Get unplugged

  • Founded by former tech executive Levi Felix, Camp Grounded, at Camp Navarro, set among the redwoods in the Anderson Valley, is for grown-ups who want to unplug from their tech-dominated lives and get away and live like children again. The location at a former Boy Scout camp features a large lodge, an amphitheater set among the redwoods and secret nature spots. No digital technology, networking or work talk allowed. Activities range from meditation and knitting to group activies, wilderness skills and singing. It has been written about in the media, including the New York Times, The New Yorker and Wired magazine. HO 2013 Scott Sporleder

Levi Felix was on his way to the airport to board a Southwest Airlines flight when he was overcome with an illness he thought was food poisoning.

He never made it on board. Instead, he found himself hooked up to an IV with internal bleeding from a torn esophagus.

"I had only 26 percent of the blood left in my body. If I had gotten on that plane," he said, "I wouldn't have made it." He was 24.

That brush with death six years ago brought Felix, who had been pulling 60-hour weeks managing a team of 30 for the corporate philanthropy platform Causecast.com, plummeting to the ground.

"I had a Blackberry and two laptops online all the time to help other people change the world. That was our motto, 'Using social media for social good.' Here I was helping other people find their passion, unaware that I was dying in my living room and office."

He responded with a slow journey of healing and mental readjustment that eventually led to Camp Grounded, a summer camp in the Mendocino woods. Here, on the 88 acres of rustic Camp Navarro in Anderson Valley, overconnected adults check their devices and their professional and personal identities at the gate in order to play like kids without pretenses.

The camp is not a rejection of technology, but rather a chance to "disconnect to reconnect," says Felix, who launched the camp last June with his brother, Zev, drawing some 300 campers.

Felix also heads up Digital Detox in Oakland, offering device-free workshops and retreats to help people manage their screens so they don't hijack their lives.

Within the past decade, unplugging has emerged as a pressing social and psychological need. With access available almost anywhere 24/7, all walls between personal and professional obligations have come down. Multiple social media platforms must be checked and fed. People are forgetting how to be alone or present in the moment with one another, in person.

The backlash has begun with mass detachments like the National Day of Unplugging. The term "digital detox" is now recognized in the Oxford English Dictionary.

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