Sabbatical Shuffle

Stuff is Making Us Stuck (Part 2)

Posted on: Wednesday, January 15th, 2020
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill, Sabbatical Shuffle, Spendology, Wily Mktg | Leave a comment

Last month, in Part 1, we dove into our junk piles and bemoaned the detritus that weighs on us, our culture, and our shifting populations. We continue that slog by taking a peek into where our rejected stuff goes.

It’s not pretty. In fact, the benevolent feeling we may enjoy when dropping off our rejects to charity might be just plain ignorant. Ex-Minnesotan Adam Minter, now a columnist for Bloomberg in Malaysia, provides a rare expert overview, having grown up in a Minneapolis family that has run a scrap heap since 1920s, published a book titled “Junkyard Planet,” and late last year released a follow-up book called “Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale.” Mr. Minter also did an interesting Star Tribune interview when recently in town.

  • “People like shiny new things”

States Minter. It’s human nature, yet he advocates making things last as long as possible. How? Buy quality, for starters! Not only can you enjoy it longer, but the reuse market should be more plausible. He also recommends repair, despite that cheap goods often sway us just to replace. Another idea: Seek second-hand stuff, since a heckuva lot of it is nearly new.

  • What else causes this glut?

You may have noticed this: Often, the merch in Marshall’s has about the same price tag as that in consignment stores. Why? Because the mass production of goods—especially when lower-quality—can be surprisingly price-competitive. So people buy new, and second-hand stores get less traffic.

In fact, Minter notes that thrift stores in the US sell only about a third of their inventory, while the rest gets exported, recycled or tossed in the trash. Ouch.

  • Will millennials save us?

Much has been made about their less materialistic lifestyle. But don’t bet on it, says Minter, who cites research suggesting that the shared economy only appeals when it’s cheaper. And that as the millennials accrue more spending power and maturity, they’ll buy happily acquire more, just like other generations.

  • Good ideas to help clean up this mess

As mentioned, Minter promotes repair before replace, and insisting on quality. But even more radical, common-sense solutions could include “durability labeling,” which tells you things like how long a company will support smart phone or how many washings a shirt might endure.

He also proposes “right to repair” laws, noting that much repair information is protected by companies, trademarks, trade barriers, and more. Brilliant.

  • Sins and solutions

We can all think about our own sins and solutions, of course. And here’s one of mine: Sin—buying lots of new clothing recently at insanely affordable January clearance sales. (When asked who’s my favorite designer, I always say Clearance!) Solution: Spread it all out alongside similar old favorites, and make smart choices about what to keep and what to return.

Heck, sometimes that nice $15 shirt hardly seems worth the bother to take back, right? But there’s principal at work here too. And $15 is $15. Save $15 a day somehow, and you’ve got $5,500 to apply toward that BreakAway you want more than more stuff.

Even better, there will be less clutter-y obstacles in your way!

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Stuff is Making Us Stuck (Part 1)

Posted on: Saturday, December 7th, 2019
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill, Sabbatical Shuffle, Wily Mktg | Leave a comment

Black Friday 2019 enjoyed record sales of $7.4B in digital shopping alone. Cyber Monday: $9.4B, up 19% from 2018. And as for the anticipated shopping total this holiday season? A tidy $740B.

Black Friday—sounds ghoulish, no? Cyber Monday—dystopian, yes? The planet is, to be honest, suffering. Too many people, too much pollution, too much STUFF.

  • The ultimate fungus

Stuff is like a fungus. You clean it up, but the muck only emerges again. This should not surprise us, since in the USA, “Consumer spending” comprises 2/3 of the economy, and politicians and pundits alike rejoice in increases and bemoan the downticks. Up means a thriving economy; down can lead to a recession. Those are numbers, but the back-story is the love of stuff. Which, by the way, becomes even more of a burden if you’re interested in a BreakAway.

  • Beware the fleeing family                  

Speaking of BreakAway, that’s what family members often do when elders downsize, die, or become snowbirds…when couples uncouple…and when kids (but not 99% of their “belongings”) fly away to college. Heck, even a pet’s passing can leave behind perplexing piles.

We are a materialistic society, as would most be if they had our “wealth.” Let’s just call it a mixed-up blessing.

  • The industry of stuff

The Star Tribune employs a wonderful writer, John Ewoldt, who wears the title “Consumer Reporter.” Stuff is a big story these days, and his recent article, “Lifetimes of Stuff Fuel a Booming Industry” taught us many things, like: 10,000 baby boomers retire daily; age 85+ is the fastest-growing segment of the US population (and likely destined for small rooms in senior homes); there now exists a National Association of Move Managers to help people cope.

You gotta love the names of some of the local, independent Move Managers that have sprung up from savvy entrepreneurs—Junk Genius, Empty the Nest, Gentle Transitions. They will tell you that the younger generations usually don’t want the family treasures. So, their company sorts the stuff into sell, donate, and toss (most estates = about 1/3 each). They will also admit that business is robust. Heck, even good-neighbor Goodwill states that donations have doubled in the past five years, while many charities can no longer take all the stuff offered to them.

  • The opposite of  the Great Depression

This stuff crisis is multi-generational with predictable permutations. Folks raised in the post-Depression era traditionally have trouble tossing anything—yet their families don’t want their hoard. Meanwhile, to many people today (especially youth), online shopping is a pastime. Whereas a family used to save for months to buy, say, a TV (remember layaway?), nowadays, we simply stare at screens, click, and wait a matter of hours for most any object to arrive at the doorstep.

Oddly enough, both propensities lead to clutter. That can make it hard to navigate your residence—and even harder to find freedom.

  • Don’t let STUFF weigh you down

You can guess the classic excuses people use for why they can’t take a sabbatical or even use all their vacation time. What about my house? My pets? My stuff? Cool possessions define status, taste, and lifestyle. BUT, simply put, they are obstacles to overcome if you want to BreakAway.

  • Guilty, as charged

Clutter confessional: I’m as loaded as the corner bar on Christmas Eve. And yet I’m sick of stuff; it’s grown from fungus to hazard. So I keep purging—or at least trying to throw out more than comes in the door. It’s not easy; the Amazon is alluring.

Hence the crude photo above from yet another stampout-stuff drop-off. I’m just trying to get unstuck. And hoping to BreakAway.

Judging by the mountain of detritus already there, I’m not alone.

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FOTOFRIDAY: Ahh, Italia…

Posted on: Friday, November 22nd, 2019
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, Travelog, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment
Kirk Horsted

Breakaway has already reported on the growing trend of offering sabbaticals as a marketing ploy. But have did you know that 280,000 people applied for airbnb’s sabbatical in Italy? Their mission for the free adventure? “Breathe new life” into the fading hilltown of Grottole—home to 300 residents. AND 600 empty homes!

It’s funny: Pastoral life in ailing Italy sounds like paradise to frazzled people everywhere. Yet in Italy, they seem to be abandoning the old ways and places to race into modernity. Such are the ways of…progress.

I’ve not visited Grottole, but I do love Barga, the Tuscan valley town that’s today’s FOTOFRIDAY pic. Barga is thriving, actually. But it’s surrounded by no less than 9 hilltowns in varying stages of abandonment and decay. Still, like 280,000 kindred spirits, I’d gladly BreakAway to volunteer for three months to help keep old Italy from dying.

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BITN: A Royal BreakAway, Travel Trends, & Back to Work

Posted on: Monday, November 11th, 2019
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, BITN, Wily Mktg | Leave a comment

The interns never sleep at the BreakAway HQ. Here are 3 ditties that caught their wired eyes, and why…

Yes, even the Royals, in their own words, get “tired and even burnt out.” So they’re doing the right thing, and taking 6 weeks off—having endured the birth of their second child, a rigorous travel schedule, and (of course) relentless media attention.

Meghan referred to their whole rigmarole as, “existing, not living,” when they recently appeared on an ABC interview. It’s easy for us commoners to scowl at their ills, perhaps coveting their fortune and popularity. Still, they just want to focus on their family, their missions in Africa, and finding sanity in their incomparably complicated reality. We emphatically approve of their majestic yet humbly human aspirations.

Sure, Travelers Today may not be T&L, but we like their observations—like these rising trends: Green; Canada, solo, and nomadic.

The nomadic approach seems to be appealing to families—who like to pack it up, leap into home-schooling, and take advantage of a key benefit of the growing freelancing economy: Freedom. Freelancers and nomads rarely know exactly where they’re going, and that’s exactly the point.

Having been there (all over) and done that (going wandering with family), I personally offer a standing O and advise everyone who can conceive of the notion to keep that faith alive. Life offers few profundities that compare. Your children will be forever transformed and, whatever may happen in the hectic years that follow, you’ll cherish those ever-vivid memories.

Yes, this topic fills the sabbatical nets, and typically focuses on women returning to the office after family leave. I politely like to remind these influencers that men also take family leave and BreakAways of various kinds. (That said, most of the advice, if not the approach, is rather gender neutral.)

Target market or not, Jennifer Gefsky has published a book, “Your Turn: Careers, Kids and Comebacks—A Working Mother’s Guide.” Her Fast Company “5 Minute Read” offers these tips: Revisit past successes; Put yourself in your kids’ shoes (and stay positive for their sake and good modeling); Take a risk (request a big meeting, speak in public); Tell a friend (take on an accountability partner); Don’t over-question yourself—because sometimes the answer really is, “I don’t know.”

  • Who knows?

She’s right. “I don’t know” may be the answer to many of life’s hardest questions. Will we save the planet? Will America ever encourage career breaks, family leave, and nomadic escapes? Will YOU embark on the BreakAway of your dreams? Will I…again, and if so when?

I don’t know. But let’s keep asking, writing, photographing, and chasing dreams. For fun, for art, for life, and for Mr. Chekov…

‘If you want to work on your art, work on your life.’ ­

– Anton Chekov

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Sabbaticals Becoming Influential Marketing Fad

Posted on: Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, Work/Life Hacking, Wily Mktg | Leave a comment
Kirk Horsted

Hey, would YOU like $30K to take four weeks off? Or how about being sponsored to spend 3 months in Italy revitalizing a fading village? Or, if all that sounds too cushy, why not embark on a 30-day eco-journey that reaches its peak with 10 days in Antarctica assisting with pollution research?

Sounds tempting, right? Of course! But there’s a catch. For starters, your chance in all cases are about, well, 1 in a million. Then there’s another catch: You’ll have to become a social-media barker for your sponsor. And there are more catches, including that a part of you (and your “content”) will forever be owned.

These are brilliant—and ultimately cheap—marketing schemes by savvy companies who prefer screen-based advertising to traditional tactics. Stok Cold Brew Coffee is behind the $30K sabbaticals. Airb&b came up with the Italian village concept. And if Antarctica is your fantasy, you can thank airb&b for that one too, along with their eco-partner Ocean Conservancy.

The upside here is that these promotions are calling attention to—and perhaps somehow doing something about—sad realities like dying small-town Italy and even-more-dying Planet Earth. (The Stok deal seems to not worry about social redemption—just social media).

On the sidelines, some pundits are thumbing their noses at these efforts. They note that candidates’ selection criteria will be heavily weighted on their influencer power, how airb&b’s success has worsened the affordable housing problem (which itself brings about pollution), and how dubious airb&b’s own record is when it comes to any environmental leadership or guidelines (not to mention that the travel industry is responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions).

Welcome the relatively new phrase: Crisis Capitalism. Nowadays, certainly someone will have get-rich schemes from viewing dying species, seeing the ice caps before they melt away, and swimming with the dolphins while we still can. You can track back to Mr. Marx himself if seeking the roots of such opportunistic thinking.

Yet let’s hope the motives of and outcomes from this burst of sabbatical/save-the-world bingo makes some positive things happen. Heck, if the increased awareness about sabbaticals helps people move beyond today’s perceived priorities and toward a path beyond the BreakAway obstacles, then sign me up—however slim the odds I might actually find myself enjoying free lunch while spiffing up ancient Italy.

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BITN: Savvy Swede Sails; Vacations Develop; Sabbatical Sculptures

Posted on: Tuesday, August 20th, 2019
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, BITN | Leave a comment

Our interns and executive assistants never sleep. At least since we brought on free coffee as a perk. So here are some recent BreakAways in the News they’ve found worthy of inclusion in this ongoing series…

  • Young Swede sails for change

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate-change activist, has been generating a LOT of attention lately as she sails from Europe to New York as part of her campaign to increase awareness of and action re: climate change. She arrived today—on a zero-emissions sailboat with her dad a crew of 3 others.

Now THAT is one impressive journey! As one of our Sabbatical Suggestions, we state to “Accept Your Mission” when on a BreakAway. Could be to lose some weight. Might be to rekindle romance. Play guitar, learn a language, bake bread. Greta thinks bigger, like, save the world.

Beyond humbling and inspirational, this story brings new profundity to the ending of Mary Oliver’s poem, The Summer Day: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

  • Use your vakay for career dev’t

An upbeat career-coaching site called Thrive/Global offers a fresh take on vacation: Use some time while relaxing to boost your skills. At BreakAway, we cheerlead loudly for people to take ALL their vacation time—and might prefer breaks that prioritize the vacate and the shun. Still, whatever works. Right?

Author May Busch offers 5 tips, including set up an easy win for when you get home…set aside time each day for reflection about work stuff that may otherwise get inadequate attention…and, my favorite, think on paper.

It’s trendy, of course, to go paperless (if that’s possible). But Ms. Busch points out what many of us old-schoolers know and practice: You spark fresh ideas—and activate different parts of your noodle—by noodling creatively on papyrus.

  • “Sabbatical” sculpture ignites Burning Man

Burning Man is happening right about now on a dessert filled with tripping seekers and trippy happenings. But you knew that.

We’re unsure of just WHY one of the buzzy sculptures is named Sabbatical by Neophyte Nexus. But it is, and it’s cool. So the interns got excited and are begging for a company junket to the Festival next year. The motion is under consideration.

Meanwhile, check out these top 5 BM installations, including Sabbatical. And maybe—must maybe—we’ll seeya at Burning Man next year!

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Big Entrepreneurs Push Tiny House Getaways

Posted on: Sunday, March 3rd, 2019
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle | Leave a comment

What you see here is indeed a tiny house. For ice fishing, mostly. Similar castles dot Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes by the gazillions for months, and then must disappear by midnight the first Monday in March, as mandated by the MN DNR. We call it a bittersweet sign of spring.

To out-of-towners, this endless trend seems bizarre—further proof of our faraway, Minnesota-meets-Fargo quirkiness. To us (and, trust me, not everyone participates) the allure of the ice house is quite simple. And it’s not the fish (should you get lucky), the c-c-c-cold (most huts are actually heated), or the adult beverages (though the bar is often open).

No, it’s the art of getting away. And honestly, the experience can be beautiful, even magical. I have an interest in one and my shanty shindigs are always packed! Some gatherings chill, read, play games or music, do a date, spend the night. One Sunday sundown tradition with my brethren is singing familiar hymns in harmony. “Take it to the Lord in prayer…

But usually, it’s a party. A Getaway party.

  • Meanwhile, on the East Coast…

Out East, tiny houses are popping up thanks to a venture called Getaway, as created by entrepreneurs John Staff and Pete Davis. Their vision for your less-is-more quest includes natural surroundings, eco-friendly digs, and an unplugging mentality. Any guests spotted using their phones are immediately, and aggressively, kicked out. (Kidding.)

  • “A day off for the always on”

Those seductive words appear as one of Getaway’s website headlines, and suggest the uber-busy lifestyles of their clientele: A day off apparently challenges the calendroid, while turning off devices evidently tests their digitalia addiction. Clearly, these people NEED that getaway! Or rather, they’re just like people just about everywhere.

Check out ongoing press, instagrammers, simple recipes, and T-shirts.

  • Let’s go!

I’ve long fantasized 68-hour retreats with BreakAway experts, good food, and parties (optional). Possible diversions from focus might include yoga, mindfulness, travel planning, and financial coaching. Everyone would leave with an ACTUAL plan. Or, at least depart refreshed and re-faithed.

Until then, ice fishing will do. As will Getaway’s tiny houses. Sign me up!

THINK TINY!

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BITN: Billionaires & Sexless Women BreakAway Bigtime; Americans Broke!

Posted on: Saturday, January 12th, 2019
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle | Leave a comment

Start seeing Career Breaks! They’re OUT there, perhaps calling YOUR name. While the interns have been busy digging up these highlights, the first story hardly requires a bevy of underpaid minions—because it’s getting a LOT of online ink. Clearly, human nature remains fascinated with the rich and fabulous.

Did you know that the top 1% worldwide now has more $ than the rest of us combined? They must find that boring. So they’re seeking rare-critter safaris (with helicopter spotters to make sure they don’t get skunked), dancing with the sharks, and RTW family adventures with nannies and tutors in tow.

In general, the more exotic and extraordinary the itinerary, the better. Think: Bragging rights. This story going viral proves, we believe, that the even 99%-ers (who must have everything) harbor getaway fantasies. That’s the good news. We wish the well-heeled happy trials. And hope we all can afford a BreakAway someday.

  • Women put sex on hold

Nicki Minaj and Lady Gaga are doing it. Or rather, they’re NOT doing it—and are thus are part of a trending “sex recession” caused by women taking a sex sabbatical.

As this website preaches, BreakAways come (or don’t) in all shapes and sizes. And each one needs a mission. For the ladies who abstain, reasons range from rebooting careers to redefining Mr. Right to rethinking the partying and promiscuity morass. In the case of Ms. Minaj and Ms. Gaga, it’s all about bumping up creativity.

As of press time, 800,000 employees of Uncle Sam still work without pay while our Wallbuilder in Chief plays Russian Roulette with people’s livelihoods—which includes another 4.1 million contractors who depend on the business flow. One longs for days of compassionate civility. But meantime, we gain new insights into the budgetary train wreck crushing so many Americans (and our gov’t).

Like, 78% of US workers live paycheck-to-paycheck. So do 10% of those making more than $100K. (CareerBuilder.) And as BreakAway and some of our media partners reported months ago, 61% in the US have no plan or nest egg should a 6-month emergency emerge from the shadows.

Once again, we implore our dear readers to practice Fiscal Fitness, whether you work for Uncle Sam or yourself. Not only will you increase your odds of surviving an unexpected, “You’re fired!” you’ll also have a better shake at a dreamy break.

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BITN: Chance Takes a Bible Break; Moms go to work; Shrinks talk bucks

Posted on: Monday, December 17th, 2018
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle | Leave a comment

The interns have been busy again seeking BreakAways in the News. And they got VERY excited by the news that Chance the Rapper is taking a break from his break-neck schedule to study the Bible. Other take-your-time related bits keep hitting the telegraph, fax, and carrier pigeons. Read on for news and inspiration…

Few rappers—or rock stars of any stripe—have incorporated gospel choirs and sheer spiritual jubilation like Chance the Rapper, so it’s no surprise that he’s serious about his faith. He also claims that the arrival of a new nephew has inspired him to take family and leadership more seriously. Chance has been lighting up charts and fans alike for some time now so…good for him. Oh yeah, he also claims he’ll use this time to stop smoking. Good for him.

  • Break time is over, Mom, so get back to work

An impressive site called Know Your Value dishes tips about re-entering the workplace for women in their, say, 50s. After, say, raising kids and getting lost in the laundry room for, oh, 20 years. One interesting suggestion: Don’t ask for help with technology. (HELP!?!)

Ginny Brzezinski serves as the site’s comeback contributor, and points out that there are as many as 5 generations in the workplace now—and that comebackers may find themselves reporting to someone half their age. Shocking, perhaps. But a small price to pay for the priceless privilege of raising your progeny.

There are only about 250 who practice this craft. They charge $100 – $400 per hour. They can help couples who argue about things other than kids, chores, and sex. And that’s a BIG market, so they’ve found a niche that begs the question…what took you so long?

Our Senior Intern Supervisor first heard about this on public radio’s wonderfully quirky Marketplace. And it catches our attention because, obviously, the #1 reason people don’t take a sabbatical is…money. Despite that most folks who would consider the idea will make millions over their lifetime. So yes, they need budgeting shrinks, saving shrinks, and spending shrinks.

Therapy is never cheap. But if it saves your marriage and/or money (and/or saves your BreakAway dream from dying), it’s worth every penny.

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Concert Therapy: Live Music Kicks Ass Over Yoga!

Posted on: Friday, November 9th, 2018
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle | One comment

This site encourages everyone to break out of their comfort drone and dive into experience. The off-screen kind with fresh sounds, sights, smells, surroundings, and homo sapiens. In a perfect world, we do this by traveling the world for 3 months every 7 years or so. Meantime, we maintain our practice with music and things.

For lots of guys, diversion practice features lots of fishing, hunting, sports, beer, and Captain Morgan. For women, such activities trend toward yoga, book clubs, retreats, chardonnay, and Tupperware parties.

IMHO, however, few things bring release like live music. Regardless of your gender. In the Twin Cities alone, hundreds of venues are routinely packed despite spendy tickets, pesky scalpers, and spilt beer. Euphoric fans fill the streets, bars, and eateries hours before (and after) the show. And—never mind that funky fog—there’s a palpable buzz in the air that few pursuits can match.

  • Boost your well-being by 21%

I’m not sure how, exactly, one quantifiably measures well-being—but sign me up. Disclosure: the study last spring that got much ink was commissioned by London’s famed 02 Centre, a big player in the industry and perhaps not a completely unbiased source. Still, there are many such studies floating around. And they all agree on findings like…

  • Attending a concert every 2 weeks may increase your life span by 9 years
  • Going to live music boosts your mood much more than yoga or walking the dog
  • Listening to music increases your dopamine level by 9%

Those are impressive numbers. But beyond any fuzzy math, this live-music buff rejoices in the way that a concert brings people together like few other things can, especially in these contentious times. Regardless of work, religion, or politics, giddy fans routinely stand up, scream, sing along, and leave feeling at least 55% better than when they came in.

02’s study asserts that regular attendance is the key—as in, seeing a show every 2 weeks or so. While that might sound ambitious, most any hobby or pastime that promises to elevate your life experience takes some commitment. And is worth it.

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