us, you’ll spend too much of your time trying to get the perfect shot of your feet on the beach. You’ll drink too much, get sunburned, spend laughable sums of money and probably get in a fight or two with your significant other – since you’re both trying to get the metaphorical sand out of your undergarments and turn this tourist trap into the diametrically opposed kind of breathers you both need.

Pessimist? Maybe. Realist? Definitely.

My goal is to just help you find the respite you NEED in your precious little time off.

Step One: Print this off.

Print it. Because you’re going to be living without your phone.*

Step Two: Plan ahead.

Choose your destination. I won’t tell you where to go, because it’s entirely personal. Do some research, but not too much. But find a place that gets you excited, with little pockets of intrigue –  neighborhoods that confound you, cultures that blow your mind. Don’t look up reviews. Find a place that’s mostly walkable or has a lot of walkable areas. Got a destination? Great.

Now find a homebase, a place of your own with beds, bath and kitchen. Airbnb is fine, but better yet, look up vacation rentals because I don’t want to give you an excuse to use your phone.* Ideally, there’s a bus route or other public transport nearby or just great walkability in general. You will not be using Uber or Lyft. Just walking, bicycling and public transport.

Explain to everyone who matters that you’ll be disconnected, only reachable by actual phone calls or – god forbid – an in-person visit. Even then, you may be hard to reach. But you’re talking to grown-ups. Surely they can figure things out on their own for a week or two. No texting or email. Those will teleport your brain and your damaged soul right back to your desk and everything else you’re trying to escape and heal from. Think of it like a relapse. Plan as if you will not have a phone, then leave it at home. Really.* People did it for centuries before you. Compare yourself to Lewis and/or Clark. If they could do that, you can do this. And it will be So. Damn. Good for your soul.

How are you getting there? You can turn the transportation itself into slow travel with a little more planning. A road trip, or better yet, rail trip, will really move the needle, providing value-added experiences and drive your ROI at the end of the day. See? We’re already getting wrapped up in corporate nonsense. All the more reason to disconnect.*

Step Three: Pack.

Packing list
Pack all your typical staff, but here are a few extra things to consider:

Real Camera: You’re not using your phone*, but you still want to some photos. And a real camera, whether digital or film, will force you to marshal enough desire to get it out to photograph something, instead of snapping every little thing you see all day. It also limits the number you can take (a good thing, just ask your iCloud storage status) and means you have to wait to share them. Ideally in person.

Bag For Gifts: You’re going to be surprised how much cheaper slow travel is. You’ll have extra money to bring home gifts for the people who allowed you to disconnect* and others that you just genuinely like. These gifts will give you an excuse to get together with these people, offer them a piece of your experience and show photos and tell stories in person.

Cash and Coins: Think mom and pop shops sans Venmo or credit card machines, cab rides, parking meters and tipping street vendors.

A Book: It doesn’t have to be an especially good one. But try this: when you find that perfect spot to sit, when the temperature is just right on a patio with a view of a thing and the nature around you, just read for an hour. It helps you absorb your environment. You hear the sounds, notice local idiosyncrasies and soak up the smells.

Real Maps: Yes, they still exist and they have the benefit of not funneling you through all the same mainstream things your friends have done. Find areas that look interesting and budget a day/time to go explore them.

Unpacking list
What to leave at home:

Your Phone*: Truly, this is the leash binding your mind and soul to all the things that drain your vitality. One object of this slow travel trip is to heal from all of that, so when you return you have more to give. You can’t do that if you don’t heal. Leave the phone behind.

Your Smartwatch/Fitbit/Whatever: This too.

Your laptop: Duh.

Any other work junk: Excel documents, reports, proposals, whatever. You’re on vacation. Leave it.

Uh uh uh! I said LEAVE IT.

Step Four: Get started.

Day one: Get out your maps, get oriented and decide which direction to start moving. Once you see a coffee shop (you will), get some coffee and breakfast. While you’re taking it in, ask the barista which areas to avoid and the best hidden gems. Tip the barista well. This will please the karma gods and start your vacation off on a Fred Astaire-level perfect step.

Step Five: No more instructions.

At this point, the point is to surrender to the flow, let the current take you wherever it will, explore and be spontaneous. Be curious. Walk down that street. Subject yourself to the weird hippie store and its eccentric owner. However, if you found yourself stuck or craving digital validation of your choices and experiences, here are some ideas to get you unstuck:

Get lost.

People watch.

Talk to the people, but don’t talk about yourself unless asked and then only briefly.

Let your kid decide what to do next.

Eat dinner close enough to stumble home after too many.

 

 

I truly hope you find the same healing and fresh air in slow travel that I do. And even if it all goes horribly wrong, you’ll bring home the very best souvenir there is: a story you never tire of telling.

*If you have real courage – and I believe you do – you can leave your phone behind. Just do it.

But really, I can’t. What if there’s an emergency?**

**You can handle it. You’ll do fine.

I mean what if there’s an emergency at home or work.***

***Oh. I didn’t realize you were the world’s foremost heart surgeon, and only your second-by-second remote direction on surgery will save the child who will someday avert Armageddon. Simple solution. Postpone your vacation until after the surgery.

You know what I mean. ****

****Just leave it. If something awful happens, you can hold me personally responsible.

Look, I totally understand what you’re getting at, but I have to be able to receive and make a call. *****

*****Fine. Since you’re so important, I’m sure you can afford this prepaid flip phone to use – but only in case of a real emergency. Work is not an emergency.

I’m not spending $139 on that.******

Okay here’s what you do. Take one collective emergency phone. Disable the mail server. Delete safari and all the other apps (they’re easy to restore once you’re back). Disable wifi. Disable messaging. Cool?

Cool.

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