Donna Karen

Donna Karen

“I always dream about escaping pressure—who doesn’t? I call it seeking the calm in the chaos. I love getting away after an intense time, like putting on a show. You feel depleted physically and emotionally, and something about waking up in a part of the world that has nothing to do with the one you just came from brings you back to yourself. I also love the sensation of traveling—motorcycle, boat, horse, my convertible. The more visceral the experience, the faster, the more wind on my face, the better. Bali is my favorite place on earth—I go every chance I get. I just got back from a three-week trip there, and my mind, body and spirit are rejuvenated. In your daily life, it’s not easy to find escape. There are too many distractions, too many people pulling at you, needing something. That’s why yoga is so important to me. For an hour or an hour and a half, no one can get to me. You’re in the here and now, which is its own kind of escape.”

—Karan is a fashion designer.

Julian Schnabel

Julian Schnabel

“I don’t think of escape as a pejorative term. Where you escape to is the place that you want to be, rather than the place where you have to confront what people call reality. For me, when I’m painting, one could say that I’m escaping. But what I’m doing is finding a place where I’m more comfortable communicating in a language that is private to me. When I don’t feel good or things aren’t working out right, I usually paint my way out of it. What you’re escaping is the dizziness of anxiety. There’s no time and there’s no logic other than the logic that exists for the activity you’re involved in. It has its own set of rules, so for a while I get a reprieve from a lot of the things that bring me down as an ordinary member of the world. The practice of painting for me is freedom.”

—Schnabel is an artist whose work will be on view this month as part of a joint show at the NSU Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, in Florida.

Karlie Kloss

Karlie Kloss

“Escaping does not necessarily mean a break from reality. It’s being present in reality. I’ve found a sense of escape through dance, or through something as simple as going for a run. I’ve also traveled the world to the most extraordinary, exotic places. And yet when I really want to find a sense of peace and happiness, I mentally escape to my grandmother’s house in St. Louis. I spent a lot of time growing up there; it’s preserved in my mind. I have these amazing memories. I can visualize every picture frame on every shelf, every pot and pan in the kitchen. On Saturday morning I’d wake up and smell the cinnamon toast that she made for us. I can see her in her slippers. For me, when I focus all my senses on escaping to that place in my memory, it’s as powerful and calming as being by the ocean or a big body of water.”

—Kloss is a model who collaborates on a cookie line, Karlie’s Kookies, with Momofuku Milk Bar.

Steve McCurry

Steve McCurry

“When I think of escaping, I think of having the whole day to just wander and explore and take my own pictures, only meant to satisfy my creative urge without any kind of angle or purpose. It’s a kind of a form of relaxation and meditation. You’re not thinking about yesterday or today or tomorrow or what you’re going to have for lunch. You’re in the moment and paying attention to the sounds and the smells and the cracks in the sidewalk. When your mind is open like that, it’s a little like being high: You start to become interested in these little mundane things which normally you would walk by without noticing, but when you’re in that kind of zone the smallest details can take on great significance. When you photograph in conflict areas like I do, you’re constantly on edge, always looking over your shoulder, always in a state of stress. So having that escape is sort of sublime.”

—McCurry is a photojournalist.

Lucy Liu

Lucy Liu

“In acting, you’re not just escaping your mind; to completely embody a character, you have to go to a soul level. The ability to spend some time in that space is incredibly freeing. You are constantly searching, changing things. It’s a sort of playground, and it should be playful and fun even if it’s a dark character, because you can get outside of yourself. Which doesn’t happen often. Most people are like, ‘You’re not yourself!’ It’s usually a negative comment. But in this case, you don’t want to be yourself—not being yourself is a compliment. When you’re acting and you’re really immersed in it, you don’t even know what happened in the last two minutes. When you’re so connected to something that you’re taken completely out of your world, out of your body, time is condensed and almost disappears. That’s when you really allow and invite another part of yourself to come in.”

—Liu is an actress who stars in CBS’s Elementary, returning this month.

André Balazs

André Balazs

“There are two ways that I escape. One is through total distraction, which involves novelty and sport, particularly sports where you have to react to what’s coming at you. I love skiing, Ping-Pong, squash: You have to get outside of yourself in order to absorb the incoming information. The other is when I feel completely safe. For me that happens at Locusts, the farm I have on the Hudson River. I react very well to things with history—they’re pervaded by a sense of calm. I’m also sort of obsessed with water and western views. Even in Manhattan, I live in the tallest building in SoHo so I can see the Hudson. Every home I own—or any place I feel comfortable—always looks west. The sense of peace that descends between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., if you’re facing west, is invaluable in terms of evoking calm and escape on a daily basis.”

—Balazs is a hotelier and restaurateur.