What comes after escape?

We occasionally hear about lottery winners who continue to work in spite of their millions. Moreover, we probably all have relatives who’ve spent so much of their lives in a state of manic servitude that they can’t face their hard-earned retirement. There’s a destructive idea that to be unemployed is to somehow lose dignity or pride.

So what do we do once we’ve turned our backs on the Protestant Work Ethic?

Work on your own projects. I don’t know what you like to do. Maybe it’s drawing, maybe it’s growing your own potatoes. It helps to find a passion. Whatever it is, the post-escape life is your chance to indulge yourself without work getting in the way. Try something you’ve never done before: football fans could consider bonsai and computer programmers might try building a tree house.

Read. It’s fun, stimulating, private and costs very little (or nothing if you use a public library). It has a very low impact on the environment and doesn’t contribute to other people’s misery. Read enduring classics over fashionable fluff, but don’t base your reading choices on obligation. Read for pleasure and to expand your mind. I set up a reading list at the beginning of the year but I know this is an unusually disciplined approach and is not for everyone.

Walk. Some friends and I walked from Parc La Fontaine to Westmount Public Library yesterday. Without work or studies to dictate our actions, we didn’t have to save time by getting into a car or a bus. Instead we set out early and walked. I saw parts of the city I’d never seen before (including a district which looked so much like Glasgow, I thought I’d found a wormhole back to my old town) and got some exercise to counteract the knish we ate for lunch halfway.

Travel. Your budget for this may be limited but there will be interesting travel options for within your own country or local area. Americans only have to hop on a train to visit other states and Europeans have amazing opportunities to other countries for very little money. If money allows it, why not visit the place you’ve always wanted to see (or better yet, somewhere you you might not even want to see)?

Be with real friends. When you work or study, the company you keep is dictated by situation alone. Whether or not you would socialise with colleagues after work, you still spend most of your time with them. In the post-escape life, your relationships must be maintained more deliberately. The result is that you spend time only with people who matter, people whose opinions you value and people whose company you genuinely enjoy. I’m crossing an ocean next month with the main intention of seeing my parents, Neil, Laura, Dan and Tim.

Tackle an issue. If you’ve been bothered by a political issue, environmental problem or social inequality, now is the time to stand up and challenge it. Write letters, join initiatives, start a thinktank. You have the gift of time.

Cultivate your life. Instead of tolerating the environment in which you live (including the environment inside your head), you now have the time to improve it bit by bit. Like a statue waiting in a block of marble, the good life hides within the glut of possessions and activities.

Learn to do nothing. Embrace nothingness. Meditate. Learn to be quiet and to appreciate silence. Learn to exist without consuming or producing.

Live. Each day lived outside the systems of oppression (debt, work, consumption) is a day well spent. Your only masterpiece is the life you lead. Each day spent deliberately is a vote against drudgery.


Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at wringham.co.uk

4 Responses to “What comes after escape?”

  1. Good suggestions. I would add booze and beach life, but maybe that files under “personal projects”. One question, though: So you set up a reading list each year… I get that… but: Do you complete it? And how do you cope with suddenly uprising content that wasn’t planned? Just like, say, someone points you to Sartre and you get intrigued and, bamm, there’s 633 unexpected pages of Being and Nothingness. Do you leave free slots?

  2. Rob says:

    Hey Fabian. This was actually the first year I did the reading list (after my previous year’s resolution to record everything I read: an exercise which showed that I’d been reading any old rubbish and needed to get some discipline over what I consume).

    You’re absolutely right in your assertion about free slots. As a realist, I left two free slots for ‘wiggle room’. Since then, I’ve cheated a little more and read a few other non-prescribed books. I consider this number of cheats to be a ‘finding’ of the experiment rather than a failure to complete a challenge. This being said, I’ll try to build a more exhaustive list next year and have fewer cheats.

    Let me show you my list! I’ll share the Google Doc with you.

    (Booze and beach life – good call).

  3. Anna says:

    These are the things I am aiming for!

    To achieve this, I am trying to decide whether it’s better to work full-time for a period of a few hard years whilst saving, or just have a part time job for the rest of my life? Currently I’m working 3 days in an office which gives me plenty of time to do gardening, sitting and staring into space and plenty of walking around. However, I could probably do this artful nothingness full-time eventually if I managed to commit to a full-time job for a while, it’s just that full-time work makes me feel sick and deranged! I find part time work earns me more than enough money (especially since the tax rate is much lower). Still, it seems a horrible waste of life to spend 3 days a week staring at a computer doing absolutely nothing. What do you think is a better option?

    Life in Melbourne is pretty swell even for those who earn little. Maybe it’s similar to Montreal?

  4. Rob says:

    Personally, I would continue with the part-time option. In a way, you’re already halfway to freedom so I’d see a return to full-time employment as a step backwards. I’d use my free time to find ways of weaning myself off the part-time work altogether. True, this would mean sacrificing some free time for a while but at least you’d still be your own boss for these hours and you’d be actively on your path to escape rather than indirectly through money.

    I bet Melbourne is kinda similar to Montreal! I’ve never been but one of my best friends in the UK is an Ozzy and she speaks very highly of Melbourne. I think Melbourne and Montreal have a similarly chilled-out attitude to life. Good beer!

    (Your copy of New Escapologist is on its way, Anna).

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