The Hammock: The International Symbol of Relaxation

You’re aimlessly scrolling through the internet. Whether you’re procrastinating at work, distracting yourself from the dreary weather or just trying (in vain) to lift your melancholic mood, it doesn’t matter: you’re looking for something, but you don’t know what.

CLH20-C6_ambiance_002_1200pxAll of the sudden, that photo appears: a tropical beach with a hammock strung between gently bending palm trees. The colors pop like a painter’s palette, the blues and greens so vibrant it’s like God cranked the saturation dial to 100. Instantly you’re imagining yourself there, on that beach, in that hammock. The sun on your face, the breeze ruffling your hair, the peaceful swaying rhythm. Time stands still, and you feel the weight of the world lifting from your shoulders. A smile spreads across your face…

Ping! A new email message lands in your inbox. It’s your boss, reminding you about that report you haven’t finished. You snap back to reality, scan the message, inhale deeply. OK, you tell yourself, time to get busy. You hover over the browser window, ready to close the tab and return to your responsibilities. You start typing, get distracted, delete the line, then exhale.

You try to restrain yourself, but soon you’re looking at the photo again. The way the hammock hangs, that gentle arc, it looks so inviting, so tempting. It’s like it’s just waiting for you to show up, climb in and complete the picture.

Deep sigh. You summon your gumption, close the window, and get to work on the report. But you promise yourself that as a reward for finishing the project, you’ll finally pull the trigger and book that trip you’ve been contemplating.

Why Hammocks Inspire Us
How has the humble hammock come to represent such lofty concepts as bliss, relaxation, peacefulness, tranquility and freedomaspirations shared by so much of humanity?

On the surface, the answer seems simple: hammocks are viewed as the exclusive preserve of those on vacation. The most iconic hammock location is, of course, the beachfront—the gold standard by which we evaluate a holiday. Additionally, the design of the hammock itself seems to preclude the possibility of working. Once you’ve settled into the soft curve, there is nothing left to do but swing from side to side. So perhaps it’s the allure of a work-free zone—a place where relaxing and recharging are prioritized over annual reports, staff meetings and monthly sales targets. When you’re in a hammock, after all, the only obligation you have is to yourself.

The ‘hammock as work-free zone’ answer may be intuitive, but its not sufficiently convincing. If hammocks are just vehicles for rest and relaxation, then why does the image of a hammock evoke feelings of peacefulness in one person, benevolence in another, and freedom in yet another? What motivates one person to travel across the globe to lie in a hammock, while another finds contentment in a hammock in the backyard of the family home? To answer this question, we need to dig deeper into human psychology—into what it means to live a fulfilling life.

Wherever you are in the world, a hammock sends a simple message: you are welcome here, free to be who you want to be. Sleep in, chill out or hang loose—the choice is yours.

This message of hospitality and acceptance is integral to our understanding of the human condition. Perhaps hammocks inspire us because they represent our collective desire for an ideal world—a world in which we are valued, not because of our productivity, our skills or our accomplishments, but simply because of who we are, and who we aspire to be.


By: Joshua Hergesheimer

There are many ways to sit in a hammock. How many of them do you know?