Last weekend I spoke at the Florida Writers Conference in Orlando.
As some of you know, I love Florida. If I were in a financial place where I could make grand claims of owning a winter home, I’d buy one in Wewahitchka, a town in the panhandle of Florida along the banks of the Apalachicola River. It’s a town I’ve fallen in love with over the past decade since first publishing Michael Lister’s, Blood of the Lamb when I was still over at Bleak House Books.
So even though I was scheduled to participate in the conference the 19th-21st, I made my travel arrangements such that I got into Florida nearly a week early. I flew into Orlando and drove the six hours north to Wewahitchka. Me being me, I did my best to stick to back roads, the stretches of rural highway that highlight what I love so much about the area—the vibrant sprawl of nature, the minutes long stretches between bouts of oncoming traffic, the lack of cell phone signal…
There’s a certain weight lifted from our shoulders when we get off the grid.
On Tuesday night I played in a darts tournament at Tukedawayz (got second place), met new friends, heard great stories, and felt relaxed for the first time in…hell, I don’t know, a long time.
I had to get back on the grid for the weekend—speaking at the conference about the mystery/crime fiction world, sitting on a panel full of agents and editors, taking pitches—and even though I love that stuff, it requires a certain frame of mind, a shorter quality of breath, and my attention in ways that I am not always prepared to offer. I love the high that comes with being in front of a room of people, but I typically feel a crash when it’s over.
I finished up with conference duties on Sunday and headed back out on the road with only the vaguest notion of a destination. I ended up in the town of Mount Dora. A place that reminded me of a bygone era I didn’t experience the first time. It reminded me of Mayberry. It reminded me of old family vacations. I didn’t do much but walk around, eat, and talk to some locals, but I was the most at peace I’ve been in a long time.
There was no talk about social media. No worrying about book sales or review scandals on Amazon. No attention to the 24 hour news cycle. It was heaven, really. And I wished everybody could be there, or be somewhere like there.
If I was in the position to think about buying a winter home, it would stand to reason that I’d have a bunch of money tucked under my mattress or a Mason jar buried in the back yard. And if that was the case, I’d spend every damn dollar I had to get all of you somewhere off the grid to give you a chance to breathe or read or write or laugh an honest laugh.
But I can’t afford to do that. Not for everybody.
However, I’d still like to make the effort for one person.
I’m going to buy somebody a night or two of lodging off the grid somewhere where he or she can finally crack open the novel they’ve been wanting to read or type out fifty inspired pages for a NaNoWriMo project or have the conversation he/she has been meaning to have with his/herself to get the clarity to make positive life changes.
There are no strings attached. I don’t want your email address. You don’t have to buy anything. I’m not asking you to fill out a survey.
I just want you to get off the grid. I want you to take a deep breath.
Details can be found on my website over here - http://www.benjaminleroy.com/get-off-the-grid-if-only-for-a-night-or-two/