Make some me time


HOLISITIC HOLIDAYS:Get off the treadmill and use your holiday to improve your mind, body and spirit writes JOAN SCALES

LIFE HURTLES BY so fast that sometimes you want to just stop, get off the superhighway and breathe. Our lives are about being “always on”, the constant beeping, thrilling and tweeting of electronica demands our attention. There are times, though, when we need to say, “stop, I’m getting off,” and find some me time.

But even downtime has to be organised. Here are some ideas for retreats to appeal to differing lifestyles, interests and personalities. They all have one thing in common – time to stop and think, meditate or just let your mind wander.

Clare Island

When you get to Roonagh Pier, the journey to Clare Island and peacefulness is just beginning. The Clare Island yoga retreat is on a 240-acre hill farm, run by Ciara Cullen and Christophe Mouze, and is the perfect place to escape to. Throughout the year there are a range of yoga and cookery courses. Various forms of yoga are practiced. During the summer, you can explore the use of yoga with horsemanship with Vanessa Bee, who teaches how to achieve positive relationships between rider and horse.

The three-day course costs from €300 per person including accommodation, meals and tuition. Volunteers can also come to help work on the farm in return for lessons and board.

Tel: 098-25412,


This year is the the 50th anniversary of the Findhorn Foundation, a community that helps people balance the divine within with the world around.

Findhorn began life in a modest caravan park in the north east of Scotland and is now an eco-village and educational foundation that helps people apply spiritual values to daily life. Each year thousands of people from all walks of life attend courses and events. The Waterboys are regular visitors and named their album Universal Hallafter the hall at Findhorn where music, drama and theatre events take place.

One of the best ways to understand Findhorn is to attend an Experience Week, when you can join in daily life and interact with people in the community. The week includes meditation, sacred dance, nature outings and being part of a group, with time to open your mind and listen to your inner-self. Courses run through out the year and cost about £665 (€800) for a week, including accommodation and meals. Tel: 00-44-1309-691653,


Skyros was one of the first alternative holidays to promote the ethos of personal growth, creativity and self-discovery. The original Skyros was on the Greek Island of the same name, and has now expanded to locations including the Isle of Wight, Cuba, Thailand and Cambodia.

The Skyros experience includes activities ranging from creative writing, salsa dancing and windsurfing, to meditation, life coaching and swimming with dolphins. Holidays are in idyllic locations with good food and lots of fun. Prices vary depending on the course and the location.

Tel: 00-44-1983-865566,

The Mayr Treatment

Developed by Dr F X Mayr in 1936 in Austria, the Mayr Treatment includes fasting, supplements, an individually-designed alkaline menu and a re-education of eating habits. It is a medically-based detox with abdominal treatments, massages, blood and urine analysis and physical activities. The treatment diet gives your digestive system an opportunity to rest, renew and rejuvenate. People with intestinal upsets can find it helps ease symptoms. The Mayr Treatment is available at a number of places in Austria, with prices from €1,200 per week.

Monastic retreats

One of the best-known monastic retreats in Ireland is Glenstal Abbey, founded by the Benedictine monks and set in 500 acres of woodland in Co Limerick. The abbey is also a boarding school and farm, and there’s a guest house which is open for visitors who want to spend time in a monastic environment and enjoy peaceful surrounding. You can attend Mass and the liturgies and if you want, can arrange spiritual guidance. Evening meals are taken with the community. The suggested donation is €70 per night.


Shamanic holidays, Iquitos, Peru

Iquitos in Peru has become a place to find spirit healing with the aid of indigenous plants. The brew, Ayahuasca, is taken with a Shaman who invokes the spirits through chant and song to help the seekers on their journey. Ayahuasca ceremonies have grown into a substantial tourism industry, so much so that they were featured in Vanity Fair in November. People who have tried the Ayahuasca journey include the musician Sting. Genuine shamans tend not to have websites – you need to go there to find them.

Deprivation holidays

Turning your back on comfort and excess seems the antithesis of a holiday, but it is a new trend for people wanting to push their bodies to the maximum. Deprivation holidays might sound like a nightmare to some, but to others they are an antidote to stressful lives, the obesity epidemic and a way to kickstart a big lifestyle change in a short period of time. And they are not cheap. A week at a top resort such as The Ranch at Live Oak, Malibu will cost from $5,600 (€4,256). For that you will be exercising 10 hours a day – no opting out – hiking the Santa Monica Hills for at least four hours a day, doing yoga and weights and all on a vegetarian diet. The only luxury is a daily massage, a dip in the pool and a lovely cottage to sleep in. You might also meet some movers and shakers.

Jiva healing

Surviving on fruit juice for a week might seem extreme, but if you want to detox and de-stress, a week in a lovely hillside hotel above the Aegean or in the Andalucian Hills could be the escape you need. Jiva Healing combines the detoxifying effects of a juice and soup diet with yoga, massage and classes in nutrition, sustainable living and happiness. The break will take you out of the loop of a high pressure life. The first few days are difficult but at the end of the week you will expect to feel ready to face the treadmill again, or not. Retreats are in India, Turkey, Spain and England. A week in Turkey in June costs from £670pps (€816), excluding flights.

Freedom from clothes

Sometimes all you need to feel free and relaxed is to throw off your clothes, take away the trappings of life and be yourself. Next February, Bare Necessities Travel has chartered Carnival Cruise Line’s ship Freedom, for 3,000 passengers and it will be re-named Clothes Freedom. With the luxury of deciding what not to wear, it will be like any other cruise, lots of great food, Broadway-style shows, dancing, activities and lectures. Passengers will join the ship in Fort Lauderdale on February 9th for eight days cruising to Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and back to Fort Lauderdale. Prices are from $800pps (€608)