You have to try pretty hard to escape hearing Donald Trump’s name for four days, but I promise it is really worth the effort.
Last week, I disappeared, along with a large group of friends, into Joshua Tree National Park for a long camping weekend of moderate boozing, unhealthy eating, and staying completely away from politics. A Trump ban wasn’t something that the 20 of us agreed on beforehand. (It would have been impossible as we were sharing the campground with another 1,200 people.) But we had no TVs, no radios, and very limited access to the internet, and it just so happened that for four whole, blessed days, I didn’t hear the word “Trump” once.
And it was wonderful.
Ever since 2016, the word “Trump” has been near ubiquitous. Maybe it’s especially bad for those working in media or those with a mild interest in politics, but probably every American comes into contact with some form of Trump news every day.
The news media’s coverage of his caterwauling spectacle of a campaign set the standard for how Trump’s presidency is treated. It feels like we are continually beaten over the head with images, sound bytes, news reports, and Twitter alerts about this man against whom half of the country voted.
Many clever apps have risen up, trying to clear your internet browsing of all things Trump. There’s a Chrome extension that turns every mention of “Trump” into “Drumpf,” his family’s ancestral name. And there’s one that promises to delete Trump from your internet experience completely. But you still have to contend with TV, radio, podcasts, newspapers, friends, and opinionated strangers.
Because of this onslaught, it’s almost an impossibility to go for more than a day without hearing the president’s name, and so it was a delight when I realized on my camping trip that I’d gone 24 hours. I relished in it. I could breathe a little easier and every moment felt free of that anxious anticipation, waiting for another scandal, another embarrassment, another attack, another bewildering denial of facts. I was grateful for that day, but I didn’t believe it could last much longer.
Much to my surprise, it lasted for four whole days. For 96 hours, my friends and I found something else to talk about, other things to laugh about, more things to care about than this one reality TV star who has taken entirely too much air out of the room. It felt like the equivalent of a mental massage, working out all the knots and tension that had built up in a mind.
I recognize that I am very fortunate to have had this momentary escape, and it is one that many others don’t have the luxury of having. I’m not trying to prescribe a new way of life, nor to tell people to shut themselves off from the torture that is the contemporary news cycle. All I can say is that it was a tremendous gift to have a break from “Trump,” to have a vacation from the dizzying maelstrom of accusations and falsehoods.
It’s well documented that the mental health of many Americans has declined since the 2016 elections. It’s no surprise that taking a step away could be beneficial, albeit very difficult to orchestrate.
But I can tell you it’s possible, and it’s lovely, and if you get the opportunity to do so, seize it.