While many kids in North America are still reveling in the core memories and tight bonds they recently experienced at summer camp, inspired entrepreneurs and executives are getting ready for a camp of their own.
In a world where we’re hyper connected all day, every day, Camp is an IRL business conference that takes people to the mountains for four phone-free days of actual hyper connection and growth.
Essentially like summer camp for kids, attendees’ phones are taken away.
Would this make you panic or breathe a sigh of relief?
Here’s the thing: If your first instinct is that you must be available 24/7 to maintain your business, that’s a sign that your business is in trouble.
In 2013, celebrated entrepreneur and community leader Sonja Rasula started Camp as the antithesis to the predictable, classic business conference. This year’s Camp outing is taking place between September 11 and 14, in Columbia River Gorge (east of Portland).
Camp is a conference for thought leaders, entrepreneurs and executives alike, attracting brand founders from Maude, ilovecreatives, Goodr, and Lady & Larder, to execs from Nike, Lululemon and Meta. Among the cool partnerships and activations at this year’s Camp? Teva, Vacation Inc., Vistaprint, Nomadica Wine, Ka’Chava, Constant Contact, and Blue Bottle.
Rasula is leaning into what Camp is all about: in-person connection that is phone and tech-free for four days.
After all, in order to grow professionally and level up, perhaps we need to log off (even if temporarily).
“Camp exists to have big conversations, create big change for people, and to have a lasting impact on the world,” Rasula asserts.
This is made possible thanks to the phone-free zone. For all of us who shudder at the thought, Larissa May, founder of HalfTheStory — the pioneering non-profit on a mission to empower the next generation’s relationship with technology through research, education and advocacy — makes a case for why a temporary phone hiatus is mission critical.
“At #HalfTheStory, we like to say digital wellbeing is a spectrum and a journey. Our relationship with technology evolves with time and is influenced by our emotional and social factors. More often than not, we become dependent on our phones or use them as avoidance mechanisms for the true feelings or emotions we are facing. There are many ways to shift your tech habits and for some, a full-stop detox is the best way to unveil the emotions that are hiding behind your screen. As technology and humanity converge, it’s important to allow your emotions to be set free, away from your device.”
(#HalfTheStory was recently named a member of The Archewell Foundation’s inaugural Responsible Technology Youth Power Fund; The Archewell Foundation is co-founded by Prince Harry and Meghan.)
Rasula wanted to create an alternative to business conferences because, “let’s be honest, they haven’t been reimagined since their inception. So, I created the type of conference I would want to attend. Not a ‘conference’ but an interactive experience that would activate both sides of the brain, tap into hands-on creativity, and address mind and body wellness. The deeper I got into concepting, the more I realized I was creating something like a ‘summer camp for adults’ — which tracks because I was a camp counselor in upstate New York throughout high school and college.”
It’s about creating authentic new connections, being inspired, discovering new methods and skills, opening up mental or creative blocks, and more. “After all, you do have to disconnect to reconnect,” Rasula states.
The major aha moment came when Rasula read the book Camp by Michael Eisner, former Disney CEO. “I realized the thought and intention behind sleep-away summer camp is exactly what successful adults, creatives and founders need. We’re so used to being in control 24/7 and not just being on top of all the things, but having that be our core identity, that we stop growing because we’re on autopilot. Camp doesn’t just force people into letting go and facing uncomfortable situations — like sleeping among strangers in bunk beds — but the curriculum and activities that we offer are designed to get people vulnerable and connecting at hyper-speed… Which then allows everyone to let loose and embrace their inner child again.”
Also, as the first Camp outing since Covid, it’s more necessary than ever.
“The world is Zoomed-out,” Rasula adds. “We are available and interacting via tech all day and night, and yet increasingly most are feeling very disconnected. Humans need quality, in-person connection and friendship, as well as time in nature. You could say it’s part of what feeds our soul.”
Here are some key benefits why a phone detox (and especially a social media pause) are integral to your personal growth, according to #HalfTheStory’s founder, Larissa May:
1- Deepened Human Connections
2- Revaluation of Digital Values
3- Mindful Technology Use
4- Improved Mental Clarity
Throw in the power of IRL human interaction, in nature – without a phone – and it’s a powerful formula for leveling up and for creativity.
In the emotional health space, one of the greatest challenges I see is the lack of play and creativity in the conversation and methodologies,” May shares. “As humans, we are born creators and our technology prunes our ability to emote, create and flourish. What we call ‘boredom’ in modern culture is truly a form of mindfulness. It’s all how you approach it. I have found that mindfulness allows me to make space for magic. Disconnecting from our phones and reconnecting with nature is a supernatural experience.”
If you’re resistant because you feel your phone is your lifeline – especially as a founder – and you’re worried to be off the grid for a few days (because “they’ll miss so much!”) – here are some words from May.
“Technology can be a tool or a weapon. If you cannot leave your tech behind for one or two days, it’s critical to think about the role and lack of systems you have in place to fully trust your team. Going to Camp is a forced opportunity to have a full ‘opps reset’ to ensure that you as a founder have the ability to create space for strategic contemplation. It’s also a boost of trust for your team.”
As we’ve seen with Taylor Swift’s “The Eras” tour, people are craving simple pleasures, joy and a sense of community.
“In the 10 years since I started Camp, dependency and addiction to phones has skyrocketed – we take them into the restroom, they’re on the table during meals, they are beside our beds when we fall asleep, and we reach for them when we wake,” Rasula adds. “Going phone-free for a few days can have really impactful benefits. It allows you to fully engage, be present, and focus on the lessons, activities, speakers without being distracted by notifications, texts and calls. An offshoot of that is better retention of information and more productive and authentic networking. And it also breaks the habit of constant connectivity and checking your phone, allowing you to truly recharge both mentally and emotionally.”
May adds: “It’s easy to hang our hat on non-negotiables like payroll, but I know for a fact that you can schedule things like payroll in advance and ensure the lights stay on in your business.”