The art of doing nothing

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Don’t hang around and let your problems surround you, road trip

By Mark Burnham
Photos by Adam Ovenell-Carter

Shit. As soon as I turned my phone on I knew it was a mistake. Notifications, missed calls, voice mails, texts and emails came in, my phone seismic with activity. My corner booth in the A&W became a business centre. Most are garbage, and the most pressing is a missed group assignment. I’m left with no option other than to stress about it, the very last thing I wanted to do on this trip. I’m 1,200 km north of Vancouver with a few more days of nothing more to worry about than putting in the miles between stops and the hunger levels of my squished buddies in the Tetris stage that was my Corolla.

The plan: head north. That’s it. No destinations, timelines, deadlines or power lines. At my age, the day is filled with nothing but plans and goals, a lame attempt to define the future. Every student knows the constant pressures of deadlines, so much so that during the semester relaxing comes with a side of guilt. We had the long weekend to put it all behind us and see where the unknown would take us. Relax. This article isn’t a pretentious, nose up, eyes down rant of how my weekend was better than yours. Rather, it’s a reflection on being a student and how hard it is to disconnect and get away from it all these days.

I know many people who wouldn’t find it appealing to sit in a car for hours on end and head up north, but in the end, it’s like watching a movie. It’s easy to sit back mindlessly, allowing yourself to be distracted. The relaxation comes with removing yourself from stress. Mind you, the roadie also has the benefit of adventure, unforgettable memories, and a ton of laughs, but I won’t let my nose creep up too high.

With the technology around today, we can have all of the deadlines, events, and conversations in our lives at our fingertips. With the touch of a button we can switch from news feeds to ©News Feeds and access the deep abyss of Google knowledge. Sure, it’s incredibly easy to get in touch with people, to keep track of deadlines and plan out your days. But the downside of all of this is the dissolution of business hours: we’re reachable as long as we’re next to a phone, computer, or tablet. And we expect people to be reachable, too. It’s a lame excuse to say you didn’t have your phone on you, or didn’t check your email. We can now see if a person has read our messages, and had the nerve not to respond immediately. You could say “Mark, just turn off your phone.” Grow up Peter Pan, we’re far past those days. The closest you can get to freedom is when your batteries die. Even better is losing cell reception.
We ended up popping a $12 bottle of Baby Duck at Carbon Lake, our most northern point. The long southern road home was a rewinding of autumn and a Frisbee break on a side field saw us witnessing a local grow from volatile land owner to charmed farm folk. We spent our last night eating pecan pumpkin pie and camping by the river. Heading past Whistler, the notifications started to come in, but Mumford was drowning them out. If nothing else, the trip was a distraction from our daily responsibilities. But these distractions are important. Though harder now to do than ever, removing yourself helps put life into context and, at the very least, lets you catch your breath.