This is the sixth post in my blog series about recharging and resetting your life, what I call retreating.
I was raised in a Christian family by a pastor and a teacher. Needless to say, our family life revolved around the church, and retreating was part of the culture. I have fond memories of church family retreats at camps and lakes near and far, as well as youth retreats that lasted anywhere from a day to a week or more. Some were loosely structured while others had more focused programming. As an adult I’ve participated in many retreats over the years. Some were solo but most were spent with others.
Whether you retreat solo or with a group, here are some additional ideas for affordable retreating locally.
Solo retreating locally
Read last week’s post about creating a home-based retreat. If you can’t find a distraction-free zone in your house, and you are able to leave for short time periods, try house or pet sitting locally. This is the perfect retreat-away-from-home if you have roommates. One of my friends regularly pet sits, contracted through a local company, and she loves the privacy and peace. Bonus: the animals comfort her and help her connect to other beings in a compassionate and loving way without the full-time responsibility of having pets.
If you can afford it, consider booking a room through Airbnb or HomeAway, either locally or elsewhere. The elsewhere can be the next town over. Ask the host whether the place affords distraction-free peace and quiet.
Group retreating locally
Group retreating has its benefits too. Communing with others can open minds and hearts and make connections that keep the benefits flowing for years to come. Is there a particular topic you want to dive deeper into? A thought-provoking book, theory, or spiritual or social topic you want to discuss in depth? An experience you want to share with others in a similar situation, past or present? Sharing in a group often produces enlightening and comforting experiences. Note that sometimes discomfort arises during retreat, for example painful memories or challenges to your way of thinking. Don’t view these as negative, though; instead, treat them as growth opportunities.
Invite friends and acquaintances to retreat with you. Propose a discussion topic with a goal in mind. Build a retreat that interests members of your faith or social community: women, men, LGBTQ, parents, couples, people struggling with xyz, people wanting to discuss a spiritual text or address a community social issue.
If you belong to a faith community, they might allow you to use a room in the building free of charge. Churches and other houses of worship often allow non-members to use their space for free or for a minimal charge. Or, is there someone in your faith or social community who would be willing to host the retreat at their house? The host doesn’t necessarily have to participate in the retreat.
For a relatively minimal price, you can book a room at a library, community center, parks office, or other public space. Or ask a restaurant, coffee house, book shop, arts center, or other business whether they can spare a space. Some may charge and some may agree to let you gather for free with the caveat that you’ll buy their food and drinks, if they serve them.
Maybe a friend or relative has a small business office they’ll let you use on the weekend. Or your neighbor owns a yarn shop that’s closed on Mondays and perfect for retreating. You can also go the expensive route and book a conference room in a hotel.
This website includes 60 church retreat planning ideas, themes, and tips. Although the list includes some Christian-themed ideas, you can use it as a guide for the faith tradition of your choice or any topic related to your retreat goal. The list includes ideas for gatherings of women, men, couples, and youth, as well as other helpful planning tidbits.
Checklist for creating a group retreat
Write down your retreating goal. You must have a purpose and define it clearly. This includes having a clear idea of your target audience. Who will you invite? Who would benefit and enjoy it?
Co-create with others, if you like. Choose co-creators that you think would work well together.
Decide on the length. Half-day, whole day, weekend, or longer?
Write an agenda outline. What is the program and who will facilitate? Include breaks and time for processing, especially when potentially emotional topics are included. Don’t overload the program with too much. Keep it simple.
Book the venue. Check freebies first but don’t sacrifice suitability for price, if you can afford to rent. If it costs, determine the per-person price and minimum number of registrants you’ll need.
To eat or not to eat? If your retreat spans a meal time, here are some ideas: Make it a potluck. Have food delivered from a local soup and sandwich shop, or order catering. Ask non-retreating friends to cook. Prepare food in advance. If the venue has cooking facilities, cooking a meal together could be part of your retreat. At the very least have drinks on hand, such as juice or tea and coffee, plus light snacks (e.g., pastries, bagels, granola bars, nuts, fruit).
Invite a local leader, trainer, instructor, or coach to lead an interactive workshop or discussion. For example, you can organize two hours of yoga and a discussion with a wellness advisor. A local author could discuss her book. Develop some thought-provoking questions on the author’s topic. Many authors will do these gigs for free (including me), especially if people buy their books.
Promote your retreat. How will you reach your audience? Is this a closed group by personal invite only, or do you promote it publicly? Promote through your faith community, local wellness or community center, local paper and online events calendars, and posted flyers. If a book is the center of discussion, promote it through local bookstores and libraries.
Relax and enjoy
Regardless how you choose to retreat, at home or away, by yourself or in a group, remember the point is to get some relaxing me time that you will enjoy. Get clear on your goal and then go for it. For best results, make it a regular date with yourself or others.
For links to retreats and other resources, visit my Resources page.
Read my memoir about a two-year retreat I took in Scotland.