Rehab Camp -- It's Not What You Think (It's MUCH Better)

I, like many parents of middle-schoolers, sent my kids to camp. Each time, seeing them off left me with mixed emotions.

Euphoria was the big one (sorry, Sarah and Jared, but someday you will be parents, and someday you will feel this same level of pure bliss knowing you are about to enjoy seven uninterrupted days in a row, once a year). But also sadness. Guilt. And a little bit of envy.

Why envy? Well, an all-expenses-paid vacation that includes days in the gorgeous Colorado scenery and nights snuggled around a campfire is not a bad way to spend one's time. Add in swimming, crafts, hiking, reading and melted marshmallows, and you've got one happy week.

So it was with great chagrin that I read a recent article in Experience Life Magazine about a camp for adults. But this is sort of a rehab camp. Not for drugs or alcohol or gambling or weight loss, but for technology. Camp Grounded, located in Northern California, is all about detoxing from the digital world. And it sounds fabulous.

Article author Heidi Wachter, engagement specialist for Experience Life Magazine (a fancy term for the pubs social media guru who is probably pinged and dinged and technologically tethered at all times - like many of us), participated in Camp Grounded, which included, among other things, giving up any and all gadgets. Here's the big news: she survived!

Upon arrival, campers are given nicknames, allowing everyone to "explore the world -- and ourselves -- with simpler identities." Guests have access to old-school typewriters. And they are given notebooks to sketch, create poems or write notes to each other. They are also given a set of rules: no technology, no work discussions, no telling others in the group what you do for a living.

By stripping away the crutch of technology, the persona created by work or family or both, the pressure of timed tasks and the constant need to get things done, campers really have no other option than to connect on a personal level with others. And, harder, themselves.

A friend of mine who had the good fortune to travel to Africa experienced something similar to Camp Grounded. The absence of clocks in their (albeit luxurious) tents and the fact that cell phones, laptops and televisions simply did not work or exist on safari was not seen as a loss, but as a gift. The sound of animals and the light of the sun was the only alarm clock. Breakfast was served when? In the morning. Afternoons were reserved for rest, not 'catching up on email' and a song, sung by native Africans, signaled cocktail hour. (She really liked that song.)

Granted, we can't all go on safari. Or even to Northern California. But we don't have to, because detoxing from the digital world can be a DIY project. Earlier this month I blogged on this very topic. And then I read Wachter's article and was (re) inspired. Some tips, courtesy of Experience Life Magazine:

  • Make your bedroom or other spaces in your home TFZs (Tech-Free Zones).
  • Create your own music instead of plugging into your iPod. Read a book instead of using your iPad or e-reader.
  • Ride your bike or go for a run without your mileage-tracking device, or take a hike without your camera.
  • Lose the laptop. Go to a coffee shop and meet a friend or strike up a conversation with a stranger.
  • Call someone instead of texting. Or send a handwritten note.
  • Have a tech-free dinner with friends.
  • Start or end your day with a yoga class, meditation, or some other quiet, reflective experience.

After you read this blog, um, on your smartphone or laptop or e-reader, please share with me (via email, Facebook, hand-written note or smoke signals) on how you plan to incorporate these tips into your life. What are your thoughts on how to encourage children to disconnect? What are the benefits (besides better posture) and for tech-junkies of all ages.