As two brothers who decided that the corporate, 9-to-5 life was not all there is, Cam and Chris Grant took the tiny house philosophy to the Australian wilderness in 2017. Now, a year and a bit on from their launch, Unyoked have six locations, three in Sydney and three in Melbourne, all two hours away from their respective cities. Here we chat with them about unplugging, getting off the grid and the value of recharging in nature.
BYO: Has running Unyoked led you to transitional away from corporate life, or reinvigorated you?
Cam: I don't think we'll be going back in a hurry. As the crew here will be happy to tell you, I find it tough enough these days to put shoes on let alone a suit, haha!
We created Unyoked as an antidote to corporate life. I mean, we're all for being creative and solving problems, but we don't think you should have to sit at a desk for 8hrs a day to do that. I think more and more people are starting to realise that, and it's pretty cool to be able to build a company around the way we want to work instead of doing things ‘because that's how they're done’.
BYO: As collaboration between brothers, were there experiences or moments from your childhood that you referred to when creating Unyoked?
Cam and Chris: We moved around a lot as kids: born in Darwin, lived in Melbourne twice, Sydney twice and Perth once. While having to move all the time as a kid kinda sucked, looking back now that semi-nomadic childhood meant we didn't get attached to things, and because a lot of our stuff was always in boxes we learnt to appreciate the outdoors and spend a lot of our time out there. I guess you could maybe say in some way Unyoked was us wanting to bring back that feeling of independence, getting away from the corporate/busy culture we were stuck in and pretending to be nomads without all the stuff of modern life for just a bit longer.
BYO: How do you fight the compulsion to be 'busy'?
Cam: You know, we created Unyoked because we were starting to see ourselves, and our mates around us, mistake making a living for having a life: working late at the office and telling everyone how ‘busy’ we were and all that. The irony is that building a start-up makes you pretty busy, but even when we're stuck in the city one of the things we've learnt is try to make time for a bit of play each day.
Whether it's just a 10-minute walk around the block or a paddle after work, we try to remind ourselves we always have time, it's just how we choose to spend it that makes the difference. And, those times you're ‘on’ only get better when you've had a bit of time ‘off’, so we try keeping that in mind
BYO: How have you been able to feel the benefits of nature since starting Unyoked?
Cam and Chris: Haha, look, we're definitely drinking the Kool-Aid here, but I'd like to say anyone in our position would be. Whether we're rushing around on a scouting trip trying to see four properties in one day 100 kilometres apart, or it's the coldest day for 10 years in Melbourne and you're moving a cabin onto site wearing, let's say, unfortunate clothing choices, the moment we stop, step back and take in the epic landscapes we're exploring, the effect is immediate: you get that little buzz at the back of your neck, feel relaxed, calm and all your worries disappear. It sounds like I'm pitching you right now, but honestly it does. We're still looking for a word to describe it, but mostly we call it "wilderness vibes".
BYO: What do you turn to when needing that natural refresh?
Cam: I'll head for a surf or a paddle. There's something about being out there on the water that just centres you and helps me realise that yeah, some of those emails can actually wait a little bit longer. For Chris, it's down to the Royal National Park. Not many people realise you can duck down there, get a quick hike in, and be back within two hours - give it a try.
BYO: There’s been a bit of research about the health benefits of being around nature, what’ve been the most surprising finding of research into the health benefits of nature that you've come across?
Cam and Chris: There's an awesome study done on mice by a biologist over at Duke University that we love which points to the huge benefits of silence on brain. Apparently they thought that playing sounds would spur the growth of brain cells in mice, but actually they ended up finding that the two hours of silence they included in the study as a control was the most effective, i.e. when the most regeneration occurred. This one's big for us because these days out in nature is the only place where you can truly find peace and quiet - away from audiobooks, cars, your phone vibrating while you're pretending to meditate etc. Even now as we're typing in the relatively quiet office the fridge is making a bunch of noise, reminding us we're in the built environment. One of the things of being out there in the wilderness all alone with yourself is that you can appreciate silence and, we're no mice, really understand what the scientists are talking about.
BYO: How did you design nature into the cabins themselves?
Cam and Chris: The philosophy behind how we handcraft our cabins is to make you feel in the landscape, not on it. We design all the hideouts 100 per cent off the grid, meaning they capture rainfall, are solar powered and use a composting toilet system, and they are specifically designed on wheels so that we can get them in and out of these unique areas with little to no impact on the environment. Our aim is to protect these wilderness areas and leave them like we were never there, should the cabins need to move.
Inside the cabins are minimally designed. Everything is functional, pared back and each cabin features oversized windows, forcing you to focus on what's important while bringing the outside in. The idea behind our aesthetic is imagine yourself walking through somewhere like Yosemite and stumbling upon a cabin in the woods. It's about connecting with the wild, slowing down and feeling close to an earlier time away from the hassles of the 9-to-5.
Find out more on Unyoked here: https://www.unyoked.co/.