The Art of the Solo Retreat

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One of the things I knew I wanted to do during this little sabbatical between chapters was to take a solo getaway somewhere. After falling in love with traveling alone on my Spain trip, I've been all about looking for opportunities to get away by myself. And even with not having a job to go into every day and allegedly gaining lots more "free time," I noticed my to-do list and calendar were stacking up, and I also know that there's something special about taking yourself out of your usual scenery that allows your brain and heart to better unplug and to be more inspired. I needed the intentional step away to spend time reflecting, writing, and planning and wanted to throw some nice lil self care in there too.

So I searched for places somewhat close to me (anywhere within a 4 hour car ride radius) and ultimately landed on Ojai. I had only been once before for a wedding, but stayed almost exclusively at the Ojai Valley Inn (aka heaven on earth) for the weekend. So it felt like my first true trip there. It's only a 2(ish) hour drive from Newport, and I had multiple friends who are all about Ojai and always sing its praises, so I was excited to have chosen that spot. I found a fairly affordable room at an inn to stay at, through Airbnb actually, and loaded up on recs from my friends Molly and Liz who had just spent their mini moon there after recently getting married! This post will be half Ojai recs (basically everything Molly and Liz told me to do, thanks girls), and then tips on how to plan and execute your own solo retreat as well if that's something that is of interest to you. Of course your trip would be highly personal to what you're hoping to get out of it, but in case you don't know where to start with planning one, hopefully some of these tips might help. 

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Ojai Recs

Stay. 

I found the Topa Vista Inn on Airbnb (they list each room out separately) and the price was really low for how cute it looked. I was mostly enticed by the jacuzzi tub in each room, but it did turn out to be a really nice place to stay. It was clean and cute and a close drive from town. If you'd prefer to be walking distance from everything, I would recommend staying in town. And also bring earplugs if you stay here since it's right next to a road.

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Eat. 

Tipple & Ramble. I think this was my most favorite spot. It's a little wine and tapas bar with the cuuutest outdoor patio. They're only open Thurs - Sun, so you'll have to plan accordingly depending on when you're in Ojai, but I would highly recommend popping in for a glass of wine or a cheese plate or even to peruse their cute little store. More about them here.

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The Nest. Cute and casual outdoor spot that has delicious food and lots of great vegan options. I got the cauliflower tacos which were amazing but I also wish I had gotten the vegan pizza that I heard great things about. Next time. I also couldn't get over the beautiful views of mountains and green hills everywhere I went.

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Beacon Coffee. Great little coffee shop filled with lots of natural light and places to work.

Osteria Monte Grappa. Took myself on a date here because I pretty much only want to eat pasta forever (it didn't disappoint). Sat at the bar with my book, but looks like they have a cute little outdoor patio too for when the weather is nice.

Rainbow Bridge Grocery Store and Deli. A healthy grocery store that also has a deli counter to order food from and tables to sit at outside (with wifi).

Food Harmonics. I didn't end up making it here, but I wish I would have. All organic, lots of raw and vegan options, and looks really pretty too.

The Ojai Vineyard. Wine tasting room that is beautiful and a lovely place to go and sit on the patio with your book, some art, a journal, or you can just sit at the bar and meet the other wine tasters. I met a great couple there and Charlie, who was working that day, did a wonderful job describing all the wines (always my favorite part of wine tasting).

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Do.

Bart's Books. Huge indoor/outdoor used bookstore that was so dreamy I could die. It was so quiet and empty when I was there, and I could have literally spent hours drifting around all the different sections and finding so many books that I didn't even know I needed. Highly recommend.

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Hike Shelf Road Trailhead. I went to the Los Padres trailhead first, but after getting just a few yards in, I realized it wasn't going to give me the views I was wanting, and I also felt slightly uneasy about hiking it alone for some reason. Couldn't even tell you why, but I'm a big believer in always listening to your intuition. So I left and headed toward the direction I actually wanted to hike and stumbled across Shelf Road Trailhead where I basically followed this one lady and her dog up these switchbacks and it was so beautiful and had the most amazing views of the Valley. Super glad I went there instead. You can see a little bit more of the views in my video below.

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Solo Retreat Tips

Obviously how you want to plan your own solo trips will be entirely up to you and is dependent on what you're wanting to get out of it. But after I had a few friends ask me what I even do with that much time alone, I realized I did have a few tips to share on how to get the most out of time away, regardless of what you're going for.

  • Unplug. Consider leaving your phone behind for parts of your trip, or deleting Instagram while you're gone, or turning your phone on airplane mode for hours at a time while you're out and about. It's hard to get in tune with yourself when you're constantly checking in on the outside world. It's a great excuse to take a break from technology and staying connected with others for a bit.

  • Write out an itinerary. I use "itinerary" loosely because I don't even like following schedules that much. But it's helpful to at least create a rough list of the places you'd like to go and things you'd like to do in order to keep your time intentional. On this particular trip, since my time was limited and I paid a chunk of change for a few days away, I knew I didn't want to waste that and just sit and watch TV in my room, or spend hours shopping or something. I had specific things I wanted to accomplish while I was there, so I made sure to schedule time for those in between the other fun or relaxing things I wanted to do.

  • Do what makes you happy! Take a bath with your favorite face mask on, make yourself your perfect happy hour, go walk around a museum, eat your favorite food, read a book for hours in a pretty spot. It's crazy how much joy it brings me to do exactly what it is I'm in the mood for. And it's nice to take advantage of not having to cater to anyone else's needs or preferences on a trip and get to do whatever it is you want. It especially feels like a treat when it's something you don't get to do, or can't make time for when you're at home (for me that's getting to take a bath and reading an actual book - not an audio book. Feels so luxurious to do both these things so I make sure to do these as much as possible when I travel!)

  • Be safe. Not to be a mom or anything, but there are some things that just maybe aren't the smartest to do all on your own (looking more so at the ladies here). I'm careful not to let certain people I meet know I'm traveling alone, or tell them where I'm staying obviously. I don't stay out late by myself anywhere or walk around places that feel shady. Not that you have to be fearful, but as I mentioned earlier, just listen to your intuition on what feels good or not and you'll be fine.

  • Write things down. Even if you're not a writer or a journal-er, it's nice to write down the good things you're experiencing, or the things you're learning while you're away. At one point I just quickly jotted out single sentences for specific moments that made me happy on my trip, and I love reading over those so much now. People I met, a feeling I had, a sweet sight I saw, something yummy I ate, etc. Plus when you're alone and disconnected, you'll have better access to your thoughts, and it's always good to pay attention to and document those :)

  • Follow an exercise. Before I went to Spain, a friend passed along a set of questions that aimed at getting to the heart of your passions and how you'd like your life to look, and it was really helpful to have those to go off of when I spent some time reflecting and journaling one of my days in San Sebastian. (These weren't the specific ones I used, but this article has a good list of questions to follow about finding your purpose). Similarly, on this trip another friend sent me a values exercise that helps you get to the bottom of your top values, which is important to reference when making big (or little) decisions throughout your life. Having an intentional exercise or practice to follow makes it a lot easier than just telling yourself you're going to write when you're there (at least it does for me).

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Alright, I think that's it. I'm so glad I took this trip, and can't wait to go back to Ojai again someday. I also really hope I convinced you to head out alone somewhere if you haven't experienced it yet, it's seriously the best. Below is my highlight vid from Ojai so you can see the pretty hike views better :) Oh, and I read "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng while I was there, and it was really good, if you're looking for a fast fiction read at the moment. Cheers, friends!

xoxo,

Sara B.

Sara Bacon