Sabbatical Shuffle

Scandinavians Share Secrets to Surviving Darkness

Posted on: Monday, January 18th, 2021
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, SoulTrain, Unplugging, Work/Life Hacking | Leave a comment

  • Danish art about getting hyggelig from a boutique in a small coastal town 

As a 100% Scandinavian mutt, I’ve enjoyed unforgettable travels in their lands, and maintain a stubborn habit of studying their ways of life.  Healthcare consortium Kaiser Permanente recently posted an article promoting the simple but effective ways that those Nordic folks deal with darkness, both literal and metaphorical.

This ain’t brain science. Yet these rituals may work brain-mind-body miracles. We’ll embrace the language barrier + share some ideas, in case these days have you feeling dark, hopeless, scared, anxious, intimidated, worried, numb, confused, lost, pissed, catatonic, bored, or otherwise not quite euphoric.

  • FRILUTSLIV (OPEN-AIR LIVING)

BreakAway has preached this until if we scream in the forest, no one will hear us. Point is, every moment outside improves your well-being. A long sojourn in the mountains might be idyllic, but even a walk in the park will work wonders. In my Scandi and Scandi-American Midwest memories, every farm and yard had chairs and benches all over the yards—among other toys and cues to lure you out-of-walls. And oh, those sweet porches…

  • GOKOTTA (WAKE EARLY; WORSHIP BIRDS)

Yep, it’s about that simple. Get up, sleepy head, and hear the birds when they are most robust. You start the day chirpy, happy, and ready to flutter into the to-do list. Hey, if the birds can do it, you can too!

  • FIKA PAUS (THE COFFEE BREAK)

In Sweden, work is scheduled around the break, not VV. And this is not just a slouch and stare at the phone moment. Rather, there’s conversation, calming, resting, and reset. I remember this ritual at both sets of my grandparents’ farms and beyond. So simple, yet almost transformative. The laughter, the sharing of thoughts and info, the camaraderie. And then…back to work. The fresh cookies and cakes were pretty good too!

  • HYGGE (COZINESS) 

This word has been trending so long I almost feel sheepish and ba-a-a-d to use it. But hey, I grew up with hyggelig, so who needs trends? Hygge, of course, means embracing the darkness by lighting a candle, a fire, a twinkling tree. Piling on another posh pillow. Hugging blankets and sipping something warm. And don’t forget soothing MUSIC! Just get comfie. Summer will be back soon enough.

  • LAGOM (BALANCE)

As BreakAway has always promoted, Everything in moderation . (Including moderation.) LAGOM, which might translate to “just the right amount,” suggests we avoid, say, over-eating and N’flix binging. And that we un-rest the butt and move more. Get the chores done. But then take enjoy coffee break!

Perhaps a shot of akavit at the end of the day? Just sayin’. Ha det godt! (Norsk.)

Og behold troen. (More Norsk.)

Translation: And keep the faith.

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Citigroup Proclaims Sabbaticals Pay!

Posted on: Monday, January 4th, 2021
Posted in: HR FYI, Sabbatical Shuffle | Leave a comment

  • Citibank avoids too much moss in the office by granting employee sabbaticals.

A recent Bloomberg Opinion piece has attracted ample attention by outlining Citigroup’s generous policy of offering 12-week sabbaticals to employees after 5 years of employment. Writer Sarah Green Carmichael uses the program as a springboard for both promoting time off and debunking fears about its harm to careers.

  • The problem with unused vacation

As we’ve discussed often at BreakAway, America enjoys being one of the richest countries, but is one of the poorest when it’s time to enjoy a good vacation. We get less. And we don’t even use what we’re given. The average worker earns 23 days off per year but actually takes only 17 of them. That amounts to billions of unused R&R-days!

Carmichael refers to abundant research that shows things like that people who use more vacation are actually more likely to get raises and promotions. Like: co-workers typically appreciate an absent co-worker’s contribution more when they are away and thus unable to pull their weight. Like: managers usually can’t tell the difference between those who slave away 80 hours/week to those who are faking it.

  • Problems persist with parenthood breaks

Maternity leave, in our great country, produces fuzzier outcomes. Several studies show that recent mothers make less money, are less likely to get promoted, and (if job searching) are less likely to get hired—due to lingering stigma that mothers will be less committed and capable. Paternal leave remains even more frowned upon. 

  • Money is “renewable,” while time is “finite”

No thanks to C-19, sabbaticals may suffer as workers covet their jobs and employers fiercely protect all bottom lines. Still, in the big picture, COVID also reminds us that we never know what may kill us, or when. Meanwhile, a career BreakAway not only won’t kill you, it will make you a more worldly, gratified person and employee. 

Op-eds and studies aside, Breakaway guarantees that a sabbatical will most certainly change your life!

Money is the ultimate renewable resource … But time is fleeting and finite. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

 

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11 Reasons Why COVID Is OK

Posted on: Thursday, November 19th, 2020
Posted in: HR FYI, Rants & Roadkill, Sabbatical Shuffle, SoulTrain, Unplugging | Leave a comment
  • C-19 is serious. But so is coping. Here’s a light-hearted look at ways to get through the day…

You know me: Always the optometrist. So I just can’t help but clearly see the silver lining of our murky pandemic Reality. Oh sure, the arguments are thinner than the cheapo TP we all hoarded from Sam’s Club.  But we also need alternatives to gloom-scrolling. And chintzy TP is better than none at all!

So, if you’ll pardon this overdose on Pollyanna pills, please consider… 

  • 11 Reasons Why COVID Is OK 

1. OVER-CROWDED EATERIES ARE OUTRE’. Remember wandering a cool neighborhood looking for food and fun? Recall being unable to get in the door—any door? And who can forget fighting for a drink at the popular pub or monster truck rally? Sometimes the crowds were part of the entertainment, but other times just heinous. And I’m also okay with…

2. $16 HOUSE WINES ARE CORKED UP. And BTW that’s a glass, not a bottle—and sometimes a paltry pour. I do love tasting red wine and seeing new places. But price creep (on all sorts of treats and experiences) taking a breather? That’s okay too.

3. THE ELECTION STAYED SO MELLOW. You think I’m joking? I’m not! Ya sure, this year’s politics were more repugnant than turds in a hot tub. But absent COVID? We’d have likely seen crowds and destruction that would have put this strife to the pale.

4. STAY-CATION IS SURGING. (Quirky coincidence with pandemic #s?) But seriously, even we travel buffs know that there’s no place like homestead. If folks are giving their abode some TLC and finding R&R in their oft-empty McMansions, that’s a soulful win-win.

5. HOME SCHOOLING IS IN SESSION. This one’s a stretch; many families are challenged and many students (40% in St. Paul) are struggling. On the upside, though, families are more involved than before with their kids’ education. A new appreciation for teachers has blossomed. And we are forced to re-think education and the outsized role of screens in learning.

6. “I’M SO BUSY’ HAS TAKEN A BREAK. You know these people: They’re so busy telling you how busy they are that, well, you hardly manage conversation at all. And it’s true: We have become a bafflingly busy culture. Too busy? Maybe. It might do some rat-racers good to take a cool-down lap.

7. WE ARE RE-WORKING THE WORKPLACE. While always in flux, there still must be billions of people who are working 9-to-5-plus and jamming up the freeways for hours on end. If more freedom and flexibility is a side-effect of the pandemic, many employees will be grateful.

8. STOCKS AND REAL ESTATE ARE BOOMING. So far, anyway, mostly. Of course, that only benefits those who have such holdings—and (as the Armchair Economist noted in these pages) the haves truly are getting richer. But for now, it’s okay—versus the alternatives.

9. WE’RE LEARNING SOME NEW VOCABULARY. Did you know that America’s vocab is shrinking faster than your Thanksgiving guest list? It’s true. So let’s be thankful that C-19 has upped our usage of fine words like asymptomatic, antibodies, and pod—while politics made slang out of vitriol, discord, and narcissistic. Quiz Tuesday!

10. POST-PANDEMIC, WE WILL APPRECIATE BREAKAWAYS EVEN MORE! Here in MN, we live by warped mantras like…The sooner winter happens, the sooner summer comes back! But it’s true! And someday, someday, we WILL get to travel again—whether to a family gathering, the cabin, or a coveted dream vacation.

11. MUSIC. When your mind is racing or you’re otherwise about to go completely bat-shit, play music. With your own instruments, or whatever you call your stereo. Turn it up. Let it bathe your blues and blast your brain.

After (God knows how) many months of quarantine, we’ll enjoy travel—and restaurants and parties and schools and mask-free living—more than ever. So in the meantime, let us try to find gratitude for the things that still bring comfort, and the fact that, yep, it could be worse.

Keep the faith.

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BITN: Gap Years, Resume Gaps, & Killer Perks

Posted on: Monday, November 2nd, 2020
Posted in: HR FYI, Sabbatical Shuffle, BITN, Wily Mktg | Leave a comment

  • Pandemic lemonade: Take time off

An FA group out of SF is encouraging their Gen-X clients to consider a shift into Gap-Year mode during these helter-skelter times. Yep, the Advisory Group of San Francisco proclaims to their 40-something investors that, “midlife is now even more intense.” And that research shows that age 47 trends to be the low point in the lifetime happiness curve. So…why not? A 16-p guide is available for the asking.

Midlife is now even more intense

AGSF also mentions “gas pedal risk,” that go-go faster-faster feeling that can happen when life brings maxed-out demands like kid-rearing, peak career loads, and … so much more. Nice idea, a mid-life gap year. BreakAway applauds and of course advocates exactly that (your children will thank you!) along with gap years (or months) most anytime throughout this “one wild and precious life.”

  • Um, about those lost years…

Okay, back to work! Last summer, MoneyTalksNews ran an article about a common theme that continues to grow in attention: How to explain gaps in resumes. The challenge thickens given that many firms essentially have robots that screen resumes via “tracking sytems.” Said bots may flag and dislike breaks! (After all, robots never rest.)

So what to do? The author suggests being upfront and giving a reason for the gap in both cover letter and resume, as research suggests that approach alone can up the odds of your info making it past the bot-bouncer by 60%. Mention any training and networking you’ve done. And of course, keep the focus on your key skills and talents.

At BreakAway, we fearlessly ask: Hey, doesn’t everybody need (and deserve) a pause now and then? Or are we really supposed to work from age 22 to 67 with nary a pit stop during the rat race? Besides, people who take time to raise children, help family, and travel curiously are just plain more well-rounded and worldly.

  • Best workplaces serve up juicy bennies

Comparably is a savvy site “Comparing Employers, Brands, and Salaries.” A recent and impressive post lauds 11 companies that offer innovative perks to keep employees content, motivated, and loyal! 2020 and its shifting work realities make such bonuses particularly useful and no doubt appreciated.

Examples include a home-office stipend, mental-health help with easy access, debt-free degrees, and (my favorite) virtual happy hours with at-home drink delivery during the pandemic.

All great, but what about FREE time? Here you go—just some of the ways that innovative employers are keeping their staffers savvy and sane…

·      Unlimited paid time off

·      Extended holiday weekends

·      Company-wide recharge days

·      1 mental-health day per month

·      Summer Fridays off

·      One-month sabbaticals after three years service

One month off after three years? If that doesn’t make recruiting and retention easier, we’re out of ideas! As countless prospective employees are likely saying…Sign me up!

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Kimmel & O’Connor Commend BreakAways; Wilderness Swamped

Posted on: Thursday, July 9th, 2020
Posted in: HR FYI, Sabbatical Shuffle, BITN | Leave a comment

Have you been tuning in to the late night comedy-talk shows? I hope so. Because even though Kimmel, Colbert & comrades have been recording in their home offices (and rec rooms and garages) they’ve been creating some of their best work. Absent the cheesy crowd noise and adulation, the hosts work harder and end up showing more star power.

More comedic relief, too. The summer we all want to forget (and survive) gets punched in the gut-laughs nightly, with crisp and daring monologues and occasional skits—often including family. Speaking of, Jimmy’s daughters are darling; they join him for a feature on Fridays. Their girly giggle-attacks are more contagious than the Coronavirus!

But Jimmy needs a break. According to the BoGlobe, he’s taking his longest break (a few months) after 18 years and 3,130 episodes. We’ll miss him. And hope that when he returns, he has a crowd to cheer him on. But now we know: If not, well, he’ll still provide essential laughter therapy.

  • Justice O’Connor’s 5-year break transformed her future

Sandra Day O’Connor’s career is legendary, with top-tier positions in all 3 branches of government and, ultimately, a long stint on the U.S. Supreme Court. Yet she speaks of the 5-year break to raise her 3 sons as perhaps the most game-changing chapter of all.

A babysitter quit; could happen to anyone. But this was the early 1960s, and daycare options were virtually non-existent. So O’Connor became a homemaking mom, and eventually had to volunteer, scheme, and fight her way back to employment. Boy, did she!

Her story gets sterling telling thanks to Carol Fishman Cohen, founder of iRelaunch, an admirable advocacy of career breaks and workplace re-entry. Her TED talk offers a touchstone for our vital cause, with millions of views to prove it!

Justice O’Connor’s trail-blazing example proved what was possible: that a career break is not a permanent roadblock, but rather a life-changing, character-shaping step along the way.

Our thanks to both of these innovators for their great work and, especially, for their BreakAway leadership!

  • MN wilderness is swamped

The COVID-19 pandemic has destroyed most travel dreams, and likely countless simple summer vacation plans. Here in MN, however, the camping and outdoor getaway business is booming. State parks report a 62% increase in day traffic over a year ago. And popular places like Lake Superior’s North Shore have become so busy that ill-mannered neophytes are a problem

Knowing that people are finding a way to escape their 4 walls and 55 worries to absorb the great outdoors offers a ray of sunshine in gloomy times. But really, people? Cutting down pines to increase your view? Throwing trash in Boundary Waters latrines? Emptying an RV septic tank by the side of the road? Hmmm. Maybe these morons should stay in lock-down!

As one outfitter theorizes, “The world is in a disruptive mode, maybe people are caring less…the world is coming to an end so we’ll do whatever the hell we want to do.”

Sad. Because these attditudes can become self-fulfilling destinies. And don’t we have enough to lament and fret about without engaging in reckless, recreational destruction?

Yes, we do. So go. BreakAway. Get your yayas out. But please, people: Clean up after yourself. And be kind.

Keep the faith.

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Cruising SoCal Before Corona, Pt. 1

Posted on: Tuesday, April 21st, 2020
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, Travelog | Leave a comment
  • Editor’s Note…

Yes, this travelog story took place last month. However, we’ve learned from the greats (like friend and guru Sherry Ott) and even fancy mags that travel stories rarely publish promptly for a variety of reasons. In this case, those included some technical difficulties, COVID-19 disruptions, and a related, gnarly case of what psychologists are now discussing as mass indecision-inertia.

  • Life’s a Long Beach

Having disclaimed THAT…Pictured above is my daughter jumping for joy just to be by the ocean during spring break last month. In California, you’re often close to a beach, since the coastline stretches for 840 glorious miles. Our trip of Great Expectations became, indeed, the best of times, the worst of times. We somehow accomplished our BreakAway’s ambitious itinerary. But the corona crisis and angst chased us around every palm tree. 

  • Rellies, memories & more

You’d hardly suspect that Long Beach hosts nearly half-million residents. I don’t see them; I notice quaint neighborhoods (with about half-million self-care shops), charming architecture, and a classic Cali vibe overflowing with flowers and greenery like these bird of paradise—precious soul flora for us Midwesterners.

Thanks to a dear aunt who moved there in 1960, I’ve been visiting occasionally throughout my life. In fact, her house was the last stop of a most epic breakaway—a 4-month RTW extravaganza. Upon arrival that day, she informed me that my beloved grandma had passed away the night before, as if waiting for my return. It rained the entire stay, like tears from heaven, which inspired this “The Sky is Crying” post.

Seeing my aunt again this time around was a great treat, and also sparked memories of childhood summer stays featuring Disneyland, Angels’ games, and all that SoCal has to offer a giddy kid. The smell of the sea and happy faces at the beach transported me, for fleeting moments, into a 6-year-old again. Long Beach was an idyllic place to spend an extended summer vacation, and now strikes me as a splendid place to grow old.

  • Seal Beach offers local color & old-Cali charm

With people (and colleges and sights) to see, neighboring Seal Beach and The Pacific Inn provided an ideal launch-pad location for eating well and wandering the peaceful seashore and village. Strolling there feels like iconic California on sense-surround, from the chirpy birds to a world of aromas wafting from the many eateries.

Sadly, in what would soon become a pattern, we were among the last guests at my favorite Seal Beach restaurant, Walt’s Wharf. They closed down shortly after our late-night feast. And, after 50 years of making delightful, delicious meals and memories, this local treasure is unlikely to survive Corona’s crushing wave.

We knew before arriving that The Virus would show up in various ways, from nervous airplane passengers to omnipresent Purell. But we also were somehow blessed and blissed; our timing could not have been luckier. One week later, we would have missed the shops, the salty souls surfing, and the hippies jamming for tips under a full moon. 

  • Cruisers in limbo

The Pacific Inn and its tiny lobby became a bustling gathering spot for people waiting to board cruise ships which were stuck in Long Beach Harbor because of possible Corona cases among imprisoned passengers. A friendly, retired couple from Michigan held court for hours in the lobby, chatting and reading while keeping another night’s reservation ready JIC. (It came in handy.)

Late (late!) that evening, an impossibly jubilant (drunk) group of 8 would-be sailors arrived with enough luggage to sink a boat. They were ecstatic to land the last available room after waiting all day at the port. How all 8 of these wide-bodies slept in their 2 queen-size beds…we’ll never know. But from the sounds of it, the party was sleep-optional!

As metaphorical darkness kept surrounding us, a guy began to wonder…as our week winds down, will the California to-do list be do-able? will our plane allow us to board? What is our Plan B? Yet despite the chill of pandem-onia in the air—or perhaps because of it—we focused on relishing every moment of being…Away.

  • Visiting colleges before class dismissed!

Up and early one morning, we drove through SoCal’s crazy traffic using the time-saving HOV lanes (that move at speeds that would make Germans jealous) to visit 2 of the 5 Claremont Colleges’ excellent schools—Pomona and Pitzer. Pomona (nearly $70K; 8% acceptance rate) won me over and made me long to be 18 (and smart and rich and lucky). Perhaps my enthusiasm, if not youthfulness, radiates from the embarrassing dad-on-campus picture.

Next-door Pitzer College (not much cheaper; a smidgen easier to get into) was founded in the 60s and reverberates California’s legendary liberal leanings. The grounds have been converted to dessert foliage and thus get high marks in environmentalism. The dorms are all attached in an open, communal design. The curriculum is what-you-make-it (literally) with a student body that knows its ABC’s and PC’s.

My first impression during the Pitzer presentation was true love. And some details, like this famous “Free Wall” piqued applause and evoked eras of when expression was refreshingly artistic rather than screen-centric. But by the end of the tour, I realized I’m probably just not evolved enough. So I made the difficult decision not to apply (as their most evolved student ever, age-wise). And, if asked, might encourage my daughter to consider carefully as well.

Our timing remained fortuitous. All 5 Claremont colleges ceased tours and info sessions the following day…and sent students home within the week. The pizzeria that served our sumptuous lunch? Shuttered the next day. Scary? Yes! Nonetheless, getting sick or stuck—so far from home—was simply not on the itinerary.

  • Don’t stop maneuvering

So we carried on and managed to create a most enjoyable time, never mind the burgeoning worry trailing us like a sick dog.

We seemed to know, on some level, that the airports would soon go quiet. That the street life would turn off. And that it might be months—years?—before we were able to manage a faraway BreakAway again—something we’ve done as a way of life since my daughter’s birth. To have this time, even amid the worry, was precious and priceless. 

Life can be mercilessly…uncertain. Which is all the more reason to—as the old bumper sticker preaches—”Don’t postpone joy.” 

So I again hearken my Grandma who in both good and bad times would cheerfully chirp (and a Seal Beach boutique echoed), “Count your blessings.”  

COMING NEXT: Cruising SoCal Before Corona…On to LALA Land!

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Forbes & Motley Fool Endorse BreakAways

Posted on: Saturday, February 8th, 2020
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, Work/Life Hacking, Wily Mktg | Leave a comment

To everything there is a season: A time to work, a time to play. 

The BreakAway Crew has been selling sabbatical lifestyles since 2008. Yet we’re always delighted when bigger influencers like Forbes and the Fool affirm our Big Idea. Both approach the topic from a career-centric POV. And that’s swell, since most folks have a career-credit-card focus and that encourages MYBA room to romp in the equally vital faith-&-freedom space.

  • Iconic takeaways from media masters

You can peruse these articles quickly, but here are the primary reminders in case you need to get back to tic tok. 

Career breaks…

  • WON’T RUIN YOUR CAREER….

Since they give you a chance to try new challenges, embark on an entrepreneurial endeavor, diversity your skill set, volunteer for something impressive, up your passion profile, boost your confidence, and more.

  • HELP YOU STAND OUT…

Because these days, so many jobs are LinkedIn-predictable and (for many) STEM-ish. Travelers have grander perspectives and wider exposure. Savvy employers want nothing less. As we say at BreakAway, it’s about self- Wily Mktg.

  • PLAY INTO THE ‘CAREER WAVE’ TREND RATHER THAN THE CONVENTIONAL ‘LADDER’…

This will make more sense as the Millennials take over. And they will comprise 35% of the work force this year. And get this: 84% of them foresee career breaks in their future.

  • FIGHT BURNOUT….

Since, frankly, that’s a career (and well-being) killer. Forbes says that 23% of full-time employees report burnout often; another 44% say it hits them sometimes. Our side-EFX-free RX: BreakAway ASAP.

  • “CLARIFY WHAT TYPE OF LIFE YOU WANT”…

My favorite. Paths, passion, restlessness, test drives, that whole deal. And our Motley not-so-foolish writer remind us that, depending on your age, many retirement funds are eligible to pay for your adventure. (Why wait until you’re old and rickety!?!)

  • Free your mind and your ass will follow

So says one of my heroes, George Clinton (and Funkadelic). Our fine writers agree but might paraphrase thusly: 1) Free your mind and your career will follow. 2) Free your mind and your career break will follow. 

So do like Forbes and the Fool and start planning BreakAways into your life already! Or just agree that careers are long yet life is longer so…When the time is right, why not go? 

PS Thanks, Forbes and Fool!

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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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