You might not remember me because last time we exchanged emails was three years ago, but I thought an update was in order.
Three years ago, I told you how I discovered New Escapologist whilst working as a naval officer in NATO. I have now said “Goodbye to all that” and I’m working on the production of a documentary on radical life changes, travelling six months around the world with my best friend to film people who have been through this process of change.
I can’t stress enough how instrumental discovering your blog has been in making this decision. Thank you!
Hello Gwenn! This is wonderful news and of course I remember you. It was 2011 when we last spoke, but I don’t get email from NATO very often. Thank you for the update. It’s always interesting to hear about readers’ escape plans and extremely gratifying when they come to fruition as yours has. We can tell the readers about your project and blog through Letters to the Editor. But now: have a marvelous adventure. RW.
The ends for which they give away their priceless youth, for all they know, may be chimerical or hurtful; the glory and riches they expect may never come, or may find them indifferent; and they and the world they inhabit are so inconsiderable that the mind freezes at the thought.
This statement, equal parts indictment of, and warning to, the ambitious, is how Robert Louis Stevenson concludes his essay An Apology for Idlers. Better known for books such as Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Stevenson appears to have been an Escapologist at heart.
He reminds us that our concept of work-as-a-virtue is merely convention and tradition, and not necessarily valid. While he doesn’t denigrate work, he builds the case for the alternative — Leisure — to be given its due:
Idleness so called, which does not consist in doing nothing, but in doing a great deal not recognized in the dogmatic formularies of the ruling class, has as good a right to state its position as industry itself.
Stevenson makes a very compelling argument for truancy (take note, Parents!), making me wish I had a time machine…
If you look back on your own education, I am sure it will not be the full, vivid, instructive hours of truantry that you regret.
While others are filling their memory with a lumber of words, one-half of which they will forget before the week be out, your truant may learn some really useful art: to play the fiddle, to know a good cigar, or to speak with ease and opportunity to all varieties of men.
The idler…has had time to take care of his health and his spirits; he has been a great deal in the open air, which is the most salutary of all things for both body and mind.
Come to think of it, I do not regret skipping Econometrics class in fourth year to ride my bicycle across a frozen stretch of Lake Ontario and drink beer at a pub on Wolfe Island. It’s one of the few things I remember about fourth year: although I recall nothing of Econometrics, I did learn a thing or two about windchill.
Finally, on the subject of duty, Stevenson has this to say:
There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy, we sow anonymous benefits upon the world.
Be happy. Call into work sick tomorrow and take the kids out of school. You owe it to the world.
I have enjoyed reading your blog (discovered via Mr Money Moustache) greatly since forming my own escape plan. I liked the poster of Rita Hayworth from The Shawshank Redemption and have been thinking of ways to leave a copy at work to be found when I’m gone.
It also got me thinking about Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 which is another amazing escape story. The ending is so powerful as Yossarian paddles off in his dinghy not knowing if he will live or die but with his dignity intact. Also, the character of Orr must be the ultimate role model for Escapologists everywhere. He was regarded as insane/idiotic for continually crashing his plane into the sea but was all the while formulating and practicing the perfect escape plan.
I don’t recall you ever featuring Catch 22 but it does have so many parallels and themes to many of your messages.
Dear S. You *should* leave a Rita Hayworth poster at your office! The clever kids will get the reference. Those who don’t will see the movie eventually and it will finally occur to them what happened. Alternatively, you could print off a copy of this symbol and leave it pinned to a notice board somewhere. Nobody will understand it but it’ll draw less attention than Rita and you’ll be more likely to get away with it. I’m certain I’ve mentioned Catch 22 in the blog or the magazine somewhere, but perhaps I haven’t. I’m fond of that novel too though, especially Orr. I also like the poor soul who screams all night: he represents “the others”. Rob
A letter to the advice column in the Financial Times:
I work in financial services. My hours are reasonable — 8.30am to 6.30pm — the stress is manageable, my colleagues are all likeable, and I am paid extremely well to do a job I think has no meaning and makes me feel extremely bored at best. Am I just another entitled idiot for thinking I am wasting my youth? I want to quit, but I am scared I will end up just as bored, and working with more annoying people while earning three times less.
The answer from the FT is interesting. It acknowledges that working in a bank is boring (“It is also perfectly normal to find it devoid of meaning.”), goes on to suggest some survival strategies, and then suggests canvassing friends for the low-downs on non-financial jobs.
None of this suggests total rat race escape but you wouldn’t expect that from FT of all creatures. That’s what New Escapologist is here for. But it does provide a linear thought process that comes after the initial boredom diagnosis:
1. Make a competitive game of your career, doing well and trying to get promoted. If that doesn’t work then:
2. Lower your career expectations and embrace the boredom like a Zen Master. If that doesn’t work then:
3. Buttonhole others to learn about non-boring jobs with an eye to applying for one. If you’re still bored in your new job (the FT does not suggest this):
4. Come up with an escape plan.
Or, y’know, just come up with an escape plan anyway. It’s probably not the nature of the job that’s grinding you down but the whole idea of a job. But it might be wise to make sure that’s the case.
This comes from a news item about work being bad for our health.
Stress in the workplace could be shortening your life, a survey has found. Job pressures lead people to smoke more, drink more, eat unhealthily and exercise less than they should, posing serious health problems that contribute to heart disease.
British workers were also found in the survey to regularly work unpaid overtime, with almost one-fifth working more than five hours overtime a week.
The survey, carried out by the British Heart Foundation, found that two in five British workers said they feel their job has had a negative impact on their health in the last five years.
A third of workers also said they had put on weight because of their job, mainly through diet and lifestyle.
A stressful day often makes people want to get a takeaway or pick up a ready meal. Almost half of the workers surveyed said their work led them to eat more unhealthily.
There’s even a quote from yours truly:
Comedian Robert Wringham edits a magazine called New Escapologist, which advocates escape from the “everyday grind.” Speaking to RT he says: “When we’re not actually working (which is bad enough itself) we’re commuting to or from work, preparing for work, or recovering from work. We even dream about work because our jobs are so repetitive, anxiety-producing and dull. We wake from those dreams and think ‘I won’t even get paid for that shift!’ “
Is there a future in writing? Or in publishing at all? I’m in my early 30s, and find myself kind of unexpectedly at a career/life crossroads. For the past many years, I’ve been more or less happily living some milquetoast version of a professional double life. My main employment has been in communications: publicity, branding, social media, blah blah. It’s not at all terrible work, but it sure can be!
New Escapologist‘s happiness editor, Neil, draws our attention to an interesting letter to someone called The Concessionist about the practicalities and anxieties involved in choosing between a marketing job and going it alone as a writer.
The reply is refreshing and similar to something we’d write in New Escapologist (though I wouldn’t suggest going into debt–don’t do that):
You have time and room for some really bad choices still. WE ALL DO. BELIEVE IT. But you have time to make bad choices and recover from them even! You have time to start smoking, quit smoking and have a baby or two! You have time to go into six-figure debt to the IRS and pay your way out later! (Trust me, it’s easy!)
Say no to safety. Say yes to adventure. We’ll all be dead soon. It’ll be fine.
Only do this if you’re on Twitter already though! Don’t join for God’s sake. Twitter is, generally speaking, crap.
But here’s what’s happening at the NE feed of late:
1. I’m trawling the New Escapologist blog archives for quotations, surveys and news items worth referring to in the book. When I come across an entry that’s aged particularly well, I share it under the hashtag #OldEscapologist. There’s been some interesting old stuff cropping up.
2. Citizen’s Income is getting so much media attention lately, that it’s not practical or desirable to post it all to the blog. So I’m tweeting about it instead since it’s of interest to some Escapologists.
3. I’m also lending my feed somewhat to the Green Party electoral campaigns in the UK, so expect a bit of noise about that for a while. If you’re not into party politics, I apologise. But the Greens are great and have many Escapologist-friendly policies and attitudes, so I’m doing my bit to rock the boat while there’s an historic chance of actually tipping it.
The words “Stuff Management” should be in my family crest. I’m a firm believer that a family crest should contain a weak play on words.
We have just three weeks left of our four-year residency in Montreal. After that, we’re travelling in Spain for a while and then living in Scotland. We’ll be in Scotland for at least two years if not permanently, though “permanent” is a pretty loose word when you’re Escapologists.
For various reasons, I’m really looking forward to being back in Scotland. For all the lackadaisical liberties of Montreal and the wonders of the wider world, Scotland (specifically Glasgow) really is my favourite place to live and I’d like to make it a more permanent base of operations.
For the first time ever, I’m moving with (what feels to me) quite a lot of stuff. As you all know, I’ve been a fairly extreme minimalist since embarking on my great escape six years ago and my stuff has rarely exceeded the contents of an easily-lifted suitcase.
This time, however, there’s my wife’s stuff to manage. To her credit, Samara has embraced minimalism too and we’re down to just nine medium-sized boxes and three small pieces of furniture to which we both have a sentimental attachment. This is pretty impressive. Sam’s also prepared to deal with it all herself, but since we’re married now and the move to Scotland is really all my fault, I feel obliged to accept a goodly portion of the fretting and expense of moving it. I’m okay with this, even if it sounds to you like the kind of thing that would drive me nuts.
Getting to the nine-box stage has been fun. A couple of months ago we initiated a minimalism crusade, which was challenging when you remember we were minimalists already. I enjoy this kind of cultivation and stock-taking though, and since I’ve not had anything substantial to jettison for a long time I relished the opportunity to lose some stuff. We ditched as much as we comfortably could, doing our best to do so in a socially-responsible way. We gave a lot to a local “give box” (a self-regulating community resource where people leave and take household goods for free), some to Renaissance (a chain of charity shops) and by giving stuff to friends and neighbours.
I also discovered that, as good as the give box is, you can essentially make your own by simply leaving stuff in clean and open public places. People can instinctively tell through an item’s vestigia that it’s been abandoned and is free to take. I’ve taken to leaving things by the recycling bin in our building’s mail room. They usually get claimed within a couple of hours.
We sold some stuff through Craigslist and Kijiji to help offset the cost of shipping the rest. This was an interesting experience. Our adverts always stressed that the furniture for sale was quite large and that the buyer might want to hire a u-haul to get it home. The buyer never hired a u-haul though, consistently turning up in a small car. Somehow, however, we always managed. An armoire crammed quite miraculously into a hatchback with the rear door half-battened down with guy-ropes, and our iron bed frame fixed fairly precariously onto a roof rack. Montrealers never fail to amaze me. They just don’t give a shit.
The bulk of our stuff will be shipped to Scotland on a boat, which takes about six weeks. We’re using the time lag to our advantage, using it to travel in Spain before arriving in Scotland to receive our stuff. Because we don’t want to be travelling for a full six weeks though, we’re shipping our stuff a couple of weeks before leaving Montreal. This means a fortnight living in our apartment with practically no stuff. That’s going to be interesting too.
The only stuff we’ll have to live with will be our mattress (to be jettisoned on the last day), some kitchen basics (also to be jettisoned on the last day) and the single suitcase of clothes we intend to travel with. That, I think, will be it.
We’ve been very lucky when making plans to actually have an address in Glasgow, to which we can ship our stuff and have mail forwarded. It came about because Scottish friend Heather, nudged, she says, by New Escapologist recently decided to up sticks and move in with her boyfriend in Germany. He runs a flying school and Heather now spends her time learning a new language and flying the German skies in an actual zeppelin balloon. Remembering that Heather owns a flat in Glasgow I asked if we could rent it. She agreed and the bureaucracy of flat renting suddenly shriveled away for us all. And so an Escapologist rental economy was established.
Over the past two months, when not fretting over our stuff, I’ve been writing the New Escapologist book, Escape Everything!. It goes well. A full draft is now complete and I’m now at the stage of trawling my notes to make sure I’ve said everything before the final edit. The publishing fund is also nearly complete. Please go here to buy your copy in advance so we can get this book out soon.
Mobility, folks. It’s what’s for dinner.
Great health news from The Onion!
In an effort to help working individuals improve their fitness and well-being, experts at the Mayo Clinic issued a new set of health guidelines Thursday recommending that Americans stand up at their desk, leave their office, and never return.
Antiwork is a moral alternative to the obsession with “jobs” that has plagued our society for too long. It’s a project to radically reframe work and leisure. It’s also a cognitive antidote to the pernicious culture of “hard work”, which has taken over our minds as well as our precious time.Big shifts have occurred this year.
While politicians preached about “hardworking families”, [citizen’s] income went viral and was adopted as long-term policy by the Green Party. Social media campaigns, meanwhile, made it increasingly difficult for companies and charities to benefit from the forced labour schemes known to most as “workfare”.
Here a top-notch essay from New Escapologist ally Brian Dean on the curse of work and the liberties of what he calls antiwork. Nice cameos from Bertrand Russell, David Graeber and Bob Black too.
Laid on top of [the] work/leisure neurosis is consumerism – the idea that spending money will make you happy. This is like toffee coating on a bad Puritan apple. If you spend enough money to give you the (advertised) conditions for happiness, the neurosis emerges in the form of random worries or vague, guilty feelings about not working hard enough. This, along with the work as obedience frame, may explain why we’re contributing £29bn worth of free labour (in unpaid overtime) to British employers each year.