Retreats at any budget (including DIY!)

diy retreat retreat Jun 23, 2024

Photo credit: KitFox, EandRStudio

It’s probably not a hard sell that you need a break. We’ve spoken in prior blogs about the spiking rates of overwhelm and burnout, the huge additional load of responsibilities that so many are carrying. Research suggests we’re tackling longer days during the pandemic, and less time off: 92% of employees have either canceled or didn’t schedule vacation time. For many, travel and time off may have felt unattainable due to financial hardship, or because of an intentional choice to protect vulnerable household members. 

Last week’s blog focused on the importance of breaks throughout the day, week and month. Today we’re going to dive deeper into the concept of a personal retreat as a way to reset and recharge. We’ll talk about the typical components of a retreat, and how you can DIY a very affordable “Self Retreat” (no big expense required).


Retreat vs. Vacation

What’s the difference between a retreat and a vacation? 

  • Vacation: A Vacation is an extended period of leisure and recreation, especially one spent away from home or in travel. Vacations are often shared with household members (kids, spouse, etc.)
  • Retreat: Retreats are travel for the purpose of promoting health and wellbeing through physical, psychological, or spiritual activities (Source). Retreats may be experienced with a friend or spouse, however solo wellness retreats are on the rise. 

The primary difference between a vacation and a retreat is the intent, and how it translates to all parts of the experience design. Retreats are typically developed specifically to support renewal and wellbeing, and everything from the environment, to the food experiences and the activities are aligned towards that outcome. Many wellness retreats are all inclusive, allowing for full immersion and detachment once you arrive on property. 

Hedger/Suzanne Kearns, Writer / Via Facebook: susannemkerns


Our favorite Retreat Experiences, and how to DIY them

The “perfect” retreat might look a little different for each of us. There is a huge variety of themes, types, durations, and locations. If your schedule and budget allow, investing in an immersive retreat can have an enormous transformational impact on your wellbeing and give you focus and clarity on how you might live with more intention afterwards. 

But even if that’s not in the cards for now, you can still create a DIY retreat experience at home on a budget that will have lasting impacts. 

What makes a great retreat? We’ve compiled our list of the most important elements, and how to adapt them for a successful home DIY retreat. We’ve also created this downloadable DIY retreat workbook so you can follow along and design your own!


The Six Elements of a Retreat

1. Dedicated time for wellbeing

The incredible thing about a retreat is that you’ve committed the time and made the investment into doing something for yourself. The simple act of arriving feels like an invitation to finally tune into your wants and needs. You’re spending the time, you’ve spent the money, and it feels good to get the full experience by luxuriating in relaxing activities!

This giant permission to do the things that support your wellbeing feels like it’s in huge contrast to how most of us live our day to day life: in service of everyone else’s needs first. Of course, you don’t need a wellness retreat to spend time on yourself, but it sure makes it easier.  

How to DIY:

Set a specific day and time for a DIY retreat. Block it off in your calendar. Find childcare. Clear your obligations. Set expectations. Our favorite trick: Take a day off work when the kids are in school and everyone is working to guarantee an uninterrupted solo DIY retreat!


2. A Clear Theme & Intention

Retreats typically have a clear theme that paints a picture of the types of activities that are included as part of the experience. Here are some example of themes:

  • Yoga/Meditation - activities might include guided yoga and meditation practice (sometimes multiple times per day)
  • Nature/Wilderness/Digital Detox - activities might include camping, nature walk, wildlife watching, primitive arts, hiking, and a shut down of all technology
  • Goal setting - activities include workshops, guided journaling, 1:1 or group coaching
  • Creativity/Arts/Retreat - activities could include writing, painting, sculpting, or macrame
  • Activity/Fitness/Exercise - activities might include rigorous guided workouts like bootcamps and running/jogging

Selecting a retreat that has a theme that matches your interests and needs is a great start. To get the most out of the experience, set a personal intention for the retreat. What do you hope to focus on? What’s your most important objective for your retreat time? Here are some prompts you might play with to clarify your intention:

  • What I most hope to get out of my retreat is…
  • What I’m most struggling with right now is…
  • The one thing I need to spend time on right now to feel more renewed is….
  • After this retreat, I want to feel….
  • During this retreat, I will show myself love and compassion by…

Let this guide how you engage in the retreat experience. Check back in with your intention throughout the retreat, and assess if you’re being true to your intention. For example, if your intention was to show yourself love and compassion by getting plenty of rest, you may not let FOMO convince you to get out of bed at 5am for an early meditation. Be true to yourself. 

How to DIY

Choose a theme for your DIY experience, and let it guide what you include. Avoid the temptation to over schedule yourself. Trying to do it all would defeat the purpose! Then set your intention at the beginning of your retreat using the prompts outlined above, or in the workbook.


3. A relaxing setting

Retreats can be a super powerful pattern interrupt. Taking you out of your normal context, and suspending your usual responsibilities and habits gives you an opportunity to show up differently and try on new beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. 

Being in a natural setting with awe inspiring sights, relaxing smells and sounds triggers us to breathe deeper and slow down. The upcoming Mindfulness Incubator Retreat is set on a luxury glamping resort in the New Mexico high desert, truly designed to be an immersive nature experience. It’s an environment that’s totally different from most of our day to day life, and the perfect backdrop for setting new intentions and reconnecting to our truest self. 

How to DIY

Think about where you’ll do your DIY retreat, and how you might shift your environment to create that same pattern interrupt. You might play with:

  • Smells: Aromatic candles or relaxing essential oils can help set a different mood and cue relaxation
  • Lighting: Can you shift the lighting in your space to be softer? Colored lightbulbs, or throwing a scarf on a lamp can help give a room a completely different vibe. 
  • Sounds: Play some relaxing spa music in the background. Most streaming services offer a meditation, yoga or spa station. 
  • Furnishings: Bring cushions, blankets, and pillows to create a cozy environment for your DIY retreat.

4. Contemplation

A retreat is a wonderful time for contemplation and reflection. Two of our favorite ways to do this is through meditation and journaling. Most retreats these days offer some kind of contemplation practice throughout the event. 

Meditation is a wonderful way to cultivate stillness and presence. If it’s available, explore new meditation styles through guided meditation. If meditation isn’t a part of your retreat experience, spend a few minutes every morning staring at the horizon, doing some deep breathing, feeling gratitude for the day ahead. 

When on a retreat, we also love to journal daily. It’s a wonderful way to process the experience. Whether you are following a specific set of prompts, or are simply free writing whatever comes to mind, journaling is a powerful contemplation tool that can add to your retreat experience. 

How to DIY

Kick off your DIY Retreat with a guided meditation from InsightTimer’s extensive library. Then spend a few minutes journaling about your intention for the retreat, and writing whatever is on your mind or your heart. If you need inspiration, we’ve included some of our favorite journaling prompts in the DIY guide


5. Movement

Most retreats include some kind of mindful movement, like walking, hiking or yoga. Some more fitness centered retreats have vigorous movement at the center of the experience. 

Regular physical activity is essential to both physical and mental health, and most of us don’t get nearly enough. A retreat can be a fantastic launching point for new fitness and movement habits, or an opportunity to try a new kind of movement we’ve never tried before. 

Explore what’s available, and get curious about how you can incorporate more mindful movement into your day to day routine. 

How to DIY

Incorporate some mindful movement into your DIY retreat. Some accessible ideas:

  • Stream a Yoga class at any ability level on YouTube
  • Drop in on a local Yoga studio
  • Go for a walk in a local park, or try a Hike close by
  • Try a walking meditation (plenty to choose from on InsightTimer)


6. Personal Growth 

Retreats can be a wonderful backdrop for self exploration and discovery. Many might offer lectures, workshops, or interactive sessions on topics you’re curious about. Take the opportunity to go out of your comfort zone and explore something new.

One of our favorite things to do on a retreat is some kind of goal setting or visioning exercise, which helps you leave the retreat with clearer intention and focus for the future (our upcoming retreat will have a goal setting workshop). This doesn’t have to necessarily be something structured, it can simply be self reflection or reading.

How to DIY

You can use the Mindfulness Incubator DIY Goal Setting Workbook to do your own version of a goal setting workshop.


You don’t need to go anywhere to have a meaningful retreat experience. You can create one at home, and spend your day investing in your renewal and self care. We hope you commit to prioritizing the time. Go ahead, set it up in your calendar right now!

If you’re ready for the full retreat experience, you’re invited to join the Mindfulness Incubator Resilience Immersion Retreat, taking place September 19-22 in beautiful New Mexico. Here’s a preview and sample itinerary that captures the amazing journey. You can read much more about it on our retreat information page, or by requesting our retreat information packet.

[Thursday] Day 1: Arrive & Release

Day 1 is about unplugging, and is focused on you transitioning as quickly and fully as possible into rest, renewal and relaxation. Discover your luxury Glamping accommodation and all that the KitFox property on the Galisteo Preserve has to offer. Set an intention, and decide what you want to leave behind, as we join in our first incredible Dig+Serve dinner. Our evening concludes with a sunset opening ceremony.  

[Friday] Day 2: Renew and Restore

For Day 2, we relax, renew and recover. We can choose to greet the day with a sunrise meditation and mindful yoga session, or simply sleep in and enjoy craft coffee experiences and the delicious breakfast bar. Our wants and desires are the boss as we explore a number of activities and experiences, both on the property and in nearby Santa Fe. A mindful hike and picnic lunch will cultivate our ability to be fully present. Whether you choose to participate in the optional additional massage or not, your day will be deeply restorative. We’ll conclude our day with another unforgettable Dig + Serve sustainable farm to table dining experience, and an evening celebration focused on our intentions. 

[Saturday] Day 3: Inspire and Discover

Day 3 is all about finding and defining our purpose. In the morning, we once again are invited to experience the sunrise with yoga and meditation, and contemplate our purpose and our calling through guided journaling prompts. We are invited to leave behind our overthinking minds as we explore a beautiful sound meditation. During the afternoon, we’ll have a workshop focused on intentional living and goal setting. We wrap up Day 3 with an evening celebration, and enjoy the Sunset with incredible live music performance.

[Sunday] Day 4: Sustain with Intention

As the sun rises on our fourth day, we are feeling more rested, more focused, more joyful and more purposeful. We spend some time together exploring how our systems and our context can help or hinder our best intentions, and what we can do about it. Before leaving, we honor all that we’ve experienced by writing a letter to our future selves. 

To learn more about the upcoming retreat, head over here.

Photo credit: KitFox, EandRStudio

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