People spend a lot of time in front of screens these days. Last March, Scientific American reported on the results of a national survey in which a sample of 1800 adults averaged over 9 hours each day in front of various screens googling, emailing, texting, and typing. And, according to a piece published in the New York Post in November 2017, the average American checks his or her phone 80 times per day. Look, I’m as guilty as anyone else here. Even as a writer, my “writing” is often penless, instead requiring my laptop, or at the very least my phone, when a genius thought occurs to me on the go. And I’ll admit that, in the midst of writing this sentence, I stopped to respond to a text and didn’t come back to it until, somehow, 20 minutes had passed. I think it’s easy for most of us to admit how time-consuming, and potentially distracting, phone and computer usage can regularly be.
But what’s a person to do in modern society? Even if your job doesn’t require a computer, you’re probably still using one pretty often. The more time we spend connected to tech, the less we’re offline, but this can get pretty exhausting, to say the least. Studies have shown that too much tech can be linked to poor sleep quality, increased stress, and depression.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to hit the refresh button on the browser tab that is your life. Temporarily removing the temptation to swipe and type altogether by taking a timeout from tech can be pretty effective. And working with your hands to make something that’s tangible? Also a good idea. But what if you made something that not only allowed you to take a break from screens while making it, but also facilitated your ability to refresh afterwards, too? Enter: the getaway cabin.
This term initially may just inspire you to find a cute place upstate to head to for a few days. And, hey, I’m certainly not knocking that; I scroll through Airbnb listings for fun sometimes. But what if...you made your own getaway cabin? The statistics suggest it’s more important now than ever to take yourself offline to refresh, mentally and physically. And the construction of your own cabin as a place of refuge may be just the way to do it.
Picture it, will you: a place in a setting of your choosing, uninterrupted by the distractions of everyday life, surrounded by the comforting sounds and steady rhythms of the natural world. Made by you, to boot! Matthew Crawford, a philosopher and mechanic whose personal experience and research have produced what’s essentially a manifesto for shirking screen time in favor of more tangibly satisfying work, would likely support the idea. In a piece he wrote for T Magazine just before his book The Case for Working with Your Hands was published in 2010, he explained, “life as an independent tradesman gave me an image that I kept coming back to: someone who really knows what he is doing, losing himself in work that is genuinely useful and has a certain integrity to it. He also seemed to be having a lot of fun.”
Building your own getaway cabin can be your personal foray into becoming an independent tradesman, affording you the opportunity to hone a craft with physical labor that otherwise may not be a part of your everyday life, giving you what may be a much-needed change in scenery, with the added benefit of resulting in the creation of a second home that’s all your own whenever you need to press pause on tech again.
If you’re not quite ready to go full architect, a visit to an existing getaway cabin may inspire you to later take the plunge in building your own. There’s no shortage of places out there already that can help you recharge when you need to change it up. Spots like Getaway offer options on the East Coast, as does The Writer’s Refuge if you’re near Seattle. And who knows? Maybe once you’re away from your phone for long enough, you’ll be inspired to make a habit of it in your very own place, made by your very own hands.