Seeking Retreat in Asturias, Spain

by Elyn Aviva

I needed a break. Big time. I’d been doing too much for too long. Traveling. Writing. Doing. Coming up with projects, ideas. More doing. And doing some more. I loved it all, and I loved my husband, Gary, but I needed a break. Alone. And somewhere preferably in Spain, where we live. 

I started scanning last-minute Internet offers. My idea was a comfortable little cabin in the woods; someone bringing me wholesome food; and occasionally taking short, shady strolls through verdant vegetation.

Suddenly a vision floated before my eyes. My Camino de Santiago pilgrim friend Judy Colaneri and her husband, Juan Carlos, own Fuentes de Lucia, a “boutique” hotel/retreat center in the mountains of northwestern Spain. They had been asking me to visit for years. I checked the website. It wasn’t an isolated cabin in the woods, but it looked like a charming place, located in a beautiful Asturian Natural Park.

A “dynamic yoga retreat” was scheduled for the week I wanted to be there. I wasn’t sure I was interested in “dynamic” or  “yoga”—it’s been too many years since I sat on the floor or managed to mold into an asana—but the retreat part sounded good. 

I emailed Judy and received an immediate reply. In fact, she wrote, she had already put my name on the door of Room #7. That’s auspicious, I thought. After all, according to the Bible, the Creatrix rested on the seventh day. And that’s just what I wanted to do.

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Zen and the Art of Doing Nada

by Ellen Barone

Not too long ago, I was chatting with a guest in the lobby of the Inn on the Alameda, where I love to stay in Santa Fe. Perhaps some of you know her: 30-something, Pilates lean, size zero designer jeans, stylish hair cut, perfectly nice. When conversation turned to travel, as often happens in hotels, she told me that she and her husband had recently returned from an African safari. "Sure, the wildlife was awesome, but what they don't tell you," she said, "is that there's a lot of down time with nothing much to do. Four hours a day, at least," she said, "to entertain yourself with no gym, no Internet, no TV, no cell coverage."

So there I was, in my not-even-close-to-size-zero Patagonia quick-dry travel pants, snuggled in front of a flickering piñon fire, quite prepared to do absolutely nothing for the evening, wondering if I should admit to this kind stranger that my favorite part of any vacation is her dreaded down time.

In fact, I confess, one of my favorite escapes was a month spent doing nada at a friend's no gym, no Internet, no TV, no cell coverage, Mexican beach casita. I like to think of myself as an adventuresome sort, the kind of gal that says yes to rappelling down 9,000-foot mountains, yes to a 2-week camel trek across the Moroccan Sahara, yes to cycling up a rumbling Mount Etna, yes to sailing across the Atlantic, and have in fact done all of the above. But, to my ego's horror, I have come to discover that I am, in all honesty, an A-plus student of doing nothing. I can hang-ten in a hammock, watch butterflies, swing in a porch swing, listen to surf and read 17 books in one month, with the laziest of them.

Raised by Presbyterian parents who measured your worth by achievement, I grew up thinking sloth was a deadly sin. Until a few years ago, like any good addict, I hid my idleness well. I'd take the dogs for a walk in the mountains, just so I could tuck in beside the stream with a good book or my journal; I went to the gym only to go through the motions of a workout. I bicycled to the coffeehouse... not for exercise but for muffins and a mocca; I hired a personal trainer to kick my ass.

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VACATIONS ARE A NECESSITY, NOT A LUXURY

by Judith Fein

Some people I know, when they are really stressed out, take an afternoon, evening or full day off. The next day, they are back to work. Others kick it for a weekend, and then dive back into the daily routine on Monday morning. I’m flipping through my mental rolodex of friends, associates and family and, to my horror, I realize that I don’t know anyone who really takes vacations.

“What?” you say. “I take vacations. I went white water rafting on the Snake River in Idaho for five days. And last year I spent six in Kauai, hiking and snorkeling.”

I am sorry, amigos, but five or six days are a break, an experience, a change of scene and pace, but not a real vacation.

A real vacation is at least two weeks. And even better is a month. This is a startling idea in the U.S.A., where most people are afraid to take off more than a long weekend because they may lose their jobs. This means we are certifiably nuts in the U.S.A.  Are we born to work, stress, eat, shop, have sex and then croak? Will we actually take our cell phones and laptops with us to the grave, so we can check the headlines on After Life News or shoot off one last post-mortem tweet?

Talk to people from Europe (they will call it “holidays” and not “vacation” in Britain, but I swear it means the same thing).  Ask folks from South America. They get time off from work. Off from work. Not a few days here and there where their nervous systems hardly have a chance for a good yawn, and certainly not a real rest.

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Zen and the Art of Doing Nada

by Ellen Barone

Not too long ago, I was chatting with a guest in the lobby of the Inn on the Alameda, where I love to stay in Santa Fe. Perhaps some of you know her: 30-something, Pilates lean, size zero designer jeans, stylish hair cut, perfectly nice. When conversation turned to travel, as often happens in hotels, she told me that she and her husband had recently returned from an African safari. "Sure, the wildlife was awesome, but what they don't tell you," she said, "is that there's a lot of down time with nothing much to do. Four hours a day, at least," she said, "to entertain yourself with no gym, no Internet, no TV, no cell coverage."

So there I was, in my not-even-close-to-size-zero Patagonia quick-dry travel pants, snuggled in front of a flickering piñon fire, quite prepared to do absolutely nothing for the evening, wondering if I should admit to this kind stranger that my favorite part of any vacation is her dreaded down time.

In fact, I confess, one of my favorite escapes was a month spent doing nada at a friend's no gym, no Internet, no TV, no cell coverage, Mexican beach casita. I like to think of myself as an adventuresome sort, the kind of gal that says yes to rappelling down 9,000-foot mountains, yes to a 2-week camel trek across the Moroccan Sahara, yes to cycling up a rumbling Mount Etna, yes to sailing across the Atlantic, and have in fact done all of the above. But, to my ego's horror, I have come to discover that I am, in all honesty, an A-plus student of doing nothing. I can hang-ten in a hammock, watch butterflies, swing in a porch swing, listen to surf and read 17 books in one month, with the laziest of them.

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