Taking a Solo Vacation

My reflections on taking a solo trip, what I did there, but more importantly, what I took away from the experience.

Becca Smith

11/3/202315 min read

I just spent 4 days and 3 nights on a solo trip. I left my husband, kids, and friends at home and took myself. This summer was stressful. My husband was traveling for a week at a time at least once a month, I was working full time, his parents were hustling to help me out…it was a lot and thank goodness for them because I would have really been in a bind without them. This is one of those times where I could have looked at what I was asking to do and thought, “no, that’s too much to ask, I don’t really need that,” and not even bring it up. But I know myself, and I knew I needed some time for me.

Making myself my first priority is, in fact, not a selfish act, because it allows me to be the best version of myself for my family. A stressed out, burned out, sleep deprived, frazzled me is no good to anyone. If you want to truly love someone and give them your best self, then you have to be your best self. By looking after ourselves, we prepare to look after others.

I had told him months ago that I needed a solo trip, so I got my time off work, and decided I wanted to go to a wellness resort. I found a great place in the Berkshires called Miraval whose price included a luxury room, all meals, drinks (non-alcoholic), snacks, smoothies, most activities, transportation, and a daily credit I could use for the paid activities or spa services. Best of all its focus is on disconnecting with the digital world and reconnecting with yourself. They have wifi and you can carry your device wherever you want but they have “no digital device zones” where they ask you don’t use them, at least for anything other than checking the time or taking photos. They want everyone to be able to have the experience of disconnecting which means not overhearing someone else’s conversation or FaceTimes or seeing someone else’s bright screen. It was like summer camp for adults, complete with organic locally sourced gourmet all you can eat food and a full-service spa.

I will admit, the first day it was tough to disconnect and stay disconnected. There was definitely a temptation to continuously check my notifications and social media. I really became aware of how often I do those things during my time there and have made a plan for my own personal phone use going forward. It’s tough when you’re trying to create an online brand, and hopefully an eventual business, to keep yourself from being swallowed up by it entirely but a big thing I learned this week is that there is a way do to it thoughtfully and with intention.

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I was pleasantly surprised to find that this resort is very deliberate in what foods they offer. Everything has allergen notifications. There are so many gluten free options everywhere to include things like their baked goods, bread for sandwiches, and even their breakfast crepe station which serves buckwheat crepes. Because of all the surrounding farms and some of the things on their own property it is all organic and almost everything came from within a few miles including their coffee, honey, produce, meat, and all their dairy. They don’t use any vegetable oils in anything. I am very specific about how I like to eat and ingredients I want to avoid (because there are so many things that are toxic in American foods that are banned everywhere else, but I digress). So, I’m constantly checking labels, asking servers and staff about what’s in everything but I quickly learned here that I didn’t have to. It was really nice not to have to think about that.

The Food

I brought some books but wanted more of an entertainment read. I picked up The Followers by Bradeigh Godfrey at the airport. This was a gripping page turner and very entertaining, I would definitely recommend it for a vacation book. Turns out the author is a physician and she has several other novels out there so I found some other books to explore soon too.

They offered a lot of fitness classes and I decided that when I did fitness classes it would be something different that CrossFit and HIIT style classes, which is what I do all the time. My first day I got there for lunch, got settled into my room, then headed off to a barre class, fit feet seminar, floating meditation, and a nidra yoga class.

The barre class, led by Papaya Maya, was challenging in a much different way than what I usually experience with CrossFit because of all the balance and repetitive light weight movements. Maya was a character. Tall and thin, short bobbed haircut held back in a large chunky headband, a voice so soft I had trouble hearing her most times during the class. She ran lots of the fitness, yoga, and meditation classes. The fit feet was all about how to best stretch out your feet to reduce pain.

While waiting for my next class I noticed two women also siting in one of the relaxation lobbies and realized I recognized them. They were two other physicians from Kaiser with administrative and executive roles who had just delivered talks to me and a group of other new hires the previous week. They all live where I do and now I’m seeing them there, such a small world! We chatted for a bit and went our separate ways. We ended up all being there for the same number of days that week so our paths crossed a few more times.

Floating meditation was really fun and challenging for me. You climb into a silk hammock and get all cozy with blankets and an eye mask. It’s a guided body scan with long pauses to allow your mind to wander wherever it likes. Though I was relaxed I was fidgety, realizing I can’t remember the last time I made myself sit that still that long (45 mins) with nothing to do or to get done. By the end of it I was finally able to calm my mind and really sink into the process.

I’ve done yoga before, but never nidra. I was back with Papaya Maya. The goal is to get yourself into that space between being awake and asleep and they say that 1 hour of nidra yoga is equivalent to 3 hours of regular sleep. I managed to find that space and not fall asleep during the practice. When it was over I felt extremely calm and refreshed. After that I had a gourmet dinner, hit the spa for some sauna and pool action, then hit the hay.


The Activities

I slept in later than I normally would at home but was still up before 7, my body was thanking me for the extra sleep. I had a delicious breakfast and wonderful morning meditation with Papaya Maya where I set my intentions for the rest of the day and the rest of my stay there. This was followed by a class on how to make the best coffee where I learned all about roasting do’s and don’ts, the equipment you need and what you really don’t, and how to make a delicious cup of coffee. Since I don’t drink alcohol anymore coffee has become something I really enjoy and take pleasure in the whole process of preparing but also consuming. The class was led by Nick, deemed the resort’s cultural connoisseur. He has been in event planning and hospitality for many years and it was obvious he loves his job. Later that day when I was exploring the mansion on the property I walked by a room where he was dressed in period clothes hosting a tea party for a few ladies, going through the history of the mansion and, of course, tea.

After that it was a hike at a local park liked by guides Cruiser and a man whose name I’m ashamed to say I’ve forgotten (I know, I’m terrible with names). Cruiser and her husband both work for the outdoor adventure portion of the resort and spend their days taking people on guided hikes and other outdoor activities. The other guide has a very interesting story. Up until last year he was working as a bonds trader on Wall Street and decided he had had enough, quit his job, and moved to Massachusetts. He found this job with Miraval and decided it sounded great to get paid to take people on outdoor adventures and hasn’t looked back. I shared my own recent crisis of career identity and changes I’ve made and I really admire that he made the drastic change that he did. The leaves and the light in the woods were so beautiful and I had so many moments of just stopping to take in the scenery and take both actual and mental pictures. Then it was off to lunch followed by a breath work class which was a nice way to get recentered before my next activity.

My main afternoon activity was called “flying squirrel” taught by an amazing outdoor guide named, Mike. Mike clearly loves his job and made everyone there feel at ease. He ran a little ice breaker name game to get everyone loosened up and loved every second of it. The purpose of this class was to basically let go and trust Mike to send you on a high flying swing through the trees with the promise that you wouldn’t hit any of those trees. I am not afraid of heights, but I am afraid of hitting trees at high speed. Based on how they created this area there is no physical way you can actually hit the trees but it’s definitely designed to make you think it’s possible. Anyhow, the point is to get you to let go and trust the team hoisting you into the air. The subsequent swing was exciting and freeing and Mike leads a great class.

I followed this by a wind down with restorative yoga. This was very relaxing and got out all of my muscle tension and soreness from the activities earlier in the day. It set me up for a slow paced relaxing night and a good night’s sleep. At dinner I had delicious filet mignon (and some other things) with a gluten free Black Forest cake, soooo good! I ended my night at the spa hitting up the indoor/outdoor pool, sauna, and eucalyptus infused steam room before going back to my room and reading.


I slept in a bit later and felt more energetic this morning than I have in a while. I’d already finished the book I bought at the airport (I can’t remember the last time I read a book in two days!) so I started Jay Shetty’s 8 Rules of Love which is all about relationships of all kinds. This is a thoughtful and philosophical book which also offers recommendations and exercises you can use in your own life to strengthen your relationships. Definitely in the realm of self help and personal development.

My first activity didn’t start until 9 and it was a hike through an old growth forest. Many forests on the east coast were cleared for farming when the early colonial settlers initially came so there are not a lot of old growth forests left in the area where I was. This one was so beautiful with huge towering trees, massive rock formations, and evergreen ferns and moss covering the forest floor. The hike was through an old path carved from ancient glacier movements so it was a deep point in the forest and several degrees cooler than the trail head. The guides said there is often ice in the lower portions many months out of the year.

At the turn around point of the hike we all splintered off on our own for a few minutes and found solitary places to sit and just be in the forrest. There was something so calming and peaceful in these woods. The woods have always felt like my happy place but this hike really cemented it for me. Most of the way back I spent talking with one of the guides, Justin. Justin has just recently become a doggy daddy to a very energetic Weimaraner puppy and was relaying how his life has been newly adjusted to accommodate taking care of her. We talked about dogs a lot, I showed him pictures of my Sherman, and by the end of it he was ready to find his local Swissy breeder and get his own Sherman (though there is no other dog out there quite like Sherman, because he is the goodest of good boys!) When we got to the parking lot he happily bounded off after a couple that just got there with two pups that were relieving themselves to smother them with all the pets.

After that I had lunch, changed gears, and had a two hour manicure and pedicure session with a wonderful woman at the salon named Bridget. She is so sweet and engaging and instantly makes you feel at ease. We talked about having kids and what it’s like to work there, all the things you might imagine talking about in a salon chair. I was initially going to do a Pilates class followed by yoga but decided to get a Thai massage instead and hang out in the spa. They have this amazing quiet lounge area full of recliners where you can wait between sessions or just go there in your robe and nap, read books, or otherwise chill out. While I was waiting for my massage I read some more, journaled, wrote down some ideas that had come to me for potential new businesses that I could return to later.


I have never had a Thai massage before and it was wonderful. She was so amazing and I felt incredibly relaxed and renewed by the time it was over. We chatted about entrepreneurship some but mostly I let myself turn off my brain. I continued to take advantage of the spa and enjoyed the sauna and steam rooms again before getting ready for dinner. This night I had a delicious duck dinner and of course that Black Forest cake again, because yum!

I spent most of my dinner, and a long time afterwards, visiting with a very nice woman named Doreen from Westchester. She was also there alone, had been going regularly to all the Miraval locations for almost 20 years. We had seen each other here and there over the last couple days and run into each other in classes but hadn’t really talked much. We must have spent over an hour just talking about life and whatever came to mind. She asked about my boys and told me she has been primarily taking care of her aging parents. She lives alone but her condo building is basically a big extended family and the families with babies there rely on the neighbors, like her, to help out with the kids. She said the kids basically become “building kids.” By the time we were finished she felt like someone I’ve known for years.

I slept the least my last night but woke up the most refreshed of all the mornings. I stayed up a bit later reading and wanted to get up early for a class I wanted to try. I think my body and psyche are trying to tell me that the things I’ve been doing these last few days are good for me!

I grabbed a quick breakfast and headed off to Tai chi. The instructor, Will, is also a meditation guy, and very good at teaching a chill Tai chi class. Though, admittedly, I have never taken Tai chi so I have nothing to compare it to but it was really relaxing, centering, and fun. After this I went to a morning gratitude meditation, which felt like a good way to end this amazing retreat. The instructor spoke and led it almost the whole time, and included statements like “thank you for my all of my problems, whatever they may be, because they challenge me to develop resilience, rise to the occasion, and overcome obstacles.” It makes complete sense but I’ve never phrased it like that myself.

After that I got a coffee and headed over to the property’s labyrinth. There, I strolled in silence to the center and back out of the labyrinth, letting my mind go where it wanted. There were some swinging Adirondack chairs nearby where I sat while finishing my coffee while getting ready to catch the shuttle back to the airport

Jerome was my driver today. Before we left he told me he thinks he has an infected finger and said he was going to go to urgent care later in the day to have it checked. “Funny you should mention” I said and insisted I check it for him. He was right, it was infected and needed a procedure as well as antibiotics. I told him what I thought needed to be done and what to likely expect and also not to put if off and make sure he goes today. At that moment I had a thought, “I wonder if this place has an on call physician?” It would make sense for them to do that for both staff and guests but it’s not something they do right now. I wrote it down to pocket that idea for a future brainstorming session.

For the ride to the airport it was me and one other woman, a young executive named Heather from Dallas who had just gotten a promotion at her firm. This firm apparently sends all its young executives to Miraval for a congratulatory vacation when they promote. She had also come to the flying squirrel activity with me but we otherwise didn’t really cross paths too much. She had had a good trip but was eager to get back to her husband and dog in Dallas. During the drive we shot the breeze with Jerome a bunch who was in his 70s and retired. He had gone to Miraval two years ago to join the golf club there but accidentally walked into the job fair and ended up leaving as the head of transportation. He spent much of his career living and working outside the country with his family, most of it in Dubai. He had some really amazing stories. When we parted ways at the airport I reminded him to get his finger checked and he promised me he would.

At this point, I’d mowed through two books and needed another for the airplane ride home. I picked up Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey at the airport. I gotta say, it’s a pretty fantastic book. Now that I’m home I’m reading in smaller segments of home but working my way through it. I landed just in time for afternoon traffic but made it home to see the kids before dinner. They ran to me yelling “Mommy!” and wrapped me up in hugs and kisses. They then pummeled me with everything I’d missed that week with them and their goings on at school. It felt great to be home!


The time away was great and felt really necessary to me before I left but even more so after I came home. I returned so renewed, centered, and invested in this life I have with my family that I knew the time away was invaluable. It had afforded me some space, both physical and mental, to really reflect on things and think quietly without all of the noise of everyday life.

I spent time journaling, specifically writing in a prompted journal called The mindfulness journal: writing rituals for self-discovery, clarity, and joy by Rohan Gunatillake that I highly recommend. It does just what the title implies, prompts you to explore some thoughts you wouldn’t normally explore, and see where it takes you. I was surprised by some of the directions my writings went after the initial prompt but in some cases it was like a flood gate opened. It also helped re-establish the importance of journaling for me in my life and how I need to protect that aspect of my routine.

I barely used my phone or other devices and my screen time report for the week was < 5 mins per day. Honestly, I felt amazing. I realize I was on vacation so I naturally had more time but I wasn’t spending it looking at a screen so I had so much more for connection with people I met there, the experiences I was having, nature, and connection with myself. I read more than I have in a long time and really enjoyed it so that has come back as a protected part of my day. I have always felt that I didn’t want to be on my phone in front of the boys (at least not often) because it can be easy for them to see that and assume “whatever is on that phone is way more important or interesting than me.” I want to be present with them and available to fully connect with them in those every day moments. Same goes for my husband. My phone has found a new home on the countertop now where it has been staying when I’m in the house.

I know Matt and I will continue to make sure that the other has protected time away because we both know how valuable it is. This trip really allowed me to dive deep into myself and sort through some long lingering questions I’ve had and things I wanted to look at more closely in my own life. I cannot endorse this practice enough and hope that you too can make the time to have some alone time as well!

The Take Aways