Many years ago, I went on a personal growth retreat. I’m not doing it justice by calling it that, but it literally changed me. After a week filled with bodywork, energy work, meditation, reiki, fitness, spiritual workshops and more - I found inspiration, healing and transformation. Toward the end of the week, I snuck up to my room to shoot a ‘selfie’ (a no-no since we were supposed to be disconnected from the real world) and then sent it to my wife who immediately texted back saying she didn’t recognize me. Had I previously been wearing the weight of the world on my face? Was I carrying the stress of caring for my live-in dad? Was I trying to control the outcome of way too many decisions - most, not even my own? A resounding yes to all three. After a week of giving in and letting go during an enlightened week at the beach in Corolla, North Carolina, I shed an old skin. There I was in the laid back Outer Banks, prized for its seclusion, funky shops and restaurants - three must-haves during my favorite getaways. Turned out, it was the seclusion component that put the personal in personal retreat.
You don’t have to pack a bag and take off on a year-long quest of self-discovery like Eat, Pray, Love’s Elizabeth Gilbert did. And, you don’t have to walk naked through a labyrinth in order for you psyche to meet your spirit. But, if you can find a way to experience the cleansing of the mind, body and soul, you can find your inspiration, recharge your biological batteries and restore your emotional well-being which, by the way, won’t remind you on its own it’s time to do so. Sometimes, we become so locked in our overworked, overwhelmed and overwrought daily lives moving relentlessly from one thing to the next, we leave no room for just being. Or, even contemplating about being. Or, deciding what matters. To step off of life’s ferris wheel and have a season with yourself - no matter the length. This is what it means to retreat. To pause. To set aside an extraordinary amount of time to do something for the sake of your soul. The added benefit? You’ll be inspired to break out of your comfort zone and make meaningful and sometimes unexpected connections with (wait for it) yourself.
One of best parts about re-treating is that you get to be the designer. Retreats can be spiritual and cleansing and tied to silent bliss or it they can be a getaway with friends to chill and chew the fat — because everyone sooner or later goes through ‘group withdrawal.’ Not all retreats are created equal. They are as diverse as you, so it’s best to know what you want to achieve and what will feed your soul.
Truthfully, it doesn’t really matter what it is as long your retreat provides you with some personal hardware restoration. And, even better, make the effort to travel outside of your local geographical zone, with or without like-minded peeps, to get your retreat on.
During the last weeks of Autumn, like many business owners in Provincetown, my honey and I will likely emanate a full body collective sigh as we delve into the end of fall and soon, the beginning of winter, when the Town takes a deep breath and takes on a calmer vibe. Can a Town retreat? This one does. The slower seasons look good on Provincetown and man, does it know it. In essence, Provincetown retreats unto itself. It relaxes. Unwinds. No matter the month, this town is always a magnet for lovers of life, nature darlings, artsy types and fun-seekers. The diverse and colorful culture doesn’t go away; it’s just appreciated more by those of us who can experience it with a little more wiggle room. Those of us who live here will swing our arms again as we walk down Commercial Street without hitting the arms of hundreds of others who were once here to catch a glimpse of all that oozes from a Provincetown Summer.
As we exhale, we can finally see the gorgeous scarlets, reds and oranges of our blazing foliage and, we can hug the open beaches. In Winter, the town steps up its game with a remarkably laid-back scene - one with which you can’t help have an affair. I’m not just doing a verbal tap dance here about our tiny nation at the end of the world. The vibe here, when you have the time to sniff it, is warm and playful. It encompasses the kind of intimate charm that exists in people. There’s a cozy, charming familiarity amongst those eight to nine hundred who remain here. Not everyone knows everyone - but what a good Winter project to take on. They are (we are) a spirited and authentic group of local creatives, and others who love them, who know how to play up the casual cool and firmly believe their neighborhood has a distinct appeal offering a cozy, laid back vibe. Period.
Some towns “re-open” to tourists every year during their busy season, but from where we sit, this Town is always open. Sure, we settle in for a quieter season, but we welcome all to come feel what we feel. Those who do venture here to take advantage of our slow-lane shoulder season charms and lower rates are warmly welcomed. Truth is, Provincetown IS a retreat. In a way, the town is like a complete adult jungle gym with a cultural twist.
Maybe you’re longing for a Lost Girl’s Weekend with your besties where you can design your own special sabbatical. Think dinner and a Movie; Mani-Pedi’s; in room Aroma Touch massages; or a Spa day; reading quietly; a Curated Gallery tour or just hanging in doing a whole lot of nothing. Got writer’s block? Need to carve out space to think? Go alone or grab your writing group and get out of town to write without distraction. Maybe you need a respite focused on fitness or health, such as raw food immersion or juice detox. How about those company retreats - because getting people out of the office is still a great way to bust through broken team dynamics and strengthen the company culture, whether it’s a start-up or start-over. And, what artist couldn’t use a little extrasensory chill? Or, quite the opposite with a total immersion into art classes culminating in a breakthrough.
Those who retreat with us get a deep sense of the unique Provincetown culture. You don’t have to brave a new language and it’s easy to spend time meeting locals. Here in the oldest art colony in the country, you can curate whatever you want. All you have to do is get away from your phone, your office, your home, your schedule, and your entourage for a few days or a week if you can and you will feel renewed when you return. The most productive thing you can do is to do nothing for big chunks of time and stop deferring the life you want to live.
Come hang out at our Winter Coffee House at the Mews. Stretch it out in a yoga class. Do a customized beer crawl at the still open restaurants. Or, start that book. And, if you do grab a lobster roll, try eating it while walking down Commercial Street. We promise - No side glances. No eye rolling. And, no bumping into anyone else.
ILENE MITNICK - October 14, 2017