I lived as a monk sipping Negroni and taking selfies for two days in the outback of Kiama (a place about two hours south of Sydney). Here’s what the experience was like and how I feel now that I’ve crashed back into civilization.
The birds screech, the beak gurgles and the sunlight penetrates your eyelids. You roll over on your thousand-dollar mattress and allow yourself an extra minute of sleep. Big mistake: the billy soon starts boiling and hot water is squirting all over the sink…
Staying in an off-grid cabin in the middle of Kiama’s backcountry taught me a lot (and not just how to boil water). From home to books (from Booth Porn to Penguin classics like The consolations of philosophy), this type of setup is a dream for anyone looking to put their brain in airplane mode for 48 hours.
I recently wrote about this Australian-owned off-grid cabin trend Unhitched, which is currently sweeping the world, interviewing co-founder Cam Grant. He explained that it brings a “new kind of weather” to travelers, allowing them to escape the hustle and bustle of modern life, without having to drive too far (and without compromising comfort).
The movement has been brewing for some time, but the pandemic has given it a boost, with more and more people realizing that there is more to life than a soulless job, takeaways, entertainment subscription services and vacations where you try to cram in a million things. in.
Unyoked aims to fill this gap in the market, promising to help you unwind, connect with nature, and come back relaxed, restored, and inspired (after your slow dance with the sublime). It’s about providing people with access to nature – conveniently and on demand (two things that nature makes notoriously difficult).
WATCH: What it’s like to stay in an unhitched cab
I was recently lucky enough to be invited to stay at one of Unyoked’s cabins. The hut was hidden in the hills behind Kiama – about a 20-minute drive from the beach, through farmland, up a hill and overlooking a valley – and was called Das. Although I didn’t come back feeling like William Wordsworth (in fact I came back with sea urchin thorns in my foot and a cut on my finger), I thoroughly enjoyed my stay. This is how my experience went and everything I learned about dropping out.
The ride to Das (my hut) looks like a fairy tale
After leaving the office at 3pm on a Wednesday (and stopping for a sneaky surf on the way down), I arrived in Kiama just as the sun was setting. After leaving the highway, it took about 20 minutes to drive through Jamberoo and up the hills through the farmland where Das was. Along the way we passed lots of cows and horses, before the open grassland gave way to forest (and a steep hill). We parked at the top (there were three Unyoked cabins on this property, and each had a dedicated parking spot) and got out of the car.
The walk from the parking lot to the hut is an adventure (especially if you do it in the dark)
As we got out of the car, we noticed that a wheelbarrow and torch had been provided. It was a good idea, which allowed us to transport our equipment along the 700 meter track to Das, our hut. Having sacrificed the arrival during the day to surf the descent, we were grateful for the torch. Although it would have been nice to arrive while it was still sunny (you can check in from 3pm), it was more like an adventure in the dark and the fire trail was well marked, it so there was no problem.
There are also handy signs on the trees to let you know if you’re approaching another cabin’s area, so it was easy to give yourself some privacy (never saw anyone from the other cabins the whole time my stay). As for the walk between the car and the cabin, it was quite flat, and quite easy, especially with the wheelbarrow.
Das (the cabin) is like something straight out of your Instagram “explore” page
Even arriving in the dark, I could tell it was something special. Das had a ring of fire out front, a patio to sit and drink coffee on, and an indoor setup that Marie Kondo would be proud of. Although I’ve stayed in a similar sort of thing before (a Tiny House I booked through another company) where the composting toilet smelled a bit, there wasn’t even a whiff of a problem here. Speaking of which: the bathroom had a rain shower, a durable composting toilet (you throw some sawdust there “in between”), and a nice sink.
The kitchen is also well equipped, with a gas stove, pots, pans, etc. as well as a special pot to boil your water (it’s all pretty analog, so there’s no pod coffee maker or microwave, although there is a fridge). Even better, there’s a giant Koala mattress where you can feel one with the forest (there are massive windows that stretch almost to the ceiling) and watch the world go by without any of the usual inconveniences of being really one with the forest (ants, wind, rain etc.).
Unyoked makes you fall into nature’s rhythm (and helped me fix my sleep pattern)
The darkness outside and the lack of a TV inside made me – a person used to staying up until midnight watching Youtube – feeling ready to go to bed around 9pm. After drinking a cup of “sleep” tea and reading Booth Porn, I was about to take the dose. The lack of curtains (side note: Cam, a co-founder of Unyoked, told me recently that some Unyoked cabins have started adding curtains, to give you the option of sleeping more, but Das has yet to this update) also meant that I woke up earlier than usual. It actually made getting back to work on Friday (I took an Unyoked trip mid-week) a breeze (unlike other trips where I shifted while sleeping).
RELATED: I built a bed in the back of my car. I may never stay in a hotel again
Grinding your own coffee is satisfying
I had heard CEOs rave about how amazing it was to grind your own coffee beans in a hand grinder before I tried Unyoked for myself. Although I can’t say I’m quite at that level (it was good, but not lifestyle change), it was satisfying. I didn’t feel connected to the ground or suddenly much more aware of my coffee, but I had all the time in the world to drink it (instead of rushing it down my throat before rushing out the door, or drinking it without thinking about my office) was great.
To get the real Unyoked experience; to prepare
The very idea of Unyoked is to “do a lot of nothing”. I kinda spoiled that with dinner the second night. I brought everything I needed for the pumpkin soup (for the second night) but forgot to bring my hand blender so during the day I went to the supermarket to buy ingredients to do something else. I also went for a quick surf in town and – being winter – by the time I got back to the cabin there was only a few hours of light left.
I ended up feeling like I missed key hours of doing nothing (and on reflection, those other hours of the trip that I spend sitting in my bed in the cabin and walking around outside have were the most fruitful of the trip). So trust me: when you detach, embrace boredom and try to do as little as possible (your mind will thank you later).
Despite being in the sticks, you still have access to some of the coolest creative initiatives in town.
If the cabin’s cool, Scandinavian vibe hasn’t already revealed it, opening the fridge door does. Inside, there are fancy lagers and Archie Rose cocktails. There is also a well stocked wine cellar. Not your typical camping (or even glamping) experience.
You feel like you live in the trees (or at least the forest)
Mainly: because you’re really…
When boiling water, put a cup under the spout for when it boils
Take the time to read the books and smell the roses
Seriously – relax. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to do nothing (after marinating in your thoughts for a while). Once you get past the racing spirit phase, you start to feel enlightened (or crazy, but hey: who matters). You might even make friends with a stick (or a tree). If you do it right (and leave your phone off), it’s like a 48-hour meditation with your eyes open.
Watching the trees sway back and forth is addictive
It’s like observing the clouds, except with the trees. I think I watched the dark shadows sway back and forth for a good half hour one night. Happiness.
Not using your phone is nice
It’s nice – even briefly – to know that no one can contact you and no one expects anything from you.
Luxury “hits different” in 2022
It’s not enough to provide fancy furniture and linens in 2022. For soul-soothing luxury, you need to make your guests feel good about themselves (and provide them with composting toilets) . And Unyoked does it with aplomb.
The cassette player is *the chef’s kiss*
From Bob Dylan to Unyoked field recordings (made with sounds from the cabins), this was a nice addition to the cabin. If you want to taste for yourself, the latest volume of Unyoked Field Recordings is now available on Apple Music and Spotify.
Don’t brag about it when you come back
Your co-workers, family, and “heap” friends may be jealous or indifferent to your new state of enlightenment. Keep it as a special secret between you and that ant (or magpie) you swear you are connected to and keep your happiness to yourself. Either that or suggest they try it…
Make the most of your recharged state of mind
Are you running out of ideas for a project? Do you have writer’s block? Do you have a song you want to compose? When you come back from Unyoked, you’ll be ripe to rip. You might even feel inspired to get started while you’re at it (just see the anthology of musical artists created at Unyoked retreats).
DMARGE stayed in Das as a guest of Unyoked.