5 things to look for when choosing your next retreat
Retreats are a new way to vacation. With so many different options out there, here are some things to keep in mind, whether you’re thinking of attending one or perhaps even organizing one.
1. Up front transparency.
A good retreat leader will set expectations from the get-go, and this starts with their marketing materials and website copy. They should outline the following in a clear way:
What’s included in the price, what is the deposit structure, what the cancelation policy is and if insurance options are offered.
How to get to the destination.
The actual agenda — what is the nature of the trip and the purpose behind it? What can people expect on the retreat? This shows that they have put intentional thought into every aspect of the trip, are not hiding anything, and are facilitating the retreat for the purpose of being more than just a group vacation.
2. Get the basics right.
And by basics, I mean accommodation and food. A good retreat organizer will not cheap out on this, as it is so central to the overall experience. Other important basics to pay attention to are the location and its accessibility: how easy is the retreat location for people to get to? Does it allow people to do their own thing and separate from the group if they want to? I often opt for a location that is somewhere in the middle — not in the center of all the action, but also not too remote. It should provide a perfect balance of privacy and access to all of the action when it’s desired.
3. Partner with a local guide to get an authentic experience.
This is really important. A local guide can make or break the experience. While planning each retreat, I do a lot of research and ask for recommendations, but often let my gut decide who I will hire as a local tour guide. A great guide will truly elevate everyone’s experience because they will be authentic, they know where to go and when, they have access to hidden gems and cool “off the beaten” path experiences that only locals know about. They can also give you the history and the story behind each place you visit, making your experience even more meaningful and contextual.
4. Balance of activities.
The key is to look for a retreat where the agenda is not packed to the brim with activities. I personally like a mix of adventure, exercise, alone time, and personal development (aka, workshop time). But it all depends on the setting, too.
If you are going somewhere that is more secluded and remote, where the pace is low key, I would suggest focusing on yoga, meditation, workshops and going deep on self-awareness work. This is how my partner and I have designed our upcoming retreat in France, for example. We limited excursions to two (one to the local market and a one day trip to a beautiful scenic town of Bergerac, where participants could take part in wine tasting, which the region is famous for).
By contrast, I learned that if we are in Peru, a place where one has SO MUCH to explore, see, learn and do (like hike around the beautiful Andes mountains and waterfalls, visit Machu Picchu, learn about the Inca empire), I would design an agenda that is more focused on adventure. We included gentle yoga in the morning to energize us and get us ready for the day, and meditation in the evening, to let the participants unwind and reflect on the experience of the day.
5. Facilitate connection to self and the community.
A good retreat leader will design an agenda in a way that invites the participant’s higher self to come forward. Through guided meditations, reflections, workshops, and group sharing during family-style dinners, an effective retreat leader will hold space for the group, encouraging sharing, vulnerability, and authentic connections. While most retreats should offer ample opportunities for alone time, the ultimate goal of a group retreat is to not only connect to your inner self but to connect with others in a deeper, more meaningful way.