Everyone could use a vacation, but few more than the CEO of Uber. Travis Kalanick, who earlier this week announced plans to take a break from running the ride-hailing company he founded in 2009, has been plagued by scandal after scandal In fact, many of Uber’s problems started with someone (usually a guy, often Kalanick) saying something they shouldn’t have. Which suggests the only foolproof way to take a drama-free leave of absence is to spend it not talking to anyone.
A vacation without words also has broader appeal: for stressed-out workers with increasingly full plates, or socially awkward millennials who feel most zen when staring at their phones. Traveling solo is a peaceful experience, but traveling silent can be downright meditative.
Minimizing human interaction on vacation has been feasible for awhile now, but only up to a point. The days of booking your flight via travel agent are over, but traveling still involves plenty of mundane verbal exchanges. Ordering room service often requires a phone call; asking housekeeping for more towels takes an actual conversation. Arguing with a rental car desk is as consistently analog as it is annoying.
But all of that is changing. So for the overworked, the socially awkward, and the Travis Kalanicks, here’s one way to enjoy a vacation sans conversation:
Say you’re starting at San Francisco International Airport (if you’re Kalanick, at least). If you’ve paid your $179 annual membership fee for Clear, you can go directly through a dedicated security lane, after a scan of your fingerprint and/or eyes. (The Transportation Security Administration is testing similar technology.)
The boarding process won’t be fun, but pretty soon you won’t even need a boarding pass: JetBlue, KLM, and British Airways are experimenting with facial-recognition technology that would make them obsolete.
Unless the flight is oversold, forcing you to negotiate with airline employees, there’s no reason to talk on board. You can buy a sandwich and bottle of water ahead of time—thanks, airport iPads!—and pop in your headphones for an interaction-free flight. (Unless of course someone gets rowdy, which might be the case for passengers with strongly held opinions about ride-hailing. Don’t worry: Airline employees have low tolerance for drama on flights, so they’ll probably take care of it.)
When you arrive at your destination, public transportation is key. Not only will it remove the temptation to berate Uber drivers, but it’s cheaper, better for the environment, and you don’t have to talk to a soul.
Lodging? Airbnb is more private, but there is coordinating with a host to consider. If that feels like too much chatting for you, try a hotel chain like Hilton, which sends guests digital room keys that are downloaded onto their smartphones. That will also also help if you, like the participants in a 2013 Cornell study, find your satisfaction level halved when check-in takes more than five minutes. (Oh but you wanted to schedule an age-defying facial or Lava Shell massage? Just text the front desk.)
Vacation usually includes dining and sightseeing, but neither means you have to talk. Apps like Detour, which recently partnered with Airbnb, provide digital audio walking tours from local journalists and historians. Another app, Journy, will create an entire itinerary for your trip, complete with restaurants and other adventures, for $25 a day. (Of course, it is common courtesy to talk to your waiter—so hopefully yours is a robot.)
After a busy week of eating, drinking, and silently observing humanity, you may balk at flying home commercial. There’s an app(s) for that too: PrivateFly, for example, will let you book a private jet with a tap of your smartphone.
Listen, everyone puts their foot in their mouth. Everyone spends their evenings thinking over all the dumb things they did or said (though not everyone does it with Eric Holder). Going on a trip is a great way to distract yourself, and you’ll return refreshed and ready to say the right thing. In other words, be alone—just not with your thoughts.