Really, you don’t even need a reason. It’s just a fact that a total change of scenery, a new routine, a new you is the answer to pretty much any question. (OK, at least an answer to pretty much any question). We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a getaway which makes choosing ‘the’ one sometimes a bigger decision than it has to be.
Who ever knew there were so many different ways to do a retreat getaway? Digital detox, actual vegan detox, yoga retreat, silent retreat or even a luxury spa retreat.
Whether you’re a seasoned retreat-goer or a complete newcomer, you might be surprised at what you find: from full body purges and weight-loss regimes, to kicking it at the spa between massages, there are an array of ways to declutter your brain and re-energize yourself.
All these options might guide you down your mindful lifestyle path but really what does it take to find perfect retreat fit? Scroll on.
1. Why go on a retreat?
Nobody needs a reason to go on a retreat, but a lot of people have one anyway. Some people have ten or twelve. It may do you good to consider which devil is tiring you out, so you can know how best to vanquish it.
OK, pretty much any retreat offers you an escape from your daily routine of catching an earful from your boss, waking up at Ridiculous o’clock, and putting up with your coworkers’ weirdness. But the energy level of certain retreat programmes may be something worth researching. Kamalaya Koh Samui offers the mellow-sounding “Spa Rejuvenation Retreat” programme, for instance, which they recommend for victims of stress/burnouts, whereas Phuket Cleanse’s “Fusion Boot Camp” invites you to annihilate your stress through maximal cardiovascular exertion.
Been toxing too much? A substantial subset of retreat centres includes detoxing regimes coupled with doses of mindfulness can be found on our comprehensive Thailand rehab centre article.
2. What do you want to do on your retreat?
Some people retreat to their sofas and keep to a strict regime of chips and beer (think downward-facing bag of Doritos). You can do better—but better how? Some things to consider:
Many centres specialise in one type of activity; most offer a variety. Narrow your search by considering what you want to do, such as (but not limited to):
- Detox & dieting
- Pilates, aerobics, & exercise
- Tai chi
- ..Doing absolutely nothing except wearing out the masseuses
DIFFICULTY / EXPERIENCE LEVEL / CLASS SIZE
Check the specific course offerings and make sure that there’s something for you. You don’t want to snap your body in half on the first day—you’d have missed the point of your retreat by a considerable margin. Also, if you’ve found a retreat whose price is a bit too good to be true, try to poke around and discover the class sizes, in case they’re enormous. Look for 1-to-1 instruction offerings if that’s what you’re into.
LEARNING A NEW SKILL
Trying your hand at something fresh could be just the change of pace that you need. Chiva-Som offers “Spa cuisine” cooking classes, for example, while Samma Karuna offers a workshop called “Tantra of Liberation”, which sounds potentially even spicier.
STRICTNESS, RULES, AND REGULATIONS
Are you a coffee drinker? Stay away from the Wise Living Yoga Academy, where it’s banned, along with eggs, booze, and black tea. My point is to make sure you have a look at the rules and regulations before your retreat turns into an exercise in smuggling coffee beans.
It’s 7:00 a.m. Time for the first detox drink of the day. You poke your nose out from under the covers and shout, TAKE YOUR DRINK AND SHOVE IT—JUST LET ME SLEEP, DAMN IT. If this sounds accurate, then the Absolute Sanctuary’s detox programme isn’t for you. (Not that it’s exactly a day in the coal mines, either, with 1:00’s activity being “enjoy a herbal steam sauna and relax by the pool” until 3:00 when you’re required at the juice bar for another detox drink). Well, in that case, you can plan your day with feline whimsy (i.e. don’t plan it at all) at a place like the laid-back Kamalaya Koh Samui. Or perhaps something more regimented is for you—some retreats offer programmes where the day’s detox, or yoga, or pilates, or what have you, is pre-scheduled. The Sanctuary Thailand has a 14-day set weight-loss programme which is aptly called “Reshape Your Life.”
3. Any extra perks?
Do your research and see what extras are on offer — any extra cherries on the top of your vegan-gluten free retreat cake. Having a pretty good idea what any other goodies that these centres can offer can also give you an idea of any other activities that might perk your interest. Perhaps maybe just doing a detox retreat but you know they also offer cheat day treats?
While you’re busy stretching out on a scenic yoga shala, there are elephants out there who want to be your friend. Seriously, honest-to-God elephants, complete with floppy ears and high-fivable trunks. It’s worth looking into what sorts of excursions are available, I’d say since there’s loads of good stuff out there. Befriend a fish while snorkelling or scuba diving at Paradise Koh Yao, go for a trek, visit ancient temples, or catch a break from all that relaxing meditation by escaping to the beach. Several centres who offer detox and diet programmes (Samui Detox, e.g.) plan excursions where they pack your supplements and what-not for you.
The retreat business is all about food. I’d bet that there’s somebody out there who’s peddling the eat-only-what-turtles-eat diet, while on the other end of the spectrum is the Mangosteen Resort and Spa’s gourmet restaurant featuring local ingredients, healthy rice-bran cooking oil, and a crusade against MSG. (Also a wine cellar and poolside lounge bar). Detox, Candida, fasting, raw foods, and weight-loss programmes where food is strictly regulated are also abundant, as are vegan or vegetarian havens, so make sure your preference is accounted for before you book.
It may be that between meditating for hours and clearing your mind during solitary yoga sessions, your mind actually becomes so clear that it starts to crave information again. Don’t freak out—generally speaking, and especially from a broader, societal perspective, this is healthy. Satisfy your craving with a language class, self-help seminar, or other workshops, if they’re offered. Some centres, such as Chiva-Som, offer massage classes, and yoga-training programmes aren’t hard to find. Make sure to inform yourself on how the centre is accredited and what pre requisites/experience-level they require to enrol.
4. Location, location, can I get a Room upgrade?
Maybe you’ve found the perfect yoga programme with exactly the dietary regime you want, but what about the overall environment? Are you the type that can roast on the beach or one that prefers going for a hike up a mountain? Again a retreat is an opportunity to escape to a place you haven’t been to before or a place you know you can tune out to.
Do you fancy the beaches or the mountains? Are you looking for a city-break and get real basic or want to lavish yourself with the best that there is? Feel like it’s time to journey somewhere you have never been in? Or is it just you want to be able to make a road trip to a retreat within your area?
Many find that their initiation into the realm of retreats and wellness stems from Asia. It’s no hard labour to find retreat spaces all across South East Asia. Perhaps it might be Bali that stirs your interest or Thailand is your jam. Then your search shouldn’t be so hard—it’s a hub of spas, resorts, yoga centres, etc. But there are other places out there too to get a retreat fix: retreats in Morocco, Turkey, Greece, Spain, India, Costa Rica..you get the idea.
ACCOMMODATION & AMENITIES
Thread counts and bed counts. After a day of meditation, detoxing, or whatever, how close are you really going to feel to Mother Nature? Close enough that you want a shared/dorm set-up? Then go for it—I applaud you (though you can’t hear me from my private villa’s pool). Setups range from more rustic scenarios up to luxurious ones (obviously with prices to match). Marga Yoga has comfortable-looking beach houses and cottages to rent; Vicasa Yoga states that “we believe a hotel room is just a place to sleep, and the real experience is how you spend the day”; and Rarin Jinda’s Chiang Mai Hotel has deluxe rooms with Jacuzzis and direct pool access. Read the fine print, too—some programmes, such as New Leaf Detox Thailand’s detox package requires you to stay in their detox accommodation.
5. What is the perfect retreat length?
TIME AND DURATION
Just because it’s sunny in the website’s pictures doesn’t guarantee that it won’t be Biblically flooding when you get there: consider whether your chosen destination has a rainy season, and whether or not you’re booking your trip for right in the middle of it. Then there’s how long you’ll go for. Perhaps your budget and vacation days dictate this, but don’t fret if you haven’t got all winter off: a weekend detox might be all you need. There’s often a recommendation for the more regimented programs, such as detox and weight-loss (e.g. 3 days, 5 days, 10 days, etc.). Some programmes only run on selected weekends or times throughout the year.
Have a look at seasonal variation—some centres split their pricing into peak-season, high-season, and off-season prices. If the off-season price looks juicy to you, at least check the weather forecast. Look for early-bird specials, and also whether or not they accept credit cards. Read closely to see exactly how inclusive the “all-inclusive” offerings are, and don’t forget to budget in airfare.
6. Have you done your research?
As a final point of consideration, have a look at the news/media/press section of the website, to see if it’s been written up anywhere. Even better would be to Google the retreat centre and look for 3rd-party reviews and comments. You can while away years of your life on this process if you’re looking for one with no bad reviews, so don’t panic if TexasJim382 thought that the hot yoga was too hot and the vegan pancakes didn’t have enough real pork.