The Joys of Unplugging

A wooden screen door slapping closed. Small waves gently lapping up against a waterside cabin. Delicious lake breezes rustling the leaves and billowing a window’s curtain. The sounds of summer. The sound of leisure. The sound of unplugging. What could be sweeter?

Promise I’m not trying to rub it in, but… I’m in the midst of a well-deserved vacation after my recent book launch (check it out here). I’m on the shores of Thompson Lake – one of the prettiest, cleanest, clearest lakes in Maine – for my annual retreat to The Cape (though the pix there don’t begin to do the place justice…), an indescribably beautiful spot in the southwest part of the state. Highs in the mid-70’s, dry, breezy. Yes, we’ve had some rain, but even the rainy days are lovely in their own way.

40 minutes of swimming every morning in its brisk, bracing, crystal-clear waters (and a few more times through the day). Days spent reading, raspberry-picking, antique-store-hopping, farm-stand browsing (often unattended with honor-system cash boxes), and chowder- and lobster-roll scarfing.

By the way, for those of you who’ve never experienced a lobster roll – certainly one of life’s perfect culinary experiences – here’s the drill: the meat of an entire lobster, cut in bite-size chunks, mixed with a tiny bit of mayo to bind it, a dash of salt and pepper, and all crammed into a grilled, buttered, top-split hot dog bun. Words fail…

And naps. Oh, the naps – utter bliss. No place to be. Nothing to do. Time rendered relatively meaningless. Genuinely unsure of what day it is. Getting back in touch with nature and one’s natural rhythms and a simpler way of living. Reconnecting with family and friends.

Meals bursting with ingredients locally grown, made or caught: yogurt, granola, honey, vegetables, herbs, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries (pick your own at five bucks a quart), lobster, crabmeat, maple walnut ice cream and so much more…

And unplugging… No TV. No phones (yes, I have my cell, but it doesn’t always work…gee, what a shame). Email? I check it just once a day, and guess what? The world doesn’t end. Honest.

I do it from the wraparound porch of the main house (having to walk 100 yards to get a signal prevents more frequent monitoring, and that’s a very good thing…), sitting in a rocker overlooking stunning English gardens and the lake just beyond. It’s enough to make you giddy. Seriously.

I’m the first the admit that there’s no way I could accomplish what I do and have done minus my connection, but that same connection, let’s be honest, often links us to a world utterly lacking in richness, depth and substance. Regular unplugging is healthy. I’m guessing you won’t miss being connected all that much, and if you do, you need to disconnect more than you know. Doesn’t have to be expensive, but it has to happen.

Next week, I’ll be all hooked up again, but that’s seven days away. And until then, I’m going to work overtime at being unproductive. Gotta go – it’s cocktail hour.

Do you take time to totally unplug at least a few times a year?

What does yours look like?

What does it mean to you?

If you don’t, have you made plans to?


27 replies
  1. Alan Stamm
    Alan Stamm says:

    Thanks for sharing your mental health break, Peter. It gives delivers a virtual one through your vivid word pictures and lakeside images.

    As it happens, this tanned, rested writer just now is re-compressing after two weeks alongside scenic Seneca Lake in the delightfully engaging Finger Lakes area — is one of central New York’s gifts to anyone fortunate enough to live, visit or attend college there (two out of three in my case).

    I, too, enjoyed fresh-picked blueberries and just-harvested corn paid for at lockboxes with lid slots. Days were enriched with water skiing, tubing and endurance-testing bike rides on unstriped back roads shared with horse buggies (Amish and Mennonite area) and framed with family farms.

    Rental cottage TV stayed off ‘cept for occasional weather and Tour de France checks, and Wi-Fi access was used sparingly. “Natural rhythms and a simpler way of living” is a good way to put it, PB, and a restorative reward indeed. What it means to me is best described with the type of cliche I’d delete from copy: Getting back in touch with who I am and why I enjoy being there for more than a few days. So that’s what I do at least three or four times a year, here in Michigan or many miles away. Almost always involves mainly outdoor adventures, adult beverages and large bodies of water.

    Speaking of water, small waves gently lapped within a few feet of our cottage in Geneva, NY. Hope Thompson Lake doesn’t wash or rot away the base of your getaway by “lapping up against a waterside cabin.” [Forgive the reflex — once a copy editor . . .]

    Enjoy the rest of your rest.

  2. Mary Guinane McNamara
    Mary Guinane McNamara says:

    Commenting on your down time…hmmmm, I’m working in my quiet home office with a nice glass of wine. I can’t complain. Did the same from my deck this afternoon on a gorgeous 78 degree day. I wouldn’t be working now, except I took time off in the late afternoon to hang with my family. It’s the last summer where the kids will be home much and it’s gone by fast. We’ve already entered the land of teen jobs and first cars and even as a working mom, I didn’t miss much. Much in thanks to the “writer’s life” I discovered years ago after reading “The Well-Fed Writer” and knew that was I wanted, too. Enjoy the time off, Peter! (Never had a lobster roll, but will drool from reading about it hurt my keyboard?)

  3. Pete Alexion
    Pete Alexion says:

    Aw, gee … what a shame. I have to put up with most of that nonsense 24/7, up here in Alaska. Life is not fair. The most annoying part is that I’m a seaplane pilot, so I’m forced to enjoy it whenever the whim hits. Ugh! Lucky you. Want pictures? Pete

  4. Tess Wittler
    Tess Wittler says:

    Thank you for calling our attention to the importance of taking care of ourselves. Freelancers live in a wonderful world where we are able to set our own hours and our daily commute is just down the hall, but this lifestyle does come with some pitfalls. One that many of us fall into being constantly available to our clients and our craft 7 days a week … and never unplugging.

  5. Peter Bowerman
    Peter Bowerman says:

    Thanks to everyone for weighing in. Forgive me if I don’t write lot since, after all, I AM still on vacation… 😉 It would appear that my words resonated with all of you. Alan, sounds like you had a very similar lakeside experience to me. Pretty special. Last night (Tuesday) was absolutely stunning. About 70 as the sun slipped below the horizon, fabulous breeze putting a light chop on the water. No place else I wanted to be in the world at that moment.

    Pete, I’ll send you a sympathy card when I get back. Sounds like a WAAAAAY tough life. But, someone has to do it…

    Thanks Tess and Dani for your comments. Yes, we should never forget to “power down” sometimes.

    And yes, Mary Ann (nice to hear from you here!), just being a commercial freelancer can have a leisurely feel to it even on a day-to-day basis, but REALLY getting away has no substitute. As for the drool over my description of the lobster roll, let me tell you, it’s completely understandable. Just had one last night in fact, and thought to myself, seems somehow unfair to have such a great life! But, as we all know, the most important thing about having a great life is to realize it. If you don’t, you can be living the most enviable life on the planet, and it’s meaningless. By the same token, you can have a life most would cringe at, but if you think it’s special, your quality of life will be greater than the other guy…

    OK, enough lakeside philosophizing…back to relaxing…


  6. Star
    Star says:

    A vi-vacay! Vicarious vacation! Thanks. I do have a screensaver of a golden retriever, eyes front, in a canoe heading for an uninhabited lake shore. I love lakes. I can look at that one or yours and imagine the smell, the sound, the breezes…ahhh….

  7. Brian Westbye
    Brian Westbye says:

    I know exactly where you are, PB: about an hour from me, and living my dream! Enjoy profusely and scarf down a few more lobstaahhh rolls on my behalf.

  8. Peter Bowerman
    Peter Bowerman says:

    Thanks Brian, and that’s right you’re in Maine. At this precise moment, we’re in the middle of a torrential downpour, but even that’s nice…. (and will likely leave more mushrooms in its wake… Forgot to mention that – the chantarelles are all around here – wonderful addition to an omelet or fritatta… yum! And Star, hope you soon get to do more than just imagine! 😉


  9. Star
    Star says:

    And Star, hope you soon get to do more than just imagine!

    Thanks–but my vision and budget preclude actually leaving. But I do like to virtual it!

  10. Star
    Star says:

    You do it so I don’t have to, Peter…I love hearing about it. But I have a big household and it tends to slip into entropy within 15 mins of my leaving and dropping the reins. You would not believe the stories…”Mom, don’t get upset, but the police…” or “That guy who bought my new car radio–Mom, can you come home, he took my money and kept it, it’s in his car…” I travel to give talks sometimes, but the last vacay I had was a presser to Majorca–all paid–and I got sick.

  11. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    I have fortunately been able to go on a few trips this year — Death Valley, Yosemite, and Vegas. Death Valley and Yosemite are pretty “self-unplugging”, as they might be some of the few places left on Earth you can’t get signals. Vegas, I was too busy swimming and attending shows. (PAT BENATAR FTW).

  12. Devon Ellington
    Devon Ellington says:

    I try to unplug several days a month, and I’d like to up it to one day per week. It makes a huge difference.

    I have family in Maine — love it. If you get to Booth Bay Harbor, my friends Todd and Lyle run the Townsend Ave. Coffee and Wine Bar. And if you pass Edgeware, the pottery’s great and Wiscasset has a fantastic alpaca farm. Once, on the way back from Boothbay, the traffic was backed up on the bridge in Wiscasset, so everyone turned their car radios to the same station, and we got out of the cars and danced! The guy who owns the ice cream stand walked up and down, and gave out free cones.

    It was perfect!

  13. Peter Bowerman
    Peter Bowerman says:

    Thanks Caitlin and Devon!

    Sounds like you both have put a high priority on unplugging – nice to hear. And Devon, I really liked what you said about unplugging several days a month and once a week if possible. Need to take your lead on that one. And that’s the thing: as freelancers, we already have so many advantages over the regular working world, but do we take advantage of that freedom and flexibility as much as we could? Why not take an email holiday once a week or at the very least, check email just once a day – instead of the usual 25? I like to work a little “vacation” into every day, whether it’s to go take a walk by the river or a bike ride or work out – in the middle of the day. Instead of when everyone and their brother are in those places. It’s nice to be able to live life out of rush hour. Not having to get scrubbed, polished, and commuted (both ways) to a job every day probably gives folks like us an extra 2-3 hours a day. Life is good.


    P.S. Devon, I’m afraid I didn’t get up that far in Maine, but stayed relatively close to the cabin. Maybe next time…

  14. Alan Stamm
    Alan Stamm says:

    Something none of us mentioned yet as a leisure pursuit with professional dividends is the “luxury” of reading for pleasure — whether alongside a lake, at a riverside park, in the backyard or in a den chair/porch glider/comfy bed.

    No matter the genre or topic, diving into another writer’s words invariably refreshes my mood, my creativity and my love of language.

    Productive way to fill at least a bit of those “extra 2-3 hours a day” we’ve captured.

  15. Peter Bowerman
    Peter Bowerman says:

    Oh yes, you’re talking to a serious reader here. I went through 4 books* on my vacation and usually get through 1-2 a week every week – typically a mix of fiction and non-fiction. One of the sublime pleasures of life, as far as I’m concerned.

    1) The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud – wonderfully rich and insightful book about the coming-of-age of 30-somethings in NYC around the beginning of the new millennium.

    2) The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose – absolutely fascinating and wildly provocative account of a 19-year-old Brown University sophomore’s one semester at Liberty University (the college founded by Jerry Falwell). I promise this one will stay with you for a while…

    3) The Kingdom of Simplicity – written by one of my self-publishing coaching clients, Holly Payne, a two-time novelist – one award-winning – before this wonderful book about the nature and power of forgiveness. She wrote it as a gift of forgiveness to the drunk driver who hit her in 1994, leaving her unable to walk for a year.

    She went the self-publishing route after conventionally publishing her first two, not exactly pleased with the outcome of those forays… (

    4) Wobegon Boy – by Garrison Keillor. Smart, comfortable, insightful, richly detailed, and frequently screamingly funny book by the Prairie Home Companion creator.

  16. Mele
    Mele says:

    Peter, you SO deserve it! I am really happy for you.

    And speaking of Maine: while on a business trip there last summer I visited a national park in Bar Harbor (sorry don’t recall the name of the park). I fell in love with Maine on that trip. Such beauty! In fact, it was while lounging on some rocks overlooking the water that I decided to REALLY give this FLCW thing a go.

    Oh, and Peter, I saw lobster roll on a restaurant menu (also in Maine), but didn’t order it because I wasn’t sure I’d like it. In fact, the menu description sounded a bit boring, and I hate to be bored while eating. Now, that I’ve read YOUR description, I’m ready to roll (pun intended)! Have you ever written menu descriptions? You would get them flying into the joint!

  17. Charles
    Charles says:

    Well Peter the last time I “unplugged” was three years ago. I am long over due. I prefer the beach. I enjoy the smells, the sights, and the sounds. The ocean waves give me a mind numbing serenade that is unmatched anywhere else on earth. I love the beach. I think its time to plan a visit to the Gulf Coast. Thank you for sharing your experience and reminding all of us that its OKAY to unplugg.

  18. Peter Bowerman
    Peter Bowerman says:

    Well, Charles, I’d say it’s LONG overdue. And it’s “OKAY to unplug”??? In my world, it’s mandatory. Non-negotiable. Just as important as work, frankly. Obviously, you have to be responsible to your obligations to yourself and those you depend on you, and have the wherewithal to do so, but if you do, and those responsibilities are met, make plans to get away 2-3 times a year. You say you haven’t really gotten away in 3 years. So, if you manage to get away now, once you get home, there will no doubt be some voice in your head saying, “OK, so that was fun. We need to do that again sometime, in say, 2012?” And you need to say to that voice, “Sorry, but there’s a new sheriff in town. I was thinking more like next year (or sooner).” 😉

    Anyway, a getaway doesn’t have to be expensive or lengthy. And use services like to get truly amazing last-minute deals on hotel rooms, cars, etc. I expect you to weigh in on this blog in a few months with reports from the beach… All the best.


  19. Joseph Ratliff
    Joseph Ratliff says:

    I’m WAY late to this post…but the getaway (even from something I LOVE doing), is a non-negotiation…period. Minimum of 4 weeks out of the year, but preferably 8 – 10 total.

  20. Peter Wise
    Peter Wise says:

    Also late to this post….I agree, getting away is absolutely essential (for the sake of your family as well as yourself). And one of the things I like about freelance copywriting are those times when you just bunk off for a few hours and go and see a movie or something. There’s something extra special about watching amovie in the middle of a day knowing that you’re not a wage slave in a pointless meeting.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] copywriter Love – Career talk, community interaction, client etiquette, lifestyle Read – “The Joys of Unplugging” by P. […]

  2. […] The Joys of Unplugging…   Well-Fed Writer Blog […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Optionally add an image