For a while now, I have been contemplating and researching all sorts of weekend retreats in exotic locations, but with a mega-European adventure looming in September, it wasn’t in my budget .
Additionally, I struggled to find everything I was looking for in one retreat.
I wanted Yoga, but not the same teacher each day.
I wanted healthy food, but also red wine, French bread and gelato.
I wanted creative time to write, paint, and dance.
I wanted scenic nature walks along beaches and through forests.
I also wanted quiet time to read and sip tea at quaint coffee shops.
But I live in Vancouver, where could I possibly find yoga, coffee, ocean, forests, mountains and great food? (For those of you who don’t know Vancouver, Vancouver has a plethora of all of those things.)
With a 4 day long weekend in the forecast I began planning my own customized retreat in the city. And now, as my 4 day, choose your own adventure, staycation retreat is coming to an end, I sit journaling on Sunset beach the key ingredients to creating your own one of a kind retreat in your own city.
First off, nothing will make it feel less like a retreat than when you have your day to day weekend tasks creeping in to your schedule.
The week leading up to your retreat, do you laundry, take out the garbage, do your grocery shopping and meal prep. I went as far as to pack (put aside) clothes for my retreat, so I didn’t have to waste time deciding what to wear, changing outfits or trying to track down clothes.
Take care of anything that can’t wait before the weekend begins.
If you must do some work, conference call, attend to some email, then schedule time in your retreat schedule to do so. Give yourself an hour each day, or whatever you need, but schedule it. That way you know you are going to get to it and can then let it go from your mind and be present for the weekend.
Decide what kind of retreat you are going to have.
What are the key elements that you are looking for in a retreat? If you need some ideas: begin searching top retreats around the world and look at their daily schedule.
Select an intention for your retreat. Is it to relax, to detox, to meditate, to contemplate, to write, to create—get clear on what you hope to get out of your weekend and then select activities that support your intention.
If you look at top retreats around the world, they tend to keep a tight schedule.
Every retreat follows a schedule. Create a specific schedule and commit to sticking to it. Schedule when and where you will engage in what activities.
You can leave some time open to spontaneity but for the most part your day should be scheduled. You don’t want to stress about scheduling on your retreat or waste time being indecisive.
Schedule back up plans if some activities are weather dependent.
Commit to a media detox and a car free weekend. Nothing will take you out of your retreat mindset quicker than getting lost in a sea of status updates or stuck in your own city traffic.
Shut down your computer. Put your phone on silent. Get outside. Read outside. Write outside.
Break out from your routine: Your local yoga studio and coffee shop are great and you will have them to enjoy the rest of the year.
This is the weekend to try all new everything: new restaurants, new neighbourhoods, new yoga studios, new coffee shops.
Cultured activities: Add some spice to your retreat by including a foreign film festival, visiting a gallery, going to a ballet, opera, play, seek out some form of international inspiration that your day to day life wouldn’t have seen.
Revel in it.
Believe that you are on an exotic retreat. Be grateful. Revel in your newfound love and appreciation for your city. Notice the small things. Bring your camera and journal and capture the moments as if you were in a land far away.
La vie est faite de petits bonheurs.
Here is a 1 day sample of my personal retreat.
My intention: A weekend full of creativity, self-love and exploration.
My weekend soundtrack: Angus and Julia Stone, Down the Way & Ben Howard, Every Kingdom.
6:00 am – wake up and enjoy a cup of tea while listening to Alan Watts, The Spiritual Journey as the Self (you can find this and many of his lectures on youtube)
7:00-9:00 am – Journaling and Meditation
9:00-12:00 – Ocean walk: I put on running shoes, grabbed 10$, my dog and my camera. Walked along the ocean, through Stanley Park to the Rose Garden and took dozens of photo’s along the way.
12:00-2:00 – New Restaurant: I enjoyed a glass of Rosé and Green Leaf salad on the patio at the Homer St. Café, a restaurant I’ve been wanting to try.
2:00-4:00 – Exploring new neighbourhoods: As I walked around Kitsilano (a neighbourhood I rarely find myself in) I came across a bookstore called “Wanderlust—The Traveller’s Store.”
As I entered this store I felt the excitement as if I were boarding a plane. The store was decorated with globes, maps and photographs from everywhere; shelf after shelf overflowed with travel books and memoirs. After one hour of wanderlusting, I chose “Almost French,” a travel memoir of a Canadian woman who moves to Paris to be with her Parisian lover.
6:00-8:00pm – New Yoga Studio: I went to One Yoga for the People in Gastown and immediately fell in love with the space. I tried Intermediate/Advanced Dharma yoga taught by Reno Muenz, and fell in love with his class and with yoga all over again. As my new favorite instructor led me through various poses in my new favorite space, I felt that if this was all I were to get out of my retreat it would be worth it.
This was true bliss. And as I sat in lotus taking in my surroundings, I realized that in addition to falling in love with this space and this class, there was a third thing that made my heart tingle: numerous very attractive, shirtless, straight men. Hot men spending their Friday night doing advanced yoga can only be summarized as porn for the spiritual woman.
10:00 pm – Raw Canvas: eat.drink.make art. Raw Canvas is a place to drink fabulous wine, snack on plates of cheese and meat and paint. Yes paint. Part of the restaurant is an art studio where you purchase your canvas, put on your smock and begin your masterpiece with wine in hand and good tunes in the background. It is a place I have wanted to go for sometime, and it was every bit as magical as it sounds.
The rest of my days were spent on organized photo-walks, trying a new dance class, a 3-hour Dharma Yoga workshop (hot guys included), a historic tour of Gastown en francais (http://iletaitunefoisvancouver.com), discovering new restaurants and the best little gelato spot and hours spent journaling and reading while sipping on bottomless lattés at charming cafés.
La vie est si belle.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Emily Bartran
Image: Author’s Own