For my birthday last year, I spent a long weekend at Texas' Garner State Park. It was one of the best birthdays I've ever had. Those of you lucky enough to have visited Garner will know that this had a lot to do with the beautiful Hill Country location and deliciously cold river. Another (unanticipated) benefit of the remote setting? No cell phone service all weekend long.
That's right — once I got to the park, my phone was useless, so I put it in my bag and didn't look at it for three days. And not once did I wonder if I was missing out — I spent the whole weekend happy and relaxed, surrounded by great friends in a beautiful place. My tech-free weekend was completely unintentional, but according to NPR, campers in Northern California and other places are paying big bucks to attend summer camps whose whole purpose is to unplug.
These camps may remind you a lot of the summer camps of your youth, except that attendees at a summer camp in the Adirondacks circa 1992 didn't have to be asked to surrender their cell phones. In June, when Digital Detox held its first session of Camp Grounded, a 3-day technology-free retreat in the redwood forests of Northern California, the event (at $350 a head) sold out. Forbidden from using cell phones, computers, or even digital cameras, campers engaged in pursuits like yoga, 'laughing contests,' and just plain old old-fashioned conversation. Pretty much everyone agreed that disconnecting from the digital grid for a weekend made them live more in the moment — and made them think more seriously about their relationship with technology.
It occurs to me that this has always been part of the appeal of camp: connecting to nature and getting back to a simpler time. The difference between these camps and those of yesteryear is that now we have even more to get away from. I think we all agree that technology can make our lives better (you're reading this thanks to the magic of the internet, after all), but the idea of a less complicated existence, with less distractions from the beauty of nature and the beauty of each other, has its draw. What do you think? Would you pay to attend a tech-free camp? Or do you have the discipline to just stick your phone in a drawer for the weekend?
For more about tech-free camps (including info on programs in New York and Chicago), check out the article from NPR.
(Image: Scott Sporleder, via NPR)