–Sondi Warner, Writer/Blogger for Wrought Iron Reads
I don’t know about you, but my energy level reaches a plateau after days, weeks, months of following the same boring routine. Last year I wrote myself into a frenzy and experienced a troubling burnout that threatened my ghostwriting career. I had to force myself to stop and evaluate if what I was doing was healthy, if what I was doing was getting me closer to my dream of being a published author. It wasn’t.
For a writer, boredom can kill the flow, and when your creative juices fuel your paycheck, you can’t afford not to keep things interesting. Sometimes all it takes is switching to a new brand of coffee. But sometimes it takes getting out and seeing something new. Maybe it’s time to put your talents to work plotting your writer retreat like I did.
Back then, my days had a predictable pattern, like a hamster running on a wheel: Wake, write, write, research, write, write, submit. Then, eventually the pattern started to fracture because I wasn’t getting enough sleep, eating right or exercising. My partner told me I needed a break. We needed a break. So we took a vacation and I came back so refreshed that Wrought Iron Reads was born! My life was changed forever from one trip.
Imagine taking control of your #LifeAsWriter after just one affordable escape. What if I told you, you can make traveling a regular part of your writing process without having to go broke? Writers need quiet time, inspiration and healthy isolation to get our work done, and a retreat offers all of the above.
If you think getting away will get too costly, then check out my personal favorite destinations and see for yourself why people will think you’re crazy when you tell them you’re taking ANOTHER vacation (and never know you did it all on a writer’s budget.) But first…
The True Cost of Traveling Once a Year
Most Americans take one travel break around midsummer, and Forbes writer Kelly Phillip Erb explains how much trying to cram a massive vacation into one long trip can take out of your pocket. In “The Real Cost of Summer Vacation: Don’t Get Buried in Taxes,” she says:
For those of us who do decide to take advantage of vacation time, it’s not always cheap. While there are cost efficient vacations available – you can even staycation at home – it will cost you to pick up and go this summer. According to American Express, the average vacation expense per person in the United States is $1,145, or $4,580 for a family of four.
As writers, we need regular breaks to stay fresh, and spending over a thousand dollars per trip may not be feasible. While a week away sounds ideal (and is great when you have the time and the resources for it), you can condense a real “power-trip” into a few weekends spread throughout the year by making sure you rest or write as you should be doing. How do you save up for several trips a year? By squirreling away just $47 per week. You can find freelance writing jobs on blog boards like Problogger to add to your weekly income and offset the cost.
Now, here are a few places I like to keep on my list of get-aways to get an idea of what to look for in a great writer retreat.
Stay-cation in Your Own Hometown
Weekend Destination: A Hotel in Your Local Area.
Experience freedom from housecleaning, cooking, parenting, partnering and just write.
All your city or town needs in order to be a great escape is a comfy, clean place to lay your head, but I’m absolutely positive there’s plenty more to do right in your hometown. Parks, historical sites, restaurants and great entertainment can be found just about anywhere! And, if this affordable trip option sounds a little less than exciting, then just remember how freeing it is to have someone else to make your bed.
Get the most from your stay-cation by checking into an inexpensive hotel and letting family and friends know you’re unavailable, although you’re only a phone call away in case of emergencies. Save money by having a friend or relative bring meals over, but make sure they know you don’t have time to chat because you’re working or resting. Try to avoid social media altogether. You’re definitely not on stay-cation to have the rest of the world and its troubles follow you.
Writing Potential: You only need a few hours of quiet to get started and get into the zone. Lock yourself away in your hotel room for a few days, and you’ll get plenty of work done. If your area offers spots you consider touristy, visit them! See your city with new eyes and discover how much inspiration is right there in your backyard. Your writing will thank you.
Rest Potential: With no reason to get up early and no one to interrupt your Z’s, a stay-cation offers you days of limitless rest. Watch your guilty pleasure TV shows. Put on a bathing suit and go for a swim. Step out for coffee incognito. Whatever it takes to take a break, give yourself a chance to recuperate so you’ll be fresh enough to tackle writing another day.
Under $500: Because you’re right in your own backyard, you can control the costs of this type of trip much more easily. Although this trip is only a hop and skip away from home, the key to a successful stay-cation is to plan how much you can afford to spend. Budget in the cost of lodging, meals and entertainment. If you come up with too high a number, tweak your itinerary and find lower cost local businesses that can accommodate you or use coupons and discounts to squeeze in more fun.
Get a Big Break in the Big-Easy
Weekend Destination: New Orleans, LA
Become enchanted with everything New Orleans has to offer.
When many people think of New Orleans, they picture Mardi Gras and drunken revelry, but this city has that AND so much more to offer. 😉
Louisiana is known for its delicious food, vibrant art, spectacular music and a deep, sincere soulfulness like you’ll find nowhere else. Trust me, I know. I’m from here!
Home of Anne Rice, New Orleans’ supernatural superstar author of Interview with a Vampire, this city is steeped in magic and madness. From bustling Bourbon Street where the party never stops to the scenic Garden District where Southern gentility is alive and well, this destination blends history, culture and current day for one helluva break from the ordinary.
New Orleans offers 10 must-see literary landmarks, and, while you’re here, make sure to taste our beignets and chicory coffee. If you’re looking for quiet time to write or rest, there are many inexpensive but luxurious hotels where you can get the job done. This is the South’s best kept literary secret, and I’m telling YOU (yes, you). So, don’t miss out.
Writing Potential: Press play on your favorite jazz album and sink into the sweet Southern spirit as you pen (or type) line after line of your next bestseller. New Orleans offers some of the finest accommodations in Louisiana, and depending on where you decide to stay, you can enjoy the sights and sounds of the city from the comfort of your hotel room while you write. The hardest part about this retreat will be staying in, but you can do it! Work by day, take it Big Easy by night.
Rest Potential: You can rest, but this might be a better location for wearing yourself out with fun. When you get home, take another break from your break. This trip will give you stories to tell (and write!) for years.
Around $500 (Depending on Travel Costs): Splurge on a Petite room in ritzy Omni New Orleans for about $180 a night and feel like you’ve been transported to a different world entirely. This cozy room offers a queen-sized bed near the French Quarter. Or pay as little as $119 a night to stay at picturesque Banana Courtyard Bed & Breakfast (pictured above). A little planning ahead can help you stretch your dollars to get you the trip of a lifetime.
Trek to the Smoky Mountains
Destination: Gatlinburg, TN
Explore a wilderness wonderland far above your worries.
Tennessee is a long-time favorite destination for many authors and is home to writing conferences galore. In fact, the Fall Jubilee at the Gatlinburg Convention Center scheduled for Sep. 19-21, 2016 gives you the perfect excuse to scribble “Vacation” onto your calendar. Aside from being a hub for writers, this scenic city is a tourist mecca and offers budget friendly lodging from hotels to cabins to free space to pitch a tent.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the United States for good reason. The landscape is absolutely breathtaking. Whether you visit to seek a break from writing or to find inspiration, your search ends here, and you won’t be disappointed.
Writing Potential: Although Gatlinburg is a tourist city, you’ll find plenty of places to get quiet isolation for maximum writing potential. Bring a voice recorder to capture the unique accents and dialects spoken in this region. Bring a camera to shoot unforgettable pictures of nature and history.
Rest Potential: A long hike will do your body good, and with great eats everywhere along the main stretch of Gatlinburg, you’ll find plenty of ways to feed your wanderlust. Visit waterfalls, nature trails and don’t forget the busy motorcade at Cades Cove.
Around $500 (Depending on Travel Costs): Get special pricing when you register for a conference and book your room with the deal. Last year, 3 Days & 2 Nights booked with the Fall Jubilee was advertised as low as $129 per person. That’s a steal!
Bumping into other writers not part of your “get-away” plan? There are also a number of cabin and chalet rental agencies throughout the region with prices starting at a little over one hundred dollars a night. For about the same amount you’d pay to stay in a two- or three-star chain hotel, you can treat yourself to a glorious mountain view, upscale amenities like hot tubs and pools and an up-close look at animals in their natural habitat. Another budgeting perk is you can nix eating out and opt to bring your own groceries.
With just a quick search of “Gatlinburg Cabin Rentals,” I found this gorgeous one-bedroom cabin for $125 to $165 per night base rate for 2 people, and it’s equipped with an oversized King bed, whirlpool tub and a hot tub on deck. Remember to book your cabin in advance to ensure it’s available when you’re ready.
Take a Cruise to Paradise
Weekend Destination: Anywhere the High Seas Takes You!
Escape everything familiar and submerse yourself in a new culture.
I used to think cruises were too expensive, and the idea of being on a ship in the middle of the ocean for days and days made me squeamish. But I’d look at the vibrant photos of friends vacationing in exotic locales, and I’d envy how relaxed and happy they looked. I thought, “I’ll never be able to afford a trip like that.”
Then, I found out how easy most cruise lines make it for everyday, ordinary people like you and me to take spectacular short excursions at a low, low price. You might be shocked by how low.
You can take a 2-5 day trip to Mexico, the Western Caribbean or the Bahamas from several ports throughout America at rates around $145 per person through popular Carnival Cruise, which ranks #2 on U.S. News’ Best Cruise Lines for the Money 2016. There’s just one catch. Getting super low rates requires booking well in advance. However, as a writer, you’re used to plotting books that takes months or even years to write. So, what’s a little wait time?
Writing Potential: Say goodbye to WiFi for a few days (although for a fee, you don’t have to), and get back to your writing roots sans social media and other internet distractions. You can hole up in your cabin or isolate away on main deck with the music playing, the sun on your shoulders and friendly staff asking if you’d like another drink.
Book an excursion when you reach your destination in paradise so you can truly feel like you’re miles away from home. Take pictures, take notes, record passing conversations, and keep your eyes open for anything that might take your writing to the next level. With numerous places to choose from and plenty of time to plan the perfect escape, the story ideas you can come up with are endless.
Rest Potential: You don’t have to be asleep to rest. Power down with a spa appointment or just sunbathe under a clear blue sky. Eat well, drink well and be entertained. If you’re looking for the most rejuvenation for your money, a cruise could be the way to go.
Over $500: Keep in mind most cruises offer all-expenses paid, which includes food and beverage, although you’ll have to buy your own beverages. Much of their entertainment is free as well, and you’ll find night clubs, restaurants and shopping centers throughout the ship. So, while you can book a cruise at a reasonable rate, you still might want to budget in extra spending money for unexpected expenses, taxes, tips and port fees.
Congratulations! You’ve reached the end of this article, but there’s plenty more world to explore beyond your browser, away from your computer and out of your comfort zone. Get out there and discover your next level of writing with a few weekend trips a year to keep you rested and ready to work.
I want to know if my tips sparked a yearning within you to travel. Tell me in the comment section below where your next retreat will be or Tweet it to me @WIRUniverse, #WriterOnTheLoose!