No holiday theme in this December issue, only a collection of the best finds from the past two weeks, including a crisis text line using big data, the power of touch for men, and the importance of an emotional breakdown. Listen in on the history and science behind chiropractors, and read a thorough, beautifully told explanation on a young generation in trouble. And as always, a few digs and an update from the road.
◦ selected words
“Successful talk therapists adapt their therapy to the patient”. This is the approach of the Crisis Text Line, a non-profit providing crisis intervention 24 hours a day via text. Teaming up with researchers at Stanford, the data from over 56 million texts is analyzed to determine why some counselors are more effective than others. The anonymity and availability of texting — you don’t need to find a quiet private space to pick up a phone as with a crisis hot line — has the organization growing to 3,700 volunteers in four years, and they’re looking to expand to 17 countries.
nytimes.com (8min read)
Non-sexual human touch is becoming so rare amongst men that for many, it’s nearly obsolete. Touch-starved men are the main reason why the professional cuddling industry exists. But the benefits of non-sexual touch are backed by science — reduced stress, lower blood pressure and an elevated immune system — and it all comes for free, if only it were safe to ask. How can men overcome this hunger that’s been conditioned out of them by their upbringing and culture?
nytimes.com (6min read)
When a conversation turns into an argument, your body reacts like there’s a threat — it goes into fight-or-flight mode and becomes stressed — which makes it even more difficult time to articulate your thoughts and have a thoughtful conversation. Here are five tips to interrupt this response to keep a clear head the next time a conversation escalates.
Harvard Business Review hbr.org (9min read)
“One of the great problems of human beings is that we’re far too good at keeping going. We’re experts at surrendering to the demands of the external world, living up to what is expected of us and getting on with the priorities as others around us define them. We keep showing up and being an excellent boy or girl – and we can pull this magical feat off for up to decades at a time, without so much as an outward twitch or crack. Until, suddenly, one day, much to everyone’s surprise, including our own, we break”. From Alain de Botton’s The School of Life’s project, the Book of Life.
thebookoflife.org (4min read)
Sketchnoting is an easily learned skill, even for the self-proclaimed “non-artistic” (which there is no such thing). The process of active listening combined with handwriting improves memory. In her second year of medical school with a push from her friends, Sarah Clifford began sharing her colorful notes, and within a year she’d have thousands following her illustrations. She still illustrates, today, and has over 70,000 followers.
inews.co.uk (3min read)
◦ listen in
The legend goes like this: “DD Palmer met this janitor… who was hard of hearing, and also this had hump on his back. DD Palmer thought that he could help. So he pushed the janitor’s back with this big thrust!! And a few days later, the guy came back with some very curious news.” He would later be known as the founder of chiropractics, combining his manual manipulation practice with a background in magnetic healing. The podcast giants at Gimlet talk to a chiropractor, physical therapist, neurophysiologist to examine the science behind the practice, looking at the existing literature to come to a controversial conclusion.
Gimlet’s Science vs (32min podcast)
◦ eat well
A vegetarian take on the Chinese classic Cashew Chicken, using traditional ingredients like ginger and garlic with tamari and pineapple.
◦ read slow
Entitlement. Laziness. Addicted to technology. You’ve read a few articles on the plight of millennials, but this could be the most thorough, cogent explanation. This generation is unlike any other — unaffordable housing combined with historically low interest rates and job prospects — no wonder more millennials live with their parents than with roommates. If anything, scroll through for the stellar production value (mobile friendly), combining a beautiful 8-bit design and presentation of statistics with a well-researched macro view of the issue for an explanation why those born between 1982 and 2004 face the scariest financial future of any generation since the Great Depression. Presented by Huffington Post’s Highline, an online magazine self-described as “only running cover stories”.
Highline on HuffingtonPost.com (40min read)
◦ current read
Sugar, the once-anonymous online advice columnist for the literary website The Rumpus, went viral after a reader asked the short question “Dear Sugar, WTF? WTF? WTF? I’m asking this question as it applies to everything every day.” The column is no longer active, but the writer was revealed to be Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild, the #1 New York Times bestseller for seven weeks and movie starring Reese Witherspoon. A compilation of the best, most raw and vulnerable questions with Strayed’s responses, rich with honesty, wisdom and humor.
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar on GoodReads (304p book)
◦ dig this
What I’m digging lately:
- 2017 National Geo Nature Photographer of the Year – I can’t get enough of these contests. Nat Geo’s is arguably the best.
- Montreal to Ban Plastic Bags in 2018 – In effect Jan 1, with leniency until June 1. Now what about those shrink-wrapped individual veggies…
- The Wild Reeds – This indie band from LA incorporates multiple instruments into their alt-folk harmony-rich sophomore album.
◦ humble thought
“The most beautiful thing in the world is, of course, the world itself.” – Wallace Stevens
I’m on the second-floor patio outside my dorm room at the Bambuda Lodge in Bocas del Toro, an entirely off-the-grid hostel in the islands of the Panamian jungle (thanks for the recommendation, Fiona!). It’s not easy to write and research on a 0.15mbps shared connection in 32C heat. First world problems, yes. But there’s a point — it’s had me reflect on the way backpacking has changed over the years, the positives and negatives of these changes, and finally what the future of travel may look like.
Three backpacker luxuries I’m noticing:
- Between HostelWorld, HostelBookers and Booking.com, you rarely have to plan and the reviews will nearly guarantee you a good spot. And then there’s AirBnB, which is nearly as cheap as hostels, but a very different experience.
- Internet is nearly everywhere. Panama even has public wi-fi at bus stops.
- Uber. Whatever you think of the company, they’ve built a super convenient system. Traveling with three people in Panama City makes it a no-brainer: $15US from the airport to the old town, versus double for a taxi. The cost of a 15-day SIM card with data is almost made up by the cost savings (which is handy when you’re Uber-ing… I did say “nearly everywhere”). $3-6US to get to just about any place in half the time and door-to-door, which helps when it’s 32C out and you’re carrying a 40L pack and full water bottle. And you no longer have to miscommunicate with your driver in your terrible Spanish, as the destination is set in the app. It’s a strange, “convenient” world.
But with these conveniences, you miss out on:
- A feeling of discovery. There is so much information on lodgings that sometimes little is left to surprise (you could purposely cut your research short). And staying at an AirBnB can be a much less social experience.
- Walk into some hostel common rooms and it’s like being on the metro — all heads looking down on screens, all the time. Which is probably what people are thinking of me as I write on this laptop.
- Using car-sharing apps means fewer interactions with locals. I always love to take public transit to get a “feel” for a place early on a atrip, instead of behind four doors. It feels very strange backpacking, yet feeling like you have a private chauffeur in your pocket.
In ten years, how could the future of travel look?
- Some lodgings and activities already have over 1,000 reviews. What if they had 10,000? or 100,000? This is what Yelp already looks like in San Francisco. It creates a hyper-competitive market where businesses have to be on top of their game to get the best reviews (not the worst thing), or in some cases, game the system to encourage positive reviews.
- I strongly hope backpacker mentality shines through, with travelers deliberately keeping off the devices. But this not how I see it, given almost all flexible backpacker travel planning is done on-the-fly, on the Internet. There are already retreats designed where you put away the tech, so I can some hostels starting to implement device-free zones or purposely throttling the Internet to encourage conversation. There will be hostels for all kinds.
- In a future of automated cars, it means time-starved travelers can squeeze more into their already hectic two-week schedules, jumping from one attraction to another to snap a photo where millions have done the same. We’d surely miss out on interactions with locals and the feeling of getting lost in a city and figuring out the language and maps — but maybe some wouldn’t miss that.
And there’s much more, like how online messaging and VoIP replaced calling cards, or how people are using Tinder and other matchmaking apps, not just hookup ones, on the road. And we’re a ways away, but foreign exchange will only get easier and we’re getting close to automatic translation babel fish ear pieces as Google announced. But tech can also connect people searching for similar experiences, as AirBnB is trying out.
I think there will always be a place for the traveler to choose their adventure, to learn the language to really immerse themselves in the culture, and to have genuine enriching experiences besides a photo-op, despite the world moving around them at the speed of the Internet. If you’re traveling this time of year, I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.
Note: Align Center will be off for the holidays and will return in four weeks.