What is a retreat – and why I can’t get enough of them!

Often when I tell my non-native English speaker friends that I am going on a retreat, they look at me a bit puzzled. I imagine this word does not exist in all languages, and it can be a bit confusing to describe what is a retreat exactly. So here, I intend to do so – and share with you why I go on so many (Radical Honesty) retreats, what we do there, what I get out of them, and what you can too.

At my most recent retreat, I explored a magical Finnish forest, sat and sweat naked in a traditional sauna, bathed in the lake, slept in a cabin that looked like it was straight out of a Wes Anderson movie, watched some people fall in love with each other, ate the most delicious food, basked in nature, and shared my most vulnerable and honest side with others – and had a damn good time doing so!

Below are some photos of the retreat, offered by Honesty Europe, that inspired me to write this post:

First of all: what is a retreat?

Good question. If you’ve been wondering this for some time now, look no further, I’ve got your questions answered below. If you already know what a retreat is, feel free to skip ahead to the later sections of this article.

A retreat can be defined in one of many ways. Here are a few definitions of the word ‘retreat’ according to the internet/a quick Google search:

  • a haven (place of safety or refuge)
  • a place of retirement or seclusion
  • an act of moving back or withdrawing, into safety or privacy
  • an act of changing one’s mind
  • a quiet place or period of seclusion in which one can relax and rest, sometimes for the purpose of prayer or meditation

The modern word retreat has its roots in the Latin term retrahere meaning ‘pull back’.

For me, a retreat is about pulling back (or retreating) from my day-to-day life, and maybe even society at large, to go inwards; to be with my self in a place of peace and safety.

A time out for me, which supports me to better be with myself, others, and the world.

What happens at retreats?

In my experience, retreats usually consist of the the following:

  • you pay a specified amount of money
  • to go to a specified place
  • for a certain period of time
  • to do certain activities
  • and eat special foods
  • for a certain purpose (to relax, rest, learn, explore, meditate, dive deeper into a subject, go inwards, etc).

All of the details of retreats above vary depending on which type of retreat you book. Taking the example above; I just finished the Radical Honesty Summer Retreat in Orivesi, Finland. There, a group of 16 participants and 3 coaches came together to practice Radical Honesty together. We spent five days and four nights sleeping in cabins and enjoying life on a beautiful lake in Finland.

The official program included daily movement, meditation, and Radical Honesty sessions, and three vegetarian meals per days were provided. Besides that we had the opportunity to enjoy the traditional Finnish sauna every night, go berry picking or mushroom hunting in the forest, and swimming or row-boating on the lake. We had nearly a week together to enjoy life, follow our heart’s desires, help out a bit with the cleanup, connect with others and ourselves.

Why I love retreats!

Over the past two years, I have attended six residential Radical Honesty retreats, plus six more (non-residential) weekend workshops. Here’s what I love the most about going on these retreats.

It’s like an all-inclusive holiday.

Who doesn’t love a holiday, minus the stress of having to plan the schedule, organize activities, book accommodation and find out how you’re going to feed everyone or get fed? Welcome to retreats – holiday heaven!

At most retreats, you pay a certain amount of money upfront (or if you’re low on cash, ask about discounts or work exchange possibilities) and with this fee, all of your expenses (except travel) are generally covered. You just need to arrive to the retreat location, and voilĂ ! you can enjoy staying in one place, relaxing in an often beautiful location, eating when the meals are served, and attending the program of planned activities. With all these tasks taken care of…

You actually have time for you.

The best thing about retreats is that they are usually designated you-time. In a world where we’re often busy taking care of others all the time, and even praised for working ourselves to death, isn’t it about time we take some time off and devote some loving attention to ourselves?

Just imagine not having to think about work – or what you’re going to eat – for a few days or weeks. This alone is a huge relief to my system – and one reason I love to go on retreats.

Sound enticing? Wondering which retreat is right for you? Well…

Retreats are customized to your interests.

By the way, if Radical Honesty isn’t your thing, don’t worry – there are countless other retreat offers out there ready for your choosing. You can go on any of the following types of retreats (and more):

  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness
  • Dance
  • Movement
  • Vegan / Raw Vegan / Vegetarian / etc.
  • Women’s
  • Men’s
  • Couples
  • Forest
  • Wilderness
  • Artist / Creative
  • Hiking / Mountain
  • Vedic Awareness
  • Eco-living
  • Spiritual
  • Silent
  • Knitting
  • Scrapbooking
  • Surf
  • Diving
  • Ayurveda
  • Naked
  • Tantra
  • Detox
  • Rehab
  • Healing trauma
  • Psychedelics & Shamanism
  • Cancer treatment
  • Coaching
  • Depression
  • Teacher Training
  • and of course Radical Honesty

Bookretreats.com is a good place to start exploring which retreats might be interesting for you. Or simply choose your favorite subject, and Google that + ‘retreats’!

You can do what you love.

Since there are so many retreats available these days, on so many different possible topics, you can really focus on doing what you love at the retreat(s) that you attend.

For example, before I ever heard about Radical Honesty, I knew I wanted to focus on three things in my life – movement, self-inquiry, and (plant-based) nutrition. At Radical Honesty retreats, all these are covered as we explore conscious movement practices, meditation, the out-loud, interpersonal meditation of honest sharing and experienced experience, and nourish our bodies with healthy vegetarian food!

I also want to dive deeper into somatic movement and raw veganism – so I plan to attend retreats of this nature in the near future!

And you can make new friends, too.

With so few responsibilities and other sources of stress and distraction, I find that retreats are the perfect place to make lifelong connections and friendship with like-minded people. By taking a time out to unwind, you have the chance to open up in ways you might not normally in your everyday life. This is especially the case if the retreat is focused on an interpersonal topic such as honesty, intimacy, or tantra.

Personally, most of the best friends I have made over the past few years have been people I met at a workshop or retreat – and these connections are invaluable to me.

It’s a great way to gain confidence in a skill or subject.

After each retreat I attend, I come home with a strengthened skill-set – whether that be in conscious breathing, meditation, honest relating, coaching, mindfulness, vegan cooking or soma-yoga. By learning these practices from experienced teachers, and practicing them myself, I train myself in these areas and am better suited to teach them to others someday. I develop confidence in who I am; my interests, abilities, skills, and experiences.

Well, that’s it – my thoughts and experiences on what a retreat is, what I enjoy about them and how you might benefit from going on one too! Share this article with a friend who might like to go on a retreat in the future 😉

For more insights on the intensive Radical Honesty retreats offered by Honesty Europe, watch the video below: