22 July 2021
22 July 2021
Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac once wrote, “The closer you get to real matter, rock air fire and wood, boy, the more spiritual the world is.” And it’s this type of sentiment that inspired Unyoked, a wildly popular collection of minimalist cabins offering Australians the chance to get closer to rock, air, fire and wood since 2017.
“We were scratching our own itch when we started Unyoked,” explains Cam Grant, who co-founded the travel startup with his twin brother Chris.
“We wanted the ability to get off the grid and enjoy nature, but what we were looking for didn’t exist, so we created it,” Chris adds.
Unyoked has tapped into a significant cultural shift that’s only accelerated since COVID-19 further realigned our priorities and hunger for outdoors experiences.
“There’s a real demand for what we’re doing,” says Chris, who feels “humbled” by the ongoing popularity of Unyoked cabins, which have experienced an avalanche of bookings and interest since the brand’s inception.
The company now has close to 30 cabins available to hire, each within a two-hour drive of either Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Byron Bay or Brisbane.
Offering stressed-out city folk access to a stable of secluded, lo-fi cabins represents much more than a business model to the brothers who share a passion for adventures in wild places.
“We’re raising awareness of a different lifestyle and encouraging people to move away from that always-on approach that uses busyness as a currency,” says Cam, who notes the many health benefits associated with exposure to nature, including decreased blood pressure.
Going back to nature
So what makes an Unyoked cabin holiday different from other getaways? Well, for one thing, location is one factor Cam and Chris won’t compromise on. The ability to stargaze is paramount, as is not having other buildings in sight. So far, the properties are all within striking distance of cities so that city-dwellers can access micro-doses of nature relatively easily. Then there’s the intangible elements.
“We’re looking for the feeling of being awed by nature. You know when you’re standing at the foot of an old growth forest or mountain and you get a tingle at the back of your neck? That’s the feeling that we’re looking for,” says Cam.
Although all Unyoked cabins deliver seclusion in spades, each stay has unique characteristics. Love a challenge? Book into an Unyoked outpost in the Blue Mountains found at the end of a 20-minute, uphill hike.
With no mobile phone reception available at many Unyoked cabins, guests can completely disconnect from the outside world – a rare experience in a hyper-connected world.
Analogue additions to the cabins such as books and cassette tapes serve to remind us that wi-fi access isn’t essential for a good time. In fact, disconnecting from the digital world might just be the best way to feed your creative mind.
Sparking something new
Chris and Cam are fascinated by the symbiotic relationship between nature and creativity. They believe that immersions in nature can lead to creative breakthroughs – a clear benefit for urban artists, writers and musicians struggling to find inspiration amid relentless noise and distraction.
“You have to switch off to be switched on. Rather than scrolling through Instagram or watching Netflix, go outside and look at a tree,” says Chris.
History says they might be onto something. Indie band Bon Iver recorded their seminal album For Emma, Forever Ago in a remote cabin in the woods of Wisconsin. Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck finished his first novel while working as the winter caretaker of a Lake Tahoe cabin.
Artists have long found solace and inspiration in nature, and Unyoked is exploring this age-old connection through initiatives that give creatives the chance to dive deeper into their practice.
A writer’s residency program aims to foster nature writing talent while a collaborative music project recently resulted in Field Recordings Vol 1., a collection of tracks recorded by seven electronic musicians who found distraction-free inspiration in an Unyoked cabin.
“More opportunities like these are perfect. They remove all the systems that we’re used to running on and get back to a primal sense of yourself and what’s around you,” says Melbourne multi-instrumentalist Braille Face, whose track ‘Choline’ features in the collection.
Chris and Cam believe that through these types of experiences, people can realise their place in the world. With demand soaring, the brothers are driven to add new Unyoked stays across Australia, and beyond.
“Anywhere where there’s people in the city getting stressed by the pressure of modern life and need access to the wilderness, we’d love to be there to help,” says Cam.
By Jo Stewart