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Tech addicts to retreat to Koh Kong for digital detox

17 koh totang
The tranquil, low-tech lifestyle of Koh Totang inspired Levi Felix to hold digital-free retreats. Photo Supplied

Do you get phantom phone vibrations in your pocket? Ever check Facebook while watching a movie or drinking at a bar? Does going without internet for extended periods make you anxious? If so, you could be an internet addict.

“The idea that a person can’t go without internet for half a day without getting anxiety – that is a symptom of addiction,” says Levi Felix, a California native who founded the company Digital Detox, which specialises in tech-free holidays and is soon to arrive in the Kingdom.

A few spots remain on Digital Detox’s retreat at Nomads Land ecotourist guesthouse on Koh Totang island, off the coast of Koh Kong. For six days, 12 participants will surrender their phones, laptops and even their clocks with the aim of “re-formatting” their minds.

“You feel like you’re far off on the edge of the planet [on the retreat],” said Felix. “You feel like you’re alone, that you can disconnect and reconnect with yourself, with a community of people. This will change your life.”

Meditation and yoga workshops will replace YouTube and Facebook, while blogging will be replaced by journal-keeping with pen and paper. The only water will be collected rainwater sanitised via reverse osmosis, while solar power will be the only source of electricity.

Although technology will be minimal, Felix said that the emphasis is on avoiding media, adding that the average American consumes dozens of gigabytes of information daily.

“If you take that much information every day, it’s hard for your mind to think freely.”

For Felix, the retreat on Koh Totang is a return to the spot where he found solace from his own digital media addiction. While working as president for a Los Angeles-based tech startup in his early 20s, he consistently worked 60-80 hour weeks until he was hospitalised for unexplained internal bleeding.

“I realised that I was only 24, and already burning myself out,’” said Felix, who added that the doctors insisted that he take a break.

To get back on his feet, Felix and his girlfriend left on an extended holiday to travel the world. What was to be a short sabbatical turned into a two-year journey that first brought them to Koh Totang.

After falling under the island’s spell in 2010, Felix ended up volunteering for six months at the Nomads Land ecotourist guesthouse.

“When we were out here, that is when the idea started,” said Felix, who added that the idyllic island made him realise the virtues of simplicity.

Felix founded Digital Detox upon returning to the United States, and has held monthly retreats in northern California since June 2012.

Karim Sbai, who has co-owned Nomads Land for the past six years, said that the island is ideal for Digital Detox.

“On the island, there is nothing. We just have three other houses where fishermen live. We never meet anyone with a smart phone or computer.”

Sbai said he is looking forward to meeting the people that Digital Detox will bring to the island.

“It is going to be interesting to see people who need to go to the different side of the world to be disconnected.”

For Felix, it is a long-awaited return to the spot where Digital Detox was conceived.

“It’s surreal, it’s amazing. We started this company because of this place. And now we’re back here having this retreat with some of the best people in the world. I think saying I’m excited is downplaying it.”

Digital Detox will be held on Koh Totang from April 22-27. Rates range from $1,000 for a dorm to $1,550 for a private room with private bathroom. For more information, contact Nomads Land  at +855 11 91 61 71 or email nomadslandcambodia@hotmail.com.

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