Dreamy new workcation resort in Muskoka offers relief from home office fatigue
More than one year after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, ushering in new ways of life for nearly everyone, everywhere, office workers in downtown Toronto are coming to realize that "working from home" isn't all that we had hoped it might be.
Sure, we're saving money by making lunch in our own kitchens, and our pets are loving the extra cuddles. It's nice to avoid rushed morning commutes on the TTC, too. Plus, wardrobes have never been comfier.
That said, living and working within the same four walls for 12 months straight has been a challenge for many — one that grows more difficult with every marathon Zoom call from the couch — regardless of how much they actually love their careers and what they do.
This frustration has led to the emergence of a real estate trend in which young people are fleeing their tiny downtown condos for larger, less-expensive homes outside the city — places with room to work, live, play and excercise comfortably.
Not all of us have this option, however, whether due to financial constraints, social ties or other responsibilities in Toronto. A good deal of workers are also waiting to find out if they'll be expected in the office again every day when the pandemic ends.
There's no point in moving to cottage country if it means you'll be dealing with four hours of commuting every day in the future — but you can test out what working from an idyllic, nature-filled space would feel like thanks to a new "workcation" resort in the Muskoka region.
Meet Mamalli, a brand new pop-up "remote working campus" in Gravenhurst that's set to open this April, providing downtown-dwellers a refreshing alternative to working from their condos.
"Re-energize, re-connect and re-imagine at our pop-up remote working campus in Gravenhurst, ON, the heart of Cottage Country," reads the facility's website. "The Mamalli experience is a time and place for like-minded visionaries, creators and leaders to live and work."
Guests can stay for either two weeks or four weeks in one of several accomodation types, from a private room in a shared cottage to a spacious four-bedroom villa with a fully-equipped kitchen and gas fireplace.
Rates vary based on where you stay and what you decide to do each day (two-week stays start at $1,750,) but guests are promised above all else "work-friendly accommodations at nature's doorstep that enrich your lifestyle without compromising productivity."
Guaranteed reliable internet and dedicated spaces for working are clutch, but it's what you'll be able to do before and after work that really stands out.
"Instead of migrating five steps from desk to couch at the end of the day, you can go for a walk by the lake. The effects of that are pretty transformative," said Mammali founder Tricia Jose to blogTO this week.
"That being said, we also fully understand you have a 9-5 to attend to, so we've vetted places with strong internet to ensure you aren't compromising your productivity."
Each accommodation in Mamalli comes with a wide variety of amenities, from lakeside activities to free breakfast daily. A "dedicated experience coordinator" and self-guided adventure itineraries will also help you make the most of your days in Gravenhurst.
"This is an opportunity to choose a routine that works for you — sort of like a buffet," Jose explains. "I've also had the great fortune of (virtually) meeting some of the incredible community members that are part of Gravenhurst, as well as a few of the potential participants, and there are so many interesting people to connect with (safely) and learn from."
That said, you're totally welcome to lay back and do your own thing — no socializing necessary. Those who wish to enjoy social festivities and connect with like-minded individuals will be pleased to know that the program attracts people "from all different backgrounds."
Registration launched just one week ago, but Jose says there's already been a lot of interest from folks in the tech and creative industries.
"Generally it seems to attract anyone who wants to shake up their routine a bit, do some deep work, get inspired, or inject a bit of work-life balance into the daily grind," she said.
"I'm having onboarding calls with participants because it's really important to me to understand how I can help make this experience valuable for them, as well as ensure that their values are in line with the program."
As of right now, the campus will only be available to book in April (though Jose says it could be picked up for other months during the year if there's enough interest.)
This is because Mamalli isn't itself, technically, a resort, but a "campus" comprised of resorts, cottages and and hotels in Gravenhurst.
"The goal is to amplify the amazing options that already exist given the tourism industry has really beared the brunt of the pandemic," says Jose, who named the program after a nickname she has for her famously-hospitable and generous mom.
"Gravenhurst is such a beautiful town right at nature's doorstep that it has that natural 'campus' feeling - everything is just a few steps away."
"I drove across Canada from Toronto to Vancouver last summer and found so much value in that experience. I was reminded of how much beauty there was beyond our major cities and tourism hot spots... it helped me refocus my energy and gave me clarity I hadn't had in the months I spent cooped up in my condo," said Jose when asked about why she started the program.
"I also knew the tourism industry had been hard hit by the pandemic and wanted to see what I could do to help. This is the first of hopefully many initiatives to do our part in rebuilding our economy, with communities at the centre."
You may be wondering at this time if you'd even be allowed to visit Gravenhurst next month with COVID-19 restrictions in place. The short answer is yes, but there are a lot of "buts."
First of all, April is still weeks away and it's hard to say where Toronto and the Simcoe Muskoka District, where Gravenhurst is located, will be in the province's colour-coded framework.
"This program will be following provincial recommendations and will not be under operation during lockdown," reads Mamalli's website. "Our partners have been vetted for their COVID-compliant cleaning protocol including: frequent disinfection of high-touch surfaces, increased spacing within workspaces, and cleaning materials for personal use."
Right now, Toronto remains in the grey-lockdown zone of the framework and Simcoe Muskoka is in red.
Travel between zones is not against the law, though Ontario's "general public health measures and advice for all zones" states that it should be avoided except for essential reasons. The province also continues to urge people in all zones to stay home as much as possible, avoid social gatherings and work from home if possible.
Fortunately, Mamalli's cancellation protocol is generous: "If participation in Work from Gravenhurst is not possible given COVID-related measures and restrictions from the government, you will receive a full refund."
Ditto for if you cancel your package up to 15 days before your scheduled arrival — something that can't be said for most other inclusive vacation packages.
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