How do I escape society

: Out of the Trap: How to Escape Work and Consumption

Hand on heart: Who as a child wanted to become a waitress in a fast food restaurant or a quality manager or deputy head of network data service? That should give us food for thought, thinks Robert Wringham. Eighty percent of all workers are dissatisfied with their jobs, he claims. In addition, they spend an average of 5000 hours on buses, trains and traffic jams. Wringham recommends turning away from regular working life and has written an exit guide (“I'm out”) for this purpose. A conversation about escape from the office and the art of living.

There is a beautiful picture of you lying on a couch reading. Below it says: Robert Wringham at work. Do you think all offices should have couches or hammocks?

I see it ambiguously. Many large corporations are currently changing their perspective: there should actually be hammocks, deck chairs and free food at the Google headquarters. The companies think that if they create a relaxed atmosphere and no need is left open, the employees can concentrate better on their work. On the one hand, that's naturally nice - on the other, it's part of what I call the work trap. For me, work is always the second highest priority. I am self-employed. The most important things for me are comfort and joie de vivre. So the photo of me on the sofa is a symbol of the Epicurean principles.

You don't really believe in office life with an eight-hour day. At least not as long as you can do something better with your time, such as counting clouds. Why?

The problem lies in the name: eight-hour day. At first it doesn't sound like a big sacrifice. But we forget the countless extra hours: preparing for work, relaxing after work, commuting to work. Commuting is wasted life! I spent the miserable hours of my life on the bus in the rain, when I had to make an enormous effort to get somewhere I didn't want to go. Of course, work gives you some nice advantages: financial security, respect or reputation, if you define yourself by your job and can say at a party: I'm a lawyer or a librarian. But it's easy to forget what that costs: 87,000 hours of work until you retire or die. And it is pure optimism to suggest that you retire before you die.

Can you really escape it? Or is that just the old utopia?

I'm not saying that nobody should work anymore. Instead: set priorities and first do what makes us happy! In the 1930s, the economist John Maynard Keynes described a future society in which it would be possible to work only 15 hours a week. Today economists laugh about it - but the only thing Keynes didn't calculate at the time was our insatiability. Humanity today is obsessed with consumption. We are working to get all the money back to you in an instant. That's why I say: If you live more frugally, do without certain things, reduce your consumption and cost of living, you might actually get Keynes ’15 hours.

And what do you win?

One wins freedom! I don't think anyone on the planet would say: Nope, I don't want freedom at all.

Most people are sure to agree with you in theory. Nobody on their deathbed says: I wish I had spent more time in the office. Rather: If I had traveled around the world!

Correct. Unfortunately, if you explain that you would rather spend time with friends who are important to you than get stuck in the office, you are looked at wrongly; or that you prefer to look at the clouds. This is only ever a consolation prize, because the important thing and priority is the fron: We have to go to work, we have to have status, we have to drive the fat car possible. But deep down everyone knows the truth. All the philosophers of history come to a similar solution to the question of how to live. And that doesn't mean: Always be in the office on time!

But now to the difficult task: How do you escape the work and consumption trap if you have not just inherited a fortune? Our societies are still a long way from achieving an unconditional basic income.

An inheritance is not always a solution. Some people win the lottery and still don't live a full life. The first thing you need is an escape plan. I suggest doing a life balance and secretly figuring out what you really want in life. The second thing to consider is how to save. Anyone who keeps an expense book for two months will be surprised where the good money goes - how much you pay for cable TV, for example. Then you should try to reduce your fixed costs, as if you were a small company, maybe to 75 percent first. The savings go to the escape fund. You don't need half a million, just enough for a couple of months to go somewhere and think about what you want and how to do it. If you are not constantly forced to work, ideas fly to you!

What did you give up?

I have no cell phone, no television, no car. When it comes to cell phones, however, I sometimes think: if I had one now, it would solve my problem. I have never regretted the missing car. My friends all tell boring stories about looking for a parking space or paying fines. What is all this for? When you start to forego things, the alternatives are often quite nice. I walk almost anywhere if it's less than an hour. Because I don't work, I can do that too. And I don't need a fitness club.

That you are completely inactive is not entirely true. You wrote a book. This is work!

Right. There are different ways out of work. I still work, but I spend a lot less time doing it. Musicians and comedians also work. It is always said that such artistic work is risky, but first of all there are very good career level plans for it these days. And besides, I think it's riskier to do a job that you don't enjoy. Then you have failed right from the start.

Would you ever take an office job again?

Yes. This may sound surprising, but when planning your escape, keep in mind that you may have to come back. Sometimes the plan doesn't work out. You have to be prepared for that.

And what did you get out of it?

If you fail? Then at least you tried. You can go back to the office job or try to escape again - you've learned a few lessons. And besides, you are respected for trying: Because you can definitely tell the better stories in the tea kitchen.