Do you ever dream about really going off the grid—no cell phone, no Wi-Fi, no flatscreen TV? You don’t have to rent a private island, or commit to a yoga retreat (especially if you’re not the downward-dog type).
Instead, consider a few blissful days at a monastery—no spiritual conversion necessary.
Although accommodations can be modest, monasteries around the world boast a different sort of luxury: total peace and relaxation amid some of the loveliest settings you can imagine.
Of course, given that a monastic community isn’t, well, a Hilton, be prepared for a few quirks.
When Wendy Derrow, director of a non-profit, and her husband stayed at a nunnery in Italy, “it was wonderful,” says Derrow, “until 4 AM, when a light over a picture of Jesus started flashing and there were bells ringing for Vespers.”
Which is to say: read the community guidelines so you know what to expect and, most important, go with an open mind. The point is escape from the usual, no?
When financial planner Lauren Lyons Cole stayed at a monastery in Japan, the biggest surprise—aside from the tatami mat in lieu of a bed—was their warm welcome, she says. “I’m not a Buddhist, and I wasn’t sure I’d feel comfortable. But they were excited to have me—and even brought me a huge platter of food as a ‘welcome snack.’”
Although in some cases guests are encouraged to join the spiritual practices of the community, it’s not required. “We knew that the monks would be getting up at dawn to meditate, and my husband decided to join them, but I didn’t,” says Thalia Marcus, an HR manager who stayed at Plum Village in southern France, founded by the venerable Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh.
Marcus did her own meditation practice by soaking up the gorgeous countryside and enjoying delectable vegetarian meals.
Stateside, you can look into Colorado’s Shambhala Mountain Center and the Abbey of New Clairvaux in California, which even has its own vineyard. Days of spiritual enlightenment followed by a syrah made by the Abbey’s Trappist monks? Now that’s good dharma.
Explore more retreats—in the U.S. and abroad—with this short guide from Oprah.com.