Monday, March 6, 2017

12 Things I Learned From (Almost) Running A Retreat

I wrote this post back in May 2015 after the biggest project I had ever started failed. It's still incredibly relevant to me today, and I hope you'll find it to be as encouraging as I did upon rediscovering it.

For the last several years, I've had this big idea to start a Christian young adults retreat in the Pacific Northwest. Last August, I finally made the jump from being a talker to a doer and started planning out the event. Over the past 6 months, I lined up speakers, figured out the meal situation, made a list of activities, brief sermon outlines to help give the pastors an idea of what the theme would be, and even reserved a campground. All was in place but one thing: people. Turns out folks between the ages of 18 and 28 are all either too busy or too tight on funds to be able to spend $255 on a four-day retreat. Thus, Camp Center Lane met it's demise.

People said they were sorry I wasted so much time creating a camp only to have it fall through in the end. I am not. This is why...

12 things I learned:

1.) Never be too scared to talk about your ideas.
I was surprised how supportive people were! Despite my fears, it turns out nobody thought I was too inept to do what I had in mind. They offered lots of help and great suggestions.

2.) The importance of prioritizing.
Planning is important, but so is knowing what order to plan things. Tackle the most immediate issues first (in my case, find willing pastors, then reserve a location, then go to planning the daily retreat schedule of events, etc.).

3.) People get busy; don't be afraid of giving the occasional reminder.
As long as you're nice about it and don't ask too frequently, it gives you peace of mind and usually the other person appreciates it and understands.

4.) Listen to people's questions and comments.
A different perspective can prove useful, whether you think you need help or not.

5.) The power of networking.
A friend I made in an online group was my most helpful ally on this project. Always be branching out your ring of acquaintances.

6.) The importance of time management.
Setting realistic goals for completing tasks helps things get done in a good time frame and often with less stress.

7.) Break big goals down into little goals.
What steps are necessary for your idea to happen? What order must they be done in?

8.) People appreciate when you reach out to them personally.
Whether it furthers your idea or not, make an effort to initiate and keep contact with your friends and cohorts. You never know what benefits can happen for either of you as a result of your effort.

9.) Be passionate about your idea.
If you really love and support what you're working on, all that work doesn't feel like work.

10.) Do not fear failure.
One of the main reasons it was hard for me to share my idea at first was "What if I get rejected?", followed by, "What if my idea fails and I look lame?" Well, it's worse to never try than to never know.

11.) If your idea fails, learn from it anyway!
Analyze why it failed. Should you try again? Scale it down? Remodel the idea? And what new knowledge can you take from the experience to use in your life?

12.) Nothing is a waste.
Trust God- whatever situation He has placed you in, He is using it to bring about His ultimate glory.

Lodging for Less

There are two words that are easily associated with it. One is "adventure!", the other is "expensive".

Have you ever wondered how can you go on an amazing and memorable trip that does not involve going into debt or sleeping in a roach-ridden motel? Read on, my friend. It's time for me to pull out my top 8 tips for inexpensive lodging!

This list goes from high-end to low-end- the farther your scroll, the more thrifty the suggestions!

1.) Go in the off-season.
My family and I have had some splendid resort vacations without breaking the bank because we were willing to travel when the destination was slightly less popular. If the resort you hope to book does not list off-season rates, don't hesitate to call them up and inquire! If they are hurting for business, they may be willing to work with you on the price. Want to make the potential for discounts even better? Plan your stay over weekdays rather than weekends. 

2.) Hotel? Trivago
Seriously, bravo to this website for their word-association advertising campaign. I literally cannot think of the word "hotel" without following it up with "Trivago". After having used their service, I will probably be thinking that simple phrase even more. It's a fabulous way to get an overview of an area's hotels and be able to easily compare prices. Some booking websites give you prices that are higher than the hotel websites list, but these guys always seem to be right on the dot if not cheaper. 

3.) Air BnB, VRBO, and HomeAway
When I heard people talking about having rental houses for their vacations, I always thought that meant they were either really rich or really in debt. It sounded so posh and expensive! Not so. Websites such as the above allow homeowners to rent out everything from just a single room of their home to a small mansion if you so desire. For the price of a hotel room (or sometimes less), you can have an entire house all to yourself! Want to make it even better? Bring friends and split the cost.

4.) State park cabins and yurts.
If you don't mind the more rustic side of life and bringing many of your own amenities, most state parks offer cabins or yurts for around $50 a night. Be sure and check whether or not they come with heating or air conditioning if that is important to you, as that can be rather hit-or-miss depending on the region. 

5.) Pitch a tent!
Tent sites at state parks, KOA's, and other campgrounds are much cheaper than cabins, if you're not picky about your sleeping arrangements and don't mind packing the extra gear. Want to be even cheaper? See if anyone will let you pitch a tent in their yard. Just be careful, do your research, and only go this route if you feel you are in a reasonably safe place.

The title is fun, as is the concept, if you are open to meeting new people! This social media site connects folks all across the globe who are willing to offer up their couches, air mattresses, or a room in their home for free. The website is well laid out and easy to use, and to help you gain confidence about who you may be housing with, each profile contains a section for host, guest, and personal references/reviews.

7.) Check your connections!
It can be easy to forget sometimes, but stop and take a moment to run through your mental list of friends, family, and acquaintances. Do any of them live in or near the place you plan to go? Get in contact! It could be a great excuse to do some catching up and potentially have a free and comfortable place to crash. If you aren't super close with them, consider offering some amount of cash for their hospitality.

8.) Stay in your car.
I have yet to understand why this is such a generally looked down upon practice. It's a place to sleep, it doesn't cost anything (unless you're paying to park), and unlike a tent, you can lock the doors and have a solid wind barrier. Just be sure that you park legally and in a reasonably safe location. 

Have any additional tips to add or websites to recommend? Feel free to shoot me an email or leave a comment below!

Sarah Iddings loves road trips & exploring,
and the cheaper she can do it, the better!
She also enjoys writing and social media-
Follow her on Facebook & Instagram @Adventureofsair,
and check out her weekly photography blog, Captured Yet Fleeting.
She can be contacted at
Happy trails!