arl, with a k

by Karl Shouler

A Quick Retreat From the Noise.

Philadelphia is a great place to be on the weekend — one of my prized Saturday and Sunday activities is wandering the streets for no other reason than the act itself. It has become a practice in slowing down.

ang fishtown

This past weekend though, Angela and I escaped, 3 hours northwest of the city for a more typical break from the noise. I enjoy what you could call “comfortable nature” — which looks something like: trees, rivers, stars, house, bed, electricity, coffee.. see the pattern? There’s a time and place for hitting the woods and setting up camp (which I’ve never really experienced as a true outdoorsman knows it), but this trip called for less of the survival details, and all of the relaxing ones.


Airbnb has proved the preferred alternative for just about all of our lodging needs over the past three years. Compared to a typical hotel room, my past Airbnb accomodations have been: in more interesting and desirable locations, larger, more unique, and cheaper. Great. I was able to find a house entirely too big for the two of us with 10 days’ notice on the Susquehanna River for $130/night.

Well, not directly on it. More like 15 feet from the back deck to the riverside.


Though my switch to T-mobile last April has been a struggle for the few times I venture outside a metropolitan area, I couldn’t help but tout the lack of reception as a feature this time around. Emails and text messages slipped through the tiny cellular pipe here and there, but modern levels of data usage were welcomely unobtainable.

Without television or other electronic entertainment, I had no choice but to be present, to read without the buzz of a device. I found myself falling tired earlier. Sleep came with the darkness, and my rise with the sunlight. There was a daily layer of dense fog in the mornings over the water — a glass field for the fisherman to glide and wait.

morningriver1 morningriver2

There’s something to be said for the quiet. Today, I wouldn’t trade my city apartment for anything, but having regular access to some clandestine enclave of serene feels necessary for keeping an inner stasis. The people around me who have cabins or beach houses in their family share stories of frequent, quick getaways to their secluded spaces. You can hear the neural rest in their voices. For now, ad hoc trips like this one get it done. My hope is through writing this, and happening upon it every so often, I’ll be reminded to put more of these short trips on the books.