The Solo Retreat

I just got back from a solo retreat in Sedona, Arizona. I’ve gone on five solo retreats in the past five years.

Just as it’s helpful for a leadership team of a business to step away from the daily grind and get together for an offsite, I find value in having solo time and space set aside for creativity and deep thinking.

The ideal retreat for me has three parts: connecting to nature, exploring ideas, and writing.

Connecting to Nature

The opportunity to be outside and go on hikes is rewarding on multiple fronts.

It’s a release – we can let go of the minutia that occupies our minds on a daily basis.

It’s a sensory pleasure – we get to fully take in the beauty of the red rocks in Sedona or admire the way the sunlight dances as it filters through the leaves of a tree in the Texas hill country.

It’s mind-expanding – opening our eyes to the vastness of nature opens our minds to vast possibilities and creativity. The experience allows us to think bigger (there are studies to back this up).

Exploring Ideas

My idea exploration begins with intention. For every retreat, I have one to three subjects of interest and I may bring along some books or notes.

Right now I have a business idea that’s beginning to take shape, so I went in knowing this would be an area of focus along with the concept of structure & routine – something that’s been absent from my life post-exit.

For the business, I spent time thinking about the questions I need to ask people to better understand the problem and refine my solution. And I figured out ways to create a minimum viable product that don’t require a large upfront investment of time and money.

For structure, I mapped out a weekly routine that creates blocks of time for the important areas of my life, allowing for some flexibility so it doesn’t feel too restrictive.


Writing is part of the exploration process, but it’s more than that – it constructs the bridge from idea to reality.

There’s something magical about the change that occurs when we take intangible thoughts and make them tangible, giving them physical form by putting pen to paper.

You’ve heard the statistic that people who write down their goals and regularly review them are more likely to achieve their goals than people who don’t. The same principle applies in creating something new or solving a problem. Writing it down is the first step in making it a reality.

Whether it’s a woo-woo manifestation or a biological effect of our brains needing to see something physical to believe it’s real, that’s the way it works.

Solo retreats aren’t convenient, especially when you have a spouse, kids, and all the other demands of life. It can feel selfish and like a big ask to go away on your own.

Luckily, Sarah’s been very cool about my practice of taking solo retreats and I think she would agree that they provide personal and professional value. In fact, she’s decided to take her first solo retreat to Santa Fe next month.

If you haven’t tried something like this, I recommend planning a solo retreat and encouraging your partner to do the same. You won’t regret it.

- Matt

This is the 13th issue of Sunday Shrooms. Read previous issues.

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