I pushed the passenger seat up as far as it would go. I needed to make space in my new office so I could use the cup holders, stretch out my legs, and reach the all important gadget sitting in between the front seats (a.k.a., an Apple iPhone). That’s right: I decided to work in the backseat of a car for a few days recently and kept my phone connected to the car instead of in my pocket.
I have found incredibly weird and unique ways to work in silence and isolation, especially writing this column and a book that comes out later next year. These are my favorites so far; I may find a few more and relay how they worked as well.
1. The backseat of a car
Some of you know I test cars in my job as well, working as a journalist these last 20 years. Curiously, I never thought about working in one. I tested a Hyundai Palisade a few weeks ago and noticed the backseat is spacious and comfortable. The nice thing about working in a car is you can use the battery for a while and play surround-sound music. The view is spectacular—I worked in a windowed office like no other on a hill overlooking a lake. By the way, you will need a small and light laptop (I prefer the new MacBook Air) because it will actually be sitting on your lap while you work.
2. A remote tent
It’s extremely odd to do real work in a tent, but I found a company that makes a massive protective shell that not only insulates you from the elements (meaning, the bugs) but also lets you get a good night sleep. I used a Big Agnes Big House 6 tent that had room for a portable desk and chair. I also worked for about three days at a Tentrr campsite earlier in the summer. The sites are all the same, which helps you focus on actual work instead of figuring out anything new. During my trips, I used pans from a company called Snow Peak that were awesome.
3. An island
I’m really creative when it comes to finding places to work, but this one takes the cake. I used a foldable kayak that I stuck in my trunk and paddled out to an island a few months ago. It was a unique experience because I was totally alone, but that made it quiet and serene. Once you overlook the fact that there is no running water and the challenges of charging your gear, it’s a perfect setting. To get to an island you might need your own kayak or a canoe. Also, I packed a ton of pour-over coffee packs, heated water over a campfire, and lived on jerky, fruit, and nuts.
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4. A hotel that is more like an apartment
I need silence to work, but I also need a place to spread out all of my gear. Recently, I camped out at a hotel called the Cambria Hotel Bloomington Mall of America that has a suite that feels, looks, and acts more like an apartment. There’s a full desk and chair, a kitchen area, a hallway to store your coat and other gear, and one of the coolest Bluetooth-enabled mirrors I’ve seen. If you pick a hotel, find one with an actual desk and work area; many newer hotels are small and cramped these days.
5. A spiritual retreat center
Honestly, my favorite place to work was a spiritual retreat center. I won’t share the name because it’s a hidden secret and totally awesome. There is no Wi-Fi. No cell signal. There isn’t even running water. You are alone in the woods. Henry David Thoreau would have loved this place. I wrote my columns and worked on a new book looking out over an empty forest with no people around. A barred owl scared me spit-less one night. It was the best place I have ever worked.
Note: If you really want to know more about the retreat center in the Midwest, make your case for visiting by emailing me and I’ll give you more deets.