People often ask me why my idea of fun consists of going up into the mountains and running for several hours at a time. In part, I enjoy the physical challenge and the sense of accomplishment, but another significant motivational factor is that when I escape into the depths of the forest, it’s quiet. Technological advances have made it easier and faster for us to access information, but a barrage of information is now projected in our direction in a bandwidth that’s deafening. In these modern times, it seems as though quiet has become a luxury.
I recently came across an interesting article by author Pico Iyer in the New York Times entitled The Joy of Quiet. Iyer has noticed a similar trend, citing internet rescue camps in South Korea and China for kids addicted to the web, and how he finds refuge in a Benedictine hermitage where he periodically retreats to drown out the excessive noise of the information age. In his own words, “nothing makes me feel better – calmer, clearer and happier – than being in one place, absorbed in a book, a conversation, a piece of music.”
Technology has brought us more ways to communicate but has also ushered in an era of distractions. As Henry David Thoreau notes, “the man whose horse trots a mile a minute does not carry the most important messages.” Communication now comes in 140 character snippets, Facebook posts and text messages as opposed to face to face conversations and while convenient, it’s very easy to lose the forest for the trees. We are so busy trying to register all of the abridged bits of information flowing past us on screens, monitors, smart phones, tablets and other gadgets that keep us “connected,” we miss the big picture. There is a cure for this information A.D.D.; research has shown that after spending time in quiet, rural settings, people “exhibit greater attentiveness, stronger memory and generally improved cognition. Their brains become calmer and sharper.” Each time I come back from a 20 mile run, while physically tired, my mind always feels fresh and sharp. My best thoughts, ideas and reflections are generated when I am out in the woods on a run where the only tweets are coming from the birds.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be an endurance athlete to find this type of quiet and solitude. A new breed of hotels and resorts specifically cater to guests seeking just that. While other luxury hotels boast of amenities like high speed internet, satellite television and business centers, these retreats promote their absence. However, if the price tag of these unplugged refuges is any indication, maybe we have entered an age where silence truly is a luxury.
Ladera – St. Lucia
“Ladera strives to keep you unplugged from the rest of the world”
Caneel Bay – St. Johns, U.S. Virgin Islands
“televisions have recently been banned”
Post Ranch Inn – Big Sur California
“to maintain a peaceful environment, there are no televisions or alarm clocks in guest rooms”
Azulik – Tulum, Mexico
“without electricity or telephones, only the sound of birds to wake you up in the morning and the murmur of sea waves to lull you to sleep at night”
Balaji Palace Playa Grande – Dominican Republic
“to preserve your tranquility, all luxury palace accommodations are free of televisions and telephones”
Nikoi Island – Indonesia
“whilst free of televisions, telephones, computers and fax machines, there is mobile phone reception should you wish to remain in contact with the outside world.”
Petit St. Vincent – Grenadines
“No TV, phones or internet in the cottages give you ample room to enjoy the company of a good book, your own thoughts or a loved one”