Website graphic

Is “retreat” a dirty word?

Website graphic

When I started working in the Communications department at Hollyhock, I was told to never use the word “retreat.”
Try telling that to Google!
You can imagine what an impossible job it is to promote something without using the most common word that people will think of when describing it. That’s like being a yoga instructor and not being able to use a common word like “leg” – “now lift your left lower limb!” Possible, but not intuitive or easy.
So why would we give ourselves such a challenge? Is “retreat” really such a dirty word?
A quick browse of the directory of centers from the Holistic Centers Network, shows that only about 19 of the almost 80 places listed use the word retreat in their name. We aren’t the only ones who avoid this unspeakable word. 

Definition: rəˈtrēt/

  • (of an army) Withdraw from enemy forces as a result of their superior power or after a defeat
  • Move back or withdraw
  • Synonyms: withdraw, retire, draw back, pull back/out, fall back, give way, give ground, go out, ebb, recede, isolation

Everything Hollyhock does is about advancing connection and culture. Increasing capacity for wellness, driving social impact, moving towards human creativity. The opposite of retreat.
Why then, do we run most of our programs on a remote island?* Isn’t that a kind of retreat or getaway?
The truth is, the “special sauce” of Hollyhock (and no, I’m not talking about the yeast dressing, as delicious and addictive as that is), is more than the content; it’s the place and the immersive experience.
The land, trees, ocean, stars, and wildlife – they provide some of the most important ingredients. I’ve seen time and time again that people simply do not have the same depth of experience in just any other location.
In addition, the fact that we share food and sleep in the same location over a period of days together, allows us to develop unexpected lasting connections with other people – a rare occurrence in most disconnected and over-glorified “busy” lives.
Spending time at Hollyhock has made me realize that most of us have it backwards. We think that going to a place where we can see the stars is a “retreat” from the city – a running away. But, what if it were the other way around? What if we are moving towards something that we don’t even realize we’ve lost? Reminding ourselves of what’s possible?
Maybe it’s just a matter of semantics, but it’s an important one. Whatever you decide to call it – a program, conference, gathering, training, or intensive – when you come visit, I hope you remember and are reminded of what you’re moving towards. I hope you leave inspired and well-resourced to make positive change in your life and the communities you live in.
Check out Hollyhock’s upcoming programs and conferences here:

What do you think of the word “retreat”? Share your thoughts and comments below.

*Hollyhock’s Cortes Island campus, on the West Coast of BC, rests in the traditional territories of the Klahoose, Tla’amin, Homalco Nations. Hollyhock is committed to renewing its relationships with the First Nations peoples on whose territories we are guests. Hollyhock also runs programs and conferences in urban locations such as Vancouver, the traditional territories of Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.


Feature Photo: Amanda McNaughton

Cedar website graphic
Website graphic

Fill up with inspirational videos, insightful articles, and delicious recipes from our presenters, staff, and community.

Gain Insight

HollyHock Talks