[This is the first in a three-part series about how to take a solo retreat.]
The first time I went on a solo retreat (vacation where I made it a retreat) was in 2003.
I was in my early 30s and had hit the point where most of my friends were married.
If they weren’t, they often traveled with long-time friends from college or childhood on extravagant trips.
While I longed for the chance to do that, I also found myself wanting something different: travel that was more budget-friendly, involved time to relax, be quiet, explore, write, read and experience the U.S…by myself.
When I scheduled my first solo retreat, I remember being at work and stepping into a small, private conference room during lunch to make the call.
I booked a week at a spa resort in Sanibel Island, Florida.
Most of you who are familiar with Sanibel Island or Captiva probably know it for these reasons: beautiful water, beaches, wildlife (God’s nature kind), wildlife (Spring Breakers who are Rum Runner enthusiasts), and lots of retirees.
Who can blame them? It’s absolutely breathtaking and situated close to Fort Myers.
The Gulf is beloved with good reason.
When I booked my trip, I was excited beyond measure. I couldn’t wait to share my good news with my friends at work, in my neighborhood, and my family.
They all had the same reaction.
“That’s great Betsy! Who are you going with?”
“Myself! I’m going alone,” I would say with great enthusiasm.
Most of the time I received the strangest look and they didn’t really know what to say.
I knew that look.
Oh, poor Betsy. Traveling alone. Doesn’t she have any friends or people to go with her? Yes, I could have, but choose not to.
Oh, poor Betsy. If she could just meet the right person. Yes, I had heard that at least a few hundred times. Believe me, I would have loved to stop dating all of those guys to have the one (he just decided to wait until 2007…fast forward…I still like to go alone on retreat each year.)
Oh, I could never do that.
Well – actually – Yes.
Yes. You. Can.
What I learned before I took the trip, and observed after, is that most people can travel alone, but choose not to. For women, it seems like it was considered (at least in the 20s & 30s years) uncommon, a bit strange and reclusive, or a signal that something is deeply wrong. Now, as a mother, I see that the later 30-something/40/50 crowd is abundant with solo retreat enthusiasts.
For me, nothing was wrong. Everything was right.
I was excited. I felt courageous. I felt unstoppable.
I also felt nervous. I was a little scared of this: what if I go and never come back? What if some old man tries to pick me up when I’m just trying to enjoy dining alone? (That happened. Solution: Always be engrossed in a GREAT book. Never look available. Ever.)
What sparked this solo retreat?
The need to get away. To reconnect. To be at the ocean. To stop waiting for the right man or friend to show up and go with me on a vacation I had been dreaming of taking. To step more fully into myself and break out from the usual into the unfamiliar. To be more couragous. To be adventurous. To be living fully on fire. And…to apparently get my first and best facial of my life. (That’s why you HAVE to take mad money!).
I have to give credit where it’s due: Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift From The Sea has been a long-beloved book by women and mothers for decades…and me. When I read it for the first time in my 20s, it changed my life. She was probably the first woman who really understood the need to get away and recharge, write, and simply appreciate the quiet and abundance of being in God’s creation. Each year, she would take a long and restful retreat. Alone. If I remember correctly, she would go to the beach for up to four weeks at a time. Wow.
Even as a seasoned solo retreat taker – from a few hours to a week – I think that four weeks would feel indulgent and actually, way too long. I would miss my family way too much!
This week, I want to invite you to consider what a solo retreat might look for you. Where would you go? What would happen – or NOT happen? How long would you go? If money were no obstacle, where would you really want to go?
These and more probing questions will be in next week’s post. Until then, start dreaming!
Coming Up: I will share my top 3 Solo Retreats/Vacations I’ve taken. I will also reveal ways to be courageous and step into your YES for your own solo getaway.