Attending the First Offline Club at Café de Ceuvel in Amsterdam

Attending the First Offline Club at Café de Ceuvel in Amsterdam

Three hours in a cafe where nobody phones and everyone wants to connect, how does that sound? A few weeks back Mapy saw a post on Instagram from @theoffline_club about an event where you go to a cafe, lock your phone away, and spend time with people who are also doing a digital-detox. I was a little skeptical but the idea generally resonated with me. I love sitting and reading at a cafe and often think about talking to the people around me but don’t really want to bother them. As it goes in late-stage capitalism, I pulled out my wallet and paid someone €7.50 to take my phone away for a few hours. The tickets being sold out for the next few events gave me that extra push to buy right away.

The schedule for the event was:

  • ​09:30 - 10:00 | Walk-in

  • ​10:00 - 10:45 | Time to yourself

  • ​10:45 - 11:15 | Time to connect

  • ​11:15 - 11:45 | Time to yourself

  • ​11:45 - 12:00 | Central round-up

A little after 9:30 we arrived to the Café at de Ceuvel, a repurposed shipyard overtaken by creatives, community builders, and sustainability initiatives. We were greeted by a very friendly host who checked our tickets and said we had time to get a drink and find a seat before they give an opening talk. As we entered the café, they requested our phones be stowed in a custom case with slots perfectly carved for each device, a transparent side to assure us our babies weren't gone forever, and a key for safekeeping.

A tall man with curly blonde hair and a lot of charisma came out and told us about how this all started not too long ago while doing a detox retreat over a weekend and that he wanted to bring that joy back to people in a more accessible way. Ilya, as he introduced himself, was very excited about the event and gave us a great energy to get started.

During that first 45 minutes of time to myself I read Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin, a book I found in the free pile at my dorm before moving out. Others were knitting, journaling, embroidering, or digging into the crafts supplied. I sat outside on the dock with my book as the sun played peekaboo with me via the clouds.

A photo of the outside of the Café

A photo of the outside of the Café.

During the time to connect I did have a nice chat with several people and I found myself thinking I’d love it if every cafe felt like this. Maybe they can if you make them feel that way? That question was serendipitously answered during my next reading session with this beautiful passage (spoiler ahead):

She unlocked the door, and they walked through to the small backyard. It was fall, and two of their three fruit trees were in season: a Fuyu persimmon tree and a guava tree.

“Sadie, do you see this? This is a persimmon tree! This is my favorite fruit.” Marx picked a fat orange persimmon from the tree, and he sat down on the now termite-free wooden deck, and he ate it, juice running down his chin. “Can you believe our luck?” Marx said. “We bought a house with a tree that has my actual favorite fruit.”

Sam used to say that Marx was the most fortunate person he had ever met—he was lucky with lovers, in business, in looks, in life. But the longer Sadie knew Marx, the more she thought Sam hadn’t truly understood the nature of Marx’s good fortune. Marx was fortunate because he saw everything as if it were a fortuitous bounty. It was impossible to know were persimmons his favorite fruit, or had they just now become his favorite fruit because there they were, growing in his own backyard? He had certainly never mentioned persimmons before. My God, she thought, he is so easy to love. “Shouldn’t you wash that?” Sadie asked.

All things considered, I really enjoyed the event and I’d go back again. It seems a little crazy to pay someone to take your phone and the founder even made a joke about it. But at the end of the day it’s not much more than you’d pay for a drink in a cafe anyway but you’re guaranteed to be surrounded by people ready for a nice chat.

Many people said how getting away from their phones was such a breath of fresh air and they forgot what it is like to disconnect for a few hours. I also found myself reaching a few times for my phone to take pictures or look something up. When I was living in Hawaii I often took the whole Sunday to be away from screens and just enjoy the rain forest or beach so I felt a bit of nostalgia for that period of my life.

Mapy liked it so much that she signed up to help co-host future events. She’d be hosting one on Friday if she didn’t have to do an interview for her thesis at that time.

How the hell did this grow so fast? I didn’t get a chance to ask him but according to his LinkedIn he was Head of Growth in previous roles so it makes sense he grew their IG to 100k+ followers in just a few months. I don't know what their grand plan is but I look forward to following along for the journey.

Photo the host from a recent Instagram post.

Photo the host from a recent Instagram post.