By Isabel Choat, The Guardian
California’s Camp Grounded caters to a growing demand for time off-line, but also offers bizarre back-to-childhood activities, including ‘truth or dare, and sneaking out at night’
A summer camp for adults where activities include “truth or dare, laughing contests and sneaking out at night” sounds, at best, like a remake of that 1969 classic Carry on Camping.
In fact it’s the very latest holiday concept aimed at IT geeks and stressed-out Silicon Valley execs in the birthplace of high-tech: California. For US$305 (£200, including food, bunk-bed accommodation and workshops), campers are invited “to trade [their] computer, cell phone, Instagrams, clocks, schedules and work-jargon for an off-the-grid weekend of pure unadulterated fun,” adding “friendships at camp are based on real-life connections, and the most important status we’ll update is our happiness. ”
Camp Grounded is the latest offering from Oakland-based wellbeing organisation Digital Detox, whose monthly retreats and device-free drinks parties are already a big hit with the state’s tech-stressed population. As well as three summer camps planned for this year, the company is also set to launch its first international ventures in Cambodia, Nicaragua and Costa Rica in April this year. At the Cambodia retreat, a group of 12 guests will gather on a deserted island for six days of yoga, meditation, writing workshops, “hammocking and mango harvesting”.
Digital Detox may be one of the few organisations to specialise in saving us from technology, but the travel industry is hot on their tails, realising that the common sense answer to the problem of digital overload – to just switch off your mobile device or leave it at home – is of no help to the truly addicted who are looking for a more radical solution. Caribbean hotel group Elite Island Resorts introduced a no-mobile policy at nine beaches across the Caribbean last year, following a trial at its Palm Island resort in the Grenadines, where a break from the digital world will set you back £3,000.
At the moment the British version of the digital detox tends to involve simply going somewhere so remote there’s no signal, such as Skiary,“Scotland’s wildest guesthouse”, which is both off grid and off comms. Even the YHA has cottoned on to the marketing value of disconnecting, advertising their properties as great places to switch off and reconnect with nature. But with internet addiction now seen as a genuine mental health problem, and numerous academic studies devoted to researching the effects of technology overload on our lives, the US approach where people are asked to hand in all their devices and actively encourage to reconnect with simple pleasures, like actual face-to-face conversations, is no doubt coming to a rural retreat near you very soon.
Meanwhile, among the Redwoods of California’s Anderson wine country – a community “where money is worth little … and individuality, self expression, friendship, freedom and memories are valued most” – is about to emerge. You can join them in June by registering here; just don’t expect any live tweets.