How to Plan a Simple Retreat

Last Thursday, my best friend Melina and I went to Fort Worth for an overnight retreat. We had tons of things planned for the 24 hours that we were going to be gone (The Stockyards, Fort Worth Botanic Garden, Sundance Square, and a long walk by the river), but our plans changed because IT WAS RAINING THE ENTIRE TIME! 😭 At first, we were a bit disappointed, but we quickly accepted it and decided to make the best of it… and we both realized that God was giving us exactly what we needed: A retreat to decompress, relax, and spend some quality time with God. It was such a simple trip, but it was a wonderful experience, so I wanted to share it with you.

Here are the steps to planning a simple retreat:

1. Invite at least one friend to join you.

Doing solo trips are okay, but when you plan a trip with others, it helps you to make this an actual event and not just “a thing you did” at one point in your life. I generally like to keep the number of people in even numbers so that no one feels like the third wheel. You can hand-pick the friends you would like to invite, and you can keep the invitation as casual as sending them a text message or if you have an artistic flair, you can create an invitation to give them. A great pandemic-friendly way to send out the invitation is through evite.
Melina and I made plans while we were having lunch, so the invitation was kept very casual for us.

2. Everyone should book their own rooms in the same hotel.

The simplest way to handle lodging for everyone is to have them book their own rooms. Most hotels offer group room block at a discounted rate, and this would be one of the very few coordinating tasks you would have to complete. Having everyone booking their own rooms also keeps it easier for everyone to practice social distance.
Initially, Melina and I were going to stay in the same room, but we decided that in order to stick to the point of our retreat, it would be best for us to stay in separate rooms (more on this in #3 below).

3. Everyone should decide what they’re going to do during their alone time.

This is so important. Let me say that again. THIS IS SO IMPORTANT. Because you and your friends may have different goals for this retreat, it is important to plan what you will do during this time. You can plan to read that book you’ve been trying to finish (which was my case), schedule a massage (most hotels will have recommendations if they don’t have an on-site spa service), sleep, exercise, go for a walk outside… the possibilities are endless!
For me, my plan was to unplug from social media, finish reading a book, exercise, and watch a short movie. If Melina and I shared a room, we would not have gotten anything done other than chatting the entire time. (which we both knew since that’s why we couldn’t study together in college!)

4. Eat all your meals together.

Since most people generally eat three meals a day, this will give you and your friends time to socialize for at least 3 hours each day. I recommend you block out 1-2 hours for each meal so that you can enjoy the times of bonding over delicious foods without feeling rushed. You can set an alarm on your phone or watch to go off 10-15 minutes before the planned time is over so that everyone could wrap up and get back to their personal retreats.
Melina and I had dinner at HG Sply Co. in Fort Worth (check out their menu here), breakfast at the hotel (take advantage of hotels with complimentary breakfast; since I have food restrictions, I brought my own dairy-free yogurt and almond milk to make sure I would have something to eat something for breakfast.), lunch at Jason’s Deli (I had the salad bar as usual), and we stopped to get some boba as dessert after lunch.

5. Plan one group event in the beginning or the end of the trip.

Doing a short group event before or after will allow the flow listed above in steps 1-4 above to not be disrupted. Additionally, if any of your friends can’t arrive on time or have to leave early, they will be able to still enjoy their alone time and the meal times with the rest of the group. To keep it pandemic-friendly, you can always plan an outdoor outing such as an arboretum, a farmer’s market, or even an outdoor yoga or workout session at a park. Since we couldn’t enjoy any of the outdoor activities, we stopped at a bookstore on our way back home. I know that doesn’t sound too exciting, but I can spend a whole day at a bookstore and be happy! 🤓

Lastly, be flexible! If things don’t go as planned (in our case, scattered thunderstorms), don’t stress over the changes and just go with the flow, reminding yourself that it’s going to be an opportunity to make great memories with your friends! 💖

With Gratitude,
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