What I Learned About Myself From My Solo Detox Retreat
November 26, 2022
detox retreat


When I first planned a weeklong solo trip to Phuket, I wondered if I was making a mistake. During the pandemic I took a two-day solo staycation in Singapore but it was a way for me to take some time to focus on writing my memoir. There was a definite goal and I was able to make rapid progress once I checked in and focused on the task at hand.

This time I was planning for a totally different type of solo travel. I was excited but also a bit concerned. After all, a week is a long time to be by yourself. I’m OK with sleeping alone in unfamiliar hotel rooms but what about all the waking hours? My holidays are typically planned with either family or friends. Each of these holidays has a different cadence and allows me to enjoy the ambience of a new place with people I love.

Yet, a long solo retreat was what called to me at this time. I felt an insistent pull to take a break not only from the monotony of weekdays and weekends but also from the demands of family life – from planning menus and outings, to showing up at parties and gatherings, to simply making sure everything was organised and functioning well, it all seemed to have accumulated to breaking point.

Exactly a year ago I had been in great physical pain, something I later concluded (rightly or wrongly) was burnout. This year, I wanted to intercept the sequence before it got to a point of unbearable pain. 

When in doubt, do something different

I signed up for a six-day juice fast for my detox program at Atmanjai, a wellness spa in Phuket, Thailand. Although I had no weight loss goals, I was keen to have downtime to go inwards and find clarity. The location looked great and it came highly recommended. I went in with high expectations of the place.

To say I was not disappointed is an understatement. 

It was an eye-opening experience that will impact my life in many ways and for a long time. People tend to think of detox as a fancy way to say ‘weight-loss program’. I wasn’t looking to lose weight but I was certainly looking to dial down my racing thoughts and find a spot of calm. It may not have been possible at home but sometimes being in a different place gives you a chance to become a different person. I was hoping that my detox week would do just that for me.

But it turns out that you need to first undo some of your own misconceptions and bust some myths before you can transform.

We need to first lose something, even if it is our own limiting beliefs before we can gain something.

Myths about myself that were busted:

  1. I can’t fast – Having never been on a diet my entire life, voluntarily withholding solid food was a totally foreign concept to my digestive system. Will I be able to manage with just four glasses of juice a day? Turns out, not only can I do it, but by the fourth day I found even these four glasses excessive. I didn’t feel hungry or dehydrated. There was a hint of fatigue initially but nothing out of the ordinary
  2. Traveling solo would be boring – Although I had time on my hands, I was never bored. Between yoga and massage and other self-care sessions plus all the time saved by not thinking, preparing or eating regular meals, I used the free time to sit by the ocean watching the waves lap gently at high tide and recede at other times. Sometimes the sun shone brightly while other times a sudden downpour caught me off guard. Even the moments spent in the hammock were memorable
  3. I can’t practise yoga in the morning anymore – Although I was a regular morning yoga practitioner for decades, I had switched to weekly evening yoga classes claiming that my body is too stiff when I wake up. Yet, I had the best time with morning yoga all week and it set me up with great energy and made my body more limber body all day
  4. Digital detox would be hard – Although I took my laptop and Kindle, a handful of books and of course, my phone, hoping to use each of these at different times during my stay, I left them unattended in the room for the most part. The phone was useful – not for checking messages or emails but for taking pictures. Switching off was easier than I thought
  5. Staying silent is impossible – I like to talk and converse with people, specially one on one or in a cozy group. But I have never tried being silent for a whole day. During this trip, there were days when I spoke only a few sentences. Going inwards requires restraint and it’s easy when you are by yourself. Plus the benefits of staying silent stay with you even when you return to your everyday life
  6. Going on a holiday means you must shop – This was the first holiday where I did not buy any souvenir or knick knack. I felt no urge to shop, acquire or even gift things. Perhaps it was the outer environment or the inner feeling of contentment that was responsible for this restraint but the best part was that I felt no guilt when I returned empty-handed
  7. Being in my body vs being with my body – How often do you spend time listening to your body instead of instructing it to do your bidding? I have been guilty of using my body as a tool, treating it as a slave who must obey my commands. Of course, it protests, rebels and screams. And that’s when I take notice – when the pain is overwhelming, when functioning is affected, or when an overall sense of uneasiness pervades. During my detox week, I spent time being at the receiving end of the messages my body had for me. Being attuned to its moods and preferences, its desires and its rhythms was an eyeopener.

There’s so much more I want to say, perhaps I will write a separate post once I have processed my experience.


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