This Nature Retreat Lets You Pay What You Want

If you’re looking for an escape from reality or the modern world—or both—camping is usually the way to go. You’ll get in touch with nature and usually, you won’t have cell phone service (which is seriously not a bad thing once in a while).

But if you’re more into getting away while still having Internet access and perhaps, you know, not sleeping on the ground, a nature retreat in North Carolina named Mountain Light might just be the place for you. Not only can you choose between staying connected or unplugging, but you also pay what you want and you might just get a chance to visit with some spiritual beings—like elves, gnomes and fairies. (We’ll explain that one in a second).

Located deep in a secluded mountain cove in the Pisgah National Forest, Mountain Light Sanctuary is bordered by two creeks and ringed by the highest mountains in the eastern United States.

If you’re looking for the full “getaway” experience, staying in the Narnia, Enchantment, Rivendell, MerlinWood, ZenTao and Banana Patch shelters is the way to go, as those do not have electricity. Balihouse, Treehouse, Amitaba, Oconaluftee, GardenView and Frodo’s shelters all have electricity or you can go solar and stay in the Gypsy Wagon!

In addition to these outdoor shelters, you’ll also find indoor bedrooms in the Elfhaven Lodge and the Hermitage, a small two story cottage by the river. (They all have to coolest names too, don’t you think?!)

And yes, all of this costs as much as you think it should, though they do accept “gifts” to be able to keep it all going. For those more comfortable with a set rate, they do offer suggestions (but even those are low, at around $40 a night!), but you can also choose your own rate based on how much you enjoyed your time there or even work off your stay with chores like mowing and raking.

Mountain Light says this way of paying keeps with the ancient monastic tradition of hospitality that trusts both the generosity of the guests and their faith in divine presence to keep the sanctuary open. As long as they can continue to pay their bills, they will continue to accept gifts as payment.

Oh, and about those spiritual beings? Mountain Light says some visitors have seen elves, gnomes and fairies on the property. Some even show up in photos.

But whether you believe in spirits or think it’s just dust on the camera lens, it’s still hard to deny there seems to be some kind of magic at Mountain Light. From being able to get away from your daily responsibilities, to the gorgeous views and inexpensive stay, it might be worth checking into if you’re looking to check out.