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Reflections

May Reflections: Sophia Li on Climate Optimism

This month, our founder, Jon Staff, is passing the mic to Sophia Li, a Chinese-American journalist, advocate and director whose work focuses on the intersections between climate and social justice to hear more from her on climate optimism.

How do you approach climate change with hope?

I approach climate change with hope by first being aware of the words I’m using in relationship to the crisis. It’s as simple as turning a thought such as “we don’t have enough time” to “I feel empowered with my love of mother nature and our shared home that I take responsibility and accountability for my actions from here on out.” Having that fundamental shift in how we communicate to ourselves and each other about the climate crisis is the first step.

I focus on climate hope, climate optimism because a climate ‘doom and gloom’ mentality freezes us into inaction. Perhaps we were introduced to the climate crisis through the mentality of fear i.e. “our house is one fire” but there’s only so much long-term continuous action that can come from fear. We now need to move into the learning and growth zones past the fear zone. Climate optimism plays a role in our fight for an equitable future because the movement must start internally: if we have a fearful relationship with Mother Nature, we quickly burn out– fear isn’t sustainable long term for true global liberation to a greener future. A symbiotic relationship with Mother Nature rooted in love and abundance (as Indigenous communities have always practiced and preached) however is the sustainable answer.

How has your perspective as a member of the AAPI community influenced your perspective on climate change if it does?

Being Chinese-American is largely my climate story to how I first became involved in the climate space as I saw firsthand what was happening to the blue skies in China over the course of my upbringing going there every summer. Also, we have to acknowledge how climate and racial justice are so interconnected. It is scientifically proven that environmental racism is one of the biggest impacts of the climate crisis. The climate crisis affects the whole world, but the majority of people experiencing it are in the Global South. It’s the Global North that has caused these really detrimental changes to the climate. Exactly 100 companies contribute to 71% of greenhouse gases. And of those 100, a majority are from the Global North. If we’re talking about just the United States, BIPOC are heavily represented in the poorest communities, which also have the highest levels of asthma, cancer, and other health problems, often because their communities are being taken advantage of by business interests. 

Living in these areas — where people can’t afford to go anywhere else — has health repercussions. You look at Flint, Michigan: no clean running water, high percentage of BIPOC — and that’s because of the behavior of the industries there. You look at the South Bronx — it’s called “asthma alley” for a reason. It has the highest levels of asthma anywhere in the world, because there’s such a high level of industrial production happening in the South Bronx. These are just a few examples on a broad level, and more in our backyard, of environmental racism and how climate and racial justice are so interconnected. Being an AAPI, I’ve always been aware of the disproportionate impacts of the climate crisis on communities of color and hold that perspective with me whenever I enter the climate space, transcending beyond just the zero waste and vegan movements.

What have you learned as a journalist in the climate and social activism space?

What I have learned most as a journalist in the past few years is that we are entering a polarized society where people either want to be “right” or “wrong” and how we must now transcend this binary. With social media and the internet now, I can find supporting “evidence” for any perspective to make my “truth” legitimate. If that’s the case, then the “truth” becomes relative to the person and their individual perspective. If the truth is all relative, then it’s not about fighting to be “right” but collectively joining our powers to defeat the common enemies of systemic oppression and racism that continues to harm both people and planet. The systems that are oppressing Mother Nature are the same systems continuously oppressing our communities of color.

What connections between climate change and social justice do you think need more attention?

That climate justice will only be achieved when social and racial justice is achieved. For example, the #StopAsianHate movement is directly tied to our fight against the systems of oppression that hurt the environment because they are the same systems—vulnerable communities are all oppressed by the institutions of white supremacy, white nationalism and capitalism. 

For example, when the most vulnerable asians are being attacked: elders and those least assimilated, the institution of white supremacy wins. The same institution that has gerrymandered white and Black neighborhoods for generations, the same institution that continues to finance and fund fossil fuels, the same institution that values profit over people and planet. Our fight is everyone’s fight. 

What would you tell a younger member of the AAPI community who wanted to follow in your footsteps?

Well first and foremost during this time for the AAPI community, I want to say that we can’t let fear affect how we operate in the world as Asians. When you see these headlines about the skyrocket of hate crimes against Asians, it makes you a little nervous to go outside and live your best life. Every Asian I know has their own experience with verbal assaults, attacks, and discrimination during the past year. The journalist Kimmy Yam reported that more Asian American kids are staying home from school, choosing digital school. I think because they don’t want to experience bullying, verbal attacks—they’re scared. And that breaks my heart, we cannot let fear be the ultimate winner.

If you would like to follow in my footsteps, I would say to recognize the difference between a fear for your safety vs. a fear of you failing. I think that weighs heavily on Asians in America, trying to live up to the toxic ‘model minority’ standard. Failing upwards is a way of life… I have failed more times than I can count but it has all ultimately led me to where I am now. Don’t be scared to fail and unpack that fear of failure—follow the fear in this case. Happy Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!

Please join us in supporting Stop AAPI Hate this month, an organization dedicated to tracking and analyzing the numbers and themes coming to light in the recent uptick in incidents of hate against the AAPI community. They then take action based on the trends they’re seeing by informing policy-makers, collecting reports, and pushing for local and national action to protect the AAPI community.

Bio: Sophia Li is a Chinese-American multimedia journalist, film director, advocate and public speaker. Her mission is to humanize issues such as the climate crisis and social justice into digestible and accessible news— redefining how information is communicated in the 21st century while cutting through the content pollution. 

Sophia’s journalistic reporting has appeared in CNN, Vice and the United Nations. She has created and directed conscious campaign films for brands and platforms such as Nike, Facebook, Fendi to name a few. Dubbed as an innovative storyteller, Sophia has interviewed notable personalities across fashion, tech and culture, such as Ariana Huffington, Pharrell Williams, Celine Dion and Nobel Laureates.

Forbes, NY Magazine, Refinery29 and more have named Sophia as a leader in the sustainability movement. She is the co-founder and co-host of All of the Above, the first sustainability talk show. She is the former Entertainment Media Editor at American Vogue.

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.

Features | Reflections

September Reflections: Off Time

In his book Leisure: The Basis of Culture Josef Pieper wrote, “The inmost significance of the exaggerated value which is set upon hard work appears to be this: man seems to mistrust everything that is effortless; he can only enjoy, with a good conscience, what he has acquired with toil and trouble; he refuses to have anything as a gift.”

This sentiment, I hope, is changing. But most of us know someone like Professor Pieper was writing about: the co-worker who makes a show of coming to work early or staying late; the friend who can’t stop talking about how much they work; or worse, the friend who truly does seem to work themself to the bone — for no apparent reason. More personally, I can admit to some feelings of pride simply from putting in long hours rather than getting anything done or making any difference. 

I was raised on the idea of hard work being best, and it’s hard to shake the lesson. I still believe in work — broadly defined to include all work, not just traditional, paid work — but would suggest we change the frame from ‘hard work’ to ‘honest work.’ Honest work is about being honest with yourself and those around you. What do you really need to do, and what is filling time? How much of your time does a given project deserve? When does it have to be perfect, and when is perfect the enemy of the good? Is work intruding on the rest of life — leisure time, as Pieper might call it, or “off time” as I prefer (leisure reminds me of pink flamingos and shuffleboard — although that doesn’t sound so bad now that I think about it). 

Pieper’s idea has been top of mind as we have prepared for the launch of two new Outposts tomorrow – Getaway Piney Woods, outside of Dallas, and Getaway Catskills East, north of New York City. I’m proud of the team for making this happen — our fifth and sixth launches of the year! — but it also means it has been a period of intense work for our team.  

Aiming to be ambitious and realistic but not hypocritical, I guide the team to recognize that there will be periods of intense effort but that those times must be punctuated by meaningful rest. So as we welcome Getaway Piney Woods and Getaway Catskills East into the world tomorrow, I am looking forward to the team getting so more off time than they’ve had lately.

off time

Off time is really important. Off time, as Pieper says, is a gift, and one we shouldn’t refuse. And contrary to the way many of us were raised: off time isn’t unproductive. Letting your mind and body rest recharges you. Off time is often when new ideas pop into our brain. It is when we deepen our bonds with our friends, family, and communities. Off time allows us to take the long view — have you ever found that, without planning to do so, you end up making big life decisions when you finally go on that vacation?

A Getaway guest emphasized to me the importance of off time this week. I email with a lot of guests, and one wrote back to me after we had traded notes a few weeks ago about her Getaway. Her follow up email had an attachment: an ultrasound. She wrote:

Hi Jon,
I wanted to reach out to you because something truly amazing happened at our Getaway. After trying to conceive for a year we’ve learned that we are expecting! I truly believe that being in such a wholesome and relaxing environment really played a huge part and I wanted to thank you guys for being around. Attached is a picture!
Thanks again, T

See: off time isn’t so unproductive after all. 

Wishing you some quality off time this month,

Jon

Features | Reflections

June Reflections: On Pride

Unlike a lot of brands this month, we haven’t changed our logo to a rainbow version in celebration of Pride month.

As an LGBT person and CEO I have conflicting feelings about what might be perceived as the corporate takeover of Pride. The last time I went to the NYC pride parade it seemed to be mostly floats sponsored by cell phone carriers. In 2019 and after years of more tepid support, it is hard for me to see these companies as taking a brave stand rather than being bandwagon allies of a group of people who have suffered from marginalization for so long.

On the other hand, as my friend Michael Segal put it recently — there are still a lot of kids walking around with big secrets inside of them, and the fact that one cannot escape red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple flags in the month of June must provide some comfort to those kids, even if those flags are bought and paid for by some corporate behemoth’s focus-grouped and demographically-optimized marketing spend.

And so as leader of Getaway I remain conflicted about how to best celebrate Pride month — I don’t want to take advantage of a hard won identity for company gain, but I also don’t want to imply that visibility isn’t important.

One thing I am proud of: we have built a space where you can go, and you can be comfortable, and you can be yourself. No matter what you look like, or who you are with, your Getaway is for you and for you only. In a world that is thankfully becoming more and more tolerant in many places, most of us still need a place to fully escape once in a while. I am proud that we have heard from so many that we are that place to them.

Happy pride,

Jon

Features | Reflections

May Reflections: On Growth

Today we opened Outposts 5 and 6, one just outside of Portland and one in between Pittsburgh and Cleveland. I’m excited and proud that this is a year of growth for Getaway.

Portland Outpost

To see how Getaway has caught on with guests is invigorating for our whole team. We feel energized by the new challenges that arise from maintaining an incredible experience as we expand across the country.

Yet on a more fundamental level, what this growth really means is that we’re adding more disconnected hours to the world. We’re putting more families in quiet spaces together where they can play games and make traditions. We’re allowing loved ones to spark conversations, to take adventures, to challenge themselves and one another. We’re committing to our promise of offering a counterbalance to our city routines.

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to speak at the Travel Forward conference in Washington, DC. I’ll spare you the speech, but after my talk I was pleasantly surprised by many attendees who approached me to share how much they loved their Getaways. They told me about what the experience gave them, that Getaway is their favorite place, that they’ve gone four times, or that they had made a new tradition of going every year with a growing family.

may reflections

I can’t wait to hear more and more of your stories – outside of DC, Boston, New York, Atlanta, and now Portland, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and soon Los Angeles and Dallas.

I hope this is also a year of growth for all of us in our individual quests to find balance in this chaotic world. If Getaway can be a small part of that journey for you, that is what will truly make my year.

Be Well,

Jon

Features | Reflections

April Reflections: On Routines

Routines get a bad rap. Sure, negative routines may leave us in a mundane rut, but routines can be good for us too. The best routines create a sense of comfort and a sense of security.

If you think about it, routines and rituals are not so different. They both involve repeated action, but there’s something about the intentionality behind the word “ritual” that frees it from the banality of our day-to-day lives.

For me, my Getaway always starts with the same ritual. I pull up to my cabin, unload the car (usually with just one backpack), open the door, put my phone in the lockbox, and breathe a sigh of relief. Then I kick off my shoes, make a cup of coffee, and dive into the reading that always seems to escape me in the city.

Everyone seems to have their own ritual at Getaway, and I love reading how you spend time. Some of my favorites from this month include:

“I haven’t roasted a marshmallow since I was a kid. Just the taste of roasted marshmallows took me back to summer camping trips with my family. Although we were sad to go after just one night, we left feeling completely refreshed.” – Scott S., Getaway Boston

“We had an amazing time playing Yahtzee, reading, taking walks, building fires, cooking, chatting, sleeping, and hiking.  It was an amazing opportunity to connect with each other and disconnect from all the pressure and stress in everyday life.” – Sasha B., Getaway DC

We made this video to celebrate the many routines, rituals, and practices at Getaway, whether they be by ourselves, with a good book, with a loved one, or with a four-legged friend.

Here’s to building rituals that serve us, and finding comfort in connection to nature and each other.

Be Well,

Jon

Features | Reflections

March Reflections: On Change

I always look forward to March: longer days, rising temperatures, more time to spend outside. This March has been a special one. Today we opened our first Outpost in the South — Getaway Atlanta.

We can often get so wrapped up in the hustle of our day-to-day lives that we don’t take moments to pause and reflect on what exactly we’re doing. So that’s what I’d like to do here: take a few seconds to appreciate what Getaway Atlanta means to me.

Atlanta

On the surface – a new location, more cabins, more guests getting to enjoy some precious time away from distractions. But in a deeper sense, we’re doubling down on our commitment to provide our future guests the opportunity for a mindful renewal in nature. It’s something we’ll continue to do throughout the year. I couldn’t be happier to kick it off with Atlanta.

Beyond Atlanta, our busy month started with the National Day of Unplugging. We hosted meditation sessions with our friends at The Assemblage in New York, so workers could enjoy a few moments of calm before and after their workdays. A week later, we celebrated International Women’s Day with She’s the First, a non-profit that offers educational opportunities to women who are the first to receive secondary education in their families.

Even during these busy months, the team and I always obsess about reading all of your feedback. The whole team reads every email, comment, and notification that comes through. It helps make us better, keeps us on our toes, and ensures that we never lose sight of why we’re doing what we’re doing. Here are a few highlights from March for me:

Women around campfire

“Getaway was more than I could have imagined. It was a separation and isolation I didn’t even know I needed. I didn’t realize how dependent I had become on TV and internet. It was liberating to just do nothing. It was great to catch up with the friend I went with. We learned so much about each other but yet had our individual moments of rest.” – Jeraldin G., The June

“I’ve honestly never had a better weekend. This was everything I needed and I can’t stop talking about it.” Lisa W., The Sophie

“Loved the getaway- my boyfriend actually proposed to me when we were there and I am so thankful for the cabin. With our phones locked away, the getaway took the pressure off immediately sharing our news on social media. We got to enjoy the moment and our new chapter together then quietly re-enter the world.” Ellen C., The Robert

As always, feel free to get in touch if you have any feedback or ideas.

Be well,
Jon

Features | Reflections

February Reflections: On Unplugging

I’ve long thought we should have more holidays. Why isn’t there, at least, one holiday every month? If we were to add more holidays, what things would you want us to carve out time for? One of my votes would be for us all to celebrate the National Day of Unplugging, a “24 hour respite from technology.” Read more about the day here.

So on March 1, we’re unplugging. Don’t worry if you’re staying with us that day —  our field teams are at the ready to ensure you get your own time to recharge.

It’s a special day that’s about replacing push notifications with a pull towards the outdoors, setting aside our likes and follows for more time with the people we like the most. I appreciate my cell phone and my “connected” world, but it’s about setting a day to acknowledge that the counterbalance is just as important.

To me, National Day of Unplugging comes at the perfect time. Inevitably, at least in the Northeast, we spend a lot of time indoors in February. More time inside often equates to more time on screens, longer work hours, and less opportunity to meaningfully get away. Here’s hoping this special day serves as a reminder to us all about the upside of unplugging.

Be Well,
Jon