P.E Nation x Unyoked | Rewilding Awaits
"We’re all about adventure-and-chill. There’s too much concrete and too many commitments in the world already, let’s all go wander in the woods."
Founded in Australia in 2016 by twin brothers Chris and Cameron Grant, Unyoked is a network of tiny 'off-the-grid' cabins that provide a chance for guests to escape modern busyness and recalibrate their inner compass by rewilding - or, becoming unyoked. With cabins located within 2-3 hours of a CBD, Unyoked is less about rare getaways and more about building a better nature practice - a habit of regularly breaking away from metropolitan mayhem to turn back to nature, slow down and reset.
Beginning with locations in New South Wales and Victoria, today Unyoked offers cabins not far from Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane and hidden within the Byron Hinterland. With plans to very soon expand further afield - across Australia, and beyond - we spoke to Cameron to get a feel for the art of escape and learn more about the benefits - many and great - rewilding can offer.
An Antidote To Modern Life
Tell us about the seed that started Unyoked. Where it all began.
It really all came about from something Chris and I were searching from ourselves. We’d spent our childhood moving around and spending a lot of time outdoors and then, like most of us do here in Aus, spent the better part of Uni days travelling further afield to some pretty exotic places, we were lucky enough to do that you know.
But then, as we took the standard steps after graduating and went into corporate jobs, we realised that quickly our ability to have that sense of freedom, to go to these locations where you really feel it when you get back, it kind of disappeared. Most of that’s self-inflicted, with the whole cult of busyness that was around at the time, but still.
In the evenings, staring at our screens and spreadsheets, we were searching for something that would help us get that feeling back, yet something that we could do within our current operating rhythms, like on a Wednesday or Thursday when we felt we needed it, but it just wasn’t there…so we decided to create it ourselves.
Unyoked was popular from the get-go. Did you expect interest at that level, or did it take you by surprise? In some way, it tells a story of our urban pace and collective desire - or need - to take breaks from it.
Yeah, that’s right, whether through prediction or a lot of luck what we were feeling ourselves back when we decided to create this whole thing is now something that’s pretty universal – thanks in no small part of COVID-19 pushing a lot of us to stare into our outdated conventions and look for a better way.
Haha but no, we definitely didn’t know that back then. We had a hunch, and we hoped that a small crew of people would jump on-board and share our perspective but we had no idea how widespread the feeling was.
Fundamentally it’s a question of the value we place on our time and where and how we spend that time. Before people didn’t see it as their own, and they didn’t realise the where is as important as the what. But now more and more we’re realising that time is valuable and we should be spending more on ourselves, those around us and more of it closer to the natural world.
The Experience of Escapism
What are some of the prerequisites for choosing a cabin location?
The finer details are a bit of a secret-herbs-and-spices thing but at a high level it’s just 3 key things: You can’t see anyone; you can’t hear anyone; and it has to have strong “wilderness vibes”. Haha, yeah we made that one up, but it’s that feeling you get when you’re staring up at a mountain, lying down watching the stars overhead or the sun-setting over a forest, it’s when time slows down and you get that tingle at the back of your neck. That feeling is nature and its neurological and physical affect on us – it’s what we want to help people get more often and easier, what the sites are all about.
Tell us about the naming system you have for your cabins.
All our cabins are named after people us, our team, or our community have met around either on travels or during their journeys through life. They’re people who are “unyoked” by nature, people who are a little bit nomadic, individuals who don’t live by other people’s rules. Basically the idea was that by connecting with that person and staying at one of our locations you’d bring a little bit of them back with you and start living a bit more flexibly and free yourself.
What would be your top recommends for making the most out of an Unyoked escape?
Just two from me. Firstly, accept the benefit of doing nothing. We try so hard to be busy all the time, it’s ingrained into us but we actually have to switch off to be switched on. Slowing down, sitting still, walking just for the sake of it, it does wonders to our brains and wellbeing. Embrace it and don’t go with an agenda, do a bit of nothingness for a while. It can be a bit jarring for some of us at first, but if you go in with that intention, you’ll be doing it again and again I promise.
Second is level-up your cooking game. It’s all about slowing down out there which leaves a lot of time for life’s rituals. Making cooking a ritual instead of a routine is an epic way to spend a few hours. We’ve developed our own handcrafted meals with our pal and wilderness chef Sarah Glover which we send to our community but you can also jump on Google and find anything that is cooked over the campfire or is “slow”, like homemade pizza dough. Making fresh pasta under a forest of pine trees while the moon rises and you’ve got a pot of sauce over the fire is a pretty great way to spend a night.
Unyoked Founders, Cameron and Chris Grant
Little Sanctuaries, Everywhere
Would you equate time spent in nature, to meditation?
Definitely, two days out there is kind of like a long deep meditation, only you’re not sitting still with your eyes closed. We all kind of get that being outdoors makes us feel better, it’s a deep understanding in us from our origins, but we don’t know why. Nature’s scientifically proven to do what meditation does, but on steroids. It lowers your cortisol levels, slows your heart-rate, increases dopamine and can even boost creativity by up to 50%. The fact that it’s got no negative side-effects, is accessible to pretty much anyone and is abundantly available is why our whole mission is to help people understand these things better. It’s kind of like a superpower staring us in the face but we’re all looking in a different direction you know?
What is the most common feedback you get from people who’ve stayed in your cabins?
96% of people who we asked tell us that after staying their mental wellbeing’s been improved. Most our feedback is along those lines, it’s around the “r” words, “recharged”, “relaxed”, “reset”, “reflected”. Our whole experience is designed to facilitate nature helping you get these outcomes, the cabin is just the way we do that right now, so it’s been pretty rewarding to hear it’s working. Haha that and “more doggo cabins please” – working on that one ;-)
What has been your most gratifying or memorable milestone with Unyoked?
We actually passed our fifth official year earlier this year which was a great moment for reflection. We took our time and wanted to create something authentic and a brand that stood for something you know. Only a few people knew what we were talking about back when we started, it just didn’t exist anywhere, and now having been through fires, two lots of floods and a pandemic and on the verge of opening our first international locations…it’s pretty humbling. Having so many people connect with the brand, help us build it, and share the way we see the world…it really makes you smile.
Unyoked is about slowing down. Though to run it must keep you busy behind the scenes. Can you share some of your personal favourite ways to switch off, slow down, unwind?
Haha, we do sometimes joke that we’re the most “yoked” people at Unyoked. But seriously even when we’re heads-down about to launch one of our creative projects we make sure we’re walking the talk. If you’re stuck in the city/office one of my big ones is simply to go outside and look up, staring at the clouds breaks through the stress franticness of the day by being reminded that nature doesn’t give a f about your worries, and it reminds you that maybe you shouldn’t either.
The other one, for me, is the ocean. Something about the ocean, or water, calms us. Whenever I’m feeling stressed I go to the beach, but if you can’t access that a lake or river would work just as much. You just sit there for 5-10mins even, it’s magic.
In terms of self-care, what are some of your daily non-negotiables?
Exercise in the AM is my number one. I start the day with a pretty intense workout, generally outside but sometimes in the gym and when I can I follow it with a swim in the ocean. If I can’t do that I make sure I get a moment, no matter how short, of time that’s just for me. Whether it’s 20mins reading before bed or a 10min walk in the park at lunch between meetings. Getting time in for yourself, no matter how small, is great for your mental energy when your day could be spent being dragged in 100 different directions.
With Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and the Byron Hinterland now on the Unyoked map, are there plans to plant cabins in other parts of Australia, and further afield?
The idea we created this whole thing on was to help us, and people like us, access the benefits of immersive nature when we needed them most – don’t want to say “on-demand”, but if you’ve had a hectic day in the office and it’s 4pm on a Wednesday we’d like to think we’ll have a location for you to come and get the reset you need in available. That’s the aim guiding our growth over the next phase of Unyoked. We’ll be slowly adding more to our current locations, opening new cities in Aus and also opening two international markets very soon – which is super exciting.
Share something that excites you right now.
Haha well, I spose I can’t mention the thing from the last answer ;-) So I’d say the speed at which our cultural norms are changing, for the better, since COVID. Go back 10 years and if you’d told your boss you were going to go meditate for 20mins you’d probably have been laughed out of most offices. Now that’s mainstream because everyone finally gets why it’s important and how it helps them. We’re now seeing that happen to living and working flexibly, people aren’t tied to their desks anymore and they’re realising the value of the natural environment more and more every day. That excites me a lot, especially if it leads more of us to be looking at our leaders to protect and preserve that environment for the future.
Want the chance to rewild with Unyoked, and receive a new sustainable P.E Nation wardrobe to help you get packing?
See below to enter the P.E Nation x Unyoked competition.
P.E Nation x Unyoked Competition
P.E Nation and Unyoked want to help you start your nature habit this year, and here's your chance to enter our competition. One winner will receive a Nature Habit starter program:
3 x 2-night stays with Unyoked over a six-month period.
A P.E Nation sustainable Baseline wardrobe.
To enter, all you have to do is Fill in the Entry Form Here, and answer this competition question: What are three of the key benefits of nature/the outdoors?
Entry is open to all Australian states. Competition opens 13/04/2022 and closes 27/04/2022. T&Cs apply. The winner will be interviewed after completion of their 3 stays to chat about their nature habit for feature on PE-NATION.COM, UNYOKED.COM and other potential outlets associated with the aforementioned brands.