Back in September, the Swedish tourism authority launched a pleasantly unscientific scientific study in which five people with five notoriously stressful jobs—including a French taxicab driver and a British TV presenter—spent three days on a tiny private island in the wilds of West Sweden. Their accommodations were five glass-walled cabins, each equipped with a few candles and a big comfy bed. Hypothesis: Even a brief stay in nature—specifically, Swedish nature—is good for the soul. Conclusion: It is.
“On a 10-point scale, the participants’ stress levels decreased from 5.3 to 1.7 points, corresponding to an almost 70-percent decrease of stress, which is remarkable,” said the project’s lead researcher, Walter Osika, an associate professor at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm.
A month later, with the experiment concluded, these transparent cabins are bookable by members of the stressed-out general public. Although researchers won’t be tracking guests’ heart rate and blood pressure readings or administering classical association tests to gauge creative energy levels, the public experience is mostly unchanged from the clinical regimen. Stays are capped at 72 hours, and each group of guests arrives together, like an episode of Fantasy Island. Daily activities include fishing, walking in circles, and deep breathing. And by the morning of departure day, unless you’ve been trawling Twitter under the covers, you should be comfortably unwound and ready to return to the real world.
The 250-acre island, called Henriksholm, sits in the middle of Lake Ånimmen, about two hours north of Gothenburg. It’s reachable by small boat and covered with forest and pastureland, with a few cute deer and some Highland cattle to share the green space with you. The only habitable structures are the cabins, a lovely (and rentable) manor house, and a smaller (also rentable) space called the Palviljongen, which serves as a kind of base station for glass-campers, with private lockers, a little kitchen, and a bathroom.
Inspired by Swedish barns, the cabins themselves are models of Ikea-like simplicity, with two glass walls to the left and right and a pitched glass roof overhead. The wall at the foot of the bed is actually a giant, nature-welcoming barn door. Upon arrival, each guest gets a map of the island, a solar battery charger, a flashlight, an eye mask, a water bottle, a roll of toilet paper, and, for those times when even a glass cabin seems too confining, a sleeping bag. And yet, despite the sylvan setting and the prepper supply kit, the 72-hour experience isn’t entirely about Jack London-esque wilderness immersion. Guests are encouraged to venture out of their little vivariums and meet each other during their restorative days. Meals, included in the rate, are served family style—breakfast and lunch are dished up in the Palviljongen (or taken as picnics) and dinners are presented in the manor house.
A cabin runs 6,695 Swedish kronor for a solo traveler (about US$826 at 8.10 krona to the dollar), or 7,990 kronor (US$986) for a couple. Securing a reservation can be tricky: 72-hour stays commence only on Mondays and Fridays, and winter is out, for obvious reasons. If the cabins on Henriksholm are booked solid, there are two other 72-hour cabins nearby — one on a hill above Lake Iväg and another on the grounds of the grand Baldernäs Herrgård manor house near Lake Laxsjön. (At this writing, there is good availability at these cabins for spring 2018 dates.)
More than a publicity stunt, the 72-hour project highlights Sweden’s devotion to outdoor escapism; more than half of Swedes own or have access to rural vacation houses, and the country proudly maintains the Right of Public Access, or Allemansrätt, that grants anyone the privilege, within reason, to roam freely across public lands. Pitch a tent, pick some flowers, swim in a lake—naked, if you please. The country’s guidelines for Allemansrätt are simple: “Don’t disturb, don’t destroy.” And please, on Henriksholm, don’t throw stones.