'London tech scene chewed me up and spat me out'
The co-founder of a business which helps people with work-life balance says digital detoxing often isn't a practical solution for those suffering burnout.
Vicky Hunter started events and marketing company LittleRed, which brings together off-the-beaten track getaways, after becoming overwhelmed with her busy life in London's tech scene.
"London completely chewed me up and spat me out. There was no separation in work and life, no balance," she told BusinessCloud.
"This led to my co-founder and I putting on a week-long Italian retreat called MiPodere for London burnouts like ourselves.
"It was for people who needed to take a break from the big city but still have access to Wi-Fi so they could work if they wanted – there were planned activities but also downtime.
"The idea was around balance and giving people time away that's not just completely disconnected but would send them back into work feeling rested, creative and knowing how to have more balance."
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Hunter is an experienced events and community manager who promotes tech networking movement Silicon Drinkabout - growing it to more than 30 cities around the world.
With LittleRed she scours the internet for getaways for people who want authentic experiences, which is no mean feat in a world saturated with ‘wellness retreats’.
Any experience featured on the site must be residential, must be about having a shared experience – so they aren’t aimed at groups of friends – and must be organised be people who really care.
"I want to get to a place where we’ve built really good relationships with amazing off-grid venues – not big fancy hotels but small B&Bs in the mountains – and their organisers," she said.
"When my co-founder and I were talking about MiPodere we wanted that wholesome feeling of drinking a glass of red wine on a leather sofa in front of the fire with friends.
"We aspired to support ‘burgundy retreats’ – they’re not necessarily about being super healthy or active or zen, it’s about being cosy, comforting, nourishing.
"You can eat a lot, try great wine and you don’t need to completely detox from anything."
A large part of this balance is around tech – something which Hunter had to nudge residents on, after finding that they were struggling to slow down.
"In the first few days at MiPodere the residents were all bit nervous and excited, and there was so much talking,” she said.
"I realised no one was listening to each other so before dinner one night we asked everyone to sit down and close their eyes for a pre-dinner meditation.
"I reminded them that the purpose of the retreat was to slow down from their 100mph lifestyle. It’s about just taking a moment to be aware.
"At the start of the retreat we banned phones from the table. Tech is great and there are so many benefits but at the table it's not necessary.
“I said ‘I know you’re all going to want to share pictures of the things you’re doing but imagine what happens if you couldn’t do that. You have to describe what you did yesterday and you get much more from it’.”
Aimed at anyone who wants to take a break, who doesn’t have anyone to go on holiday with and digital nomads who want something more focused than travelling, the site might be in its early stages - but Hunter has big plans for expansion.
With the goal of providing digital marketing for the experiences featured on the site, Little Red will also continue to run some of its own events, eventually branching out into company retreats.
"It'd be wonderful to meet people with a real skillset that they use professionally – for example, a history of art university professor – that runs a retreat twice a year where they share knowledge in a different way,” she said.
"That’s the sort of person who won’t necessarily have a website but it’s something they do because they love it."
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