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Kimberly Bonnell Headshot

Urgent July Communique

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Attention, obsessive HuffPo-ites! Avert your eyes from that monitor! It's summer, when an away message is sanctioned and cutting the digital cord (Temporarily! Geez.) grudgingly allowed. If you're the type who just can't let go, whose 'Berry is worn to letterless nibs, who hears the buzz of an insect and reaches for your holster, I bring help. Indeed, the digital-detox equivalent of a year of AA meetings: A river trip. Actual fun.

I've traveled a lot and rafted a lot, pre- and post-connectivity revolution, and I can confidently report that there isn't a better way to absent yourself from reality --- virtual and, well, real --- than descending into a river canyon on a rubber raft with a bunch of strangers and a really good guide, for several days or more. Here's why:

1) The simplest, dumbest reason: You risk your hardware's life if you take it with you on a river trip, unless, of course, you want it drenched by the raging rapids, the ones that, by day two, you grab the front seat for to get the craziest ride.

2) Most river trips require social skills. You need to get along with people who, at the start, are unknowns, in what can occasionally be trying conditions. Trying to pee into the river (as required) yet out of view of the entire company. Trying not to appear alarmed by the 12-foot wall of water smashing into your boat. Trying to find a way to convince last night's snorer to pick that overnight spot over there, way over there. (Look! It's shady!) Trying to be comfortable despite 100-degree heat and your sun-defying garb of long-sleeved shirt, pants, and 24-inch-brim hat. A river trip is a great equalizer and if you also try to impress everyone with your back-home prowess and stature, you will be jettisoned intentionally and unanimously into the current. (Don't believe the "Oops!") Your everyday rank, you quickly (and, I promise, happily) grasp, is irrelevant here.

3) There are countless practical matters to contend with on a river trip and dealing with them occupies so much of your consciousness that you forget, within minutes, the PDA-infested universe you inhabit the other 359 days of the year. There's that peeing situation, which must be re-solved several times a day because you've since traveled downstream from the place you were when you last needed to solve it. There's the matter of sand -- keeping it out of your eyes, lunch, sleeping bag. (Hint: Use your tarp as a sort of sand/sleeping bag protective border.) There's the need to cool yourself off at frequent intervals, but by which method? Head only, via dunking your hat into the chilly river and the cool drip that lasts, oh, three and a half minutes? (In the canyon southwest, anyway.) A full soak, via a bucket dumped over you? Or total immersion in the river (calm sections), maybe even a nice bobbing-in-your-lifevest-float? There's your hair, for God's sake, and the unshakable desire to wash it, absurd as that seems (and is) in a silty environment that forces you to redefine, with each day, the meaning of "clean." There's sunscreen, as in "repeated and manic application of". Then, as the air cools and you nestle into your (Yay, sand free!) sleeping bag, there's the astronomy issue: Stay awake and watch the mesmerizing night sky, with its incredibly rich, dense layers of stars, so much more thrilling than even Google's version? Or give in to sleep, as every part of you except eyes and brain is begging you to?

4) When you're surrounded by, dwarfed by, in Big Nature, as you are in an immense canyon, all the man-made stuff in your life just doesn't seem that important any more.

Bingo: detox success. When you do get back on dry land (resisting the impulse to hug the first flush toilet you find) and rev up your digital devices to re-enter Life as You Knew It, you realize how gone you were, and how lovely it was.

(Recommended enablers: Colorado River and Trail Expeditions)

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