Hilary Oliver explores the magic of the three-day effect
Our packs are heavy. Our sweat trickles, then pours. We don’t dawdle—we’re propelled. We’re finally getting away. But my mind is far from still. We pushed through dark highway miles to get here. Sagging, tired eyes, last-minute emails, my nervous stomach twitching as I closed the laptop for good.
The past few nights, I fantasized about this moment. The stars. The silence. I’ve read that being in nature is good for us—it’s scientifically proven to boost both mental and physical health—but most of us already know that. It’s why we sit outside on lunch breaks or take walks when we need to untangle knotted thoughts. It’s why we go hiking on Saturday or sit at the beach on Sunday. But one day is simply not enough.
I’m still partly asleep when the sky begins to lighten outside the tent. I slowly realize I’m expecting to hear the growing drone of morning traffic. But—nothing. Only the tiniest riffling sound from the river far below.
Even though we spent all of yesterday outdoors, away from work with our phones turned off, we spent the bulk of the day getting away. Getting here. Pushing to our campsite, where I now roll over in my sleeping bag to watch the horizon glow red. Knowing I have another night soothes my mind. I’m finally feeling settled. Life becomes incredibly simple for a moment. My only jobs: walk, eat, find water as necessary. My mind and body start to sync up with nature’s rhythms.
My feet are bare on the warm sandstone. I pick up blue and orange pebbles and watch the dust leave streaks of color on my skin. Without thinking, I’ve climbed a hulking boulder to find pink stripes on top. The view is much wider than from down below. Wonder comes easy. Maybe I just needed room in my mind for it.
I know I can’t stay forever in this moment of lucidity. Like many people, I’ll go back to hunching over desks, staring at blue screens, running fans to blur out city noise while I sleep, and hoping the morning meeting room has a window. Because of that, getting away from it all takes more than a couple hours. It takes time and space to find clarity. A day to create distance. Two days to adjust. Three days to experience physiological change and remember who we are underneath all the busyness—underneath the makeup and the business casual. We need an extra day. We need this.