We’re working harder and smarter, but it’s getting difficult to escape the constant chatter of our devices. Tim reckons that taking a notification vacation is fast becoming an essential antidote to modern life.
The Cabin Series is all about disconnecting from the modern world and connecting with yourself and others, thanks to the escape artists at Unyoked.
Just the act of sitting down to write about my weekend away is calming. I’m sitting on the bed again, watching the last rays of sun fade from the treetops. Cradling a tea, I listen to the birds fade into quiet with the light.
Back in reality; I’m cradling a lemsip to fend off yet another cold, I think those bird noises are a distant car alarm, and I’m not sure if I’ve left the apartment today.
Suddenly my phone, watch and computer ‘braahh-ping!’ in unison, desperate for my attention.
According to an app on my phone, it’s the 181st notification that day.
Have you ever saved up your leave for an entire year, just to spend on one big escape? I definitely have. It’s a common approach, to ‘work hard and play harder’, but I’m starting to think that once a year might not be frequent enough.
What are you good at that you only do for 4 weeks of the year? Skiing maybe? There’s not much that can’t be improved with practice, and I think this includes relaxing, reflecting, connecting with others and setting goals for self-improvement. With technology rapidly ramping up our information uptake and eroding our concentration span, it’s becoming more and more important to be determined in what we do.
We don’t need to find the time — we need to make it.
I’ve started seeing regular escapes as a need, rather than an indulgence. Time to decompress, to focus and re-energise, has become an important part of our lifestyle. Frequently spending time outside is so good for us, and science is starting to understand why. It might seem privileged to prioritise taking time for ourselves, but with so many people pursuing meaningful work, I think it’s more important than ever that the people who care don’t burn out.
My housemate and I teed up an analogue weekender in Kangaroo Valley to escape the city noise. Film camera, craft beers and books packed, we hit the road early on Saturday morning. Sadly, we had to leave the record player at home.
Driving into Kangaroo Valley always brings me an immense feeling of calm. Descending down the switchbacks, we look for glimpses of our first destination, Tallowa Dam. We have two kayaks on a trailer ready for an overnight microadventure, and calm is quickly giving way to excitement.
It’s warm as we put-in at the dam, but the sun is already running close to the top of the gorge. As it dips, the cool wind washes over us, urging our paddles a little faster.
It’s dusk as we find a small campsite at the base of a cliff. The drought has left the sticks and leaves bone-dry. Within minutes we have a roaring flame to ward off the end-of-winter chill.
Warm fire, cold beers, homemade curry and a good chat. We’ve lived together for over a year but this time alone, free from distractions, allows us to talk more freely and at a depth that was rarely possible. I scribble, “Go camping with your housemate” in my notebook.
It feels late as I fall asleep reading, but it can’t be past 10.00pm.
The next morning dawns crisp and calm — even the birds enjoy a sleep-in as the high valley walls hold back the sun. It’s Sunday and we’ve got a cabin booked for that night, but we’re still keen to get on the water and explore further up the gorge before paddling back to the car.
After thawing in the sun it’s time to go and check out the cabin. I’ve already got my trackies on as we wind through Kangaroo Valley, hunting out Miguel.
Miguel’s the name of the Unyoked cabin we’ve booked, not our Spanish mate hiding in the rainforest. That being said, apparently Miguel was named after a bloke that the Unyoked crew met “floating around the jungle outside Chiang Mai. Leaving his job at a law firm he travelled the world and lived off the grid.”
As soon as we arrive it’s obvious that the night’s going to be comfortable. The cabin is tiny but well equipped and it only takes us a few minutes to get our bearings. Despite the sink, shower, stove and bed, the simplicity means it feels like there are more similarities with camping than a house stay. It’s aesthetically utilitarian, analogue and no-frills — an architectural antidote to modern living.
As sunset arrives, we chat, sip brews and cook tacos, and I’m struck again at just how much time we have. There’s a slowness and focus here that’s impossible back home. It’s hard to believe that this hideout on the fringe of the rainforest is only a few podcasts from Sydney.
After dinner we read. I decide to get meta and open a book called Cabin Porn. Pages upon pages of backcountry escape-hubs flick by and I’m left wondering why we don’t all live off-grid like our friend Miguel. After all, as Thoreau says in Walden; Life in the Woods, “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”
Why can’t I leave it all behind and commit to a life of solitude, or at least one of simple and meaningful interactions?
I think that the real reason we don’t commit isn’t because of fear. It’s because we know, deep down, that permanent hermitage isn’t the answer. Climate change, pollution, human rights, disease, the list goes on — they aren’t going to solve themselves if we hide out in the bush. In fact, it could be considered selfish to spend too much time hiding out alone, ignoring the problems that we all face.
But we’re also not going to perform at our best without taking time for ourselves. Whether we make time for a relax and reset, to do some deep work or connect with those important to us — it’s fast becoming an essential part of modern life. Go and hermit, do it often, and make every moment count.
The sun warms the sky before it warms our faces. Birds in the eucalypts towering above see it first and break out in rapturous approval of the new day. They erupt from the branches and fly as one, murmurating over the misty valley below.
I roll over, warm and snug, and feel a familiar twinge in my arm as it instinctively reaches for my phone. But there’s no phone here, I left it in the car.
Time to put the kettle on.
Photos by Tom Darley
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