Isn’t it time you stopped putting your life on hold?
Back in May when I was lucky enough to attend a short retreat at Praana Wellness in Charente, I got to know Amanda Graham, who runs the place. Like me, she’s lived abroad for a couple of decades. Like me, she now has an empty nest and like me, she had long dreamed of running retreats. Okay, so I wanted to run writing retreats, while she wanted to run wellness retreats but we both felt that we were putting off actualizing that dream while we were accompanying our husbands round the world. For Amanda, it was five years ago that she decided she simply could not put off her dream any longer and despite her husband still working abroad it was time she put down some permanent roots for herself, for the kids, for the pets, for the family and for her business.
I guess I always assumed I’d have to wait til we retired to make my dream come true. Then I met Amanda and saw how the joy shone from her, that she was changing people’s lives and the world was a better place because she made the leap to do this despite a mobile lifestyle.
It was ten years ago that I took my first writing holiday. It was to a castle in Scotland belonging to Bill and Lois Breckon. Ten or so of us all enjoyed the tuition of the much-published Annie Burgh in the seclusion of a Scottish estate in the spring. More than that perhaps, that week we created a safe space in which to explore our writing potential, share our thoughts and develop meaningful lasting friendships with fellow writers who became our supporters. Since then many of us have gone on to publish novels.
Then, in 2012 I was lucky enough to be invited to run a week-long writing workshop of my own, this time in Tuscany at the Watermill that belongs to the same folk who owned that glorious castle. This time I was the teacher and how I enjoyed watching my flock of fledging writers grow their writing wings and bond and share and laugh together.
While I was in Malaysia I attended Anne O’Connell’s super Paradise Writers Retreats in Phuket. I went three times to the same place but never ceased to be delighted by the experience.
Boy, oh boy, I love attending writing holidays and I love facilitating them. The camaraderie is second-to-none, the learning more profound and the fun and the conversation is a real tonic.
How I wanted to own a Scottish castle or a Tuscan watermill too. I wanted to be Bill and Lois. I wanted to be able to do that for people. And so for five years now I have dreamed and plotted about where I would run my retreats and have spent hours, days, on property websites looking for the perfect place. But then I met Amanda at Praana Wellness and discovered three things:
- I did not have to wait til I retired.
- I did not have to own a property from which I could run retreats.
- And there was a third way… I could hire other venues and run retreats there, like Anne had done first in Thailand and now in Canada.
My dream comes true
While in France I took the bold step of booking Amanda’s fabulous petit chateau for my own retreat next May. Since then I have booked three cottages at Watermill Cottages in Devon for one next July, Campbell House in Penang for one this November and the Park Hotel in The Hague for one next March to follow the Families in Global Transition conference. The icing on the cake is that Bill and Lois have asked me to return to Tuscany next September too. My dream is coming true after all.
Build it and they will come?
In the great movie Field of Dreams, Kevin Kostner says famously, ’build it and they will come.’ If only it were that easy. I may have planned the retreats, booked the venues and paid deposits but there is so much more to do. Adverts to write, website content to create, photographs to obtain, costing to do, helpers to book and most important of all, apart from actually selling the four places on each course I need to break even, I needed to come up with a catchy name for my retreats.
Retreats, schmretreats, I found myself thinking negatively one day. Why would they come to my retreats? What makes me special? Schmretreats? Me-Treats? I could call them Me-Treats! The ability to push my writing envelope, to be encouraged and inspired to write in different genres and styles, to strip away the everyday, the domesticity and the routines and immerse myself in creativity is my most delicious indulgence. If such a holiday felt like a total treat to me then surely others would feel the same way. And so Me-Treats they are.
Okay, so I may be proved wrong. I may discover that I’m alone in my belief that the retreat holiday is growing in popularity and today people need this kind of break more than ever. Amanda has almost reached capacity after just two years of operation. If her success is anything to go by then I should have a smidgeon of a chance. Regardless, I hope you will share in my excitement and tell your friends about my venture even if a Writing Me-Treat sounds as exciting as burying your nose in a barrel of rotting fish. And finally, if you do like the idea… Please come!
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