DIY Budget Writing Retreat (#IWSG Blog Hop)

DIY Budget Writers Retreat

A change of venue gets my creative juices flowing, helps me focus without all the usual distractions, and gives me incentive to write toward concrete goals. Basically, it’s great for everything except my wallet. Don’t get me wrong: if you have the cash flow for an actual writing retreat with actual keynote speakers, go for it. If you don’t, I’ve done the research for you, and below are your DIY budget writing retreat options. Among the many writing retreats on the market, the main overlapping considerations are travel, accommodations, a learning element (workshops/talks), and writing time. Some have a health and wellness component (spa, yoga, meditation, etc.), feedback from professionals, and opportunities for socializing. My focus in this article is the main considerations, and if you want the extras, then do a little extra research of your own, and I’m sure you’ll come up with something fantastic.

Budget Travel:
Points programs for flights: Many moons ago, I realized that if I wanted to live the nomadic dream, I needed to get myself involved with some aero points programs posthaste. Points programs don’t always lend to the easiest flights with the least amount of airport stopovers, but the trade-off is that I only have to pay airport taxes, so to me, it’s worth it. Where I live in Canada, one can access flight points programs through banks, credit cards, and direct through an airline’s in-house program. In my experience, points programs intentionally make sure they’re not comparable to one another, meaning that from one program to another, the way points are accumulated differs, and, for instance, while Program A charges 4,000 points for a flight, Program B charges 20,000 for the same flight. This can be research intensive, and it’s a good idea to read blogs, ask around, and maybe sign up for a couple different programs if you can. While waiting for points to accumulate, look for seat sales, and go where the seat sales take you.
Ride-sharing: For locales within road-trip distance, search online classified sites in their ride-sharing sections. The most popular classified site depends on where you live, and usually, the ride-share host is only asking for contributions toward fuel.
Get an hour away: Plan a getaway that isn’t so far from home, yet far enough that it feels like a retreat.

Budget Accommodations: When evaluating the options below, aside from cost, your considerations should include 1) remoteness/regular access to amenities; 2) Internet speed and reliability; and 3) how much time can be spent writing.
House/Pet Sitting: Among these options, house/pet sitting is the one I signed up for most recently. Generally, the accommodations are free in exchange for your house/pet sitting services, but some ads did ask to cover the cost of a utility or other expense. Because I was looking for a longer retreat (3 months), there were fewer options, but loads of 1-4 week stays. The sites I recommend trying are ($20 USD/year) and ($119 USD/year). They both offer multiple ways of sorting opportunities and are relatively intuitive. TrustedHousesitters has more opportunities, but MindMyHouse holds its own for a sixth of the price. Yes, there are other sites to try, so I encourage you to search for a second or third blogger’s opinion before buying. I ultimately couldn’t find an opportunity that was a good fit this time around, but I have new invitations to visit people in Columbia, Portugal, and Chicago, and I only signed up for this three weeks ago. Important to note is that these sights tend to be more accessible for people who speak English, and so the countries most represented are Anglo ones, with a fair amount of opportunities in Spain and France as well. One of my favorite features is that I was able to use external references from sites like Airbnb and Couchsurfing to boost my credibility.
Rent someone else’s home: was the first major entry in this market, and it’s the only one I’ve tried, but a simple Google search for “Airbnb alternatives” reveals at least a dozen up-and-comers, often vying with an element that differentiates from the pack. by Trip Advisor seems to be the one to watch, differentiating itself from Airbnb by not allowing shared rooms. The way Expedia is an aggregator for hotels, is an aggregator for many of these newish types of sites, but it doesn’t check Airbnb at the moment. I suggest starting with a search of both Airbnb AND Tripping.
DIY Budget Writing Retreat #authorsInternational Volunteering: There are numerous sites for international volunteering, and they all have guidelines about minimum length of stay (expect two weeks), length of volunteer day, and number of days off per week. The guidelines are not always respected by hosts, so it’s important to open a line of communication, video preferably, before you book travel to a destination. Also check references if available, and if something feels like a red flag, don’t ignore that. Arrangements generally include accommodations in exchange for a five-on, two-off work week for a minimum of four hours a day. Some arrangements include meals, but don’t expect this, especially in non-First-World countries. Including a volunteering element in a DIY writing retreat offers an opportunity for socializing, getting some exercise (active body; active mind), and maybe even material for an upcoming story. The majority of these sites charge an annual rate, and some are regionally based, so you may have to decide where you want to go before choosing which site to sign up with. Most of the sites allow you to preview opportunities prior to purchasing a membership. I have done a lot of WWOOFing, which stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, and in my travels, I’ve met a lot of people who have volunteered via WorkAway.
Couchsurfing: Through, accommodations are free, but because the majority of hosts only accept guests for stays of less than a week, and there is such a high expectation of socializing, not to mention sometimes feeling like you’re underfoot in someone else’s home, I wouldn’t recommend this as an optimal way to find dedicated writing time.

Budget Learning Element:
Online writing courses and conferences are everywhere now, and so if you want to include a learning element in your DIY retreat, those are an option. Or you could just bring along a couple of books on the subject of writing, which is what I’m planning to do for my upcoming trip.

I wrote this post for the monthly Insecure Writers Support Group blog hop. To continue hopping or to join the hop, click here. (There are more than 200 of us, and it’s fun!)

What is your ideal writing retreat? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Thank you to Freepik for the image I used in this post.


56 thoughts on “DIY Budget Writing Retreat (#IWSG Blog Hop)

  1. I’ve just finished a DIY writing retreat, in that Hubs took off to visit his son, leaving me the house to myself for five days. Two of those were spent on a solo trip to a never-before visited city where I’d set two novels. Yeah, foolish, I know. But now I have a much better sense of the setting, just in time for final edits.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great suggestions, thank you! Even if I don’t use any of them, your post has inspired me to ensure that I get away for a writing break. I used to cat sit for a friend and the change of scenery provided a setting which got me thinking in new ways. Hmmmm … I wonder if she wants a cat sitter this year! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, what a fantastic post! Thank you for sharing this.
    (Sadly, writing retreats will remain a distant dream as I’ll never be able to swing the time away from house/ family/ menagerie!)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My ideal writing retreat would be at a castle. Preferably in England or Scotland. Preferably near the moors. Preferably surrounded by fog. They’d have to drag me out of there with horses.

    Of course, I might be so struck by my surroundings, I’d never be able ton concentrate on the writing part. But that’s a risk I’m willing to take.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My ideal writing retreat takes place in a castle in Ireland. But I’d take England or Scotland. Free, of course. Seriously, I read writing craft books and blogs. Maybe someday when my kids are all out of the house I can afford a real writing retreat.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. It’s on a smaller scale, but I tend to find that even changing my physical location slightly can have a positive effect on my creativity. So for instance, I may write in my living room with a laptop on my knee, start feeling stale, and go to the dining room table, or the PC, for a different location, different view, different stimuli. I’ve never been on a writing retreat but I’d assume that its the same principle – a new location can shake our minds and get us looking at things differently.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Writing retreats can add up, Raimey. You’ve got some solid ideas here on how to make them more affordable. Thanks for sharing this with your followers. All best to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Excellent ideas. My hang up usually ends up being my family, as I get anxious like I’m abandoning them or something. It’s illogical, but hey, who said emotions were logical, right? Maybe someday, when both kids are in school and the husband is at work, I’ll just do a writer day-camp in town.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Good idea about changing locations. My RWA chapter offers weekend-long “write-ins” that help many to get those creative juices flowing. Some people get together locally for a couple of hours of writing at coffee shops or the library. Maybe that’s what I need to do to get over the winter blahs.

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  10. These are great ideas! I did a religious silent retreat that I used for writing a few years ago. All meals and a room of my own were included. A couple of years ago I took a trip to Italy and parked myself at a health spa (again, all inclusive) and scribbled away. Sometimes it’s just good to not be “on call” for everything/everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I think I might be too much of an introvert to do a trip. I like the comfort of home, my things, my space…I don’t mind going places, but that’s what writing’s for. 🙂 Still, this is a great post for those who want to go on a retreat and change up things by writing somewhere else. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. What a fun post Raimey! In my younger years, the volunteer experience would have been a huge draw for me. I love to experience life, places, and I’m not afraid of new experience, especially if I think I am helping and learning. Today I think caravaning with family and friends is the way to go for me. I can do writing research along the way and have fun with friends. I don’t think i can write all day, but I can certainly research and write in blocks of time. 🙂 Have a lovely rest of your week 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This is great list, Raimey. I think retreats are excellent, but I agree, you need to do your homework. I went to a wonderful place one year in a pristine wonderland only to find I was surrounded by poets and creative non-fiction writers. Felt a bit out of place. But it was relaxing. Thanks for visiting my blog. Have a great weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Great advice as always Raimey. I wish I could run away for that long but my hubby would go crazy taking care of our pups. (They are demanding when I am not around.) These are some amazing options for budget travel.
    Another option is local writer group too. One of the writing groups I belong to does budget-writing retreats (~$60 for the weekend plus bringing a meal to share with the rest of the writers.) The upside is that you are surrounded by others who are writing away. Nothing like a little peer pressure to keep your butt in a chair and write.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Hi, Raimey.

    What an informative article you have! These are really some great tips for everyone, not only for writers. Having a retreat or vacation once in a while is a great reset from our busy lives.

    Liked by 1 person

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