Behind The Screens: Jon Staff
THE OFF-THE-GRID ENTREPRENEUR
WHAT IS GETAWAY?
Getaway's aim is to get overworked and over-connected folks to reconnect with nature. We build what we call Outposts, which are groups of tiny cabins in the woods two hours or less from major cities, rentable by the night. Each cabin is outfitted with everything you need to disconnect and to simply enjoy being out in nature with the company of others. We think about the experience holistically: from the location of the land to the design of the houses – especially the intentional lack of wifi. Our aim is to be thoughtful in helping our guests fully unplug from the stress we all have in our daily lives.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA?
Having lived on a boat, in the basement of a frozen yogurt shop, in my college library, and in an Airstream trailer, I immediately connected with the tiny house movement. I had burned myself out doing prior startups that taught me a lot but ultimately did not capture my full passion. My friend Pete Davis and I were looking for an escape. We wanted someplace quiet – without wifi – and once we realized that others might benefit from some time alone in the woods and a break from the grind, Getaway was born.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE PEOPLE DO WITH THEIR TIME WHILE VISITING ONE OF YOUR TINY HOMES?
I really, really want people to discover the feeling of being bored again. It is not enough to go to nature and still have your laptop or cell phone glowing at you. It is not even really enough to go to the woods and do a bunch of non-work activities. I believe there is a magic moment right after you genuinely can't think of what to do next. As kids, that's when we figured out a new place to explore, made a new friend, or formed a new idea. That same thing can happen to us as adults, but we prevent it by busying ourselves from the time our alarm clock rings to the time we set it again for the next packed day.
YOUR BUSINESS IS ABOUT SIM- PLIFYING, YET IT SEEMS PRETTY COMPLEX TO RUN. HOW DO YOU KEEP THE BALANCE?
Believe me, it is not lost on me that I could have started an easier business. That said, while the primary goal of the company is to provide meaningful experiences for our guests, an important secondary goal of mine is building a company that also provides balance for its employees. That's why we require everyone to take 20 days off a year, and if they don't, it comes up in their performance review. We work hard to protect "production" time, which is when you can focus on work that requires deep thought and work even harder to protect off-time from being invaded by emails and Slack messages. It's not easy – I was surprised how hard it was to train people out of texting me every Saturday at 9 PM – and we still have a ways to go. But the short answer is that if we are successful in creating a company that has balance built in, it should be easier for me to have balance in my life as well. That, plus I bought a Light Phone.
DO YOU SEE THIS AS A NEW FORM OF SELF-CARE?
We can't live our lives the way so many of us do today. 75% of kids say their parents can't stop working when they come home. Americans didn't take 577 million vacation days last year. 59% of millennials feel shame if they take a vacation. Men who don't take time off are 30% more likely to have a heart attack; women who don't take vacations are more likely to be depressed. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders preliminarily listed “Internet Use Disorder” as a psychological condition. Half of people say a cell phone ruined a key moment in their lives. Millennials are so distracted they are having more “senior moments” than senior citizens, like forgetting what day it is or where their keys are. I hope Getaway and many other organizations can help us correct these externalities of the digital age. It's not self care, it's self-preservation.
ANYTHING YOU MISS FROM PRE-INTERNET DAYS?
Once in college, a professor required us to go without any electronic communication for a day. No cell phones, no laptops, but we even went so far as no tap cards to get on the subway or credit card swipes. I spent the day wandering campus with my friends. We stumbled upon a group of women playing rugby in their prom dresses. We were invited to watch a private rehearsal of a string quartet. We baked a cake just to kill time. Eight years later, we're still celebrating what came to be known as The Day of Jubilation. I miss the joy of being truly spontaneous that is so hard to come by in the era of instant gratification.
Background, Context & Reference
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