I’ve been thinking a lot about hybrids lately. How could I not? They’re everywhere. We corral our kids into our hybrid cars and drive them to hybrid schools before heading to our hybrid workplace where we might trade a few hybrid bonds, backing up our data in — where else? — the hybrid cloud.

The breathless embrace of all things hybrid is as enthusiastic as it is unquestioning. “Hybrid” runs the risk of joining “all natural” and “sustainable” and sundry other verbal pixie dust that clutters our inboxes, and our lives.

Words like these may have been rendered meaningless by…

Try less

Two friends talking while drinking from gold mugs.
Two friends talking while drinking from gold mugs.
Photo: Carlina Teteris/Getty Images

In 1958, a British psychologist named Donald Broadbent posited the “filter model” of attention (also known as the “bottleneck model”). The world floods our senses with data, like a fire hose. Our brain’s ability to process this data is limited, so it deploys attention as a means to prioritize all that information, to control the fire hose.

It’s a compelling theory, one that intuitively seems to make sense. Attention, we assume, is like a bank account we draw down, or a hard drive with limited capacity. We’ve all experienced that sensation of being overwhelmed by too much information. So much…

Zed’s Cafe in Silver Spring, MD, a quintessential “Third Place.” photo credit: Justin Tsucalas

We’re all feeling adrift these days. That’s especially true for professional drifters — like me. The pandemic and lockdown have upended the lives of digital nomads: restless souls who carry our offices in our backpacks and roam city streets in search of strong Wi-Fi, stronger coffee, and an abundance of AC outlets.

It is these interstitial places, the places in between, that we wanderers miss the most. They are what make a city. Deprived of them, we feel unmoored. Lost.

These netherworlds have a name: Third Places. Coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg, a Third Place is neither home nor office…

Wisdom is portable — even when we’re stuck at home

Photo: Kiatanan Sugsompian/Getty Images

When fear and despair nip at our heels, some people turn to religion; others to psychology, or tequila. As a longtime travel writer and lifelong wanderer, I turn to my globe. It’s nothing fancy — a simple, steel model, faded from use and old enough to include the Soviet Union. But that globe is my talisman and my salve, a reminder of where I’ve been and what I’ve learned there.

I subscribe to Henry Miller’s philosophy of travel: “One’s destination is never a place but a new way of looking at things.” Such transformed vision demands open eyes and ears…

Altruism, like the coronavirus, spreads exponentially

Photo: Still Life Photographer Wolfgang Ludwig/Getty Images

It’s not only pathogens like the coronavirus that spread exponentially. For decades psychologists have documented the dark side of “social contagion”: binge-eating, risk-taking, and countless other deleterious behaviors. Yet only recently have academics turned their attention to the phenomenon’s brighter side. Their findings are heartening. Kindness, it turns out, is also contagious.

This is important to keep in mind as we track both the brutal trajectory of the coronavirus and our response to the crisis. Thousands of everyday people are donating their time and money to help strangers. In a way, we’re witnessing dueling contagions: one deadly, the other ameliorative…

The act of travel is, at its heart, an act of rebellion. When we board a plane, we are rebelling against convention, against our nine-to-five routine, against our smaller selves. That’s why we tolerate the airline seat designed by Marquis de Sade, the pet-quality food, and the temporal whiplash of jet lag. Yet many travelers, consciously or not, belie this noble act of rebellion by following an unofficial set of rules. A list of dos and donts that constrain the traveler’s souls. This is a shame. Rules, as they say, are made to be broken, and nowhere is that more…

Eric Weiner

Philosophical Traveler. Recovering Malcontent. My new book, THE SOCRATES EXPRESS, is out now!

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