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Reflections

November Reflections: On Gratitude

I’ve always counted Thanksgiving as one of my favorite holidays, but I didn’t fully appreciate how much I treasure its familiar rituals—gathering in the company of loved ones to stuff ourselves with delicious seasonal foods—until last year. As Joni Mitchell famously sang in “Big Yellow Taxi”: Don’t it always seem to go / that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone

Last November, like most people I know, I had a Sad Thanksgiving. With Covid-19 raging across the country and around the world, Michael and I cooked a quiet meal in our apartment. Then we propped a laptop on the dinner table, logged onto Zoom, and tried our best to pretend that the loved ones who showed up in little boxes on screen were actually sitting at the table with us. Needless to say, it wasn’t the same. 

This holiday season, public health experts have given the greenlight for fully vaccinated people to get together safely in-person. I’m overjoyed for the chance to sit around a table with my whole family again, eating lefse — a traditional Norwegian potato bread — and Jell-O salad — a traditional Midwestern dish that is definitely not salad.  And I’m filled with gratitude: for my loved ones who I’ve missed so much; for the scientists and public health workers who’ve made it safer for us to come together again; for the medical teams who’ve risked their own lives to save others; for the frontline workers who’ve showed up to their jobs and kept our cities and towns running even during the scariest times in recent memory.

Part of gratitude means reckoning with the magnitude of what we’ve lost. As I write this, more than 770,000 Americans and 5 million people worldwide have died from Covid-19, figures that seemed absolutely unimaginable back in March 2020, or even at this time last year. Far more have suffered through the virus, and some continue to struggle with its long-term effects. Many people have lost loved ones, jobs, and relationships that couldn’t withstand the ongoing stress and worry. All of us have lost time. 

The pandemic has changed our lives in some ways we can already see and other ways we won’t fully understand for years. How will we rebuild from here? What new values, priorities, and traditions will emerge from this unprecedented age? 

Going forward, I don’t want to limit my musings on gratitude, reunions with loved ones, and appetite for huge communal meals to a single Thursday in November. I want to make space for hearty shared meals and festivity with my people all year round. What new traditions will you and yours dream up? 

Happy holidays, and be well, 

Jon

Reflections

October Reflections: On Feeling Nostalgic

As a kid, I loved Halloween for all the obvious reasons—the costumes, the candy, the thrill of roaming around after dark with my friends. I’d look forward to October 31 all year. As an adult without kids of my own, Halloween doesn’t loom as large in my life anymore, but lately I’ve been coming to appreciate it in a new way. 

There’s something so comforting about a low-stakes holiday. Unlike the more “serious” holidays, we don’t have to worry about accommodating out-of-town family or cooking multi-course meals. We don’t have to buy thoughtful gifts for our loved ones; instead, we can stick to buying fun-sized candy bars for neighborhood kids. 

And there are still plenty of annual traditions for those who partake: crafting costumes, carving jack-o-lanterns, outfitting our homes with seasonal decorations ranging from spooky (cobwebs, bats, skeletons) to kitsch (decorative gourds). Throughout October, the same classic songs play in rotation on radio stations and in stores: The Monster Mash, Thriller, the Ghostbusters Theme. We read ghost stories and watch scary movies. On Halloween itself, there’s a sense of communal goodwill and festive spirit: jack-o-lanterns flicker on doorsteps, little kids troop around in cute costumes, neighbors open their doors to hand out sweets to all who ask. For one night, the problems of the world seem far away. 

My feelings about Halloween have grown up as I have, turning from shivery excitement to warm nostalgia. That warmth, continuity of tradition, and community goodwill is what I want to hold onto as we move deeper into fall. 

One week after Halloween, on November 7, we’ll turn the clocks back as we return to Standard Time, earning an extra hour of free time to use however we please (except for Hawaiians and Arizonans, whose states don’t observe Daylight Saving Time). I’m always delighted when I come across a clock or watch I’ve forgotten to reset, then realize I still have another hour. I feel rich in time all day. 

And then darkness arrives a full hour earlier than it did the day before, and I have to recalibrate to ward off a sense of gloom, especially after the uncertainty and disorientation of the past 18 months. These days, I’m turning my attention to all of the things I love about fall: the trees bursting into color, leaves crackling underfoot, the crisp air and golden afternoon light. The way the stars look brighter than they do in summer, even in the city. Hot cider and perfect apples and butternut squash soup, brisk walks in the park with friends. At home, I take my cues from the Scandinavians, who’ve learned how to manage their 18-hour nights by prioritizing coziness and simple comforts: candles and lamplight, meals in a slow-cooker, good blankets and warm socks. 

Let’s find joy and comfort where we can, friends. Happy Halloween! 

Reflections

August Reflections: On More Time Off

Last month at the Tokyo Olympics, Simone Biles’s decision to step back from competition dominated news cycles for days, with commentators and fans expressing shock and confusion that the world’s greatest gymnast was bowing out of events she seemed all but guaranteed to win. But if we’d been paying closer attention, we might’ve seen it coming. Shortly before leaving for Tokyo, a New York Times reporter asked Biles to identify the happiest point in her career. She replied: “Honestly, probably my time off.”

Biles wasn’t the first athlete to prioritize rest and mental health over professional performance: in late May, tennis star Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open, citing struggles with anxiety and depression.  ““I wanted to…exercise self-care and preservation of my mental health. I stand by that,” Osaka wrote in a recent essay for TIME. “It’s O.K. to not be O.K., and it’s O.K. to talk about it.”

We’ve always looked to elite athletes as models of strength, determination, and perseverance. Now, they are setting a new kind of standard: recognizing and honoring their own limits; admitting that the relentless pressure to perform—whether self-imposed or external—is exhausting and debilitating; and announcing without shame or hesitation that they need time for themselves.

We would be wise to follow their lead. With summer winding down and businesses navigating how and when they might be able to “return to normal,” American workers are pushing back with demands for remote work and flexible hours policies.  But skyrocketing rates of exhaustion and burnout reveal that we don’t just need more options for when and where we do our work—we need more time away from work altogether.

Since the spring, American workers have been quitting their jobs at record-breaking rates, a trend the media have cheekily dubbed The Great Resignation. As New York Times reporter Kevin Roose observed in his article “Welcome to the YOLO Economy,” quitting workers have a wide range of reasons for walking off the job: ongoing concerns about Covid-19 exposure, burnout and fatigue, confidence that they can find better options in a strong job market. But at their core, Roose writes, these are “variations on the same basic theme: The pandemic changed my priorities, and I realized I didn’t have to live like this.” 

The last year and a half has shown us that humans are remarkably adaptable, as ever-changing Covid-19 protocols have altered the ways we work, learn, shop, and socialize. But the more profound lesson of the pandemic is that life is unpredictable and precarious, and none of us knows how much time we have left. 

As the British journalist Oliver Burkeman points out in his new book Four Thousand Weeks, “The average human lifespan is absurdly, terrifyingly, insultingly short.”(How short? The answer is in the book’s title; 4,000 weeks equals approximately 80 years.) Faced with the grim reality that our time is limited and already running out, we obsess over how best to use it and how to avoid wasting it. We tend to focus on our productive output as the measure of time well spent. How many tasks did we accomplish—how much did we get done—within any given hour or day? 

According to Burkeman, “this attitude toward time sets up a rigged game in which it’s impossible ever to feel as though you’re doing well enough…. [I]t becomes difficult not to value each moment primarily according to its usefulness for some future goal.”  The danger of this line of thinking is that in attempting to spend our time productively, we neglect to spend it meaningfully. We put off the things that matter most to us—deepening our bonds with friends and family, traveling to new places, pursuing personal projects and hobbies—everything we say we’ll get to as soon as we have some free time. 

Here’s a wakeup call: we are never going to get through our to-do lists. We are never going to find the hack that finally allows us to “get everything done.” Our goals, dreams, and desires will always exceed the time we have to accomplish them, because we’re mortal, and there’s only so much living you can pack into a few thousand weeks. As long as we keep prioritizing productivity, that mythical free-time future—the one in which we finally get around to the stuff that really matters—will never arrive. 

As depressing as that thought might be, it can also be liberating. Burkeman argues that the best time-management tool is to accept defeat, or perhaps more accurately, to accept reality. Once we acknowledge that we will never be able to achieve all of our goals—that “doing it all” isn’t just unreasonable but impossible—we can begin prioritizing the few things that matter most to us. 

This summer, Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles made headlines by announcing, essentially, that they would no longer be striving for the unreasonable and impossible. “We also have to focus on ourselves, because at the end of the day, we’re human, too,” Biles said. “So, we have to protect our mind and our body, rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do.” Osaka put it more bluntly in her essay for TIME: “You can’t please everyone.” 

If you can’t please everyone, who do you care most about pleasing?  If you can’t do everything, what do you want to do most? Lately I’ve been thinking of a magnet you may recognize from a refrigerator near you: Life is short, eat dessert first. What is the purpose of life, anyway, if we can’t make some space for sweetness right now? 

Ready for a sweet escape to nature? Book your Getaway today.

A Year of Rest | Reflections

Reflections: On Recommitting to Year of Rest

Last summer, the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor sparked a national reckoning with the persistent violence of racism in America. Protesters took to the streets in cities and towns across the country and around the world to demand racial justice, and Getaway stood in solidarity with those protests and the Movement for Black Lives. 

In order to back up our values with actions, in June 2020 Getaway created a program to uplift and support our Black community the way we know best: by providing rest and access to nature. In partnership with Rachel Cargle, The Nellie Mae Education Foundation, and Miir, we launched A Year of Rest and gifted 365 Getaways to Black activists and community organizers, in keeping with our core values that rest is a right, and nature is for everyone. A year later, I’m thrilled to say that Getaway has provided 365 extraordinary individuals with nights of rest at Getaway’s cabins: doctors fighting injustice in the healthcare system; teachers connecting their students with diverse authors; gun violence prevention activists; interdisciplinary artists uplifting their communities’ stories; and so many more. We renewed A Year of Rest for a second year, with plans to keep it going long-term. 

As we move into A Year of Rest 2.0, I’m painfully aware that the struggle for justice is far from over. Structural racism still pervades American social, cultural, and economic life. Simply existing as a Black person in this country can take a significant toll on mental and physical wellbeing. In his recent Washington Post op-ed “Being Black in America Is Exhausting,” Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jonathan Capehart describes the “mental calculus” he takes to try and keep himself safe: never running in public, never pulling out his keys in public (someone might mistake them for a knife), never walking directly behind someone. He writes, “No matter our gender, age or socioeconomic status, we are viewed as threats. As a result, we live under siege.”  

For many Black Americans, these feelings of anxiety and vulnerability are intensified in outdoor spaces, which remain overwhelmingly white sixty years after the US Supreme Court ended legal segregation. (Yes, state and national parks–and hiking trails, rivers, and lakes–were segregated before that ruling.) 

In spite of all this, Black activists and organizers continue working and fighting, in ways big and small, to create opportunities for the next generation while making our communities more safe and our society more just. Over the past Year of Rest, we’ve had the privilege of learning about thousands of brilliant, courageous, creative change-makers through your nominations. 

As we launch our second Year of Rest, I find it helpful to remember the Black poet and activist Audre Lorde, who first described self-care as a political act. Or as Rachel Cargle would say: “Black people staying alive and well is the resistance.” 

Features | Reflections

On Labor Week

With the fall approaching, I keep hearing the phrase “return to normal.” Last fall was decidedly not “normal”: with Covid-19 still tearing through our communities six months after arriving in the US, many businesses resigned themselves to another season of remote work. A year later, as vaccines have allowed for widespread reopening, workers nationwide are being told that after Labor Day, it’s back to “business as usual”: back to the office, in-person meetings, commutes, and pre-pandemic expectations. 

It seems like a particular irony that so many workplaces have chosen Labor Day for this “back to business” call. Labor Day is a holiday created by the American labor movement to celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of workers, and to honor them with a national day of rest.  And after this harrowing year-plus, American workers really need rest—including the workers at Getaway, who will not be “getting back to business as usual” this Labor Day.

While the pandemic has exacerbated our stress and fatigue, and further blurred the boundaries between work and downtime, it’s not a new phenomenon. When I started Getaway back in 2015, it was in response to my own work stress and burnout. For me, the tiny cabins at our Outposts are not just a destination but a tool: a way to create physical and psychological distance from the relentless demands of the workaday world.  I want our guests to enjoy the tiny cabins, but more than that, I want them to experience free time: unscheduled, unstructured, and uninterrupted. The guiding philosophy of Getaway is that building and maintaining a balanced, meaningful life requires free time—not just for rest and rejuvenation, but to foster inspiration, creativity, relationship-building, and self-determination.

I want that for Getaway’s staff, too. Our teams have been working tirelessly to keep all sides of the business running smoothly, despite everything this time has thrown at us. For Getaway to be true to its mission and vision—that free time is a right, and a ritual worth protecting—we need to practice what we preach.

Starting this Labor Day, Getaway will be celebrating “Labor Week” by shutting down business for the whole workweek. (This year, that’s September 6–10.) During that time, all Outposts will be closed, and check-ins will be paused, so that every member of the Getaway family — from our headquarters to our Outposts, full-time and part-time workers alike — can enjoy a paid week of free time. With this initiative—which we hope will become an annual tradition—we seek to honor the original spirit of Labor Day: taking pride in our work while also recognizing that our lives are about much more than our labor

While Labor Week is new for Getaway, it’s a natural continuation of our company culture. Our staff knows that they are not expected to work (including responding to emails) during their off hours. Since its inception, Getaway has provided salaried employees with 20 paid vacation days in addition to 10 national holidays—and it’s mandatory that people take that time off. We’ve also extended paid vacation and holidays to our part-time team members. Three years ago, we launched our Getaday program, granting all full-time workers an extra day off each month, bringing our total to 52 paid days off per year (not including weekends), meaning we are off 20% of “work” days — or the equivalent of working four days per week.  

We haven’t gotten it all 100% right over the years— we’re a work in progress, and committed to always improving — but I’m incredibly proud of Getaway’s role as a leader when it comes to honoring and protecting our employees’ free time. Still, we’re a hospitality company, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t scary or expensive to shut down operations during one of the busiest travel weeks of the year. But to me, success isn’t just about our bottom line. It’s about leading by example. Our company exists because of the people who work here, and even Getaway needs to get away sometimes.

Note: In a perfect world, no guests would be impacted by Labor Week. For the small group of folks who’ve already booked stays during the week of September 6–10, we’re currently working to ensure that they’re rebooked for new dates that work for them. Going forward, we’ll be sure to block off Labor Week so that guests can continue booking with confidence.

Reflections

On Vaccines and Community Care

 I’ve always found civic engagement incredibly inspiring, and never more than over the course of the last year. In the early days of the pandemic, I witnessed the myriad ways Americans came together in the service of our country and each other, as folks got together to sew masks for frontline workers, and mutual aid groups organized to deliver groceries and medicine to vulnerable community members.

I felt that collective spirit even more powerfully this spring, when I showed up at a community center in the Bronx to get my shots of the vaccine. After a long and painful year of fear, isolation, and grief—a year in which so many of my fellow Americans and fellow humans around the world lost their lives, lost loved ones, lost livelihoods and time to Covid-19—it was an incredible relief to hold out my arm for the shot that would protect me from getting sick. Better still, once I had immunity, I knew the virus could no longer use me as a host to infect the people around me. It was a genuine thrill to do my small part to help my neighbors and my country.

Last week, I got a call from the White House asking if Getaway could help out in their effort to get 70% of Americans vaccinated by July 4. I’m trying to sound casual about this, but the truth is that never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the government of the United States reaching out to ask us for help saving American lives. Of course, I said yes, and that’s why I’m writing this: to implore you to get vaccinated if you haven’t already. If you already have, consider this a request to engage in conversations with those around you about the importance of vaccination, especially if you know any of the nearly 20 percent of Americans who’ve said they don’t want the vaccine.

Although new case numbers have dropped dramatically as millions of Americans have stepped up to get vaccinated, the number of vaccinations is also dropping. And as long as a significant percentage of people remain unvaccinated, the virus will continue infecting them and using their bodies as hosts to spread through communities across the country. Earlier this month, we surpassed 600,000 Covid deaths in the US—more victims than all of the Americans who died in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam combined. We might be over Covid, but Covid isn’t over us.

This is very personal to me. My closest friend has a rare autoimmune disease that makes him vulnerable to bad outcomes if he contracts Covid-19. Over the last year, he took every possible precaution, and he got vaccinated as soon as he could. Although all approved Covid vaccines are tremendously effective in protecting people with healthy immune systems, their efficacy isn’t as strong for immunocompromised people. Even after my friend completed his course of shots, his body wasn’t able to produce the antibodies he needs to protect him from Covid. This wouldn’t be a problem if everyone around him were vaccinated, since the virus can’t spread without hosts to spread through. But unless or until that happens, my friend remains at risk of contracting a potentially fatal—and now wholly preventable—infection.

I know some folks are worried about whether the Covid-19 vaccines are safe. Since I’m not a scholar of infectious diseases or vaccine science myself, I’m grateful for the many explanations about the safety and efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccines written by experts who’ve dedicated their professional lives to the study of immunology, and the researchers who drew on over 200 years of global research and technological advances to develop the vaccines we needed to fight Covid-19 in 2020. 

I’m in awe of the ingenuity and persistence of scientists like Dr. Kati Kariko of the University of Pennsylvania, who began her groundbreaking research on mRNA—the key component of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines—all the way back in 1989. I’m grateful for my former mentor Noubar Afeyan, who I met in 2013 when we worked together to start a short-lived social media company. At that time, Noubar was already deeply invested in another startup— a little company called Moderna.

Consider the resources, negotiations, and logistics it’s taken to develop, secure, and then distribute enough vaccine doses for everyone in our enormous, sprawling country, to make them available right now to residents of all fifty states, from urban centers to rural outposts to the houses of the homebound. (Compare this to Europe, where many people won’t be eligible for the vaccine until late summer at the earliest, and other countries around the world for which even late summer would be a welcome timeline). It’s an extraordinary gift, and all we have to do to save lives is receive it. 

Thank you, be well, and let’s do what we can to keep our neighbors well, too—

Jon

Reflections

Loving Out Loud

In past years, I’ve written here about what Pride means to me as a gay man, as a CEO, as a person who loves spending time in nature, and the intersection of all of those things.

It isn’t about me though: the ongoing movement for full LGBTQ+ equality, the effort to reclaim nature for all of us, and the counterculture of carving out more free time are not individual pursuits to achieve individual ends, but collective efforts — large and small, loud and quiet, public and private — to create a better and more just world. 

And so, this month we’re celebrating Pride by spotlighting our LGBTQ+ guests, creators, and community. Additionally we’ll be donating to the three organizations highlighted below. We hope you will join us in championing their efforts.

Wild Diversity
Wild Diversity was created to provide a safe space and sense of belonging in the outdoors for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities. They host trips, provide outdoor education programs and facilitate community workshops.

It Gets Better Project
A nonprofit that uplifts, empowers, and connects LGBTQ+ youth through the power of storytelling.

OnePulse Foundation
Created by the owner of Pulse Nightclub, the foundation funds a memorial, a museum, educational programs, and legacy scholarships.

With Love,

Jon 

Reflections

April Reflections: On Stress

Did you know that April is “Stress Awareness Month”? If your response is, “Thanks, but I’m well aware of my stress every month of the year,” well… I hear you.

In many ways, the past year has felt like the ultimate stress test, as the pandemic threw us all into simultaneous public health, economic, and social crises. Now, thanks to a surprisingly speedy vaccine rollout, Americans are beginning to envision a post-pandemic world, as schools, shops, restaurants, and workplaces open up again. But this brings its own set of stressors: Will we be awkward in social settings after so much time apart? What might our workplaces and schools ask of us now? Can we make up for lost time? Will we have to? 

I don’t think anyone would disagree that this Year of Covid has been uniquely stressful. But Stress Awareness Month isn’t just about recognizing that stress exists in our lives. It’s about differentiating between the kind of stress that can light a fire under us, and the kind that feels like it’s grinding us down. 

Researchers differentiate between three types of stress: acute stress, episodic acute stress, and chronic stress. Acute, or short-term stress—the kind our early ancestors faced when a hungry predator approached—triggers the brain to release the hormones that prepare the body for the “fight or flight” response: epinephrine (adrenaline) increases heart rate and blood pressure, providing your body with a jolt of energy, while cortisol increases glucose levels in the brain and bloodstream, fueling your muscles and enabling you to stay focused under pressure.

Today, we’re less likely to face stress in the form of hungry wild animals (I hope!) and more likely to encounter it as we race to meet a deadline, give an important presentation, or strive to make a good impression on a first date. In limited doses, stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing—it can inspire us to do our best work, while building our resilience. 

But living in a frequent (episodic) or constant (chronic) state of stress does the opposite. Being stressed all the time will worsen your mood, making you prone to irritability, negativity, and depression. Even more alarming, over time chronic stress can lead to serious physical problems including migraine, digestive disorders, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. 

I can always tell I’m spiraling into stress when I feel like I have too many thoughts rolling around in my head. That happened to me earlier this month, as I began prepping my notes for an upcoming Getaway board meeting. In these moments, I can get caught up in self-doubt and anxiety, worried about whether I’m meeting expectations and if my ideas make sense.

In order to break the cycle of circular thinking, I find it helpful to go for a walk, take a bath, or listen to a podcast. A change of scenery or the sound of other voices can get me out of my head long enough to give me some much-needed perspective. 

I also find it helpful to focus on the other side of the thing that’s causing me stress. Sometimes I remind myself of mantras like The only way out is through or This too shall pass. They may be a little corny, but they hold truth. I remind myself that the board meeting is just a moment in time. The next day, it’ll be behind me.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found it helpful to think back on past experience as a guidepost. I remind myself that I always go through this period of stress and anxiety before board meetings. But then I always pull my notes together, and even enjoy myself, as the team and I work to move the company forward. 

No matter how stressful things are right now, there’s a future on the other side. Take a deep breath.

To create healthy boundaries around stress, the American Psychological Association offers six tips:

Set limits. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, write out all of your responsibilities on a list, and cut back on non-essential ones.

Ask for help. Reach out to friends, family, colleagues, and mentors for guidance and strategies on making life feel more manageable, and don’t be afraid to delegate tasks if you’ve taken on too much.

Make one commitment for your health. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, the idea of adding anything can seem impossible, but even a small change can make an impact. This might be something as minor as committing to cut back on caffeine, or taking a few breaks to go on a walk or practice deep breathing throughout the day.

Get sleep. It’s a vicious cycle: stress can make it hard to fall asleep, while sleep deprivation makes you less resilient in the face of stress. To improve sleep, experts recommend maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and screens before bed, getting exercise (but not right before bed), and keeping your bedroom cool and dark during the hours you’re trying to sleep. 

Try to stay positive. Sometimes we worsen our stress by setting impossible standards for ourselves and our work. (I’m definitely guilty of this.) Cut yourself some slack, keeping in mind that you’ll do better work when you’re feeling good. If you find yourself expressing pessimistic opinions more often than not, challenge yourself to reframe your thoughts in more positive light.

Seek professional help. If your stress levels are impacting your focus, mood, or relationships, you may want to schedule an appointment with a therapist. Mental health professionals can work with you to develop strategies for managing stress (and any other issues you’re dealing with), and will be more objective than your friends or family.

Need to schedule some free time in nature? Book your Getaway today.