In this crazy busy world, with all the traffic, phone notifications, background music, TVs in every room, the demands from your boss, spouse, and children, not to mention the noisy eater in the cubicle next to you, it’s easy to forget what silence sounds (and feels) like.

We are so accustomed to all the noise that sometimes, just like the clutter in our homes, we aren’t consciously aware of it, or of the toll it takes. All that input wears us out, on both a physical and an emotional level. We are constantly tuned in, constantly figuring out what needs our attention next.

If you are ready to press the mute button on the world, maybe it’s time for a personal retreat.

I started taking quarterly personal retreats while writing my first book, Happy Starts At Home. By getting away to write I could separate myself from all the usual demands, and focus on what I wanted to create. While I worked on the book I also discovered something wonderful: writing gave me an excuse to escape to a charming AirBNB just an hour’s drive away, and spend a day and two nights free from my phone or wifi. I could just write, breathe, and be.

Since finishing the book, I’ve kept up the retreats, not only to write, but also so I can slow down, refocus, and recharge. Here’s how I make it happen (links are all to places I have actually stayed): 

 Set a budget. All the home-sharing sites let you search by geography and price, so I start by filtering out what I wish to spend. I rarely spend more than $100/night, usually closer to $60, though sometimes I splurge like I did on this wonderful treehouse escape. I make sure I have a kitchenette so I am not spending money eating out, and I’ll often book off-season options, too, which not only saves money but also helps me avoid crowds.

Set a mood
. I choose a place based on how it makes me feel. I know I’ll be spending a lot of time inside the space writing, sleeping, and meditating, so the dreamy design of the inside matters to me even more than the geography.

Design for solitude.
I also filter for spaces that will give me solitude. That means a whole suite, or a tiny home to myself, and a kitchenette so I can cook myself oatmeal and soup and prepare cup after cup of tea. I always start the trip with a quick run to the grocery store so that I don’t have to engage with the world until I finish the retreat. 

Book in advance. The real key to my success with personal retreats is that I book them 3-6 month in advance. If I wait until I “need” a break, I will already be so busy that there won’t be space in my calendar for it. Instead, I book it in advance and trust that I’ll need the break when it arrives. This also lets me have the pick of any AirBNB, even ones that tend to be booked.

 Share your purpose. You can usually tell from the reviews if you have a hands-off owner or someone who loves to visit and be social. While it’s wonderful to make new friends, that is not the intent of these retreats, so I always let the owner of the space know that I am coming for a “writing retreat,” meaning that I’ll be working and they likely won’t see much of me. Even if you won’t be writing, that can be a great way to set the tone for some quiet and solitude, especially if you are in a more communal space.

If, like me, you find it hard to create personal space in the frantic rush of day-to-day life, maybe a personal retreat will help you claim some quiet and give you the resources you need to do battle with real life. Don’t give up on creating quiet, happy spaces in your own home, too. Just know that, when you need it, a restorative space may be waiting for you just an hour or two down the road.


Rebecca West

Since 2007 Rebecca West and her team at Seriously Happy Homes have helped folks live large in small spaces, and carve out little corners of happiness in a big and scary world. In 2016 Rebecca authored the book ‘Happy Starts at Home,’ (a practical blend of self-help and home-design theory), and she has been a featured speaker at Town Hall and Ignite Seattle, on TV on New Day Northwest, and showcased in Success Magazine.

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