I’m sitting on my bed with my friend Alex. He’s saying he doesn't know if Los Angeles is for him, and that nothing seems to be working out, and maybe he should move back to Chicago.
“But you know, wherever you go, there you are,” he sighs.
It’s a piece of wisdom that’s been dropped on me so many times, I can’t help contorting my mouth into a skeptical duckface.
I heard it when I dipped out of college to drive around New Zealand, and when I quit my job at a snoozefest magazine in the Midwest and moved to New York. I heard it repeatedly when I had a meltdown in NYC and decided to move to L.A.
If anyone has experience running away from their issues, it's me.
However, I've learned that a better strategy than packing up all of your shit and moving to a new city (and spending a MILLION dollars in the process) is to escape your life for a few days.
I stop Alex from mentally planning his relocation, mid-eye roll. “I get it,” I tell him. “But places are like people. Each one affects you in a different way.”
I know Alex is incredibly talented, but also totally neurotic and hard on himself (comedians!), so I tell him NO.
“You’re not moving back to Chicago. You’ve been here for less than a year. What you need right now is to get out of L.A. for a bit.”
Just the week before, I was driving back from Big Sur—where cellphone signals and Wifi are basically non existent—when I got a text from him.
“I hope you’re not dead and camping in Big Sur lol,” it said. I could only imagine his nervous laughter.
Immediately I felt bad that I hadn’t posted a message on Facebook or told ANYONE AT ALL I’d be out in the woods without reception.
I, too, am completely neurotic (writers!). I'm that friend who's convinced my gfs going on Tinder dates are going to be abducted and murdered.
(Remember, like my grandma, I, too, watch a lot of Discovery ID.)
But I was also thankful those who are closest to me know that I go off the grid often—and I that I usually go to Big Sur.
(When you work for the Internet, not even having the ability to get online is a dream.)
(However, I’m totally telling more people when I’m leaving in the future. ‘Cause again: Murder.)
I used to feel guilty about suddenly leaving my life, like I was too scared to deal with whatever was stressing me out, and I was doing that cliched no-no of running away from my problems.
Now, I think it’s healthy to push the pause button and escape every once in awhile. And for me, I think it’s necessary. Here’s why:
It’s like taking a time out.
It's strange to admit that I sometimes miss rehab. Of course, I don't miss the 6 a.m. wake-up calls, not having access to my one true love, REAL COFFEE, or being able to talk to my friends on the "outside" for more than 10 minutes a week on supervised phone calls.
I do miss being free from everyday stressors like work, never-ending emails and texts chiming on my phone, and feeling obligated to attend events or go out with friends—even when I knew I needed sleep—to focus on re-aligning my priorities, re-assessing my life without external influences, and simply recharging.
So sure, if you take a time-out and run away from your life, you're still fundamentally the same person. But plucking yourself out of your usual routine gives you the opportunity to take a break from things that may be clouding your judgement of what you really want and need to be your best self.
Many of us find ways to escape our lives, anyway, like booze, drugs, TV, food, and sex. Why not attempt to re-allocate those few hours (or 15 minutes—ba-dum ching!) to spend time in a place where you have the chance to literally escape?
Time away can shift your perspective.
I suppose it's important here to mention that I don't really take what I've come to know as American vacations. I've never been to Hawaii or the Caribbean. I have a vague idea of what a resort in Mexico entails. (You're less likely to get kidnapped and there's something about a Sir Frog, right?)
I've traveled to other countries. I usually end up with a job or a French boyfriend, though, so I end up feeling like a temporary visitor without a forever-home.
Is taking these sort of vacations an opportunity to really run away from your problems? You tell me.
I do know that whenever I get out of town without any formal agenda—and sleep in a bed in a city that's not mine—I always gain a newfound sense of gratitude. I'm suddenly reminded that I'm fortunate to have my friends, live in a dope house in a rad neighborhood, and have a comfortable cloud bed.
And as short as some of my getaways might seem, I'm always stoked to go home.
It's weird to admit I miss rehab. It sucks more to reveal my character flaws, though: I'm super sensitive, self-conscious (which is why you don't see my writing here more often), and I that struggle with some hardcore anger issues.
These tangible time-outs give me a chance to check myself before I wreck myself, and return to my life with a semi-clean slate. And, yeah, fine: I need to get rid of some external stressors sometimes to do that.
Can't get away?
I know I’m fortunate to be in a position to jump in my car and get out of town. I can do my job from pretty much anywhere. I don’t have kids. I don't even have a pet.
Camping is cheap and California is pretty. But here are some other options to healthily run away for a few days:
Take a staycation.
Many hotels offer discounts for guests who live in that city, so do you research before you book. Or search for an Airbnb that's in a nearby town where you can stay a night or two.
Treat yo'self to a date.
Schedule a faux-appointment in your calendar to take yourself out. Go to a museum, the spa, or make yourself a lil' picnic and read a book in the park.
We rarely take time to be good to ourselves. Yet we expect other people to show us we're rad and worthy, whether that's by taking us on trips, giving us gifts, or taking us to dinner.
Your happiness and self-worth shouldn't depend on other people, one. (DUH.)
Two, life is fucking rough, man. It's amazing and beautiful, but it's also not easy. If you're alive and managing to keep your head above water, you deserve some R&R. Don't let anyone tell you differently.
[Pets bottle of anti-depressants, like a precious little puppy.]
You know what this means: No TV, Internet, or iPhone. GASP!
If you think some insane emergency will happen and you NEED your cell, put it on silent or do not disturb, and allocate slots of time to check it out.
As someone who manages social media platforms for a bunch of different companies—and who once fed on social like a fetus to placenta—I can assure you: You won't be missing anything.
You'll be giving your brain and self-esteem a break, if anything. And those tweets and filtered photos will still exist when you decide to get back.
How do you escape your life when you need to get away? What the hell is a vacation?
Follow me on Twitter: @caitlinthornton