My staycation experience: an online writing retreat in my hometown (Tara Williams)

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

Imagine this: The idea of a writing retreat without the hassle of navigating airports or a long road trip to a distant location. 

In late November 2023, I had the opportunity to participate in the three-day RED Writing Retreat while staying in a hotel in my hometown of Mildura. This meant that I was involved in an online retreat with over forty people while staying right I am. You might wonder, "Why a staycation?" and "How did it go?" 

Well, let me share my experience! 

Why a Staycation?

When I was thinking about how I could be most productive during the RED Writing Retreat, the idea of taking a staycation provided me with the perfect solution. 

While the idea of a staycation - or vacationing in your own town or city - might seem odd to some, it offers several benefits. First, it provided another way to switch up my writing routine, offering a refreshing change of scenery without sacrificing the comforts of home. Second, there was no need to research possible destinations or navigate unfamiliar surroundings. I could soak in the calm and familiarity of my hometown without the hassle and cost of travel. And, finally, it gave me a quiet environment and dedicated space to focus on my writing without my usual home and work distractions. It was the perfect blend of ease and productivity that I needed.

Planning for a Staycation

Effective planning was the key to my successful staycation writing retreat.

  1. Choose the Right Accommodation: I chose a quiet, comfortable hotel with kitchen facilities and windows that opened for fresh air. It was essential to have a space where I could write for long periods, including a decent desk, chair and reliable Wi-Fi. The hotel was also within walking distance of all the essentials: coffee shops, a supermarket (to replenish snacks), local restaurants and a walking track along the Murray River.
  2. Outline your writing goals: Be clear on your goals and what you want to achieve during the writing retreat to give yourself direction and purpose. To keep myself on track, I created daily goals and a checklist to keep me motivated, track my progress and provide a sense of achievement.
  3. Plan your days: Before the retreat, the RED Team sent out a schedule of writing blocks and break times over the three days, which helped me to develop a clear plan aligned with dedicated writing hours, balanced with breaks for meals, relaxation and sleep.
  4. Pack Accordingly: Even though I was in my hometown, I packed as if I were going on a regular vacation but with all the essentials – laptop and chargers, printouts and reading materials, stationery, favourite coffee cup and drink bottle, essential oil diffuser (clarity and focus blend for concentration), exercise clothes, yoga mat and bath bomb. Going back home, if I forgot something, was not an option! 
  5. Communicate your goals to work colleagues, family, and friends to ensure minimal interruptions during work hours.

Making the Most of Your Staycation

Once you're there, it's all about balancing work and rest to be productive in your writing. 

Prioritise your most critical tasks during your peak concentration hours and share your progress with others during the scheduled breaks. The days are long, and the intensive writing sessions are hard. 

Schedule breaks, take short walks or engage in activities that refresh your mind. In my case, I packed my yoga mat and walked along the river in the afternoon to clear my head and stretch my legs after long hours of sitting at a computer. You can explore local coffee shops and restaurants during leisure time, and even discover hidden gems that you've overlooked in your hometown. Use the hotel amenities to unwind in the evenings, ensuring a good night's sleep to boost productivity the next day. This balance kept me motivated and energised throughout the three days.

Wrapping Up

My staycation turned out to be a valuable and motivating experience. The change in my writing environment helped minimise distractions and enhanced my creativity and productivity, all while in the shared online company of fellow academics. So, if you are considering a new way of escaping the mundane of your usual writing space without venturing too far, consider a staycation writing retreat. Your writing will thank you for it. I'm already considering where to stay for next year's RED Writing Retreat! 


Tara Williams
is a Nurse Academic at the Mildura Campus of the La Trobe Rural Health School with teaching experience and curriculum development in community nursing and primary health care. 

Tara completed a Master of Public Health in 2016 and is currently undertaking a PhD investigating how rural communities reduce loneliness through volunteering. Tara has a strong interest in rural health, the social determinants of health and cross-sector collaboration.