It’s 4:30 a.m. and I’m wide awake. The birds have begun their early-morning chirping and the first traces of dawn are visible through the small gauzy-curtained window across the room. I peel back the sleeping bag flap that’s covering my head and peek out: everyone is still asleep.
I envy my cabin-mates. These 15 or so women are all curled up, snoozing in their bunks, their heads coolly uncovered as if a spider or one of those menacing-looking crane flies landing on their faces wouldn’t bother them in the slightest.
Suddenly, a mosquito hums in my ear and I snap the sleeping bag over my head again.
I’ve slept a total of 20 minutes during my inaugural night at Camp Rahh, a three-day, all-inclusive summer camp for grown-ups about an hour and a half outside of Seattle on Samish Island, Wash. My colleagues thought it would be hilarious to send me — digital editor, frequent tippler, insect-fearer and overall nature-hater — into the woods to spend quality time with my fellow millennials. Quality time with a catch: Campers surrender their cell phones at check in. And there’s no booze, pot or other illegal substances allowed.
Camp Rahh is a place for us technology-weary souls to “escape, play and explore like when we were kids,” according to founder Brian Oh. There’s kayaking and archery and capture the flag. And since you’re as lucid as a 12-year-old, you’ll actually remember it all.
Campers were mostly men and women from the Pacific Northwest, but a few flew in from Chicago or Orlando after hearing about it from a friend. Surprisingly, no one scoffed at an iPhone-free existence. In fact, they seemed elated to be rid of it for a few days. (Though one common phrase heard during camp was “Well, if I had my phone, I could [fill in blank].”)
Our time was spent frolicking on a stunning, 47-acre campsite of thick forests, grasslands and private beaches. I read Edith Wharton in the sun, meditated on the pebbled shore, made friendship bracelets and a cedar-scented candle in the arts-and-crafts room and swayed to live music under the stars.
We ate chef-prepared lunches and dinners at a communal table where professional networking was forbidden, so we talked current events, travel and whether a $50 T-shirt was worth the investment. People discussed shared interests and calmly talked politics. Who knew how polite and engaging we all could be without phones glued to our palms and a few too many glasses of vino flowing in our veins?
As camp plugged along, I had zero urge to Instagram anything. I forgot Twitter existed. My fear of missing out (FOMO) was replaced with relief. It’s refreshing not to care what friends and family are doing. It’s refreshing not to share things. Not sharing equals not caring, or however the saying goes.
That next night I fell asleep easily, my head gloriously vulnerable to whatever flying insect might lurk. I had loosened up and let go. (Though a rogue bird got stuck in our dark cabin and aged me a few years.)
On the bus ride home, the counselors offered to divvy out phones. Most everyone turned them down, requesting just a few more peaceful, disconnected moments. I opted for mine to alert my husband that we’d be late. I revved it up to a few texts — one with pictures of my cats — and the little red email dot reading triple digits.
The gals in the seat ahead of mine turned around asked how it felt to be connected again. Not bad, I say.
“Can you look up when Amy Schumer is in town? We’ve been debating it all weekend.”
All photographs courtesy Aj Ragasa