Sustainable Lunacy

>> Rethink your way to a wildly better life.

Renting a Car in Europe? There's a Better Way.

Posted by Annette on May 16, 2018

There's no way around it, y'all. Trains are charming and urban public transportation is more useful than the American standard, but to enjoy it to the fullest, long-term travel in Europe pretty much requires a car.

Over the years I've been doing the LTT thing on the continent, I've tried every method in the book. I've rented from big corporations; I've rented from cash-only mom-and-pops; I even tried buying something once. (Ranks right up there with the worst decisions of my life, that one.) As it turns out--if your passport isn't EU--the best way to rent a car in Europe is to lease a car in Europe. Weird, huh?

As it turns out, flying into France and working with a leasing agency is the highest-value method of getting it done. Leasing kinda sounds like a big, serious, expensive undertaking, but it's actually cost-effective, even if you're spending just a handful of weeks in Euro.

That said: It's not really a reasonable feat to pull off solo. You'll need to find a facilitator. The company that I recommend is the one I work with: IdeaMerge, which specializes in Citroën and brokers tax-free short-term (definition: 21-to-360-day) car leases on a "purchase-repurchase" program (a VAT-avoidance racket that the government of France has authorized since the 1950's). Here's what their deal looks like:

  • You get a car that just rolled out of the frickin' factory.
  • You can fly into France, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Portugal or England to pick up your car. Note: the rates are best if you start in Geneva.
  • The cars come with unlimited kilometers. Vroom.
  • The cars come insured. You get third-party liability and comprehensive fire, theft and collision insurance with zero deductible, effective in 40 European countries. Personal accident insurance, too.
  • You get 24/7 Citroën road-side assistance, breakdown cover and factory warranty.
  • There are no additional-driver fees applied.
  • The minimum age is 18, and there's no maximum age limit. Careful, kids. Careful, grandpa.

I've had a baby-smooth experience with IdeaMerge whenever I've used them. The paperwork is a little lengthier and you need to have your dates set well ahead-of-time, but leasing really doesn't feel different than the car-rental experience in any meaningful way. (Contrast that with the three months of hair-pulling and teeth-gnashing I did over an attempted car purchase in Switzerland for a car I was never able to so much as drive. Uggggh.)

Vroom! Problem solved, n'est-ce pas?

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photo credit: marcoverch Eine ländliche Waldstraße in den Südvogesen aus der Vogelperspektive via photopin (license)


F@(% the Food Industrial Complex

Posted by Annette on April 3, 2018

So there's this woman from a market town in the northern UK. She noticed a downhill trend in her town and in the world. So she plunked down at the kitchen table with some like-minded agitators and did some seriously interesting shit

Not only did she change little Todmorden for the better, she provided a template for other communities to spring forward in the same way. Her motley crew isn't just feeding the randos who pick the tomatoes on High Street. They're feeding the local economy; they're feeding nodes of connection between residents; they're feeding the ideas of a generation of kids who see a future in this stuff.

This is important because the big food economy sucks beyond measure. It destroys our human ability to care for ourselves, dismantles our relationship with the fuel that runs our bodies and fractures the local community groups that keep our lives sane and grounded.

As I write this, I'm living in an idyllic, mostly agrarian region. Here, private backyard food gardens and garden lots are the norm but it's impossible to get produce in the grocery store that isn't packaged in plastic and shipped cross-continentally. In Britain--where the indomitable Pam Warhurst is fighting her battle for kindness, inclusionism and full tummies, dairy farmers can't make a living because they're being far underbid by factory-farm milk shipping in from the east. And it upsets me to even get started about how it's goin' down in the USA. As the NRDC so aptly notes, 

"America's industrialized food system threatens the health of our families, our communities, and the planet."

And that's not hyperventilating chicken-littlin', either. You can't be any kind of woke if the very stuff on which you live is the stuff that also feeds the system that's killing us.

I get back to the States in a couple of weeks. I'll be there for six months. And I pledge to you here and now that I'm not going to step foot in a bog-standard grocery store for that entire term. I'm going local, and--if you're reading this--I'm taking you with me. Watch this space.

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Leaving Post-Its On the Walls In Your Head

Posted by Annette on March 19, 2018

remember.jpgThe Power of Implementation Intentions--And How to Use Them

It’s the middle of March. Is it time to run upstairs with a vuvuzela and wake up your sleeping New Years Resolutions? Probably. According to a 2002 publication in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, 50% of the folks who say they set a resolution have officially failed to follow it by April. (That number is probably lower. It was a self-reported study, and humans hate to admit they suck.)

I have that vuvuzela to lend you. It’s called implementation intentions.

If you’re not familiar with the concept, you’re certainly not alone. This dissertation (from Peter M. Gollwitzer and Gabriele Oettingen of the the Department of Psychology at New York University) does a great job in treating the subject, but the upshot is this: implementation intentions are simple, they’re do-able, and they work. They’ve been tested, and those tests show that the subjects who used them significantly improved the chances of forming new habits that stuck.

So what is this wizardry?

Clashing With Initial Reluctance

There are two people living in your head right now. Since they’re in everybody’s head, I’ll introduce you to mine: Right-Now-Nette and Future-Nette.

They hate each other. Future-Nette is always having to take out Right-Now-Nette’s trash and clean the stack of dirty dishes that Right-Now-Nette leaves in her metaphysical sink. Everything Right-Now-Nette does is a problem for Future-Nette to solve. Goal-setting is really the sudden inspiration that Right-Now-Nette gets to satisfy Future-Nette’s constant nagging--because Right-Now-Nette and Future-Nette always seem to meet within the blast radius of Right-Now-Nette’s bad decisions.

Those decisions were made, generally speaking, when Right-Now-Nette was ignoring Future-Nette’s frantic calls and text messages. In order to set goals and keep them, Right-Now-Nette has to remain in solid communication, but there are so many things that drop the signal: depression, for one (especially if you’re not managing depression), unhealthy stress, anxiety and our old friend ego depletion (well worth a read in and of itself), just to name a few.

Implementation Intentions: Instant Triggers

If the communication between Future-You and Right-Now-You is comparable to a spotty cell signal, then the only way to keep it going is to set instantaneous reminders that Right-Now-You has to see. Use the equivalent of post-it notes all over the important goals in your life.

Implementation intentions simplify your goals into very simple “if, then” statements. That’s it.

The “if” part is the situational cue--the colorful post-it note that catches your attention. The “then” part is your planned response to that cue--what’s written on the note.

Some examples.

Here are a few standard goals:

  • I’ll start meditating every day.

  • I’ll run three times a week.

  • I’ll stop scrolling so much.

  • I’ll stop living paycheck to paycheck and save more.

Those change into:

  • If I have just woken up, then I’m grabbing my phone and doing a 15-minute meditation practice from my meditation app.”

  • If it’s Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday at 9a.m., then I’m setting off on a five-mile run.”

  • If I have just received a paycheck, then I’m putting 15% of it into savings.”

You can stack them, if the stack is simple:

You’ll notice that the implementations have a few things in common:

  • They’re dead clear.

  • They phrasally take for granted that the action is happening.

It’s elegant and it’s powerful: more than a decade of research, comprising nearly a hundred studies have illustrated the effectiveness of implementation intentions. They can actually double your likelihood of achieving your goals. No shit.

How to Craft a Solid Implementation Intention

Pare it down.

If you were communicating with a roommate or a partner or a lover and left the house covered in post-its, you’d get no helpful response. Right? Same goes for Right-Now-You. Choose your top 3-5 and commit, commit, commit.

Decide on the best places to stick your notes.

Be very specific about the times and places you either get derailed (“If I’m opening the fridge, then I’m stopping and deciding if I’m really hungry”) or most likely to follow through with the action (“If I’m getting in the car, then I’m cueing up a book-on-tape from my must-read list.”)

Check for vagueness.

If your post-it note on the trash can says “take care of this,” then the recipient of your note could choose to interpret that in all sorts of ways, right? Your Right-Now-You is a lazy roommate. Make the note incredibly specific, and then double-check that there’s no way it could be mistaken.

Example: “If it’s nighttime, then I won’t go to bed too late” is easily fudgeable. “If it’s 11:00p.m. Sunday-Thursday, then I am in bed, turning off my devices and turning off the light.”

How Do These Work?

It’s a three-pronged approach, baby.

  • They heighten awareness of obstacles to your goals as well as the opportunities to meet them. Wasted time and weak moments have a tendency to dissolve in the face of a clearly framed implementation intention.

  • They eliminate choices and automate responses. Like a well-behaved robot, you’re already doing what you said you were doing.

  • They conserve your precious willpower. Since you’ve handed off the decision-making process, there’s no willpower available to fall prey to ego depletion.

Right-Now-You is a punk-ass motherfucker who doesn’t do nothing for nobody for free. It’s true. But, just like the most annoying teenager, there’s a perfectly functional adult in there just waiting for the right stimuli to create a more pleasant existence for Future-You. Will Implementation Intentions be the key to get Right-Now-You on board?

Maybe.

Try the tool and see if it works for you. Your two warring cohabitants might finally find peace.

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'remember!' photo credit: Wade Morgen Remember via photopin (license)

robot photo credit: Ian Sane Pane Staking Art Form via photopin (license)


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Sustainable Lunacy is about challenging everything you've been told about what "works" in a lifestyle. For more information, click here. Otherwise, read on...


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