Despite the fact that writing is a solitary act, most writing retreats charge hundreds of dollars to bring you together with a bunch of other writers and inundate you with workshops and talks about the writing and publishing industry. If you’re just looking for a quiet place to sit and write, you’re largely on your own. So where are you to go to get some peace and inspiration? Here are a few ideas for DIY writing retreat destinations.
Sitting at the base of a fjord, this small town in northern Iceland offers all the modern amenities you could need with a relatively quiet atmosphere (compared to Reykjavik). The area around the city has gorgeous natural views all year round to keep you inspired. Best of all, its position near the Arctic Circle allows you to take advantage of the extreme changes in day length throughout the year. If you’re the kind of writer that thrives best in darkness, you might want to visit in December and January when the days are just 3 hours long. Conversely, if you need sunlight to fire up your creative juices, daylight hours peak around June when you can expect the sun to set for just one hour a night.
Key West, USA
The one-time home of Ernest Hemingway, Key West has all the markings of a great DIY writing retreat destination. It has the relaxing atmosphere of a coastal city but it’s full of colorful characters with lives well-lived who have chosen make the Keys home. One interesting conversation with an uninhibited local over a margarita could fill an entire book. You can write in a quiet inn with ocean views or go get some liquid inspiration at any of the popular bars on Duval Street, where you’ll be serenaded by local musicians. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a Key West sunset is worth twice that.
Lake Bled, Slovenia
I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing I find more inspiring than a serene lake surrounded by beautiful mountains. Though Lake Bled is a popular European summer destination, it doesn’t get the kind of distracting crowds you’d see in the Swiss or Austrian Alps and it’s far more affordable. In fact, if you go off-season, you could hole up there for a month for less than $200-300. The city has great food and beautiful hikes to help you break through your writer’s block.
Of course, you don’t have to go to the middle of nowhere to be motivated to write. The busy streets of London have inspired countless great works and the next could be yours. There’s something special about being surrounded by so much literary history that makes London an excellent DIY writing retreat destination. Aside from being full of bookshops where you can enjoy some quiet time to read and write, you can also sit down to write at one of the spacious reading rooms of the British Library, which are free to use. When you’re not in the middle of a good writing sprint, you can take advantage of some of the best concerts and theater in Europe.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai is exotic enough to help inspire some creativity but not as overwhelming as Bangkok or Tokyo. When you’re surrounded by ancient temples and friendly people, you’ll have plenty to write about. Chiang Mai also has an abundance of the one thing writers need besides inspiration: coffee! Due to its high concentration of universities, Chiang Mai has an extremely inviting café culture, where you’ll never feel out of place sitting down alone for hours with your laptop and where you can stay caffeinated for the long haul.
New Orleans, USA
There’s an almost supernatural vibe that is palpable in New Orleans, from the flickering street lamps to the foreboding shadow of Jesus Christ against the back of the St. Louis Cathedral. Its historical French Quarter is full of good-humored locals and rich tales to let your imagination run wild with. Besides, if the mouthwatering food in New Orleans doesn’t inspire verbal poetry, nothing will.