Things are about to get weird. That was about all I knew as I drove up the pathway leading to Camp Navarro. When we arrived there were two individuals dressed in their own personally designed costumes. They asked us what our nicknames were and we told them “NEO” and “Purple”. We then took a deep breath, hugged, and howled at the moon (despite it being broad daylight).
To be completely honest, I was scared at what lay beyond the entrance. What had I signed myself up for? My girlfriend had learned about Camp Grounded at the Launch Festival and wanted it as her birthday gift. After watching the promotional video I immediately found myself categorizing the people I saw. Hipsters, hippies, commune, children, were just a few of the words that popped into my head. Why would anybody subject themselves to such foolishness?
There was no going back though. After parking our car and dropping off our bag, we were brought through a ceremonial digital detox process during which we relinquished our cell phones and any other digital devices we had on us. We were off the grid. After proceeding to our assigned camp ground area and configuring our tent, we introduced ourselves to fellow camp participants. Introductions did not begin with the usual: “So, what do you do?” Work talk was prohibited.
So how do you get familiar with people that you don’t know and can’t discuss work with? Walk around, high five them, then turn around and push your butts together, bend over, and yell “QUACK!” as loud as possible as you look at each other upside down and through your legs. O.k., not everybody does this but it was an idea randomly crafted by one of our camp counselors, Lunch.
Sound strange? Perhaps a bit frightening? It is. However the ridiculousness of many of the counselors (some of whom streaked naked through an alcohol-free disco dance) provided the participants with permission to step outside their own comfort zones. The lack of drugs and alcohol removed any excuses for wild behavior. Every choice you made was conscious.
While there were rules to follow, it was a world of infinite possibility. A microcosm of the real world. Want to climb a rock wall completely nude in the middle of the camp ground? You can do that (and yes, one girl actually did). Want to sit on a hammock and read a book? That’s an option too. Whatever your desires, Camp Grounded provides an opportunity to experience them.
Myself, I decided to join a group of campers to learn a hip hop dance routine that we would later present during a talent show. While there were too many experiences and emotions to list in a single post, the talent show itself was a major highlight. It was a real-world opportunity to see what incredible creativity complete strangers are capable of.
It was a reminder that the person you don’t think twice about as you cross the street can have so much depth to them. It was a reminder that the co-worker who you don’t get along with may just have a beauty inside them that you aren’t aware of. Most of all, it was a reminder that we are all humans.
In a world where we are attached to our computers. Where the visitors to this blog are nothing more than a number on my Google Analytics. Where we build non-physical connections within the comments of articles. Where the tweet on my screen feels more like text than an actual human. Attending Camp Grounded was incredibly refreshing and insightful. It was an opportunity to step out and experience the true nature of life.
From the outside it is easy to observe and say, “look at those foolish people acting like children”. Yet it would be more accurate to look and say, “those people are finding (or attempting to find) something that is increasingly becoming lost”. Camp grounded is about the raw, human experience.
I highly recommend checking out Camp Grounded. I can’t tell you what you’ll take away, but it is most definitely an incredible place to get away to.