Then all at once the peace that we were always seeking, but that always fled from us on the former path of the desires, comes to us of its own accord, and it is well with us. It is the painless state that Epicurus prized as the highest good and as the state of the gods; for we are for the moment set free from the miserable striving of the will; we keep the sabbath of the penal servitude of willing; the wheel of Ixion stands still.
— Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation
It’s not relaxing to be in charge and responsible all the time. Luxury vacations don’t offer much relief for rich people because there’s always something to complain about, like bad pillows or the way your human coffee table keeps shifting position. And yes, we hidden rich need a break from our own dictatorial tendencies just as much as the proud rich. We burn out not from commanding others so much as from commanding ourselves.
For a true sabbath from the penal servitude of willing, consider a luxury renunciation vacation at an 18th-century Franciscan monastery or an organic farm-to-table yoga retreat. Or turn your will over to a stern, passive-aggressive guru and enjoy daily metaphysical beatings about the head and face. Whether you’re an independently wealthy crystal-loving theosophist or a billionaire paranoid recluse, here are ten ideas for personal-growth vacationing.1
10. Swim with dolphins on a cruise with The Skeptical Inquirer.
9. Hire shaman, create safe ceremonial space, ingest Scotch bonnet.
8. Tell family you’re going on a yoga retreat in Bali but instead go to New York and have facelift. Walk around Central Park looking elegant and creepy in bandages like Claude Rains in The Invisible Man or that weird self-portrait by Paul Outerbridge. Form lifelong friendship with bellhop.
7. Be forgotten in a sensory deprivation tank. Have psychic break. At intake center, pen narrative of experience on roll of toilet paper. Live quietly at “rest home” for 38 years. Be rediscovered by Aucklander fan who informs you your memoir has become a cult classic in New Zealand. Go on book tour.
6. Attend legendary weight-loss boot camp called the Ashram in Southern California. From website: “You’ll release yourself from any decisions, as our amazing staff guides you to your goals using their talent, joy, heart and lots of contagious laughter.” Translation: “You will hate life as we force-march you up mountains, feed you bark chips and rouse you after a sleepless night listening to your Oscar-nominated roommate’s soft moaning.” Lose 10 pounds. Cost: $5K.
5. Attend five-day intensive for codependency at annex to world-class East Coast drug and alcohol rehab center. At daily recreation hour, do best to fulfill assignment to “play” or “have fun” with your inner child. Learn you actively hate inner child, who’s none too fond of you either. Realize inner child has hidden from you. On second-to-last day, while on rusty carousel in nearby park, notice inner child loitering by the swing set, pivoting toe of sneaker in dust to feign indifference.
SELF: Is there anything in particular you’d enjoy doing?
INNER CHILD: I don’t care.
INNER CHILD: Whatever you want to do.
Attain breakthrough by having fun together smashing acorn with big rock. Cost: $3K.
4. Attend 10-day silent meditation retreat. Focus on breath. Focus on sound of people coming into the hall late. Focus on how loud they are but then focus on the people sighing loudly as if to chastise latecomers. Focus on how much better you are for not being uptight like those jerks who police everybody. Feel warm surge of contentedness. Take joy in one’s goodness. Get teary with compassion for those poor uptight bastards bound to their wheels of suffering. Feel somewhat dynamite about the fact that you, you, have detached from your ego and understood that the self is impermanent. Fidget as you realize you will have to wait three more days before you can post about this on Facebook. Cost: $700 (sliding scale).
3. Become dismayed at spoiled couch-potato offspring. Suggest kid play outside. After third time saying it, shout kid’s name. When kid looks up innocently from iPhone, debate whether to pack child off to Outward Bound or NOLS. Instead choose small boutique outfit that promotes “life-awareness skills” by having your child dropped into wilderness with nothing but an EpiPen and a trowel. Cost: $6K.
2. When offspring returns looking sinewy, bright-eyed and disconcerted by interior spaces, decide to climb Mt. Everest. Ascend by being carried to the summit in Sherpa’s arms like a baby. Cost: $85K.
1. In your drug-addled late 20s go regularly to steam rooms and saunas to sweat out toxins and improve future highs. Discover juicing, then, once, get a colonic. Injure latent problem area. Experience pain so bad it feels like someone is pouring lemon juice in a paper cut, in there. See charismatic proctologist, a big man with a resonant deep voice like Robert Barone from Everybody Loves Raymond. Explain that you’ve had problem for 10 years and have treated it with Preparation H but it hasn’t really worked. Explain how sometimes on long car trips it gets so bad you sit facing backwards with your head on the glove box and your legs on the headrest. Before continuing with your story, shift uncomfortably in chair, not because you need a writing cliché to indicate transition but because it really hurts down there. Tell him about the colonic. Listen as he clears his throat and says,
“I’m going to ask you to take a look at something for me.”
Watch his graceful, Vanna White arm gesture toward an antique wall cabinet.
“Go on, take a look.”
Limp to cabinet and peer through glass at giant speculum with hand crank, stainless steel tongs big enough to lift ostrich eggs out of boiling water, and cracked rubber bulbs that you guess were for sucking god knows what out of god knows where. Hear him speak kindly to you, as if you were a small child.
“I call this my cabinet of curiosities.”
Spot something that looks disturbingly like a pulley. Spot familiar object, turn to him and ask,
“Is that a winch?”
Watch as he closes his eyes and nods sagely. Spot, oh god, stirrups. Hear his soothing voice intone, almost naively,
“I like to look at these objects. They calm me.”
Admit maybe he didn’t say that last part, the part about being calmed. Listen as he tells you these devices were used by quack doctors in the 19th century. Finally, hear him, in the kindest possible way, lecture you about how the colonic microflora know what they’re doing. Schedule surgery. When the anesthesiologist squeezes your hand to wake you, experience brief moment of anattā, pure consciousness without self. Fall in love with anesthesiologist. Cost: $200 (after insurance).
1 All prices are close to what it actually costs to do these treatments and programs. Bonus for guessing which ones are real, and which ones I’ve done or almost done. Answers below:
REAL: 8, 5, 4, 1.
DID: 5, 4, 1.
PARTIAL: 7. I was forgotten in a sensory deprivation tank.