There are 104 different apps on my phone. I just counted them.
Each of them was designed to make my life easier. From sending emails to browsing music libraries, each icon on my phone screen shrinks a task of daily life down until I can grasp it in my hand, put it in my pocket, and carry it with me everywhere I go. But it's precisely because I have so many helpful tools that I feel the need to accomplish the dizzying number of tasks that I set for myself every day. It's a bit of a paradox when you think about it: As technology makes our lives easier, we make them more complicated.
Behold, a typical day in LA.
This truth is especially truthy living in a place like Los Angeles, a city that feels like a whirling carousel of noises and lights unceasingly competing for your attention. But even if you don't live in LA, my guess is that your life — with its happy hours, commutes, and social media — is about as complicated as mine. I bet you have a ton of apps on your phone too.
The travel agent for our food vacation.
Most of us either grit our teeth and try to white-knuckle our way through the chaos of our daily lives or we look for ways to clear some space for ourselves. I've always been a white-knuckler, but recently I've been making an effort to transform into the other type. I call those people "simplifiers." This led me to an idea: What if I set aside some time (say, a week) and knocked one of the most time-consuming routines off my schedule entirely? That might make life, well, less complicated. When I raised this idea with my wife, Katie, she liked it. She pointed out that the one daily routine we spend the most time on is, simply put, food.
As soon as she said it, I realized she was right! From shopping for groceries to washing dishes, the time we spent buying, preparing, and cleaning up after meals was extensive and ate up several of the most precious hours of our day: those between getting home from work and going to bed.
"We could take a little food vacation," she said.
"A food vacation," I repeated. Not a vacation away from a place, but a vacation away from a thing. That sounded nice. More importantly, it sounded simple. Then something occurred to me. "Wait, how do we not starve?" I asked. Without missing a beat, Katie held up her phone and said, "Postmates, duh."
That night, we put together some ground rules and started to get excited about our food vacation. We thought of it not just as a way to clear out some time on our schedules but also as a chance to broaden our horizons. Like all the best vacations, this one wouldn't just be about indulgence but also about freedom and exploration.
Even better, the good folks at Postmates were kind enough to help us along in our food vacation by giving us a free trial to their monthly subscription service, Unlimited — $9.99 per month for free delivery from ANY merchant in LA. With that, we had our tickets. Food vacation was a go.
It's literally impossible to go wrong with pizza.
We eased into our first night with pizza. We each got our own small pie and a salad to split (gotta keep it healthy). Katie went with cheese and I, the adventurous type, went with onions and yellow peppers. Our Postmate arrived just as the opening credits rolled for our movie of choice. Since you rate and tip through the app, we barely had to break stride to grab our pizza, thank our Postmate, and get to feasting.
Before bed, we quickly wrapped up our few leftovers and rested easy knowing there were no dishes waiting in the sink. Even better, we hadn't been bustling around with preparation or cleanup, so we were free to enjoy our time together lazily doing a puzzle like an old retired couple. But greater things were yet to come.
One of the amazing things about living in LA is the endless panoply of food available from just about every country on Earth. According to the LA county government, there are more than 26,000 restaurants in LA. You could try a new restaurant every single day for 72 years and never repeat one. The internet magic of Postmates meant we had access to all of it. Not only that — we also could have it delivered right to our humble doorstep in Los Feliz.
What a time to be alive.
On busier nights (even on food vacation, we had a few busy nights), we ordered basic delivery staples like tacos, salads, or — again — pizza. But on nights when our vacation was in full swing, we took full advantage. One night we ordered phô, delivered with each ingredient packaged separately so we could assemble steaming bowls of goodness to our personal tastes. Another night we kicked into tapas mode, filling our table with a smorgasbord of small plates that we passed back and forth and raved over. The phrase "you have to try this" has never before been used so frequently in our apartment.
As part of the vacation, we each took it upon ourselves to postmate one type of cuisine that we'd never tried before. For her "first time" food, Katie chose Jamaican. She loved how her jerk vegan dish intermingled savory and sweet flavors, as well as how fresh everything tasted. She also became obsessed with the side of fried plantains. She described them as "sweet-ass little banana french fries," and after sampling them myself I had to agree.
Night Four: Katie enjoys Jamaican food.
My "first time" food was Ethiopian, a craving fostered by the countless times I'd driven past the brightly colored signs of the Little Ethiopia district on Fairfax Avenue. Each time I would think idly about how nice it would be to park and sit down for what I was sure would be a delicious meal. I was right. Even better, I got to enjoy that delicious meal from the comfort of my own couch. Our order arrived in a stack of individual containers filled with different colored pastes and mixtures, all meant to be piled on injera, a spongey, pancake-like bread used as edible flatware in Ethiopian cooking. I have made it my mission in life to find a local store where I can buy this otherworldly bread/plate.
The wine flows like water.
Then there was the booze.
That sweet, sweet booze on demand. Being able to tap Postmates on my phone screen and have someone show up with a bottle of wine or a 12-pack in less than half an hour is the kind of modest luxury that I will never be able to completely wrap my mind around. Like browsing the internet on an airplane, it still feels like a tiny miracle every time it happens.
Mudge joins the party.
Anyone who knows Katie and me knows about the third, fully equal member of our family: our 5-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback, Mudge. To us, he is the undisputed greatest of all good boys, so no food vacation would be complete if we didn't postmate all sorts of new goodies for our little man. He may not have had a clue about what was going on, but when strangers started unexpectedly dropping off bags of bones, squeaky toys, and rawhide treats, he got on board with the plan real quick.
The stupidest thing we did during our vacation? On the second-to-last night, after eating a full meal of Chinese food, we popped on a movie. By this time, I had made a habit of listlessly scrolling through the Postmates Unlimited menus. That's when I noticed an option to Postmates buttered popcorn and candy from the actual movie theater up the block...so we did it. Even as I type this, I'm almost embarrassed.
On the other hand, screw it. I was on vacation.
As great as our tour of LA's global cuisine was, it was only half the picture. The other half was the relaxed fun we found in the hours we normally would have spent bogged down in shopping, cooking, or cleaning.
So what did we do with all our newfound free time?
Katie is a voracious reader who spent the week plowing through book after book. Every once in a while, she'd read me a passage that she particularly liked or thought I'd relate to. It's a little thing she used to do way back when we were dating, but I can't remember her doing it in recent years. Each time she put down a book, she instantly picked up her phone and searched Postmates for the next one with a determined look I found adorable.
There's no joy so exquisite as a newly sharpened crayon.
As for me? It turns out I have pretty much all the same hobbies as a 9-year-old boy. Much of my week was spent coloring, playing video games, sketching, or putting together and then coloring (I really like coloring) the puzzle/mandala mural that I made my weeklong project. I postmated a fresh 64-count box of crayons. When they arrived, I opened the box and took a minute to appreciate those beautiful, orderly rows of colored wax, every hue rising to form a perfectly sharpened tip. Maybe it's weird, but it's a visceral moment that all colorers know and love. It's our version of that new car smell.
We also talked a lot. Much more than we usually do. I noticed that our conversations during this week lacked the transactional feel that defines much of the communication of busy couples. We weren't just comparing calendars or figuring out whose turn it was to walk the dog. These conversations were the looser, more casual kind of talks we used to have every day. For the first time in a long while, we were comfortable talking about nothing. During these nights, it felt like some unspoken pressure had been lifted from us — a pressure that neither of us had really understood was there until we noticed its absence.
On the last day of our "food vacation," we felt the bittersweet mix of sadness and rejuvenation that marks the end of a real vacation. What started out as a break from cooking and postmating everything instead had turned into something else. Katie and I had regained a perspective that we seemed to have lost somewhere along the way. We've resolved to start thinking differently about the demands we put on ourselves and about what's really gained by this business of rushing through life. And with unlimited free deliveries for just $9.99 a month, it's safe to say we'll be signing up for Postmates Unlimited moving forward.
Clearing out a few hours of our day to relax and reconnect was an important gift that we had all but forgotten we could give to ourselves. It's not easy, but it's worth it to think hard about how you can do the same, even for just a week. No one else can do it for you.
There are 104 different apps on my phone. Each of them was designed to make my life a little easier. Then one of them actually did.