Youth Exchange at Haus Sonnenwald, a German eco-community in Black Forest

Digital detox and nature connection for sustainable living

In autumn 2020 eight Germans, eight Italians and eight Slovenians went to the Black Forest to experience each other, themselves and nature, without any digital media.

They are guests of the Sonnenwald Community, which has existed since March 2019. It is a living and working community of around 60 adults and children, who set themselves the goal of living together in harmony with their surroundings and environment – peacefully and experimentally. Some members originate from the “Academy for Applied Good Living“, an association whose vision is to enable people to develop their unique potential in the trust field of a community and to learn sustainable practices in order to become active as pioneers of change for a good life for all.

After our arrival we handed in our cell phones with a shamanic ceremony until we got it back on the last evening. The week was characterized by being together, which means singing, laughing, cleaning and cooking together. We received regular deliveries of fresh organic vegetables from the community’s garden. There were also very fun and interesting cultural evenings, where the different country groups cooked typical dishes and organized the evening’s program accordingly. We were able to learn an incredible amount from each other in all this time, also by offering each other workshops, and opened our hearts to each other. We were also able to get to know the community a little bit. This was done by helping in the morning in the agriculture and by talking around the campfire or at the bar evening. Also the experience of nature by getting to know various local medicinal herbs, a medicine walk and a whole day in the forest influenced our daily life. Another formative aspect was the reflection on our digital consumption and the social consequences through partner and group discussions as well as role plays and self-reflection.

During the Youth Exchange we created beautiful herbarium of local plants which we offer you here for download.

Individual voices:

Dijana

“Being part of this 10 days project “Digital Detox and nature connection for sustainable living” was an amazing experience for me!”
Dijana from Slovenia

Carolina

“Beautiful experience. Interesting to see how nature has been exploited to live a spiritual intense travel. A long journey to rediscover yourself away from the hectic post-modern life.”
Carolina from Italy

Blaž

“In my entire life, I have never met a group that was so loving, open-minded and connected. It was hard leaving the bubble of love, harmony and connectedness that we had and come back to “everyday reality”. But we didn’t come back as strangers any more, but as a family. I loved every moment of it, and I’m very grateful for everyone and everything that made it possible.
Blaž from Slovenia

Eva

“The warm and accepting nature of our exchange in Black Forest in Germany was a gentle, yet profound reminder of the fast-paced world we live in and the need to slow down and become more present in our every day lives. During the activities focused on our individual use of digital media I had been constantly encouraged to reflect on many positive and negative ways that digital media affects my life. It was especially interesting to me seeing how intertwined our life is with digital media use, to the point we don’t even realise it – however we do realise some negative psychological (as well as physical and societal) consequences that come with it. Critically reassessing the role of digital media in my life and the true use of it, has been my main point of focus during this exchange.
Spending 10 days in the heart of Black Forest, accompanied by the community spirit we established with all the participants, reminded me of what is truly important; the friendships and relationships we have right here, right now. No social media network will ever replace the feeling of true acceptance and connection that can be established in our so-called real life, outside our phones and computers.”
Eva from Slovenia

Benja

“It was incredible to see the effect it had on the group and especially together with the input and workshops Corinna gave it became a very conscious experience. I have come to know her as a friendly, open minded and reflected person and youth leader who worked with us in a playful yet professional way.”
Benja from Germany

Caterina

“The youth exchange, for me, was an inspiring experience that gave me a lot of hope for the world’s future. It was very nice to create our own little world that seemed so far from the real one. The fact that we could never hide behind our digital objects made the connections between us, as a group, and with nature much stronger.
It also made me remember that the sun always shines, also behind the clouds. 
After it, landing back into daily life took a while, but when I eventually did I was full of energy that I’ve been investing in fulfilling my dreams.”
Caterina from Italy

“The Digital Detox Youth Exchange has been an amazing experience for me. I appreciated a lot the fact that the first day everyone committed not to use their smartphones for the entire duration of the exchange. This simple action put the whole group in a completely different setting than the one we normally experience in our daily lives. We were all much more present towards each other and towards the activities proposed, more keen to socialize and to find alternative and more healthy ways to spend the day. This had the effect of strengthening the group and of giving more space also for our personal self-care. I also appreciated the activities and the reflections related to our digital media consumption, the nature connection activities as well as helping the hosting community with some open-air tasks, like collecting apples and sorting out potatoes. In conclusion, I am very glad I took part to this project that I would suggest to everyone as a very positive, healthy and energizing experience!”
Filippo from Italy

“I take it with me that nature gives me an incredible amount of strength and that I should definitely scale down my digital consumption. And at the same time it would have been very useful sometimes to be able to use digital media, for example to listen to music. I realized that I love people and that it is still a challenge to live in a community. I would like to have the time when meetings can take place away from Corona. I realize that if I don’t define myself through social media and don’t experience any influence I have to deal with myself, the people around me and my environment. That is exhausting. And beautiful. To feel authentic contact and connections to other people, to myself and to nature has made me happy.”
Corinna from Germany