A Barcelona Retreat: Where a Break from Routine Brought New Perspective
A typical morning in Barcelona was one so different from my own, but still contentedly routine. I would peel out of bed at about 7.30am, lazily pad into the bathroom to take a shower, and then throw on some clothes before heading out into the early morning sunshine. The winter air felt crisp against my face, and the light echoed around La Rambla, bouncing off the buildings and floor. The street was quiet, not quite awake yet, with few people milling about. I would breathe in the cool winter air and head up the street, slowly, nonchalantly, to my local coffee place. I’d been here for less than a week and the waitress already knew my order. I’d take my coffee back onto the street, letting myself wake up more with each bitter sip. Then, sufficiently caffeinated and uncoiled back into a functioning human being, I’d head back to the hotel and get ready to write.
Listening to someone, truly listening and acknowledging their story, is a gift.
My retreat with Pink Pangea was a simple but happy time. We’d sit around in a circle every morning, curled up in creaky leather chairs, and just…share. We would think and write and laugh and cry and – most importantly – listen. Everyone took her turn to tell her story, and we would all sit quietly and take in the words. Listening to someone, truly listening and acknowledging their story, is a gift. Time spent like this is few and far between in our increasingly hectic world, and yet it is so important for our well-being.
Every retreat morning was spent like this, writing and meditating. My group was an eclectic one, consisting of women from all ages and backgrounds. I would have never met these people in any other circumstance, and it was inspiring to learn from them, both from their writing and their stories. Each afternoon, we would explore Barcelona together. We admired the crazy architectural genius of Gaudi, powered through the streets on a walking tour, and watched the sunlight dance across the harbour waters. We dined on paella and sangria, wandered through markets, and watched fountains dance in the evening light. Every day unpeeled a new layer of the city, a new perspective. And I felt so blissfully content.
I had never gone on a writing retreat before, and now I wonder why it took me so long to book one in the first place. I wasn’t sure why this trip had made such an impact on me at first – or at least, until I returned home. It didn’t seem too out of the ordinary, this routine of writing in the mornings and exploring in the evenings. And yet, when do we actually take the time out of our lives to do this for ourselves? When do we wake up in the mornings to write during the 9-5 routine, no matter how much we promise ourselves we will? Why is it that doing the things we love gets put to one side, time and again, in everyday life?
The luxury of a retreat is in its simplicity. It’s about prioritising yourself, and taking precious time to do what you love, when you want to do it. It’s waking up early just so you can have a cup of coffee. It’s writing with a paper and pen, instead of typing. It’s meeting new people, and sharing your lives with them. It’s sipping a glass of 4 euro cava by the sea, and breathing in the salt of the Mediterranean with the wind in your hair. It’s nothing too out of the ordinary. It’s just taking a few days out of your life, for you.
Before this trip, I didn’t realise how, in my normal life, I had ignored myself for so long. Work and rent and groceries had elbowed their way in to replace writing and travel, and the balance was all skewed. Before Barcelona, I hadn’t written in weeks, almost months. I hadn’t travelled in a while, or met anyone new, or challenged myself. I wasn’t eating well or sleeping much. All the things I pride myself in doing, and that make me who I am, had just faded away into a routine of sleepwalking through each day. I never thought I would let this happen to me. It was only through this trip that I woke up and realised something needs to change. And it already has.
The luxury of a retreat is in its simplicity. It’s about prioritising yourself, and taking precious time to do what you love, when you want to do it.
Now, before or after work, I make sure to write every day. I meet up with my friends more often, am planning more trips, and taking the time out to do the things I love. A month on, my work-life balance is much better than it was, and I’m making plans to improve 2016 even further, and bring about more change – and fundamentally, more travel.
It’s remarkable how a few changes to your routine can improve your life ten-fold. And it was only through my new routine in Barcelona, retreating from the world for a few days, and the wonderful people I met in a new and sunnier city, that I finally remembered what I really need, and who I really am.