If you’ve ever trekked Google looking for a wellness retreat in hopes of untangling your congested inner self you probably noticed, almost instantly, that they a) are expensive and/or b) require a flight to someplace remote or exotic (a.k.a. even more expensive). I’m not saying these retreats aren’t worth the coin—considering they come with convenient access to world-renowned master healers, meditation gurus, and plant-based chefs—but let’s be real: not everyone can afford to balance their chakras this way.
Everyone deserves to align their souls at a wellness retreat, but if you can’t pony up, the next best thing is to DIY it. Here’s how you can unplug for a day or two without forking over your life savings.
Find the Perfect Location
Choose a region close enough so you don’t need to fly, but far enough that you don’t feel like you’re still hanging out in your ‘hood. A good rule of thumb? An hour’s drive away will likely suffice. Think of adjacent cities you've never visited.
Two requirements: nature must be accessible (e.g. by the beach, parks, or hiking trails) and businesses must be concentrated. In other words, your activities should be geographically close to each other so you can walk as much as possible and minimize the need for a Lyft ride.
If you’re planning to stay overnight at your backyard retreat, use apps like Hotel Tonight to find deals in the area of your choice.
What I did: From my home in Los Angeles, I head over to Redondo Beach for the weekend. The city of Redondo Beach is not only right by the Pacific Ocean, but it’s full of hotels, restaurants and microcosms of wellness businesses. I stayed at the Crowne Plaza because of its close proximity to the water, restaurants, and meditation studios.
Book Free or Affordable Wellness Activities
As you search for soul-lifting activities you can engage in, Meetup will become your best friend (as will Yelp, Facebook and, if you dare, craigslist). You can find tons of free Meetup events that center on interests like yoga, meditation, crystal healing, and hiking.
Find two or three events you want to partake in and RSVP. Message the organizer to confirm details. (Bear in mind: Meetup organizers have to pay to maintain their pages so they’re usually not flaky, but they’re not obligated to hold events if there’s a low headcount).
If you’re staying at a hotel, ask them if they host free events. Sometimes they have tastings in the lobby, yoga on the roof or live music at the hotel restaurant.
Use Yelp to find someplace where you can indulge in a massage. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a free massage, but find a low-key place that offers them for less than $100 (unless you’re staying at a remote location). I also highly recommend allotting some of your budget for a meditation session at a professional studio. Many places offer a free or discounted first session.
What I did: The Crowne Plaza at Redondo Beach, where I stayed, offers free rooftop yoga on Saturdays. I started my morning with an hour of energizing asanas. Afterward, I participated in a guided mediation at Allomi, a local meditation studio that was only about five minutes away. These two morning activities alone helped melt away loads of physical and emotional tension I was carrying from months of stress!
Find a Forest
Forest bathing is undeniably healing to the mind, body and soul. Plan at least one visit to a park where you can be completely surrounded by nature.
Take a picnic blanket, pillow, your favorite crystals (if you’re into that), a sleep eye mask, a small vial of essential oil, your phone and a set of earbuds.
Make sure you download a meditation app on your phone before you arrive. Turn on a 20-minute meditation, plug in your earbuds, add two to three drops of your favorite essential oil to your eye mask before putting it on, then lie down and meditate yourself to total bliss! When you’re done with the meditation, simply enjoy the greens and browns around you. Walk barefoot and listen to the grass crunch. Breathe deeply and fill your lungs with clean air.
Get Fresh With Food
You’ll never go to a wellness retreat and indulge in fried foods, but this is your day—you should enjoy flavors you find delicious while you focus on fresh, whole and healthy. Ban the bland!
Choose restaurants for lunch and dinner that offer green options. You don’t have to limit your search only for vegan or plant-based eateries (although you’ll want to take a look at their menus). What you do want to look for is healthy entrees and lots of peaceful ambiance.
What I did: Fortunately for me, the Crowne Plaza offered complimentary breakfast with healthy options. I grabbed Greek yogurt and lots of fruit to start off my morning before yoga.
For lunch, I went to Sacks on the Beach to grab chicken pesto, matcha latte, and green juice. The eatery is right by the shore, so I took a nice seaside walk while noshing my nutrients.
Dinner was at Bettolino Kitchen, where I ate watermelon panzanella (a refreshing salad with wild arugula, watermelon, cucumbers, microbasil and a tangy shallot vinaigrette) followed by grilled lemon salmon with farro and grilled asparagus.
On the final day before departing back home, I stopped by Baleen Kitchen for a delicious brunch (mushroom omelet and fresh orange juice) washed down with hot jasmine tea. The restaurant is right on the water with amazing views of the ocean and yachts. It was insanely serene. It was the perfect place to reflect and the perfect way to end my retreat.
Remember: you always want to ask the restaurant to keep things healthy for you: dressing on the side, hold the croutons, etc.
Commit to a Digital Detox
Do most of your research before you step foot at your DIY retreat. The goal is to detox from your devices (aside from using a meditation app at the park). Write down your schedule, including all your activities, addresses and directions.
Most importantly, vow to yourself to avoid emails, phone calls, texts, and social media!
What I did: I took my small Moleskin notepad around with me to jot down my thoughts, goals, and epiphanies as I ventured through the weekend. This is something you want to do to help release pain and to remember what types of activities bring you the most peace (for me, it was definitely the meditation session at Allomi).
To avoid using my iPhone, I prepared an agenda with all my activities written down so I knew where I needed to be at all times of the day. Fortunately, everything was so close I didn’t need Waze at all.
Sure, a couple of hours at the spa is rejuvenating, but sometimes it takes a bit more time for you to feel the longer-term effects of a true inside-out detox. Take me, for example: while I love a good massage, I usually come back home to be greeted with a barrage of emails and knotty shoulders. It was only after my weekend retreat when I finally felt I had released a lot of the toxic emotional burden and felt motivated to engage in daily healthy habits again. Give yourself a full day or two to commit to yourself and you’ll find more bliss than you thought was possible. No airfare or loan required.
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