6 Things to Consider When Planning Your Perfect Retreat

In the midst of life’s stressors, it’s not uncommon to feel like we’d love to chuck it all and hide away for awhile. Though on some level this might sound irresponsible, we all need time to recharge emotionally and physically. So how do you make sure you plan a getaway that sends you back into the world refreshed and rejuvenated?

Going on a retreat can be a totally legitimate form of self-care. In my own life, I’ve gone on retreat to rekindle my relationship with God, to unplug from work, or to get a break from the sometimes overwhelming demands of motherhood. My experience on diverse types of retreats—from a solo sojourn to a cabin on a farm to a carefree weekend in the woods with friends—has taught me a lot about which factors matter when strategizing peace and quiet. Here are six things to consider for planning your perfect retreat.

1. What are your goals?

If you’re interested in retreating, something inside you is likely prompting a desire to get away. It’s helpful to take a look at what’s behind that feeling. Before you make plans, write down some ideas of what you want to get out of your retreat. Do you need some concentrated hours for prayer or discernment about a big issue in your life? Or do you just want a few days of relief from the constant dinging of your phone?

2. Location, location, location…

Everyone is a little different when it comes to the environments that refill our emotional reservoir. Many people find that time in nature quiets their minds and spirits–but some glean energy from a more urban setting. My retreat to a convent in San Diego’s busy Ocean Beach neighborhood was surprisingly rejuvenating. The cares and pressures of my regular life were a world away as I strolled through the touristy shops along the street to the beach.

To find a location that works for you, check out Retreat Finder to search all over the country, or call nearby churches or retreat centers for local info.

3. Got a budget?

A retreat and a vacation bear many similarities, but we may not want to drop the same kind of cash for a short getaway as we do on major travel. So although a trip to a beachfront Hawaiian bungalow might ensure refreshment, it may be more practical to stick closer to home. The truth is, any place that removes you from your day-to-day reality can provide a satisfying retreat. If budget is really tight, you might even ask a trusted friend to swap homes with you for a weekend.

4. A matter of time

Don’t have the luxury of a wide open calendar? (If you did, you probably wouldn’t feel such a need for a retreat!) Remind yourself that down time isn’t frivolous; it actually leads to better mental health. Assess how much time you can reasonably devote to this important purpose. Something is always better than nothing. When I had a nursing baby, I couldn’t leave for long, so I booked a single night at a local retreat center. Just 24 hours away was enough to give me a bit of a reset—and a much-needed night’s rest.

5. Going solo?

Introvert, extrovert, or somewhere in between, we can all benefit from time by ourselves or time with others. It’s up to you to decide which you prefer for your retreat. For a little of both, you might even consider a silent retreat, in which you join a group—often at a hermitage or monastery—in refraining from speech for a period of time.

6. Feeding your spirit

Finally, since the purpose of a retreat is to refresh your spirit, give some thought to what type of spirituality you’d like to add. For something with faith-based content built in, you might sign up for a church retreat or try a retreat center that offers spiritual direction sessions on-site. Or, for a self-guided experience, choose a spiritual book to read while you’re away.

As a friend of mine of mine once said, “We retreat to advance.” Detaching from the day-to-day for awhile not only helps us take stock of our emotional and spiritual state, but also reminds us to appreciate our regular lives. When we do, we can approach whatever lies ahead with newfound energy and peace.  

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