Serenity Now: Back-to-Nature Retreats

Sometimes you just have to get away. The endless staff meetings, the constant ping of emails and texts, the checking of phones at all hours… it’s surprising the modern worker gets anything done at all. But even company meetings and off-sites can be fraught with distractions. And as long as there’s a wireless connection somewhere, checking your phone can prove too strong a temptation.

Decamping to an off-grid location for your next company retreat eliminates those pesky distractions and helps restore focus, especially when it comes to the creative aspects of a business. What’s more, a bit of digital detox and a healthy dose of unspoiled nature can do wonders for anyone stuck in an office rut and beset by long hours. And while it may be more of a travel challenge to get to and from a remote destination, the rewards are obvious at the first sight of unfettered nature, and lung-fulls of fresh air.

Here are a few select destinations where cell phones make great paperweights:

When you come to a fork in the Blackfoot River, take it (to paraphrase a certain Yogi). You’ll know you’ve arrived at the Resort at Paws Up – 37,000 acres of rustic luxury surrounded by national forests a 45-minute drive from Missoula, Montana. If you’ve seen the Brad Pitt film A River Runs Through It, you’ll recognize the picturesque meadows, towering evergreens, nearby mountains, amazing sunsets… and that river. The working ranch offers horseback adventures, fly fishing, rafting trips and plenty of seclusion. Your group can also choose from one of five glamping sites several miles from the village that won’t leave you wanting for amenities.

How green is your destination? You won’t find anywhere much leafier than the endless forests in and around Yosemite National Park, and the 22-acre cabin resort of Evergreen Lodge. You also won’t lack for outdoor options here, with the world-famous park offering its iconic views and a variety of hiking trails through meadows and past lakes and waterfalls. Groups can opt for fully furnished cabins – there’s 90 here – with meetings set up under the pines (if you wish) and s’mores parties around roaring fires.

When you really need unplugged seclusion for your next incentive or meeting, the only real choice is to rent your own island. That’s right, taking over the private Little Palm Island in the Florida Keys is an actual thing, and getting there (by boat or seaplane) is half the fun. Surrounded by sky blue waters and alive with palms and tropical plants, the resort’s 30 luxury suites come with oceanfront verandas, and waterside group dining by torchlight is de rigueur. Sailing, snorkeling and cloud-spotting are a few of the activity options.

On the opposite end the continent, Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort is another boat- or fly-in only waterfront lodge. Located north of Vancouver on the coast of British Columbia, the resort is your group’s own secret hideaway in the midst of old growth rain forests and misty fjords, with nary a sign of civilization for hundreds of miles. Wooden chalets practically spill out onto the water, where activities include kayaking, paddle-boarding or whale watching, with tours of the waterways from First Nation guides.

Emerald Lake Lodge is actually accessible by car, but only after traveling to Calgary, Alberta, and into the Canadian Rockies of Banff and Yoho National Parks. Dating from 1902, the former timber property lodge is year-round, meaning boating, hiking and fishing during the summer months give way to winter activities such as cross-country and downhill skiing. The two-story alpine cabins sit next to a glacial lake – perfect for gazing at the reflections of mountains – and come with fireplaces and private balconies.


John Anderson

John Anderson

John Anderson is an award-winning journalist, travel writer and blogger based in San Jose, California. He has covered the meetings and hospitality industry extensively since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @jcax01

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