We live in the middle of a bustling metropolis - just 4 kms from the center of it. It's typically hot and humid and the air pollution is pretty thick. This city never sleeps: the streets are always thronged with people, traffic is always on the verge of gridlock and planes, trains, trucks and helicopters are constantly coming and going.
It's great for work – just a 30 minute walk and I'm there – but after a few weeks or months of it, it all begins to feel too much.
We seem to appreciate contrasts.
Our solution to the stress of big city life is to get away from it all at least every few months or so. We drive about four hours out of the city to a small, isolated farmhouse, which is 32km up a dirt track and a dead end. No traffic here. No street lights…only a few other houses scattered around the property – and most of those houses are empty. The farm is 900m above sea level, which is enough to put us into a different climate. There is no such thing as air pollution here. The only sounds you hear are bird noises and cattle lowing. You can hear a car approaching from kilometers away…and a visitor can be something of an event.
When we get there we don't do that much…listen to music – the old-fashioned CD way (a whole album of the same person?). We prepare food that takes hours to cook. We walk across the fields and up the creek….at night you can see the stars and we have a telescope we occasionally potter around with. We read novels….potter around the garden. Or just sit and contemplate the landscape. For some reason I always find myself sleeping much more than I usually do.
We talk: the pace of life here leaves us the time to tell long rambling stories, instead of the short, sharp sound grabs we never seem to have time to finish. There is an opportunity to explore an idea through a number of its permutations. This place affords us the space for solitude and reflection: rare commodities in our always-on, frenetic city existence.
The isolation also has effects on the way you think about consumption. Baking bread, for example, somehow makes more sense than buying it when you're looking at an hour's drive there and back to get it. You find the need to plan what to buy whenever you're in the vicinity of shops. You check the refrigerator and pantry: there is nothing more frustrating than returning back there to find you've forgotten something….and then you think really hard about whether you need it anyway. But you always check the fuel gauge before leaving town…
We find that even a few days is enough to recharge ourselves. We drive back into the heavy traffic and the noise and the pace of the city again. But somehow calmer, more energized: ready to throw ourselves back into it head first, as usual.
Which leads me to wonder what other people do: is it the contrast that provides so much relief from our daily grind? Do those living in a rural idyll crave the booming metropolis, replete with entertainment and shopping 24/7? Do those from cool alpine climes yearn for the tropics, sand and/or sea?
How do you get away from it all? What's your favourite destination and why do you think it works for you?