(Note: This was written while at summer camp, and posted and edited upon return).
It was another stormy night in the Maine woods. The rain pounded on the shutters and roof of our cabin as we sat huddled together in our Crazy Creek chairs, drowning out the sound of thunder with our laughter. The time, the date, the day of the week, the shows we were missing, the movies which we didn't get to see, the status of our Facebook pages - everything that we usually deemed "important" in our daily lives, all completely forgotten. All that mattered was the present moment. It is a moment such as this, when a group of 16-year old girls can be released of the everyday pressures of the "real world" and simply enjoy themselves in the comfort of close friendship that is a rare gift too few are lucky enough to experience. I write this article while I am fortunate enough to be experiencing this gift firsthand.
After seven amazing, sometimes difficult and trying, years at my all-girls 7-week camp in Maine, I find myself too soon faced with the last weeks of my final summer at the place that has in so many ways shaped the person I am today. Currently sitting cross-legged on the rickety top bunk bed in a cabin without air conditioning that houses 37 girls from various place across the U.S.A., one may wonder why I am spending my time hand-writing an article for the Huffington Post. This, however, exemplifies the exact point I am trying to make.
As a 16 year-old girl, turning in my Blackberry to the camp director before stepping onto the bus, not to see or hold it again for 7 weeks, was certainly not my ideal way to begin my summer vacation. However, once my Blackberry was pried from my fingertips, the entire outside world was soon forgotten and I entered the indestructible, protective bubble of camp.
With only my iPod and the occasional supervised phone privilege to call parents or friends, I am otherwise utterly and completely removed and unplugged from technology and the outside world. This forces me to find new ways of spending my down time. This task, however, is not so difficult when I have 36 of my best friends in the same boat as I am.
I have come to realize that falling asleep immersed in a good book or after a good laugh cannot be compared to forcing myself to keep my eyes open in order to watch the last five minutes of 24 before I pass out. It is not until we are removed from the constant flow of technological communication and media bombardment when we can actually realize how we can live more fulfilling lives.
Although I do at times find myself writing my older sister a letter home begging her to send me a copy of my Facebook wall and update me on the recent episodes of Entourage which I have missed while I am away, the opportunity to put the outside "world on pause" and enjoy a stress-free summer can only truly be experienced in one place: camp.
Camp has taught me to become a more productive person. It has forced me to step back and enjoy my beautiful surroundings without distraction, and fill my days with walks around the grounds, or a swim in the lake, rather than a full day of computer and TV. Camp has taught me that I can make the most out of any situation and how to live in the present moment. It has provided me with the opportunity to make lifelong friendship bonds, and given me the tools for situations I will undoubtedly experience in the future. Looking back, I realize how truly fortunate I have been in this day and age to now have spent nearly 49 weeks of my formative pre-teen and teenage years "unplugged" at summer camp.
Although camp is an amazing place that many people will not have the privilege and opportunity to experience, I believe everyone should try to incorporate the benefits of camp into their own lives in some shape or form. I encourage people to take a minute out of their busy day, turn off their iPhones, Blackberries, TVs and computers (as difficult as that may be) and just take in the present moment. Do something different with your time, even if it's just talking in person with a friend for 5 minutes without being interrupted by a vibrating cell phone or email message. There is no better antidote in this period of rapid technological advancement and 24/7 connectivity because it is the best way to remind ourselves that we humans, not robots.
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