The Art of the Unplug
4 WAYS I’M FINDING PRESENCE AFTER MY STAY AT A “SECRET HOTEL”
In completely unmarked land, there’s a time capsule of farmhouses from the 1800s, yurts dotted in the grass near an untamed firepit, and wild herbs and mushrooms speckled in 252 acres of fertile ground—it’s the high-end, low-key self-described “secret hotel” called The Dutchess. With an invitation-only entry, this experiential “retreat” of sorts is designed to be without expectation, to help foster a sense of presence, community, and bonding with anyone who finds themselves in this tucked away verdant getaway. Plus, in an age where worth is attributed to the buzz you garner and the “FOMO” you elicit, this off-the-grid approach makes it an even more satisfying leap of faith...you have to go to feel it. After experiencing the art of the unplug myself on a recent company retreat, I left with four tips to get back to basics even in the mix of hectic, modern life.
For a hotel that holds their cards close to the chest in terms of publicity, their approach to food is total transparency. Instead of staying rigid to a menu template, the chef and farmer of the land (Mark Margiotta of Eleven Madison Park and Zach Wolf of Stone Barns Center of Food and Agriculture) forecast what’s best for picking and stay flexible with what will taste the best. The farm itself is working towards biodynamic certification (a word you might recognize in the wine world, but which means understanding the soil as a living organism and which breathes and goes through ‘planetary rhythms’). Beyond this, The Dutchess uses organic practices and sustainable methods including geothermal heating, onsite water filtration, a solar field, a flower garden, and are in the process of building greenhouses. These practices create hundreds of pounds of food—80 percent of which is donated to food pantries.
We indulged in the plant-based, gluten-free, hyperlocal feast and even took a walking tour through the farm to see what was growing; tearing off blades of radish greens and tasting the signature bitter flavor on our tongues as we went.
Putting It Into Practice: Quality is everything. Whether it’s a square of chocolate, a plate of greens, or a full glass of wine—asking questions about where your food comes from makes all the difference to how the nutrition informs your body. It’s a reminder to foster relationships with your farmer and support companies with organic, hyperlocal practices.
DO TALK TO STRANGERS
It’s apparent from the start there’s an emphasis on bonding. The vibe that the founder, Rameet Chawla, encourages is one of getting vulnerable and breaking bread with people you’ve never met before. While there, guests can enjoy going out into the fields together to pick produce for dinner, eat at communal tables, and co-create the itinerary of their stay with fellow Dutchess inhabitants. All of this, in an effort to jump over the hurdle of making new friends and building a community as an adult. “If you go to a friend’s birthday you’re totally cool talking to a stranger at that party. If it’s at your friend’s apartment for example,” Chawla explains. “But if you bumped into someone on the subway—it could be that they’re going to the same party, but you likely won’t strike up a conversation with them. The reason [you would at the birthday] is that a party is curated, or at least you have a sense of curation there."
Putting It Into Practice: Hectic real-life days discourage casual camaraderie, but there’s power in looking someone in the eyes when ordering a coffee, sharing a soft smile with a fellow bus passenger, or striking up a conversation with someone you cross paths with regularly.
TAKE A SOCIAL MEDIA HIATUS
Artificial blue light on your phone and EMF radiation from power lines inhibits great sleep, hormone balance, and has been connected to a slew of health issues. Without resorting to a doomsday attitude or giving up modern life luxuries, venturing out into nature on a regular basis can have profound effects on your wellbeing. With a weaker-than-usual WiFi connection, The Duchess is a celebration in escaping the matrix. Here, you won’t find TVs in the room or anything resembling a hotel business center. Instead, you’re encouraged to forget the impulse to check your phone and get out into the lush farmland and woods. There, wild mushrooms abound, creaky bridges stretched across babbling brooks, and you’re introduced to a night so pitch black you can actually see constellations. The simple act of disconnecting with this tech universe has been shown to boost mood, increase libido, stabilize hormone levels, and reinstate a healthy dose of melatonin.
Putting it Into Practice: The Dutchess might inspire a phone-free Sunday rule, or the potential to support others in a less tech-reliant world. Perhaps it’s introducing a book club, getting outside for coffee instead of a friendship solely through text or choosing nature over concrete at least on a quarterly basis.
SAY YES TO DESSERT
Sakara Health Coach, Sasha Pagni, developed a sweet treat for our team as a gift while we were away at “camp.” Think s’mores, up-leveled.
“This recipe was born out of love for friends, healthy ingredients, and my desire to bring peace everywhere I go.
It’s made with the intention of bringing calmness to the body and mind with the help of pearl, reishi, and Sakara Hemp Chocolates.
This recipe is a reclamation piece that pays tribute to the types of foods toxic diet culture has warned us to stay away from: cookies, chocolate, things that have been deemed too sweet and indulgent to ever be good for us. It combines all the joy of dessert with all the benefits of food as medicine.”
Putting it Into Practice: Make these! Sakara Hemp Chocolate Cookie Bars