Solo travel can be daunting to think about. How do I plan? Who will I interact with? Will I be bored? But being spontaneous about travel, being bored, and interacting with yourself are key steps to finding out who you are, where you’ve come from, and where you want to be. I recently took myself on a solo retreat to focus on quieting the noise around me to discover some hurdles I needed to get over. I asked a local in Greece where he would go and he said, “Agistri – it’s quiet and close to Athens (where I was staying).” So I booked a one ferry way trip (14 Euro) and an airbnb ($35/night) and spent 5 days on a tiny island. Here are my takeaways…
As I got off the ferry I discovered that this island was pretty dead. It was October so it was the end of season. Yet it was still very warm, a breezy 75 degrees F, and the water and surroundings were picturesque Greek with the clear water and white buildings. There were fishing boats in the small port that go get fresh fish every day, regardless of how many tourists are there. I pulled my luggage down a small street that hugged the shoreline. The waves were constant and the sun was shining on my skin like a warm hug. I felt in love with this place before I even met a soul. I got to my accommodation which was simple and overlooked the sea. It had the white facade with blue shutters. I had my bedroom with a window looking right into the water. A tiny kitchen for buying just what I needed and I have to mention the shower just for readers who have been to this part of the world – what is up with the shower head? why do they never have a holder? Anyway- those little details aside, I met the owner, a woman who spoke very good english. She invited me immediately to take a ride on her scooter to check out the island. I couldn’t refuse this offer! It only took about 15 minutes to go to the other end. The next 5 days I dug in to some much needed downtime after months of traveling.
When we take time to reflect on our way of being – whether that is from journaling, noticing our surroundings and, or meditating – we give ourselves a chance to be kind. We we are by ourselves, we are the only ones who can react to the inner thoughts in our head. This is what I discovered in my quiet time. Peace and being alone with my thoughts really pushed me to get to know the person I’ve become.
After spending time alone I realized what I had become really grateful for – and that’s the art of conversation. I missed interacting with people to get ideas and fuel my fire for the work that I’m putting in. I was also grateful for the peace to understand this important self discovery.
I noticed that I absolutely hate the mix of wind and water and what it does to my psyche. There were 2 days of exhausting energy while the wind caused a relentless cycle of harsh waves crashing against the rocks and earth. I realized how sensitive I was to this. As I reflected on that I couldn’t help but link how our surroundings really affect our mood. To escape the wind I took a 3 hour hike into the woods. I immediately felt a sense of calm. The combination of moving my body, breathing the fresh air, and hearing the wind in the trees vs the sea was a much appreciated shift to my wellbeing.
For my solo retreat I brought several magazines with me so that I could stay off my phone as much as possible. I read an entire book on one of the first days which was an assignment I made for myself as a meeting depended on it later in the week. I can only sit in one place for so long, so I ventured into a few cafes to be amongst people and get the feeling of the town during low season. (Everyone on this island was so lovely!!) My favorite thing to do in Greece is sip on a Freddo Espresso for at least 2 hours – it’s a Greek thing I learned.
If you get the opportunity to step outside your own culture I promise you, you’re going to feel a major shift in perspective. This happens on vacation but even more so when you’re intentionally going into an unexpected territory for self discovery. You allow culture immersion to guide your core beliefs into territory unknown. And this reaps rewards such as sparking creativity, cultivating ideas to bring back into work, and igniting senses that you may have been ignoring.
I could not have asked for a better experience in the sun and sea engulfed in the slow pace of Greek culture. A stark contrast to my prior week in New York City.
If you’re looking for a solo retreat but want some guidance or a unique experience, I have developed 1:1 Experiential Travel Weeks. This includes coaching sessions prior to travel to discover the place that will bring you the most benefits in shifting your situation. I customize this week long coaching deep dive with spontaneous adventures, reflection time, creative expression and cultural ethnography. To learn more please contact me for a consultation.