Taking a break from the digital world can reset your career

For some, peace and introspection can help manifest an entire career change or business endeavor. So says Jon Staff, co-author of “How To Get Away: Finding Balance In Our Overworked,
Overcrowded, Always-on World” (Ramble Press) and co-founder of Getaway.

Through this Brooklyn-based business, customers rent tiny, back-to-nature, modern cabins located in woodsy outposts within two hours of urban cities, including New York, Boston, Washington and, soon, Los Angeles.

The entrepreneur conceived of the wellness travel concept after nearly burning out at a mobile app technology startup at age 25.

“I was young and doing what was trendy. It was a grind, and I didn’t particularly care for the thing we were building. I couldn’t motivate myself any longer,” says Staff.

To detach and detox, he rented an Airbnb dome house on a Connecticut farm for $35 per night with two of his friends.

“It was a simple experience, and we had an amazing time,” says Staff, who then began working remotely more often, traveling around the country in a friend’s Airstream trailer.

“I discovered tiny homes, roadside — it’s a movement,” says Staff, referencing the trend of people choosing to downsize the spaces they live in, simplify and live with less. “Having the time and space to continue this lifestyle of traveling around and being in nature, I came up with the idea for Getaway. It was the first spark.”

Staff partnered with his friend Pete Davis and the two raised funds, and started by renting out three tiny, pinewood houses outside of Boston. The roughly 128-square-foot cottages come equipped with kitchenettes and non-perishable food. They sold out quickly. Now the company operates three locations with 89 houses and is focused on expanding to additional cities.

“We care most about those who want quiet time. Getaway is an anti-vacation,” says Staff. “There’s no pressure to see and do a whole lot of stuff, which can be overwhelming. The hope is that people feel a bit more balanced in their life. We get you into nature, which allows you to disconnect. There’s a cellphone lockbox and no Wi-Fi. We care a lot about why you’re there and what you do, which is nothing.”

These respites can hugely impact work/life balance, says Staff.

“We know [that] people who take more time off return to work more productive, creative and receive better performance reviews,” says Staff. “Americans didn’t use millions of vacation days last year due to the desire to prove their worth by working harder than others, which is connected to fear. At our company, every full-time employee gets 20 vacation days. If you don’t take them, you get into trouble. Plus, they receive one Friday off each month. We have to build structures that allow us to disconnect and prevent burnout.”

For 22-year-old Kelly Rose, originally from Long Island, but now an Attleboro, Mass., resident, a wellness reboot was in order after graduating with a BFA in illustration from Montserrat College of Art in 2018.

“I’d been working an office job at an insurance company to make a living, while constantly searching for work in the art world,” says Rose. A college alumnus recommended she apply for Getaway’s Artist Fellowship. The program gives 15 artists the space and time to create — uninterrupted — each month.

Rose applied and was accepted for the two-night breather at the New Hampshire location.

Accompanied by her boyfriend, “We read books, wandered the forest a bit and decompressed. I painted watercolor sketches, gathering inspiration from nature. We brought some food to cook on the stovetop, but it’s very remote and minimalistic,” she says.

Upon returning to work, “I had a strong desire to make our life simpler with only the necessities that keep you comfortable and happy. I also felt so uninspired in my office job, I kicked my job search into gear and started applying to more art jobs,” says Rose.

The following week, she quit her job, after being hired for her current role as an associate graphic designer at a product-design company.

“You can change your career or work/life balance, but you have to be the one to change it,” says Rose. “If your situation is not working for you, make something else work. You can’t just wait. Make it happen.”

Staff agrees.

“The key thing is to be open-minded and have reasonable expectations,” he says. “I’ve heard a lot of stories about some sort of breakthrough, but you can’t preplan it. In our day-to-day — in the stew of work — it’s hard to have any distance to reflect on the things we need to sort out. If you’re overconnected and overwhelmed, this is a place to get away from that and see what happens.”

It’s not just tiny house getaways that are getting in on the act. Some destination hotels also are offering the chance for a break from the smartphone. At the three-night digital detox retreats at Wild Dunes resort in Isle of Palms in South Carolina, visitors are encouraged to lock away their phone in a bag upon check in and spend time enjoying nature and stress-relieving activities, such as bike rentals, fitness classes, kayaking, massage and sports clinics, along with healthy eats and more. Rates start at $219 per person, per night.

“I always need a time apart from e-mail and screens to allow myself a chance to recharge,” says Frank Fredericks, managing director at Wild Dunes. “The retreat gives travelers the chance to put down their phones and commune with the beauty and nature of the Charleston Lowcountry to allow them to return to work as an entirely new person.”

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