Nele/ July 9, 2019/ Travelling as an Introvert/ 0 comments

When I first heard about the idea of an introvert retreat, I knew I had to learn more. After all, I’ve done lots of group travel, but never one that was tailored particularly to introverts and HSPs (aka highly sensitive persons). How does that even work? And is it remotely as cool as I picture it?

I needed to know, so I contacted organizer Melissa Noel Renzi. Luckily, she was happy to shine some light on what exactly makes an introvert retreat.

Moreover, besides telling you all you need to know about the retreat, Melissa and I have a little bonus to offer you at the end of the article!*

Guatemala Lake Atitlan

So, what’s an introvert retreat anyway?

Let’s start with the basics. The next retreat Melissa offers takes place in November 2019 in Guatemala. It’s a country she has a very special connection to, but more on that later. The retreat is open to travellers from all ages, backgrounds and walks of life, who identify as introverts or HSPs. Thus, there is usually quite some diversity among participants, with all ages, shapes and experiences represented.

Many travel solo, while others bring a friend or their partner. For some it’s the first trip abroad, others are repeat guests that have already joined these retreats in different locations. Which just goes to show how good they are, and how welcome everybody feels on these retreats.

Melissa, in fact, has her own theory on why people enjoy her retreats so much: „I find that the common denominators of introversion and sensitivity set the stage for a different kind of welcoming feeling of inclusion that is not found in many other retreat formats.”

Designed for introverts

What makes this retreat so special is that the program is tailored to accommodate the needs and preferences of this personality type, while still providing plenty of opportunities to discover the beauty of the country and delve into its culture. The program allows for enough downtime to recharge and process your experiences, as well as many options for solo activities. There is a clear focus on giving everyone the space they need and at the same time ensure that the activities are meaningful and enjoyable.

Another important factor is that everyone can share in activities in a way that feels right, or even drop out if they need rest, without there being any shame connected with it. This valuing of individual needs and preferences is very important to Melissa: „After leading five retreats for introverts and HSPs, I’ve learned just how valuable it is for us to be honored and respected in a world that has so often told us we should be different.”

Another element of the retreats is the offering of additional activities such as yoga beside the sightseeing. While this is not the main focus, it is meant to provide a supportive space and a tool for coping with the challenges travel sets before us introverts and allow everyone to „go with the flow of an adventure” without getting too overwhelmed.

After leading five retreats for introverts and HSPs, I’ve learned just how valuable it is for us to be honored and respected in a world that has so often told us we should be different.

Melissa Noel Renzi
Local artwork, Lake atitlan, Guatemala

The location: Lake Atitlán in Guatemala

I have never been to Guatemala myself and must admit I didn’t know an awful lot about it. Which to my mind makes it an even more interesting destination. As it turns out, however, Melissa is a lot more knowledgeable about this. She did not choose the country by chance.

Melissa studied Spanish in Guatemala for five months in 2008, developing a love for the country and its culture. „Those five months and many visits back changed how I understood myself and the world. I dreamed of leading groups to Guatemala as part of a vision to break down stereotypes and foster cross-cultural understanding while supporting and uplifting local businesses.”

Today, she does exactly this through her retreats. 2019’s outing will be her fourth retreat in Guatemala. And when she says she aims to support local communities, she does so on every level of the trip. She selects accommodations and excursions that have social and environmental missions, chooses traditional local restaurants and has participants join in traditional activities with locals like weaving, doing a cooking class or simply having a talk about Guatemala’s history with her K’iche friend.

Giving back to the locals

The owners of the Guatemala retreat centre where participants stay during this retreat, two former human rights lawyers, have founded a community centre in a nearby village that can be visited during the trip. “I’ll also emphasize that we go in as invited guests to play and interact, but without any kind of savior complex, which can actually much more harm than good.”, as Melissa points out.

Melissa is aware that Guatemala may not be the first country springing to mind when thinking of introvert-friendly destinations. However, she doesn’t think that should stop anyone from going. After all, we are all more than our stereotypes. „Just as our retreats don’t aim to encourage introverts to ‘come out of their shells’, they’re also not about living in a silent bubble. Rather, the retreats are meant to offer the space to experience the world’s beauty as it is while providing a supportive structure that allows for these experiences to be deeply meaningful rather than overwhelming.”

Lake Atitlan Guatemala

And what do participants think?

As mentioned before, this is not Melissa’s first retreat. So far, the feedback she got was overwhelmingly positive. The most common takeaway for many guests is the opportunity to really be themselves. To many, it comes as a surprise how easy that is in such a collaborative, understanding environment. Being with fellow introverts and HSPs can create a feeling of connection and understanding that is otherwise hard to come by, even among friends.

Additionally, Melissa does her best to allow participants to form a meaningful connection to their new surroundings through excursions and cross-cultural experiences, often off-the-beaten-path.

The reason why Melissa understands so deeply what introverts and HSPs need on a retreat is that she herself is both. Her programs are closely inspired by her own experiences with trips and retreats. In fact, the idea for her very first introvert retreat was born out of a personal travel experience that proved to be overwhelming, as it didn’t cater to her introversion and high sensitivity. After a group trip she took with her boyfriend Jason, they both felt very exhausted despite liking the people and the destinations. The program simply had not been tailored to their personalities. They wondered if there was a better way of providing travel experiences for introverts. „That sparked the idea of bringing together introverts who enjoy connection and adventure, but with our unique needs and preferences at the heart of the planning.”

Later, Melissa extended the program to include HSPs besides introverts.

Antigua street Guatemala

Travel tips from introvert retreats

Organizing these retreats and hearing back from participants has given Melissa plenty of insight into what it is that introverts need on their trips to not get overwhelmed. For all of you not able to join the retreat, I asked her to narrow this experience down this experience into a few tips for all introverts planning a trip:

1) When planning, make deliberate choices. Be honest with yourself about the environments that feed and drain you when selecting destinations and avoid overscheduling. Aim to build in plentiful downtime into your schedule.

2) Choose your travel buddies wisely. You may consider travelling solo. When possible, you may want to be discerning about who you commit to travelling with and how you do it. Be upfront about your needs and preferences from the start.

3) Pack lightly but remember a few key items. Packing lightly can reduce unnecessary stress of cumbersome, heavy lifting and minimalism can really lighten your load on many levels. When packing, consider bringing these few important items for HSPs and introverts that can reduce the feeling overload you may otherwise experience. When flying, where comfortable, loose-fitting clothes that allow you to breathe.

4) Give yourself permission to change plans. Even when you build downtime into your trip, it may not be enough. You may need to let go of some things and adjust your plan when necessary to take care of yourself. When we allow our travels to adapt to us instead of the other way around, we can find ourselves in a much more meaningful experience.

Boats on Lake Atitla, Guatemala

How to participate in the introvert retreat

Have you become curious? Do you feel like this introvert retreat would be the perfect trip for you? Then your next steps are easy: Head over to Melissa’s website, read through all the information and click „book now”. At check-out, use the promo code GLOBALINTROVERT50 and receive a $50 discount!*

The deadline to sign up is August 31. However, if you need more time to think or if Guatemala just isn’t your jam, next year’s introvert retreat will take place in Peru, a country I can highly recommend! Booking for this will presumably be available in September, so make sure to check back in time.

*Disclaimer: If you use the code, I will receive a commision at no additional cost to you.

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About Nele

Travel-addicted introvert by nature, freelance writer and blogger by profession. I take every opportunity to see more of the world. This blog was created to inspire fellow introverts to live their travel dreams, and to view their quiet personality as an asset rather than an obstacle on the road.

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