CABN is the new off-grid Adelaide Hills accommodation that offers an escape for the permanently switched on. Good things come in small packages. Especially tiny house getaways.
The kangaroo raises its head and puts its nose to the breeze to determine whether we are friend or foe. Unperturbed, it turns tail and disappears into the rugged South Australian landscape. We smile, roll over, pull the blanket tight, and go back to the serious task at hand: sleeping in.
This isn’t camping. It’s far too comfortable for that. This is a new kind of getaway. One with all the benefits of a secluded weekend in the sticks – minus the twigs in the hair, tent air mattress, and sore camping back. It’s also surprisingly close to home.
There’s an air of secrecy around the location of CABN, a miniature hideaway in the Adelaide Hills. That’s the way owner Michael Lamprell wants it to stay.
“When I first came up here I couldn’t believe something so close to the city could be so incredibly remote,” he says. “This is 180 acres of scrub. It’s spectacular.”
The little things make this tiny two-and-a-half by six-metre structure shine. The CABN (named ‘Jude’ after Michael’s mum) features large windows looking out over rolling hills dotted with wattle and native flora. The air is clear, there’s dirt beneath your feet, birdsong on the breeze, a halo of towering gums above, and a feeling of peace, and connection to nature.
The short walk from a leafy parking bay through scrubland to the CABN is therapeutic. “I wanted to to create something where people would be able to switch off. That was my main motivation.”
It’s difficult to feel stressed in a setting like this. Michael designed the off the grid CABN to make the most of the beautiful surrounds. It all looks and feels very Scandinavian. It’s not. “The only thing that isn’t South Australian built or bought is the little heater.”
The steel-frame structure stands three-point-seven metres tall and large windows let natural light (and jaw-dropping views) in. Inside, it’s remarkably spacious. Marine grade plywood (cut on a water jet) was used to create the eco hills hideaway. There’s a fully-stocked kitchen with a two-burner stove, mini fridge/freezer, a heater, linen, biodegradable shower products, a wine barrel shower (it has to be seen to be believed), and enough room to sleep four. There’s a king single day bed and a king bed accessible by a ladder. It’s a bit like stepping back into childhood, when all you needed in life was a cubby and your imagination.
“It’s a bit like stepping back into childhood, when all you needed in life was a cubby and your imagination.”
In a sense, that’s why Michael turned his back on a 17-year career in sales, marketing, and brand development to pursue a life with more meaning. Burnt out and unfulfilled, he discovered transcendental meditation. That lead to headspace, which in turn led him to pick up the book Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. Inspired, he cut out the crap.
The inspiration came from a study trip to Boston. “A couple of mates and I went to Harvard University to do a leadership course. That’s where I was introduced to this [minimalism] concept.”
During this time he also met the duo behind B&B accommodation business Getaway.
“These two guys were recent graduates from Harvard. Everything there is a tech start-up and it’s all about new software. These guys wanted to do something that, in essence, was anti-technology. Obviously you can’t live without technology these days but the whole idea is to detox and reconnect with yourself and others. It instantly resonated with me. This is not only how I want to live my life – I want to share it with others as well.”
It wasn’t all smooth, eco sailing.
“It’s a hugely emotional process and I haven’t got it right yet. I’m not even close. I’m on my way and I’ve made big lifestyle changes.” Building off-grid, sustainable, eco-friendly tiny houses is his way of doing that.
It was a labour of love. Ironically, Michael worked himself to the bone so the rest of us can escape the rat race. There is no WiFi at the CABN and a storage box for your dog and bone encourages a full digital detox. Even the environmentally friendly composting toilet system is good for the soul.
“It’s minimal footprint and that’s very important. When you’re here, you don’t want to live to excess. You want to honour the ethos of what we’re trying to achieve.” If that means using less water and covering your own waste in sawdust, so be it.
“It’s all very relaxing. And extremely romantic.”
It’s all very relaxing. And extremely romantic. We feasted on cheese, local wine and marshmallows toasted over the fire pit while we chatted about the practicalities of cutting the clutter out of our own lives. Don’t expect to be waited on hand and foot. You’re on your own out here and can’t be an eco-warrior in a remote location without a bit of effort. Bring enough food to last your stay, and take your rubbish home with you. The sense of pride is worth the extra load. “It’s amazing feeling like you don’t rely on anyone,” Michael says. Solar power, some big batteries, and rainwater catchment from the roof looks after the rest. There are big plans for the little abodes. The plan is to roll them out for breaks in spectacular locations across the state. “For people to go somewhere they haven’t been before and really encourage people to switch off. No telly, no bullshit.”
Instead, read a book, play one of the supplied board games, take a walk, talk long into the night, and appreciate the present. The thump, thump, thump of kangaroos, and the inquisitive gaze of wallabies will stay with you long after the mini break is over.
“We get wrapped up in the day-to-day and quickly and easily forget all those things that are important. We all need to make a living but it’s nice to re-set sometimes.”
CABN is priced from $190 per night. >> cabn.life