Monday, August 1, 2011

How to Retreat From the City

A week ago I quietly slipped away from the world to spend five days at Sugar Ridge Retreat Centre. Staying true to my wish from last year to escape to a cabin in the woods, this is what the view is like looking south from the retreat centre:

Those are two of ten cabins that surround the centre where up to four people can sleep to the sound of cicadas and wake to the sound of bird song. Having made plans to stay at the centre separately from any pre-packaged, group retreat program, I got an entire cabin to myself. For the greatest amount of privacy and peace and quiet, I was placed in cabin 3, which is located farthest from the centre. You can just barely see the red roof in the centre of this photo because the cabin is nestled right into the forest:

I spent my week taking in the scenery, writing in my journal, and doing a whole lot of nothing. I broke up the days attending yoga and meditation classes in a gorgeous studio that featured round walls, large windows to let in plenty of natural light, mandalas painted onto the walls, and a domed ceiling:

The only disruption to this relaxing experience were the mosquitoes. I was using DEET-free Druide organic insect repellent that smelled strongly of citronella and worked like a charm... until it wore off in the middle of the night and the bugs trapped inside my cabin feasted on my exposed skin! I am happy to state that not a single deer fly managed to bite a chunk of flesh out of me, and my mosquito bites are no longer itchy, so all is well.

I look forward to returning to Sugar Ridge in the fall, when the colours turn, and again in the early spring in time for maple syrup season, as the centre was built within a sugar maple forest that is tapped for sap every year. I'm also a big fan of the environmental aspects of the centre, such as the straw-bale walls of the yoga studio, low-flow toilets, washroom lights running on motion sensors, high efficiency windows, ample use of compost bins, and a focus on local and organic food. Click here for the complete list of environmental practices.

Have you been away this summer? Were you able to make your vacation relatively green?


  1. That sounds lovely (especially the part about getting a cabin to yourself!). I've changed jobs again to something that I can do with nothing more than a laptop and an internet connection, so now would be the time to start looking for more rural places to live. I think I'd like to live somewhere that other people go to retreat. :-)

    I went away in the early summer to the Big Island of Hawaii and similarly enjoyed the calm and hated the mosquitoes. I guess you can't have it all!

  2. Hi Jennifer! Good for you for switching to a job that better suits your lifestyle!

    As for avoiding mosquitoes, my plan is to avoid the wilderness until the late summer when they're no longer biting. :)

  3. Hi Andrea. I'm gad to hear that you had a relaxing time. A yoga retreat sounds amazing.

    I am flying back to Maine soon for three weeks. Flying is just about the worst environmentally-damaging thing to do, but I haven't flown in over 6 years and haven't seen friends and family for about 2 years. I hope I don't get stressed out on my vacation- I will feel obliged to visit all family members and friends, but hopefully I will have time to go sailing and do other favorite Maine activities. Going back in late August was planned out specifically to avoid the swarms of mosquitoes that are present in Spring and early Summer.

  4. Oh, a three-week vacation sounds so lovely! I think you can justify flying from Montana to Maine, though, especially if it's been two whole years since your last trip.

    My only tip for you in terms of not getting stressed out by having to visit so many people is to not plan any of it ahead of time, because doing all of that organizing is stressful in and of itself. But that's just my method. :) I'm sure you'll de-stress with sailing!

  5. Sounds like such a wonderful vacation-one that I would love (except for the mosquitoes!). Welcome back-you were missed.

  6. This looks and sounds like a lovely vacation! Glad to hear your summer has been fun...and green.

  7. Lori - It truly was wonderful, and in hindsight the mosquitoes weren't as much of a nuisance as I feared, though that's easy to say once the itching subsides!

  8. Laura - The only thing that would have made the vacation greener was choosing a different transportation option. The owners could have picked me up from Barrie, a half-hour drive away, if I had taken the bus up. Instead I drove for an hour and a half all alone in a car!