What is a Personal Retreat and Why You Need To Go on a Retreat Vacation

How do you describe a perfect vacation? Is it traveling from place to place and sightseeing? Or would you rather just stay in a luxurious hotel enjoying its amenities? Or perhaps a personal retreat sounds good … Maybe.

What if you could turn your next vacation into a personal retreat?  A retreat vacation!

A perfect vacation can be a few days surrounded by nature, basking in the warmth of the early morning sunshine, drinking your favorite tea while reading a book or writing in your journal. Nature has a way of magically eliminating the stress that has been building up in our tired bodies for months or even years.

Just the sound of a bird chirping or the waves crashing on the beach somehow makes us forget all the troubles we have to face day in and day out. This kind of vacation seems just so perfect. It could quickly turn into your own personal retreat where you could finally connect with yourself and listen to what your body, mind, and soul are telling you.

man mountain personal retreatWe all look forward to a time when we can be alone. While we have the tendency to get addicted to the busyness of life and sometimes don’t want to disconnect with this world, the time will come when our physical bodies will give up on us which results in exhaustion and burnout. We are not machines. We are just humans. We need time to recover and recuperate.

A personal retreat is one of the best ways that we can recover from any physical, emotional, or mental stress.

What is a personal retreat?

We all love vacations. In fact, we spend A LOT of money on vacations, whether it be a group or solo vacation. We save up for a whole year and then go someplace where we can rest and relax.

But did you know that you can actually turn your vacation into a retreat?

Retreats are more than just vacations or staycations. Though it could also qualify for R&R, it goes way deeper than that.

A retreat is usually associated with something spiritual. Merriam-Webster defines it as:

“A period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study, or instruction under a director.”

The retreat that Merriam-Webster defined is what is commonly known as a guided retreat. And unlike vacations where you will do what you want when you want, a guided retreat involves a leader (probably a teacher or a speaker) who will stir you into movement, reflection, and meditation.

However, retreats can also be self-guided. You can actually lead your own retreat if that’s what you prefer. Here, you will have the freedom to do your activities according to your own schedule. Take note, though, that this type of retreat will require more discipline on your part.

woman reflection personal retreat

According to Anvika Jain, author of an Odyssey article called the Importance Of Listening To Yourself, it is essential to meditate on our thoughts throughout our lives so that we will know how to deal with each situation.

“No one is living your life as much as you are,” she says. “No one is experiencing your experiences 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We are all exceptionally unique. This becomes important to realize when faced with vulnerability.”

Why should you take a personal retreat?

According to an article in A Nun’s Life, setting aside time alone to be quiet and disconnect from the “normal” world is something that can be both scary and unappealing for some of us. And this is especially true with people who are so used to being in the fast-paced culture we have now. We might not have realized it, but stepping away from our phones for just a few minutes can be very difficult. However, A Nun’s Life says, despite our fear and discomfort with silence, our spirit needs QUIET.

“Most of us are speeding through complicated lives, faced with challenges and choices with no time to deal with experiences and feelings. Many of us could use a day to rest, regroup, reassess how things are going, and refocus.”

We also go on retreats for our own personal growth and development, not only in life in general but in our careers as well. Companies are investing in their staff by attending retreats for personal growth as well as development retreats. Happy centered bees are busy bees.

Where should you go for a personal retreat?

This depends on why you are taking a retreat and what kind of environment you feel comfortable in.

There are a lot of different personal retreat centers that you can choose from. You can go to a monastery, a church, a resort, a hotel, a little house in the woods, a cruise, et cetera.

dalai lama personal retreatsOr as we mentioned above, you can even do it at home as long as your home will give you the peace and quiet you need for your personal retreat.

If your budget allows it, you may even go outside the country and experience retreats anywhere around the world.

CNN Travel published an article on 10 of the world’s best meditation retreats in July 2017 this includes:

  • Spirit Rock in California
  • Plum Village in France
  • Dalai Lama’s Teachings in Dharamsala India
  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction at Glenview Hotel and Leisure Club, Ireland
  • The Buddhist Retreat Centre, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
  • Wat Suan Mokkh, Chaiya, Thailand
  • Ala Kukui, Hawaii
  • Assisi Retreat Home & Hermitage, Assisi, Italy
  • Kripalu, Massachusetts

Before deciding where to spend your personal retreat, try listening to what your heart tells you. As long as your heart agrees with your location, you will surely have a very relaxing retreat.

Who can take personal retreats?

EVERYONE can take personal retreats. What you do in life doesn’t matter. Whether you’re a minister, a business executive, a social worker, or a teacher, a personal retreat is something very helpful. 

A retreat day in the corporate world may be different from a weekend in the monastery, but it will still have the same concept. Taking a retreat day can give you an opportunity to pull away from the stress surrounding your world and will give you a chance to refresh your mind and have a new perspective.

What happens during a personal retreat?

Retreats have varying themes or topics. However, the goal is the generally same:

  • give yourself time to reflect and meditate
  • get inspired by a speaker or a teacher
  • read something inspirational to you

There are formal retreats where everything will be guided and on a schedule. Less formal personal retreats give you the flexibility to choose your own schedule. However, this takes a lot of discipline.

get me out of here
During personal retreats, you can join a group where you could share your experiences
as well as try different types of exercises or answer questions which help you process life experiences or relationships. If you are undergoing something of a difficult time in your life, joining a group retreat will give you the chance to share with others who will then offer consolation or inspiring thoughts that will help you deal with these bad experiences.

A retreat is usually done during weekends, however, there are those week-long retreats that will give you more time to meditate and relax.

How Do You Prepare for a Personal Retreat?

First things first: Determine your intention in doing a personal retreat. This will lead you to the theme and the resources and support you need for the retreat. This will basically let you decide if you are going to be doing a guided or non-guided personal retreat. Once you know what your goals are, you may proceed to the second one.

And that is … decide what type of location you want. There are so many options for personal retreats. If you love the sea, find a retreat center that will let you have a view of the sea. If you are more relaxed in a mountainous environment, there are lots of places available that you will let you experience that. Other personal retreat centers have beautiful gardens or just inside a quiet room.

Your location coincides with your budget. When you do a retreat, you have to prepare your budget ahead of time. While this isn’t the main point of a retreat, we have to admit that doing a personal retreat can be costly.

But don’t worry, if you’re short on cash, you can still do a retreat at home. Of course, you have to assess if your home is quiet and peaceful enough for a retreat.

If you want to have a personal retreat at home, here’s what you have to think about according to The Muse:

temple monastery personal retreat“Keep in mind that the environment you create should not only be relaxing but should also guarantee you have no distractions (ringing phones) or obligations (chores or family members) other than being in that space.”

Lastly, prepare your mind and body for your personal retreat. Eat the right food. Exercise if needed. Revisit your journal. And then pack everything that you need early so you won’t have to rush during the day itself.

Are you ready to go on a personal retreat?

It’s up to you decide. Again, it’s all about your intention, your budget, and your physical and mental state. If you think you are not ready yet, there is always another time to do it. Don’t rush.

Whether you’re planning your next vacation near or far from home, we suggest that you consider turning your vacation into a personal retreat. You’ll be glad you did! 

About the author

Dr. Gala Gorman is a licensed Acupuncturist, Naturopath, and Author who offers expert advice and programs to help people prevent disease. She uses advanced techniques that "reverse the clock" on aging. She founded the Delta Discovery Center with her partner, Charlie Frangos, to provide a place for self-discovery and healing on Hilton Head Island and beyond. Dr. Gala helps people learn to be their own health advocates.