How to host a self-retreat

Catherine Andrews
4 min readNov 22, 2020

Carving out time for self-reflection at the end of the year

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Taking time to reflect and prepare with a self-retreat

Happy Sunday, Soothers. About a month from now, I will be driving down to the Blue Ridge mountains, setting up in a little Airbnb cabin by myself, and doing my 2020 annual self-retreat that will help me reflect on everything that happened this year (lol) and set myself up for the things I want to feel, experience and achieve in 2021.

(Just in case it has to be said, I will be bringing my own food, not dining out or shopping in the area, only stopping for gas, wearing a mask, and totally solitary the whole time.)

An annual self-retreat is a concept I dipped my toe into about 4 or 5 years ago, when I took my first solo vacation (which I wrote about a while ago for Vox). When I packed up the car that time to go to a little beach house on the Chesapeake Bay, I didn’t really know what I was doing, and I certainly wouldn’t have called those few days a self-retreat. I just knew I was exploring my own identity and resiliency, and I had a sense that a few days alone on a solo trip (something I’d never done before) would help me with those things. (They did.)

Those early trips, I swanned around whatever rental I was in, readings books, doing yoga, going on aimless walks, journaling, no plan except relaxation. And it was exactly what I needed.

But after a few years of refinement, I now make these annual self-retreats a little more structured. taking them as my chance to set up a period of self-reflection, self-assessment, and to create a launching pad for all I want to experience in the next year.

This year, I picked a cabin in December in the woods instead of a beach cottage in September, and I planned out an agenda for each day:

Day 1: Check in, unpack, cook a nice dinner, light a billion candles, do a ritual bath, and concentrate on my intent for the retreat
Day 2: A day of admin. I have a lot of detail-oriented and biz goals I need to hunker down and accomplish to wrap up loose ends from 2020 and set up for 2021, so I hope to accomplish most of them by early afternoon. Then ideally a hike, a bath (see a theme? I will be packing ALL the epsom salts), a book…

Catherine Andrews

Teaching awakening + healing through vulnerability + self-compassion. Finding hope in a messy world. Author of the Sunday Soother.