Camp Grounded: Rediscovering True Connection Away from the Net

I spent last weekend at a summer camp for adults. Our shared expeience included bunk beds, smores, scary stories at camp fires (made from rubbing two sticks together), battle cries at color wars, silly nick names (Honey Bear, Little Spoon, Pickle, Nettle Sandwich), water balloon fights, capture the flag victories and, of course, camp crushes complete with sneaking out and hooking up.

There were folks from 15 states, four countries and from ages 19 to 67 years old. We were nestled in the redwoods of Camp Navarro, a 120-year-old Boy Scout camp at the end of Anderson Valley in Northern California. This was our digital detox. It was truly one of the most beautiful and quintessentially camp-like places I've experienced.

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The experience was called Camp Grounded. It was organized by The Digital Detox, a startup from Oakland, California which helps startups, and other digitally addicted folks, reconnect by disconnecting. The rules were simple; no technology of any kind, no real names (only nicknames), and no "W" talk (can't talk about work). As one can imagine, this kind of an experience was truly, well, grounding.

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Ironically, there has been a wave of digital media about this adventure in the week after the event. As much as the digital detox asks you to disconnect, it keeps spreading online. Below are some highlights from around the web. 

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Many beautiful accounts have been documented since camp:

Pathway (aka: Vignesh Ramachandran) got one last post out before camp in, "Don't Bother Texting Me: I'm at Digital Detox Camp" via Mashable.

A fellow camper named Raccoon (aka: Chris Colin) recently wrote a great recap of his experience in his New Yorker article, "Into the Woods and Away from Technology."

Also, Lil' Ripper (aka: Hillary Kaylor) shared here stories in, "Inward Bound: Summer Camp for Adults (and Joyful Hippies, Curmudgeoun-y Tech Addicts and Wonderful Weirdos)" via the Huffington Post.

And, a special treat from my camp crush, here is a poem from the one and only E-Class.

At camp as a kid, I discovered it,
uncovered it on a ridge with my first love
I felt it, I held it, tried it on like a jacket
and realized it fit pretty snug

And it grew with the sunshine, and song time, and rock climb
and it grew with stargazing above
And each winter and fall, I would hold it and know that
it’d be there for me when the time comes

But when I left camp for the last time, I lost it
tossed it aside to become an adult
I grew tech-crazed and lazy, smokey and hazy
and jumped into the whole college cult

And I knew that I missed it, the support and the kisses
the belief of good intentions from the start
But I had to dismiss it, insist that I list it
as something that eventually falls apart

But when I got to Camp Grounded
When I finally got to Camp Grounded
When I finally, after 11 years, got to Camp Grounded
I found it

I found it on the drive here, with Artemis and SunFire
I found it burning wood with Solar B
I found it at the dining hall, at night fall, with bird calls
I found it at the Vista Vista oak tree

I found it with the Bobcats, in Prow Prow’s van and Nettle’s hats
I found it with my co’s, Turbo and Roo
I found in in the potential, internal and existential
of every single camper coming through

I found it in the countless games, and short shorts on Bricky James
I found when I found out Spooner had not really broken his knee
I found it in every tall tree, and at the prom with Cool Breeze
I found it up at the typewriter range

I found it in the crop tops, and while we rocked some hip hop
I found it in every Condor-created fire
I found it at the swimming hole, and raising undies at the flag pole
I found it in my fellow counselors who never tired

I found it at the parade field, and in each tasty vegan meal
I found in the many grateful tears
I found in the color war, the river shore, the canteen store
and with a man who has been shirtless for six years

I found it in the founders, the most mind-blowing of grounders
among them Fidget, McBean, and Honey Bear
I found it in the tea yurt, and in that little ball of hurt
that rises when your realize the end is near

But, more than anything else, what I’ve really truly found
is that it was never really lost at all
I thought that I had lost it, that it had been exhausted
but I found it nesting in some part of my soul

So when you get back to the real world, with Facebook and mean girls
there’s a piece of you that will need you to remind it
That whatever it is, this magic fix, that special itch
next year at Camp Grounded, you will find it

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