Tiny homes. Glamping tents. Geodesic domes. In 2020, there are more unique accommodation choices than ever before. But where to find them? You could try trawling through Booking.com or Airbnb (good luck with that), or maybe wait for something to cut through on your Instagram feed.
Or you could use Slow Stays, a new online directory that aims to curate the best slow and sustainable accommodation. Slow Stays launched in late August, with its Australian directory the first in what’s planned to be a worldwide roll out. It’s a new platform by Life Unhurried, a slow-living and slow-travel focused blog and lifestyle brand launched in 2018.
The edit ranges widely – from bubble tents overlooking Capertee Valley in NSW and homesteads in Queensland’s Lamington National Park, to private islands off the coast of Tasmania and minimalist pavilions among the vines in South Australia’s McLaren Vale. What ties it all together is the idea of slowing down and retreating from the clamour of the modern world.
“The uniqueness of the accommodation is certainly one component of it,” Life Unhurried co-founder Celeste Mitchell says. “But it’s really about quantifying what a slow stay is, and we have a checklist of criteria – that it’s regional or rural, that it’s owner operated, that it supports the local community, artists, designers and producers. So those types of elements where you feel it’s somewhere you could retreat to, escape to and really slow down and disconnect from life.
Mitchell and Life Unhurried business partners Krista Eppelstun and Katie Gannon had always intended to create an accommodation directory, but they pulled the trigger earlier this year, when the pandemic precipitated an uptick in interest in domestic holidays.
“We’ve spent a lot of hours turning it into something we’re happy with [that’s] not being influenced by any commercial partners,” Mitchell says. “We wanted it to be an editorial collection and a trusted collection, where it’s properties we feel passionate about.”
Slow Stays launched with a directory just shy of 100 properties across Australia. Mitchell says the intention is to grow that number, but at some stage the listings will be capped.
“We really want it to be, ‘This is the best of the best in Australia,’” she says. “Then down the track we might do New Zealand or California.”
Mitchell stresses that Slow Stays isn’t a booking site. Rather, it’s a straight-up directory. Operators pay to be listed (listings are currently free to help negotiate the Covid-19 downturn) and Mitchell says the idea is to encourage people to book directly, putting more money in the pockets of small business owners.
“People have travelled so much over the past decade,” Mitchell says. “They don’t want to go to a cookie-cutter hotel; they want to escape, reconnect with nature and have a unique experience where they’ll maybe have a connection with the owner or enjoy the story the owner has put into the place. That’s what people are looking for.
“It’s about connection. By booking some of these places, we either really admire the people who created it or we aspire to do something similar … and you get to come back and tell a story about this off-grid accommodation that your friends have never heard of.”