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Jungle Disconnect: When Networking, Travel, and Passion Unite

Nick Uthe  // MAY. 19, 2020

4 min read
4 min read

Nick Uthe  // MAY. 19, 2020

What place do phones have in our lives? I’m unsure how often this question is asked especially in an era in which the use of social media is ingrained in our culture, but it is a question that should be asked much more often. In light of the strengthening grip phones have had on us in 2018, I've noticed an emerging trend where people are becoming more self-aware of how phones are blending work, leisure, life and addiction all into one space. Is tracking our usage an answer? Should we use application blockers to unwind the void in which we’ve spiraled out of control? As a digital marketer and media professional, I ask myself these questions almost every day. An hour of digital work can very easily turn into the next hour of the sucking hollowness that can be social media.
My ambition to stay within our humanistic epicenter and finding balance in our lives is what drives the digital bus that I’d like to see coast over the hill. Fortunately, my travel experience this past week brought these pending questions staunchly to light. I was invited to the Dominican Republic to stay an entire week at the Treehouse Village with some of today’s best creators and high-end influencers that are at large driving the growth of the digital nomad era. While I was brought on as a photographer and fellow content creator, I blindly traveled to this remote place in the heart of the Samaná Jungle not knowing exactly what to expect (this is common place for traveler types so hold your gasps). I certainly didn’t expect the majority of the resort to be without wifi but as any good adventure photographer knows, it’s best to go with the flow. The jungle was dense and proudly broadcasting an array of multicolored green exotic Caribbean plants. Imagine an aerial view, through a lush mountainous valley, diving between small cuts in the forest to where we walked along the path from the entrance to the main community hut of the resort. The beautiful palm trees towered over us and acted as a veneer to our new tropical palm topped homes in the sky. At that moment, I could feel my inner traveler bug race across my body; I made it, and I was now locked in for an eye opening week in the jungle with 40 strangers.
Upon arriving at the resort, my group and I were first greeted by the event host and Instagram’s favorite model extraordinaire, Charly Jordan. You could tell early on that she took it upon herself to ensure that the experience was worthwhile for all who attended. I’ve always put a grave amount of work into my photography, content and art so to be alongside Charly and other passionate “doers” like Ayla Woodruff, Brendan North, and even Bachelor star Robby Hayes made the experience enlightening to say the least. Not to mention the foresight of the agencies, Void and Wanderlist who pushed a theme that everyone here was to lead with love. This set a profound tone to our private group of attendees, that we were all going to push our egos aside, open our minds, and accept that we could learn from each and every person there for the remainder of the week. To be honest, I don’t think many people there even needed a reminder as the group involved in this journey thrived cohesively without an ounce of conflict.
Being surrounded by trailblazers in the media industry, the Dominican Treehouse Village atmosphere, the tranquil-flowy nature of the jungle, and the charity work we accomplished, all acted on us as kryptonite to our cellular devices. Looking at this scenario further, a deep irony unfolded. So many of the people there had made a life, and a living, by the sole usage of their phones and social media. But now those same people had been thrown into a sanctuary where wifi was sparse and phones were to be left behind. Having spent time with the creators on this trip, this disruption from reality proved virtuous. It explained what should be obvious, people are often much more infinite than our preconceived notions and the perceptions we build from the posts they create.
You can take the tool away from the artist but you will never take away the artists' creativity. Over the course of the week this philosophy proved to be true, whether it was from the conversations we had, or the ambitions we shared. The only difference? These ambitions weren’t dreams; they were directives. Today many creators and artists' work gets lost in the translation from the conformist naming of what it means to be an influencer, a content creator, or to be social media famous. What’s important to understand is very few people are one hit viral successes; most are entrepreneurs grinding their way to the top the same way conventional businesses and entrepreneurs have done in the past. At the end of this disconnecting connection whirlwind of a trip the revelation was fairly obvious. Sometimes it’s important to disconnect to reconnect. If you work from your digital device, seriously schedule your usage and always provide time to unplug from the outside world. The reason this week in tropical paradise was so meaningful was because even without the technology, all the great artists that were a part of this journey proved just as intriguing, extensive, hardworking, and beautiful as the content they create. It’s true, human connection is what we all crave and that’s what I was blessed to receive in the heart of the Samaná Jungle.