This summer, I spent a week in the Mongolian desert. It seemed about as far away from home as you could go without coming back around again — truly, the other side of the world. A few days before I left, I was informed that, for the duration of my stay deep in the Gobi, there would be no cellular service or WiFi. I would be officially “off the grid.”
At first, this was a terrifying proposition. How could I make it through a week without checking my email, texting my wife, or otherwise bragging about being in the Mongolian desert? When I arrived, though — in the pitch-blackness of the early morning, one delayed and rocky flight from the capital Ulaanbaatar later — it was easier than I could have imagined. I stuffed my phone into my bag and never looked for it again. Instead, I plugged into the landscape around me, taking mental pictures, talking to my fellow travellers, and marvelling at being lost on the far side of the globe.
If this issue of the Book For Men proves anything, it’s that sometimes, a brief escape can be a serious luxury. When putting it together, I was struck by how many stories referenced that theme — without us even knowing it. What began as a piece about the art and architecture of remote cabins morphed into a personal essay on the merits of getting lost in the woods; a profile of Joe Beef’s David McMillan, one of the best and most influential chefs this country has ever known, ultimately tells the story of a man unusually keen to escape civilization in favour of his own private rural happiness; and photo shoots in Muskoka and the Yukon show just how beautiful a place Canada can be to escape into. Even our cover star, Michael Shannon, is something of a Hollywood escape artist — the kind of guy more at home watching the Oscars in a Chicago dive bar than he is up on stage accepting one.
As a magazine editor, it’s thrilling when these inadvertent themes present themselves. It means the whole team was thinking along the same lines — and that we’ve tapped into something inescapable in the culture at large. As Shannon himself laments, we’re living during a particularly oppressive moment, politically and socially. Everyone, it seems, is dying to get away — from the news, from the weather, from whatever it is that’s getting them down.
My hope is that this issue of the Book For Men might offer momentary respite from your daily life — a little fun, a little luxury, a little place to kick-start your daydreams. And if it doesn’t transport you quite far enough away, well, there’s always Mongolia.