Regardless of how “switched off” we hope to be, often the ensnarement with our phones becomes the final frontier in our path to feeling fully untapped. Which is why at Unyoked’s off-the-grid cabins, you won’t find WiFi. Nor will you find television or even Netflix.
Their simple rehab comes in the form of respite from the digital call of reality, nestled in breathtaking nature – yet only a short drive away from Australia’s main metropolises.
Solar power, rainwater and outdoor campfires are the fuel for the tiny cabins, which become just a speck lost amongst the trees if you were to look from the sky (they won’t show up on a map).
They’re low-impact, but not short on understated luxury: think glossy, panelled wood, soft linens, cool metal fixtures, blissful cassette tapes and a curated selection of books – both design-focused and Penguin classics.
Brothers Cam and Chris Grant started the business as their own therapeutic resolve for their busy working lives. With 16 cabins now dotted around Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, the brand is ever-expanding.
Here, we spoke to Chris about walking the talk, a low-stress business model, and looking after the Earth.
Can you expand on what Unyoked’s slogan ‘the antidote to modern life’ means and the story behind it?
The catalyst for starting the business in the first place was born from my twin brother and my own circumstances. We used to get outdoors a lot and lived a pretty free life, moving around a heap when we grew up. Fast forward to a few years ago and we were in managerial positions in large, fast-paced businesses and weren’t living the life that we would have liked to be living; we were tied to our phones, we were getting emails at any time of the day and buried in spreadsheets. So the idea behind Unyoked was to give us an easy way to tap out of that and balance that chaotic, frenetic energy of modern life and being tied to technology and not be able to turn off, with being able to get out of the city easily and back to nature and back to something more primal and give you that space. And the idea was if you do that, ‘tapping out to tap back in’ is the premise behind it. It helped us, and we quickly realised there were a lot of other people in the same boat and that’s where the company grew from.
What does that say about modern life though, that we have to tap out of it…?
There’s definitely some issues with modern life. If you look at the evolution of the human species, we’ve evolved over hundreds of thousands of years, and we’ve had technology in our life for 50, maybe even 20, of those years out of hundreds of thousands, so our bodies are not evolved to be in the situations that we find ourselves currently in. Concrete boxes, fluorescent lights, high energy environments… so I think modern life has sort of gone off the rails slightly. But humans are adaptable and there’s a lot of good in that as well, so it’s not something I think we should be shying away from completely, but I think you’ve got to find a balance to it, and that’s what Unyoked’s about.
“I think modern life has sort of gone off the rails slightly”
What are your own personal remedies to stress, anxiety or feeling overworked? What do you try and implement in your day-to-day life?
I definitely try and get outside. I’ll go for a run in the morning, I’ll get out to the park or I ride my bike to and from work. Those times when I’m outdoors and expend a bit of energy really, really help me. If I can get out of the city, to one of our cabins or out to a property or for a bush walk, that’s even better. Or for a swim in the ocean. I try and do regular practises that are popular these days; I meditate most mornings, I try to eat right, sleep right – if you can do those sorts of staples it makes everything else a lot easier.
How long has meditation been a part of your life, and how did that come about?
I’ve been meditating for maybe eight years or something now, quite a while. It’s something I’m interested in, I gravitate towards that sort of spiritual side naturally, and yeah just enjoy taking the time to learn to block out the unnecessary. I find it a rewarding practise.
You can’t get away from the fact that in order to make the ‘getaways’ happen in the cabins, you personally have to work really hard. How do you maintain a reasonably stress-free or low-stress environment in the office?
We built Unyoked really with the opposite of a large corporate environment in mind, so often we ask ourselves “is this the way it’s always been done?” and then try and do it a little bit differently. We’ve got quite a flat structure and our team has a lot of autonomy. We try and take the stress of hierarchical management and those sorts of things out of the picture. So if we’ve got a nice, bright office that we can tap into and out of… We work from home, we work from the office. We try and keep some plants in there and yeah it’s about giving people the support to work how they work best. Having a purpose to what we do helps as well. It’s not just work. We all have a drive to do it and we enjoy it and we’re creating something and building something together, so that really helps as well. And everyone has the ability and is encouraged to use our product, so we’ll tap out once a month or so and go and experience the product and get the benefits that we’re trying to give our community as well.
What does eco-friendly mean to you? How do you maintain a low-carbon footprint?
As we’ve grown the business, it’s become more and more important to us. The cabins are off-the-grid, they’re built with sustainability in mind. Actually it’s become a really interesting area for us because the cabins are almost like an educational tool, like a try before you buy or a try before you incorporate this into your life a bit more. So people come and they say “hey I can stay a couple of days or three days” and they’re provided for by the sun, the drinking water is rain water that’s been collected, the composting toilet isn’t going into sewage and being treated, so it’s been a part of it that we’ve really enjoyed building and helping share those learnings and experiences with as many people as we can. Hopefully they go back to their lives and can incorporate a little bit of that too.
Also, our build process and how we find properties is all centred around that sustainability decision. We’re working with not-for-profits now and looking at how we can put some cabins on the properties they’re rehabilitating and then the cabins can not only act as a revenue stream for their operations on that property, but can also act as an educational tool so people can come along and see all of the plants that have been planted and even be involved with that as well.
Personally, how do you overcome obstacles or hurdles in business?
I think one of the ways is to frame it as a challenge, so some enjoyment can be had out of trying to solve or beat I guess. So that little change in mindset from something being a detriment or a negative and a road block to a challenge and be enjoyable to overcome I think can make a huge difference.