Letter to the Editor: Somewhere in Austria

Hi Robert,

Last year, somewhere in Austria, I decided to drop out of university in my very first class. We can say actually in the first fifteen minutes. I was 18, took my backpack, got out of the building and said “Goodbye to all that!”

I worked a bit after leaving university and saved money. I am now in a small town somewhere in the world, educating myself, reading Plutarch, and drinking chocolate in the afternoon, hoping to write soon.

I live simply and I am very young and inexperienced, but Thoreau taught me to try the experiment of living to learn to live.

Sincerely,
Z

Another Escapee

Hello Robert, 

I just wanted to say a huge thank you. I read your book and took the back catalogue of your magazine away on my Summer Holidays last year. Fast forward ten months and this week is my last in my [civil service] job. I handed my resignation in and have found part-time work with a friend in street food catering. 

I am happier, more carefree and have a smile back on my face.And this wouldn’t have happened without your writing.  

Thank you for the inspiration to make the great escape.

Kind Regards
C

Letter to the Editor: a major flaw in your argument

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Dear Robert,

I like your writing. I came across your column about “the Hot New Thing” in the Idler which prompted me to get your books Escape Everything! and A Loose Egg, while also subscribing to your newsletter.

I’m only 10% in to your Escape book, which is hilarious and I literally laugh out loud when reading it on the tube (a good reason to have a long commute), however I have come across a major flaw in your argument, which if you forgive me I would like to relay to you.

If we all became idlers and escapees, who would do the absolutely essential jobs that no one wants to do, like street cleaning, rubbish collecting, sewage clearing, etc.?

Surely the economic system we live under has facilitated wage slavery for this very reason – someone has to do the dirty work. The only way to reserve some people for pawn-like functions while others enjoy their kingly status is to set up an unequal, hierarchical system that keeps the poor out of pocket so that their only choice is to collect your black bin liner once a week.

I get that your writing is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, silly, and quite often ridiculous, but unfortunately it doesn’t come across as economically viable. I hope one of your later chapters will rectify this though.

Have a good day and I look forward to reading more of your witty passages.

D., a fan

Hi D. Thanks so much for buying my books. I can just about live on the strength of my book sales but I’m still in a position where every book counts, so I hugely appreciate it. Thank you. I’m glad you like the Idler column too – more of those to come!

I think I come some way to answering your question later in the book (the epilogue is literally and directly about “what if everyone was an escapologist?” – I think that might even be the title), though I appreciate that I may not have handled it fully and that the shortcoming you have detected probably remains a valid criticism of the book. Hold tight though and finish the book to see what you think. In brief:

– The sort of jobs I really take aim at are “bullshit jobs,” i.e. white collar, boring jobs that either make no difference to world or actively harm it. Toilet cleaning and the likes can be said to be “shit jobs” but hardly useless, so they don’t really attract my ire. David Graeber makes this important distinction in his brand new Bullshit Jobs book, which actually serves as a nice (if belated) preface to Escape Everything! and the sort of thing Tom writes about in the Idler.

– The “who would sweep the streets and do other sorts of dirty work” question is, I’m afraid, very common. There are ideas about automating it in various ways (not necessarily in high-tech ways but in upstreaming the problem, etc.), but you’re right that the work has to be done for now. It should also be better paid than it is, which is something social activists are working on (here in Scotland they’re doing quite well too – the living wage campaign is quite a success and should continue this way). If my writing enterprise should fail, incidentally, my plan is to become a street sweeper. I’m serious! I refuse go back to shovelling bullshit in an office. My wife has already quit her own bullshit job to become a funeral arranger.

– The idea of things being “economically viable” (i.e. making sure the economy stays strong) is a problem. I hold that the economy is a tool to make life better and more effective for us humans. It serves us, we do not serve it. So it doesn’t matter if growth decelerates a little. It might even be a good thing when overwork and environmental problems are taken into account. Might even be the moment all those anticapitalists have been agitating for. I think I probably do a better job of handling this sort of discussion in my NEXT book. It’s tentatively titled The Good Life for Wage Slaves: How to live beautifully as a white-collar drudge.

Sincere thanks again for buying my nonsense and also for writing to me. Lovely, lovely. All the best.

Letters to the Editor: The Quanswer

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message-in-a-bottle

Hello Robert,

I am an AV Technician — means nothing to me either. The “A” part is for “Audio,” on which I did a course many years ago. I’d set out wanting to learn something about producing my own music in my own studio if I ever got to build one. I never did. Even so, I persevered and got a qualification (woohoo) in something I wasn’t interested in. I suppose I wanted to have a qualification to prove myself to others.

I then came to London in search of a job I didn’t want in radio. I enjoyed working with gifted and talented people and held the first ever internet radio show, so I was in the right place for the wrong reasons. I met someone who told me about AV – and I went on another course to learn about the “V”. I soon felt I was in the wrong place with the wrong reasons. I am still persevering. Why?

A lot of what you say and write, I know already in my mind but am less able to express in words. You seem to do it fine, like Alan Watts or Nietzsche or even Mooji. So here I am, re-assessing what to do work-wise, and your message is resonating. I have at least found a Quanswer (question answer) to my search. So thanks for the website and writings.

Like you, I have attempted stand-up [comedy] a few times and it’s a buzz to bomb and to have some instant creative outlet. I am still attempting it, but its not really the best comedy out there — okay, its one of the worst but I am still enjoying it.

I haven’t really attempted at being a [professional] stand-up or even thought about pursuing it, but after meeting [a famous comedian] I started to look into it. I even did a course here in London (yes, another one. I am so readily conned by courses, yet I get easily bored of study). I find it hard to write and perform my written stuff. So a lot of the times I go out raw and I hit the floor quickly. Hard stuff, but enjoyable. When I compare myself to proper comics, it seems to be about finding that persona – just not sure yet.

All the best,
Michael


Hi Michael. What you’ve experienced is fairly typical. You start with good, creative intentions but then make a series of pragmatic, not-half-bad decisions until you find yourself in a cul-de-sac. If you’ve read my book you’ll know about the life audit. I’d suggest this exercise as a good place to start in figuring out what to do next.

I think what you do in stand-up is more valuable than anything you (or anyone else) will do in AV. It’s art, baby. I’d rather be a shit artist than a great dullard. Here’s an inspiring quote from Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the patron saint of art in my town of Glasgow: “There is hope in honest error, none in the icy perfection of the mere stylist.” I suppose he means it’s better to try something bold and in earnest and to get booed off the stage than to slave away doing a perfect, marketable job of something that doesn’t particularly matter.

Here’s a thought regarding the finding of the comic persona, and also with irresponsible reference to your tendency to be seduced by courses. Why not go on a Gaulier clown course in Paris or Brighton? They teach you to “find your clown”. Loads of great comedians have done it: Nina Conti, Simon Amstell, Dave Thompson.

There. It finally happened. I suggested in earnest to someone that he run away and join the circus.

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Letters to the Editor: The Escape is (almost) Complete

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message-in-a-bottle

Hi Robert,

Next Wednesday is my wife’s last day of work down at [Evil Corp], and quite possibly her last day of work, period.

She has committed to taking a minimum of one full year off, and in the new year will join me at the trading desk, aka our kitchen counter. I predict with some confidence that this will be the permanent end of work for both of us, because we have set things up to be on an even keel, expense-wise.

Because my wife has been working, it only felt like we’d half made it [after my own escape], but with the pending end of her contract I suddenly realized “holy shit, we actually did it”. It opens up some real possibilities, and now we get to settle in, take stock, and figure out better ways to use our time. Exciting times!

I think it’s important for people to know that they don’t have to figure everything out at the start. Our escape to freedom took shape over the course of several years (we started in earnest back in 2012), and a lot of scheming, planning, and effort has gone into making this a reality. Although we didn’t have a detailed plan in the beginning, and we didn’t have all the answers, we had a very strong sense of where we wanted to be. So my advice to readers is to keep that desired situation front and centre, and just keep plugging away at it, regularly reevaluating their situation and asking “where am I? where do I want to be? what is the next step?”

Personally, I feel quite vindicated, because along the way there were doubters and naysayers, and there were even times when self-doubt crept in. But I must also give credit where credit is due, and I’d like to extend a heartfelt “Thanks!” to New Escapologist. The interactions I’ve had with you, and the many thoughts provoked by your blog, magazine, and book have acted as a sounding board and shaping influence, and have above all lent a certain legitimacy to what we were already sensing. I really mean that. We owe you a debt of gratitude.

Keep doing what you do, Rob. It’s a good message.

Cheers,
L

Rob writes: Excellent news. Sounds like the strife is almost over. A year is a good amount of time to take off. Maybe your partner won’t like it and will want to go back to work, but maybe she’ll love it. It’s a choice, which is different from having to work. Either way, that’s the end of it. You’ve fled The Trap.

Thanks for the encouragement there too. I’ve been thinking carefully about what to do next with New Escapologist and have been close to shutting up shop, wanting to concentrate on other writing. That’d be a shame though, wouldn’t it? So I think I’ll keep plugging away at the message albeit in the more modest forms of the online essay series and the blog. Feeling fairly buoyed about it.

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Letters to the editor: I don’t believe I’ve had depression and anxiety all this time

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message-in-a-bottle

Hi Robert,

I’ve just read your book Escape Everything! I don’t want to blow smoke up your arse or anything but I think it’s changed my life. I feel like I’ve been handed the golden ticket to the Chocolate Factory, and therefore, I thought I better write a thank you letter to Willy Wonka.

I’ll tell you why I enjoyed it so much. I’m approaching 30 years old, and at my last count (just now) I’ve had 30 different jobs, moved to different parts of the UK searching for something but not exactly knowing what. I’ve been on pills for anxiety and depression and all the time struggling to explain to my peers and family what is wrong. Embarrassed. I’ve had most jobs you can imagine and hated every single one of them. I’ve done undergraduate and graduate degrees and saddled myself with huge amounts of debt in search of a better job (utopia).

I’ve quit most of them or made some lame excuse about them and even lied about being sacked in a few of them, and at times even got myself sacked on purpose.

I joined [a government agency] last year and finally thought I’d do a proper job, until the pointless paperwork, double standards, and general negativity all day got the better of me. All to the amazement, amusement and astonishment of my peers and family.

For years I’ve been walking sheepishly around the self-help section in Waterstones and my local library, trying to find something to help me fill the void, make sense of the world, all with limited success. I’ve watched countless YouTube videos and TED Talks all imparting some trite, American, positive-thinking, right-wing drivel.

It wasn’t until I read your book that I started to think there might be other people in the world who share the same thoughts and aspirations as me and are actually serious about walking the talk. Of course, if you ask most people they hate their jobs but they just get on with it because that’s just what you do, should do, or what society, family and friends expect you to do.

It’s a funny, well-written and comforting book, which has given me clarity for the first time in my adult life.

I don’t believe I’ve had depression and anxiety all this time: I’ve had work depression and I’m sick of it. This new perspective is going to see me make some difficult decisions that will probably let everyone conclude that I’ve definitely lost my marbles. I simply don’t want to work for another 30-40 years for the man, for 40 hours a week with people I can’t stand, just to be bullied in to buying some shite that I don’t need. I’m looking to dedicate my life to the cause of blissful, minimalist idleness and I’d like to help others do the same.

Thanks for writing the book and I wish you all the best for the future,

F

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Letters to the Editor: the dice man sent me here so there

message-in-a-bottle

Hi Robert,

I am here by chance, after reading an article on Luke Rhinehart’s webpage. He mentioned your book and I cant wait. I am looking forward to reading your way of thought – Escape Everything will be my introduction to your works.

I just wanted to… I don’t know really. The dice man sent me here so there.

Cheers,

E. in Sweden

>More letters to the editor

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Letters to the Editor: Unlocked

message-in-a-bottle

Hi Rob,

Just handed in my notice!

New Escapological achievement unlocked.

I thought you should be the first to know.

N.

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Letters to the Editor: Leaving NATO

message-in-a-bottle

Hi Rob,

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.

If you’re interested, here’s the blog where we’re posting videos, written pieces and photographs. I recommend Episode Zero: the adventure begins and Episode One: Meeting John Whelan.

I can’t stress enough how instrumental discovering your blog has been in making this decision. Thank you!

Gwenn.

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.

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Letters to the Editor: Catch 22

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message-in-a-bottle

Hi Rob,

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.

S

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

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