550 B.C: Siddhartha Gautama ditches the princely lifestyle to directly understand the nature of his mind, discovers some things. He soon develops a contemplative tradition, its name a reference to waking up: Buddhism.

1763: A young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is taken on a Grand Tour of Europe with his family, setting a pattern of travel--and subsequent pockets of solitude--that would punctuate his prolific life.

“When I am, as it were, completely myself, entirely alone, and of good cheer, say, traveling in a carriage or walking after a good meal or during the night when I cannot sleep," he would later write to his father, "it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best and most abundantly.”

1845: Just before his 28th birthday, Henry David Thoreau, perturbed by the commercialism of his Concord home, moves into a cabin near Walden Pond. His mission: to find for himself if the transcendentalist ideal of the divine in nature, and in one's self, holds true. By his elegiac, symbolic descriptions of the wood, he does--and in so doing, plants a seed of the environmental movement.

1888: Nellie Bly, née Elizabeth Jane Cochran, sets out to travel around the world in 80 days, turning Jules Vernes' novel into fact. She traveled by train and steamship, visiting the Suez Canal, Sri Lanka, and Hong Kong among others. She set the world record for circumnavigation--almost entirely on her own.

1947: Jack Kerouac, in a search for meaning and a solution for writers block, goes on three years of hitch-hiked, train-hopped adventures across North America, laying the foundation for On The Road, a testament to the Beat Generation and a valentine to freedom and the open road.

1985: Steve Jobs leaves Apple, beginning his "wilderness years," which, as our lost tapes show, were the most pivotal of his life. He got married, learned something like patience, and, as well, worked with NeXT and Pixar, two companies that influenced his resurgence at Apple.

1993: After three straight NBA championships, three straight Finals MVP awards, and seven years of leading the league in scoring, Michael Jordan, perhaps the greatest basketball player of all time, retires (for the first time). Why? "The desire was not there," he told reporters. Two years later, it came back.

1994: At the height of the group's feedback-frenzied fame, Nirvana goes unplugged on MTV. By pulling a sort of reverse Dylan, their stripped-down set allowed, as Rolling Stone remarked, "Kurt Cobain's tortured vulnerability (to) glow" and showed that the best communication is often the least mediated.

2013: How To Be Black author and hyper-hyphenated polymath Baratunde Thurston leaves the Internet and all digital life for 25 days. From his #unplug, he learned that he was obsessed with information, shared too much, and had become addicted to himself--lessons that are as timely as they are timeless.

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Great Moments In #Unplug History

From Siddhartha Gautama to Thoreau to Mozart, and Kerouac to Jobs, Jordan, Nirvana, and the current cover of Fast Company, there is a deep tradition of turning off in order to power on. Before you seek your own #unplug path, find inspiration in these electrifying examples.

After one week of his digital detox for our current cover story, Baratunde Thurston, who is in his own words an author, consultant, speechifier, and cross-platform opiner on the digital life, realized that he had stopped thinking about his #unplug experiment and just started to live it:

"I was reading long books," he recalls, "engaging in meaningful conversations, and allowing my mind to wander and make passive connections I had previously short-circuited with social queries, responses, interruptions, and steady documenting and sharing of unripened experiences."

His ripened personal realizations have been backed by bountiful research: If you're away from your phone, you'll be more creative; if you rest more, you'll produce more; and if you give yourself more time to think about problems, you'll solve them faster.

But Thurston is not the first to withdraw from the world to understand something of himself—that tradition goes back at least 2,500 years. Which is why we've assembled some of those highlights above (and below)—and if you, dear plugged-in readers, have any further suggestions, do let us know.

[Image: Flickr user Samuel M. Livingston]

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