Lodged Out: An Outdoorsy Unplugged Retreat for Creatives

My pre-arthritic fingers needed a rest from the continuous typing, scrolling, and tapping. 
My mind desired clarity not tethered to a timeline and born out of a lack of distraction.  
My spirit craved the type of energy that occurs effortlessly from an authentic connection, refreshingly honest conversations, and pure untouched landscapes.

 Founder Bobbilee at Tall Timber - Photo by Retreat Photographer  Alycia Lovell Photography

Founder Bobbilee at Tall Timber - Photo by Retreat Photographer Alycia Lovell Photography

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Three days at Lodged Out provided all that and then some. 

I had been keeping an eye on the tech-free camp since my friend Haley attended their inaugural camp in Idaho. (She did a great feature about it on She Explores. You can read it here. ) It encapsulated so much of what I love and live for - connection and community, creativity, the outdoors, and the chance to really unplug. 

When I found out there was going to be a winter camp just over the pass from Seattle, all arrows were pointing to 'sign up'.  The decision was one of the best I've made for myself in the past six months. Now that I've been home and had time to process the experience, I can see that my participation was an important investment for both my personal wellbeing and professional growth. 

About Lodged Out

Lodged Out exists to bring like-minded people to the mountains for experiential learning so they can rid themselves of distraction and immerse themselves into an experience with inspiring people - because when you disconnect, you reconnect.
— Founder Bobbilee
 Founder Bobbilee at Tall Timber - Photo by Retreat Photographer  Alycia Lovell Photography

Founder Bobbilee at Tall Timber - Photo by Retreat Photographer Alycia Lovell Photography

Lodged Out - Tall Timber Style

It's hard to imagine a more picturesque place than Tall Timber Ranch for a retreat. We had the entire grounds to ourselves and bunked in cute A-frame and bunk-house style cabins. Situated about 30 miles Northwest of Leavenworth, Tall Timber borders the Glacier Peak Wilderness Area and is surrounded by alpine meadows and snow-capped mountains. The area became our playground every morning as we strapped on Nordic skis or snowshoes and tromped (or glided) around the camp.

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Nothing to do, Nowhere to go, No one to be
— Lodged Out Speaker, Tatiana Simonian

One morning we went searching for a waterfall, the next morning a group of us sat by a glacier river and talked about everything and nothing. The first 3-4 hours of the day were free to spend however we liked. And we liked to spend that time together. Distraction free. Cell phone free. Any type of screen free. My guess is that the lack of distraction led to a more immediate connection with one another. There was a presence in conversations - eye contact, intuitive body language, thoughtful questions - all of the signs that point to active listening. There was a distinct sense that not only did we all want to be there psychically, but we wanted to be there for each other emotionally. 


Lodged Out - Workshops + Speakers

I was particularly excited for the outdoor stewardship workshop with Katie Boué and creative writing workshop with Erin Rose Belair. 

I spend a lot of time recreating and promoting an outdoor lifestyle, so I was eager to learn about how to be a better advocate for the outdoors. If you're interested in learning how to do that, give Katie a follow. She's a fantastic resource. 

I also spend a lot of time writing, both personal journaling and for client work. With anything you do often, it's easy to slip into a pattern or habitual way of doing it. My writing had started to sound all the same to me. I was hoping the workshop would rattle some dormant creativity in me and it did! Erin taught us about lyrical essays and gave us a framework for creating our own. I've shared the essay I came up with at the bottom of this post if you're interested in reading.  

After our workshops, it was whiskey and dinner time followed by speakers and fireside chats. Being the grandma that I am, I rarely made it past 10pm. I would feel a high from the day that would carry me to the edge of the night before crashing from emotional exhaustion. But it was the good kind of emotional exhaustion. The kind that emanates from giving people your full attention, talking and listening for hours, and trying new things. 

 Photo by Retreat Photographer  Alycia Lovell Photography

Photo by Retreat Photographer Alycia Lovell Photography

Bye Bye, Tall Timber

When the time came to leave, I experienced a range of emotions. I was creativity inspired, ready to start new projects and dive into work. I was somber about leaving new friends.  I was anxious to  depart the quiet of the mountains and enter back into the chaos of the city, the chaos of everyday technology. And I was motivated to be a better outdoor activist, a better ally to WOC, a smarter entrepreneur, a more vulnerable and present friend, daughter, sister and wife. All of this as a result of taking 3 days to unplug with 35 or so creative strangers in the woods. 

Follow Lodged Out to get updates on their retreats. 
Instagram @lodgedout

Untitled Lyrical Essay -

I’m thinking about cooking dinner with Jared
Do-si-do’ing around each other in our tiny kitchen,
working separately on the same recipe
trying not to choke on the smoke rising from the cast iron
this hundred-year-old home needs a fan

vegetables sizzling, oil crackling
the occasional ‘oh shit’
vibrates off the mint green walls we didn’t paint
The music floats in from the record player in the living room

we pause and reach for each other
one hand held and one hand resting
on a back
or a hip
we start to move, small steps
creating small circles as we spin around
our favorite room in this hundred-year-old home

I wonder how much longer we’ll live here?

live simply
simply live
city living sometimes feels like anything but
I daydream about a new place to plant intentional roots
but where?

We’ll take certain things with us
the Belgian linen sheets that shelter our bodies at night
furniture that’s been passed on from parents
the record player, boxes of well-loved books
and the cast iron that’s heard our laughter, our curses
and watched us dance circles in our tiny kitchen

I’ve heard the phrase
”you can always go back”
but whoever actually does?

You live in the past, or you live in the present.

Travel: New Zealand - 3 Weeks on the South Island

From the moment we landed in New Zealand,  I knew that we were in one the most beautiful countries on Earth. Sure, I had spent hours eyeballing internet imagery and knew it was going to be exquisite.  But nothing compares to experiencing it first hand.  The country is the definition of utopia, elaborate with diverse landscapes and climates, brimming with friendly locals, travelers and happy farm animals. As opposed to a lot of the yearlong travelers we met, Jared and I had three weeks to experience the country's vast scenery. With that timeline, we stuck to venturing around the South Island. 



 If you are reading this and are planning your own trip to NZ (whether it's booked or a bucket list) this would be my one piece of advice: go for as long as possible.

To maximize on our time, we adhered to a 2 night minimum stay so we aren't continuously packing, unpacking, checking in and checking out of AirBNB's.  Below is our three week itenerary and a few helpful tips about traveling through the country.  Reach out or leave a comment if you have any questions or additional advice for readers. 

1. Abel Tasman National Park (3 days, 2 nights): 

  • Location: Top of the South Island
  • Distance: 37 miles / 60 km (in full)
  • Size: 55,672 acres and New Zealand's smallest national park
  • Campsite Price: $15 pp, must be booked in advance
For at least 500 years Maori lived along the Abel Tasman coast, gathering food from the sea, estuaries and forests, and growing kumera on suitable sites. Most occupation was seasonal but some sites in Awaroa estuary were permanent. The Ngati Tumatakokiri people were resident when, on 18 December 1642, the Dutch seafarer Abel Tasman anchored his two ships near Wainui in Mohua (Golden Bay), the first European to visit Aotearoa - New Zealand.
— DOC Abel Tasman

Beginning in Abel Tasman was 100% intentional.  We needed to experience the opposite season than the one we were in. We enthusiastically traded in short, dreary winter days for the heat wave of summer. Exposing our skin to the sun was marvelous and I was surprised at how the act of wearing a bathing suit could be a source of so much joy.  

We took a 2 hour water taxi ride which dropped us off at Totaranui, a popular beach for locals.  On the way in we saw seals, sting rays and got a historical background of the park from our driver.  Once we were dropped off, we started towards our first camping spot at Onetahuti Bay. Out agenda was simple; soak in the sunshine and get some water therapy. In between that we cooked, read and made conversation with other campers. Two in particular, a couple from Wellington were on a tour promoting a waste-free life. Read about how they inspired my post about reducing waste while traveling here.

The second night we camped at Te Pukatea, a section of the trail accessible only by boat or hiking. There were only 7 campsites, and we found ourselves alone much of the time. We enjoyed the quiet and reveled in our distance from technology. For some, having no cell phone service is a cause for a breakdown, but we love it. Jared actually kept his phone off the entire three weeks! 



  • Make sure to sunscreen your entire body. I forgot to cover my feet and my poor feet burned, which then caused them to swell and created nasty blisters. 
  • On the day you hike out, stop at Hooked On Marahau to refuel before hitting the road. I don't typically eat meet but holy hell that burger was divine. 
 But seriously, a burger and beer after hiking is so necessary. The Hooked Cafe is conveniently located right outside the park.

But seriously, a burger and beer after hiking is so necessary. The Hooked Cafe is conveniently located right outside the park.

 2. Punakaiki / Paparoa National Park (3 days, 3 nights):

  • Location: West Coast 
  • Established: 1987
  • Size: 10,6181 acres

From Abel Tasman we drove south west towards Punakaiki.  Jared had found a sweet off the grid cabin and we splurged by booking 3 nights. We  didn't have any plans, which was probably a good thing since a cyclone rolled in and we couldn't leave our cabin! We were safe, but stuck in the cabin for over a day. We did manage to take a quick trip to the popular Punakaiki Pancake Rocks. A short, paved loop trail  takes you through incredible Limestone landscapes.  It was one of the most "touristy" things we did, but it was fascinating to read about the rocks 30 million year old history and how they were formed.  

* We found the cabin on Canopy Glamping. Our off the grid-hut was built by a local builder and artist, and consisted of two small timber huts, adjoined by a covered outdoor kitchen and living area. Everything from the furniture and decor, to the materials used to build the hut were intentional.  


3. Wanaka (4 nights) 

Wanaka was one of two towns we stayed in and we fell in love with it instantly. Any location that combines easy access to the outdoors, healthy creative food options, and a friendly community immediately has me daydreaming about a move.  Wanaka gets bonus points for being surrounded by water. Everyday, we followed the same simple pattern of coffee + breakfast, a hike followed by lunch and another coffee, downtime (reading/nap), a walk around town, and dinner. I love staying in a place long enough to develop a little routine. Below is a list of hikes we did and cafes/restaurants we ate at. 


Hikes in Wanaka: 

  • Roy's Peak - 10 miles roundtrip; 4-5 hours
    The proximity of this hike from town makes it an accessible trail for travelers. From the lake level, a steep gradient begins and doesn't let up till you finish at the top. There is a 4,000 feet elevation gain in the (almost) 5 mile climb. The views are spectacular and urge you along the way as you pass farmland, tussock and on a clear day, Mt. Aspiring. 
  • Rob Roy Glacier - 6.2 miles roundtrip; 2-4 hours
    This trail can be summed up in one word: diverse. Along the short 3.2 mile walk to the glacier, you pass through a gorge, beech forest, and an alpine valley. The drive to the trailhead felt longer than the hike itself, but the valley floor is gorgeous and home to adorable roaming cattle and sheep. 
  • Isthmus Peak - 10 miles roundtrip; 4-5 hours
    This peak tops at around 4,543 feet and is similar in  length and elevation to Roy's Peak. The track overlooks Lake Wanaka and Lake Hāwea, with views of the Southern Alps and the town. It's a long steady climb that's well maintained and not as crowded as Roy's. The best part (in my opinion) was walking through the fields of alpine tussock. 
 Moody clouds rolling in as we climb to the top of Isthmus Peak.

Moody clouds rolling in as we climb to the top of Isthmus Peak.

 Feeling wind and freedom at the top of Isthmus Peak.

Feeling wind and freedom at the top of Isthmus Peak.

Where to Eat & Drink in Wanaka:

  • Ritual Espresso Cafe: Anything off the breakfast menu + delicious baked goods + coffee
  • The Big Fig: "slow food served fast" - Modern Middle Eastern eatery right on the lake and open all day. Finish off your meal with one of their carrot cakes.
  • Francesca's Kitchen: Arrive early or book reservations in advance. Authentic, affordable Italian cuisines and an extensive New Zealand wine list. 
  • Kika: One of our top meals while in New Zealand. The trendy spot is tapas-style dishes that are inventive and seasonal. We were close to returning for another dinner but opted to try something new. Jared and I shared the Roasted cauliflower, whipped tahini, pine nut furikake and dates, the Roasted carrots, harissa, yoghurt, rye granola, and the Lamb shoulder, preserved lemon, rosemary, chilli.  I would order it all again in a hearbeat.

4. Mt Cook National Park, (2 days, 1 night) 

  • Location: Central part of the South Island 
  • Established: 1953
  • Size: 174,772 acres 

Staying overnight at the bright red Mueller Hut was one of the highlights of the trip. You know how some trips (or more specifically hikes) are about the journey? Well this one wasn't. This hike was definitely about the destination. It is only 3.2 miles but has a total elevation gain of 3,280 feet. I hadn't looked into it until I searched online and saw the estimated climb time of 4 hours. That long of a trek for that short of mileage usually means one thing- UP. The first bit is stairs, stairs, and more stairs. We passed a guy coming down who said "this was the stairway to heaven, now it's a stairway to hell." With my mental and physical energy focused on the uphill, I couldn't be bothered to think about tomorrow when we too, would be headed back down.  

We finished in 2.5 hours and I hastily bundled up on the deck of the hut, ate my sandwich and fell asleep in the sun. The remaining hours of the day passed slowly. We chatted with day hikers, explored the surrounding area and made a little home in the bunkhouse we shared with the other overnight hikers. 

Our hut warden for the night was Neville, a local kiwi who had been volunteering at Mueller for the last 10 years. He pointed out the mountain ranges in view, gave us a history of who climbed it when (shout out to Freda Du Faur, first female to climb Mt. Cook), and what stars we would see as the day shifted into night. 

Within 12 hours, we experienced the the most spectacular sunset and sunrise. At almost 6,000 feet up, we had a 360-degree panorama encompassing glaciers, ice cliffs, and some of New Zealand’s highest peaks.


5. Kepler Track (3 days, 2 nights) :

Location: Fiordland National Park
Distance: 37 miles / 60 km
Hiking Time: 3-4 days 


The Kepler Track is one of nine great walks in New Zealand. Great walks are New Zealand's premium tracks and are accessible from major towns that are well serviced by local operators and accommodation and transport providers. They are well formed/maintained and easy to follow. (Abel Tasman is also a great walk!) 


By the time we began the Kepler Track, we had hiked 6 days in a row. My body felt simultaneously strong and drained. I knew it would be a great hike but I was also craving stillness and a soft bed. We had originally planned to do the hike in 4 days but ended up finishing in 3 because that soft bed was calling both our names. Not to mention we were both getting eaten alive by mosquitos and we had hit a hiking breaking point. 

We started the hike in mid afternoon but walked a relatively flat and shaded 9 miles to our first camp spot at Broad Bay. We began the second day early, knowing that we had 15 miles to go with the most elevation gain of the trek. We stopped at the Luxmore Hut for a quick snack, bathroom break, and to layer on more clothes. Now that we were at the ridge line, the temperatures were much cooler and the wind was whipping. Raindrops felt intermittently as we  walking along the spine of the mountains. It was the highlight of the hike, looking down at the lakes and seeing other mountains jut out from the water.

At around mile 10 we began the descent and with every achy step we got closer to our home for the night, the Iris Burns Hut . Sleep came really easy that night. On day 3 we began the trail early, moving quickly through the beech forest and finally back to the car park.  We were able to book an extra night at our AirBNB and were enjoying and a shower and Netflix by sundown. 


6. Te Anau (3 nights)


Our AirBNB was situated out of town on a lovely farm and we didn't venture to town that often. Multiple people told us to go to Doubtful Sound vs Milford (because Doubtful was the less busy/chaotic spot) so we did book a full day tour though Go Orange cruise.  Despite Seattle-like weather, cruising through the fjords was gorgeous and it was a nice break from being on our feet. We did drive up to Milford Sound just to take in the scenery and stopped to do a quick hike to  Lake Marian . The rest of our time was spent on the farm or near Lake Te Anau. It was the perfect way to spend our last few days in New Zealand. 


8 Simple Ways to Reduce Waste While Traveling

There is almost nothing more I love than traveling, but I struggle with the fact that my penchant for exploration, namely on far-off continents, comes with an environmental cost. Back in 2013, the New York Times published a story called "Your Biggest Carbon Sin May Be Air Travel"  and after returning from New Zealand, I can relate. Our flight from Seattle to the north island, (with a stopover in Hawaii) was a 14,000+ mile air journey. In carbon emission terms, we expanded our carbon footprint by 1.646 tons of CO2e.

In case you're curious about what a carbon footprint is..... 

Carbon footprint is defined as "the total amount of greenhouse gases produced to, directly and indirectly, support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide. (timeforachange.org) " These gases are generated by our everyday actions including transportation, home energy use, diet choices, recycling practices, and waste production. In 2014, the average American's carbon footprint was 16.4 metric tons while the global average was about five tons per person in 2013 (New York Times).


Our first stop upon arriving in New Zealand was Abel Tasman National Park. During our first night of camping, we met No-Waste nomads Hannah and Liam.  The couple had recently left their home in Wellington to travel the south island in search of a new home, and host events along the way to talk about their zero waste lifestyle commitment. 

Even if you don’t have a goal of zero waste, everyone can do small things to reduce their waste footprint.
— Hannah Blumhardt

For three years, Hannah and Liam have been living without a trash can, buying food in bulk to forgo plastic, and creating their own personal care products from scratch. Lacking pretension but not passion, they talked about their concern for the environment, and offered up advice on how to move through the world without creating more waste. 

Our conversation had a strong impact on me and urged me to reflect on the choices I make out of habit and convenience.  As we backpacked our way through the country, I began to take notes of no-waste wins, losses and what we could improve on.

 typical breakfast scene // Multi Compact Titanium Cook-set from Snow Peak + Hydro Flask Coffee Mug 

typical breakfast scene // Multi Compact Titanium Cook-set from Snow Peak + Hydro Flask Coffee Mug 

Here is a list of practices that are easy to adopt and can make an impact even if it's a small one. While I don't plan to ever stop traveling completely, I can commit to traveling better and more efficiently. This is just a starting point and I'm interested in learning more about further practice and habits I can implement.  If you have any suggestions, please share them with me in the comments below. 

8 Ways to Reduce Waste While Traveling 

  1. Bring Reusable Bags: Some countries and cities have a ban or fees on plastic bagsbut you can avoid wondering or worrying about it by bringing your own. This may be the most talked about habit to adopt, but it's also probably the easiest. Bags are lightweight, easy to pack, and don't take up much space. They are great for toting groceries, can be used as a beach bag, or as extra luggage on the way home. 
    - BAG IT UP  
  2. Use Bee's Wrap for Food: The natural alternative to plastic wrap for food storage, Bee’s Wrap is washable, reusable and compostable. The wrap is made with organic cotton, beeswax, organic jojoba oil, and tree resin, and helps to keep foods fresh. Instead of protecting a sandwich with a plastic bag, or throwing out fruits or veggies because there is no way to properly store them, wrap it all up in Bee's wrap! Wash it with cool water and gentle soap and it's ready to reuse. 
  3. Invest in a Set of Reusable Utensils, Coffee Mug, Water Bottle, etc: Do plastic water bottles irk anyone else as much as they irk me? I understand that water in a lot of countries is not safe to drink, but for developed nations who can drink safely from the tap I don't see the point? My Hydroflask water bottle and coffee mug accompany me on my travels and we use Snowpeak's Compact Cook Set while backpacking/camping.  
  4. Use Public Transportation When Available: This tip really depends on the type of travel you are doing. For example when we were in Europe last year, we relied solely on our feet and the train.  The infrastructure was there and it was simple and cost effective to utilize. In New Zealand, we rented a car because we were driving all the way from the north end to the south end of the island and the train didn't go 90% of our destinations. Wherever you're going, public transportation is worth checking out. It's better for the environment and typically better for your wallet too.
  5. Support Restaurants & Shops With Ethical Practices: There are a number of ways to seek out places that value our environment and the people it sustains. I recommend researching options before you go. Jared and I both really enjoy food so I created a spreadsheet of the places we might want to try out in the town we were visiting.  A short read through the restaurant's website lets me know if they source locally and what their sustainability standards are. Asking for a locals opinion is also a great option once you get to your destination. 
  6. Offset It - When you buy carbon offsets, you pay to take planet-warming carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere in exchange for the greenhouse gases you put in. Some airlines allow you to purchase offsets but it might not be during the booking process (some have separate sustainability pages you need to navigate too).  For example, you can put money toward replanting trees, which absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. I haven't done a ton of research on organizations that are working to offset costs, but below are a few with a larger online presence. 
  7. Learn About Local Recycling - I'm not the only one who has stood in front of a few multi-colored bins wondering how to sort out my rubbish right? The logistics of recycling can be really confusing, but it's our responsibility to figure out the proper bins for our various waste. Since each country or state is different, learn the waste management system before you get there. Even better, try and go for items that are compostable and use your reusable utensils and containers. 

  8. Go Digital - I admit I am very fond of all things print - I love magazines, books and newspapers, especially in other countries.  I've reconciled with this by sharing when I'm done with them - like leaving a read newspaper in a coffee shop for someone else to enjoy. Or giving a finished book to a flight attendant or host if they are interested in it. Otherwise, it's easy enough to keep things digital like flight tickets and entertainment in the form of e-books and podcasts. Oh and one thing I really regret doing is taking a bunch of tourist/visitor information pamphlets. Trust me, you won't want them once you're home!