What would you do with one hour of isolation? Right here. Right now.
I'm not talking about packing up a backpack, driving for twenty minutes, and then walking into the woods. I'm talking about getting up from your desk at work, walking one block down the street, and entering Urban Isolation. What is Urban Isolation, you might ask? It is my fictional business idea that I want you to ponder. Let's dive in.
Clearing Foggy Minds
Day in and day out we are saturated with distraction. Smartphones beaming with information and entertainment. Deadlines looming. Music playing. Cars honking. Dirty laundry waiting to be washed. The list goes on. But how often are we really able to get away from it? Sure, you can go home, put your phone on silent, and meditate. But even at home you might have the same amount, if not more distractions, than you have at work or while out with friends. Your stomach gives a little rumble and you're immediately looking into the fridge. Or your dog is ready to play tug-of-war. We set up our homes to be full of things to keep us entertained, but these things end up filling every possible moment of true calm in our lives.
A few months ago I was taking a four-hour train ride from Seattle to my hometown for Thanksgiving. For a couple hours of the ride, we traverse the mountain passes, far far away from any sort of reception. The train apparently has wifi, but you'd be better off sending a carrier pigeon. So I'm stuck with myself, sitting in a cushioned seat, with nothing to do. My laptop has a handful of movies waiting to be watched, but my mind isn't in the right mood. My phone has more than a week's worth of music, but again, I'm not in the mood to be "entertained." This lack of digital connectedness had instilled in me a motivation to do something productive with my time. I wasn't sure what, but something.
I end up pulling out my laptop and opening Ommwriter, a distraction-free writing program. I'm still not sure what I'm going to write, but I start anyway. At first, I just start a simple to-do list. Not just any to-do list, though, more like an achievement checklist. Things that I've been meaning to look in to. To research.
- Research best reward credit cards for daily use
- Are three credit cards better than one?
- Find people to sign up for Spotify Family with you
- Research investment strategies using life insurance. Worth it?
- Look into You Need a Budget
These are just a few examples, but my list grew further and further away from "laundry" and "paying bills" to more serious life-shifting goals like investment strategies and business ideas. After an hour or two, I had over twenty new items on this list that I wanted to look in to. Things that were kind of on my mind before, but now were explicitly written out.
After writing this list, I realized that I had written this list. Why did I just do all of this? What drove me to get so deep into my life goals and aspirations? I thought about it for awhile and realized that the isolation from the internet mixed with my limited ability to actually get anything done while on the train encouraged me to dig deeper into my mind and think about things on a much broader scale. This is where the Urban Isolation idea spawned from.
What if, without leaving the city, you could enter a space completely shut off from the outside world? No wifi. No cell reception. No traffic noise. This is Urban Isolation.
You walk into the building and enter the front room where you check in. Here, you can buy little notebooks, pens and pencils, bottled water, and a handful of other analogue items. You then leave the front area and enter The Room. This is the heart of Urban Isolation where the magic happens. The walls are thick so no cell signals can reach any of you. In the center of the room are two long wooden tables surrounded by cushioned stools with wheels on them. Some people are sitting on the stools together, writing down ideas onto a notebook while other people are sitting by themselves, relaxing or writing or doing whatever they please. The air is filled with a gentle ambient track that is hardly noticeable. The lights on the walls and ceiling aren't too bright, giving the space a more natural, cozy feeling. Along some of the walls are chalkboards for brainstorming larger ideas with a group.
On the back wall are a handful of doors that go into private rooms for a more silent isolation. These rooms are for extreme focus or meditation, much like those float tanks.
This idea may make you think of every single cafe and coffee shop built in the last hundred years, but there is one significant difference. Because you are cut off from the internet and all cellular communication, technology is also forbidden here. No laptops or smartphones. No hunched-over coffee-sippers in front of their glowing screens. If you want that, there's a Starbucks around the corner. So with this abandonment of technology, deeper thought and collaboration is encouraged. People are encouraged to roll around on their stools and interact with one another. Maybe you're coming into this place to think through a big life decision. You bring your Field Notes notebook and start writing some things down. Pros and cons. Maybe you want to talk to someone there about it. Maybe you just want silence. At Urban Isolation, you're able to truly disconnect yourself from the chaotic world you're used to in order to connect with yourself.
Now Let's talk about how this could be a viable business (and pay the bills). If we take the coffee shop route, we would open the doors to any and everyone and charge for additional sales. The front desk would sell notebooks, pens, and the like. In The Room, art could be hung on the walls for sale, along with other minimalist decor for sale.
We could also go for a subscription model where you sign up for a membership and pay $30/month for unlimited access or $5 for an hour or $10 for a day pass. These numbers are arbitrary, but you get the idea. You would pay a modest amount for access to your own little retreat without having to travel far out of the way.
So what do you think? Would you check out a business like this? Would you pay for it? What would you do while in The Room?