Ready for a Vacation? Why You Should Go Nowhere

One of the world’s most prodigious travel writers, Pico Iyer, says that a stillcation—literally doing as little as possible—can be the best possible use of downtime.

Just as daily meditation can bring peace and purpose, the Time, Harper’s and New York Times regular vows that taking even a long weekend to truly decompress will have renewing results both at work and play. He cites Silicon Valley workers who turn off all online connections on weekends and his own experience living in Kyoto, Japan, where he possesses no bicycle, car or television speaking a language he understands. The less activity you can tolerate, the better, he says.

Iyer said in a recent talk at TEDSalon New York that the best thing about travel is the opportunity to bring magic and wonder back home. But, he explains, “Nowhere is magical unless you can bring the right eyes to it. You take an angry man to the Himalayas, he just starts complaining about the food.”

Citing the cross-cultural significance of the stillcation through the centuries, Iyer reaffirms an ancient philosophy that in wanting nothing, we might really end up wanting for nothing.

“Go on your next vacation to Paris or Hawaii or New Orleans; I bet you’ll have a wonderful time,” he says. “But if you want to come back home alive and full of fresh hope, in love with the world, I think you might want to consider going nowhere.”

Watch Pico Iyer’s lyrical TED Talk on the art of stillness.

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Josh Ellis

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