Here’s another nugget from my book to whet your appetite:
As a point of lurid interest, refusing to buy anything may be anti-materialist but it is not anti-capitalist even if that’s your intention.
When you stop buying things but continue to earn money through work, your earnings continue to serve the capitalist machine. The bank in which you store your wealth “spends” your savings when they invest it. (That’s why the bank pays you interest: as a reward for letting them play with your money.) Perversely, saving and spending actually amount to the same thing so far as the economy is concerned.
But when you reduce your income as well as your spending, it actually does hurt the capitalist machine! If your motivation to engage in minimalism is to smash the system, you must remember to reduce your income as well as your spending. Thus, only Escapological minimalism, since it aims to reduce work as well as consumption, will genuinely throw a spanner in the works of capitalism.
Play outdoors. Love the earth. Live simply. Use only what you need.
That’s the creed of Daniel Norris, rookie pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays of Major League Baseball. Despite earning a seven-figure salary, he chooses to live in a VW Westfalia, and gets by on $800 per month.
Here’s hoping he can stick to his principles, stay free, and keep the van running.
I’m still editing the book, which is why the blog’s been a bit quiet of late.
I just came across a part that made me laugh:
Habits are cumulative. Write a thousand words per day and you’ll have an 80,000-word book in the time it took Phileas Fogg to circle the Earth. Eat a pound of lard every morning and be medically corpulent in the same time.
Few would argue that trying to have a career (and get paid) is an easy ride. And yet choosing not to have a career seems to be the new social taboo.
Reader JR Lewis directs our attention to an interesting article, written from the perspective of a 29-year-old woman, about the realisation that “having it all” might not be worth having, especially when it’s such a bloody struggle.
Life doesn’t suddenly stop when you decide to leave a job, or change tack and do something completely different for a bit. You don’t become a different, lesser person overnight. Admitting that the coveted position you’ve spent years of student debt, overdraft fees, and shittily-paid junior roles grafting your way toward doesn’t make you happy isn’t giving up. If you have learned skills, you can go back to them.
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 Sam. 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.