Last fall I took my very first self-directed silent retreat, in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I'm still not sure why I did it (or why I plan on doing it again), but no matter how many times I rejected the idea, it just kept coming back. I had a busy summer and was in the middle of making some Life Choices (different than "life choices," it seems), and time away felt very necessary. I started to think of it as a romantic vacation--a get-away, really--with just me and God. Like, maybe our relationship had lost a little bit of its zest and we needed to spend some time reconnecting.
Turns out, a vacation with God isn't really romantic. It's not even a vactation, actually. But, whatever.
When planning a solo retreat, the first thing you have to do is find a location. The location of your retreat is determined, in large part, by what you are looking to get out of the whole experience--what you need to have in place when you arrive in order for your retreat to be "successful." I identified a few "needs" right off the bat: The retreat had to be close enough to drive (even over the course of a couple days) but far enough away that I couldn't chicken out and just go home if it got tough; it needed to be secluded but safe; it needed to be in a beautiful, natural setting, with easy access to hiking trails; and, it needed to have a kitchen.