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Saturday, 19 February 2011

A Year Off

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What would you do if you could do anything -- for a year?

Forsake something from your life, add something new? Resurrect a hero’s footsteps…create an adventure all your own?

And who would you be when it’s all over?

These adventurers can tell you. They temporarily committed to what might be for most of us a passing thought - and then they wrote about it.

For instance, would it be possible to eschew all forms of automobiles for a year? Adam Greenfield can tell you about it - a 29-year-old filmmaker born in England and now residing in San Francisco, decided that for an entire year, he would not get into any sort of automobile. (www.thegubbinsexperiment.blogspot.com)  

Have you thought about living locally? As in, staying put? Check out Kurt Hoelting’s book, The Circumference of Home: One Man's Yearlong Quest for a Radically Local Life. Based in the San Juan Islands of the Pacific Northwest, Hoelting set out on an experiment to travel no further than 60 miles for a year.

What would happen if you actually took that good advice you heard – all of it? Actress and writer Robyn Okrant decided that for one full year she would follow the advice of Oprah Winfrey to see if it genuinely improved her life. The book: Living Oprah: My One-Year Experiment to Walk the Walk of the Queen of Talk.

A.J. Jacobs has now two year-long experiments under his belt. The Know-It-All tells us about his year of reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica over the course of twelve months. He followed it with The Year of Living Biblically, in which Jacobs lived by all the rules of the Bible for one year – as literally as possible.

You’ve heard of One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia, Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller best known as Eat pray love. The author divided a year equally among three countries to write about culinary pleasure, ascetic rigor, and a love affair. You might not have heard of its irreverent off-shoot, Drink, Play, F@#k – the chronicle of Bob Sullivan’s similar stride to Ireland, Las Vegas and Thailand.

Is this year-long zaniness mixing experimentation (and oftentimes travel) a new trend? Not if we consider the example of Henry David Thoreau (who extended his experiment to two years). In a patch of woodland owned by his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, he built himself a log cabin and lived simply and self-sufficiently – in hopes that isolating himself from society he would gain a more objective understanding of it, and of life. Walden or Life in the Woods set the example back in 1854.

So what if you want to “suck the marrow out of life” but you don’t have a full year? Go for it anyway. You’ve probably heard of the documentary, Supersize Me, in which Morgan Spurlock subjects himself to a steady diet of McDonald's cuisine for 30 days just to see what happens.

There’s no limit to the list of social experiments when ignited by imagination.

What is the point of these specialized sojourns? For one thing, to prove that we can do it – to ourselves and to others. For another, to see what we might learn from the experience. And perhaps we enter into them with the hopes that others might be able to follow our lead, in ways big and small.

What would YOU take a year off to do?

What great experiment is lurking behind the folds of your brain, hoping for the chance to be explored?

Read 1307 times Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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