The first thing I reach for in the morning and the last thing I touch at night is my laptop and mobile phone. Steve Jobs has a lot to answer for. I don’t feel right with the world until I check my Facebook, Twitter feed, emails and favourite news sites. Clearly I have a problem. Which is why I decided to hand over all technology to my boyfriend for seven days while I retreat to a week-long tech (and caffeine) detox at The Golden Door Elysia in Hunter Valley in Australia’s wine region.
I had my last caffeine fix on the two-hour drive from Sydney to the property and I know it is only a matter of time before the headache hits in a resort where caffeine is considered contraband. In typical urban stress-head style I am eager for the relaxing and rejuvenating to begin, almost wishing my week away before it has begun.
Arriving mid afternoon I am led through a giant door painted gold into a foyer of neutral tones and soothing light wood worthy of Scandinavia. I long to be as serene as the surroundings.
I join the property tour with the programme director, Sally Dickinson, who just oozes good health. Her skin glows and her demeanour is welcoming and I feel positively sallow of skin next to her.
The Golden Door is the first purpose-built health retreat in Australia and it shows. A well thought-out layout of 74 room options in a series of villas surround ‘meditation hill,’ completely covered in lavender bushes and a spiral trail that leads to 360 degree views from a Tai Chi platform on the top.
I’m told we’ll welcome the day up here each morning at 6:30am but only if we want to. The wellness philosophy here is about positive support at your pace, not boot camp shouting at someone else’s. The Golden Door was originally founded in Queensland in 1993, one of Australia’s first health retreats. The Queensland property still exists and the brand has also expanded into day spas.
But Elysia is now their flagship property and I can understand why. The main building with the golden door houses a lecture room, retail shop, lounge with fire place, dining room and wrap around balconies. It is the hub of the resort, as well as the entry and exit point.
Each luxury villa faces outward with balconies catching the sunrise or sunset with bush land below filled with kangaroos complete with joeys in their mother’s pouch. I can feel the stress fighting to exhale from my tension-filled body as I unpack enough clothes for a four week jaunt around Michelin-starred Europe, not a week at a retreat where gym gear and sweat pants are de rigeur.
The first night is spent getting to know my fellow retreaters over a preservative additive free organic breast of chicken and salad. There’s talk of early morning wake up calls so I head to bed with a book, lest I don’t get my eight hours of beauty sleep.