Unveiling Nantucket’s Hidden Havens: A Journey into Tranquility

August 30, 2023

When you envision a vacation, does Nantucket come to mind? And when you contemplate a retreat destination, imagine having both experiences in a single place. Join us as we delve into the realm of retreats versus vacations and explore Nantucket’s offerings that fulfill both needs while also addressing other considerations on your list.

In exploring retreats versus vacations, the term ‘retreat’ often raises questions about its purpose and benefits, especially when compared to ‘vacation.’ While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they hold distinct meanings. A retreat involves a group getaway that focuses on bonding, reflection, and achieving specific goals, often mistaken for regular planning or training meetings. The benefits of a retreat range from stress reduction to finding peace and deepening spiritual connections.

PHOTO by henry_michaelis for Lavender Farms

There is no one size fits all solution when it comes to choosing a retreat or a vacation. A retreat is organized with a specific purpose like personal growth, self-reflection, or skill development. It includes activities like meditation, workshops, therapy, or learning sessions. Retreats aim to create an environment for personal or collective improvement by stepping away from routine. Vacations focus on relaxation, leisure, and enjoyment. They offer a break from responsibilities for rest, recreation, and travel. Vacation activities include sightseeing, sunbathing, exploring attractions, and recreational pursuits. The main distinction lies in the purpose and activities, with retreats aiming for personal betterment and vacations centering on relaxation and enjoyment on Nantucket Island.

In speaking with Brandon Jellison of Lavender Farms on Nantucket, he gave me a great sense of his vast years of experience he has poured into devising his retreat packages on Nantucket. He and his network try to customize and create a unique experience for each retreat participant that is the appropriate fit for their needs. He wants to set the tone for relaxation right away and try to hit their main goals within an efficient timeframe.

Bee enjoying local lupines 📷Isabelle Roberts

Lavender Farm Wellness is a year round wellness center situated at 6 West Creek Road, it’s conveniently accessible via Orange Street and Pleasant Street, around 1.1 miles from beaches and accommodations. Founded by Brandon Jellison MBA LMT and his wife Ugne Alekanite NP IFM-CP, who each bring over 25 years of experience in field of health and wellness between Aspen, Nantucket, and Boston. There are a few groups and individuals set on Nantucket island that offer various retreat packages such as 11:11 and you can simply go to their website and check their social media for updates on various offerings. Sara Boyce is the owner of Elite Retreats Pro, where she has specific packages listed and also customizes for work trips to enable connecting with colleagues.She has planned lifestyle and corporate retreats in Nosara, Costa Rica, Nantucket, Boston, and the Hamptons.

Lately, she is creating individualized and group experiences for clients. Sara and Brandon nicely shared some of their experiences, expertise and observations with me to get a better understanding of the ‘retreat’ scene on Nantucket.

There can be a variety of group activities that occur at a retreat mostly icebreaker games, jokes, tours, group cruise, a group exercise class, hiking, team lunch or sport may be a mixture of what is involved at a retreat or what one could expect. There are a myriad of retreat types and there is no exact “right” way to attend a retreat, but some who have experienced them may offer guidance. In asking a friend, Clea Hernandez, who recently went on a retreat on Nantucket she said the following: “Our entire leadership team had our company retreat on Nantucket island in May. We stayed at a large Nantucket Rental with a pool and a guest house for plenty of downtime and our own private and shared spaces. Getting there and traveling around was super easy, and perfect for getting plenty of great meals and strategic planning in just a long weekend.”

Serene view at Smith’s point looking towards Tuckernuck photo by Maria Waickowski

Sara Boyce is a boutique event planner and discusses the distinction between vacations and retreats.Vacations are necessary and one of life’s greatest pleasures-but they don’t always have a specific purpose other than enjoying the time away, or with friends and family. Retreats offer a chance to learn and introspect, often with a specific goal in mind. Sara’s interest lies in uniting people and guiding them to reconnect with themselves. She finds retreats more suitable for small groups-perhaps they even have a theme like personal development or wellness, and might incorporate breathwork and integration. She believes retreats can introduce people to hidden gems of a location and provide unique experiences, enriching one’s understanding of a place. For her, Nantucket holds a special sense of community and supporting worthy causes, making retreats a way to showcase its charm beyond the surface.

The distinction between vacation and retreats lies in the mental effort required for retreats, which offer more profound relaxation and freedom afterward. Some view retreats as withdrawing from a situation, while vacations are simply time away. Retreat-goers encompass various ages, interests, and reasons, from seeking change to taking a break.

Sara mentions for instance, if someone sets out to Kripalu Center For Yoga & Health, a popular “retreat” center located in Stockbridge, MA retreat they are heading there with the hopes of achieving something after a few days. They offer a particular type of retreat at times, which is considered a “silent” retreat option. It is something you are hoping to learn versus a typical vacation.

Considering whether retreats are worth it, truly healing retreats have proven to enhance well-being not only during but also after the event, contributing to lasting healing. Deciding between a vacation or retreat involves evaluating personal goals and preferences, the length of the experience, and the activities offered. A retreat’s success depends on its ability to disrupt routines and provide focused reflection. The cost of spiritual retreat programs varies based on accommodations, activities, and length.

PHOTO by henry_michaelis for Lavender Farms

Anyone can find the best places for certain exercises, restaurants, etc. by examining various guides, but a retreat could offer an experience, where one could experience a gem of a location while being guided through a class. Those that Nantucket, know where to go for a special run that will blow your senses away. Granted you can’t go wrong as they are no ugly or bad neighborhoods really, but a retreat could show one where to have a special clambake on a beach that could end up being the highlight of their year.

“I am very community oriented and love supporting good causes. Nantucket at the surface level is a wonderful place and it seduces you. I love how a retreat could show one how special it is based on the people and community that exists here,” says Sara.

Capturing the isolated beauty of a hydrangea Photo by Maria Waickowski

Planning a retreat involves setting intentions, considering its duration, and understanding its type, style, and purpose. Retreats help cultivate self-awareness, forge connections, and rejuvenate individuals. Spiritual retreats provide moments of quiet reflection and self-discovery, fostering inner peace. Templates for retreat schedules are available online to provide insights into the experience. Ultimately, both vacations and retreat experiences aim to ground individuals and offer valuable perspectives.


Peering into a display window on Centre Street, Nantucket Photo by Maria Waickowski

People might be seeking something specific or have high expectations for what a retreat should cover or include. But, I must caution you that there is no one size fits all. There are practical and step-by-step guides for taking a spiritual retreat where they want you to create the time and a place, be able to have reflection, connect and receive and give back. After returning from a recent retreat, one experienced the following: We spoke about a variety of topics, including, the divine feminine and masculine energies and a theme of radiance was felt throughout our retreat. Even if you don’t recognize the difference in yourself right away, others may-”By the way your energy is so uplifting right now…you’re a light beaming light out of you!” was a comment that was noticed about another participant.

A sampling of a healthy meal served at a recent retreat By Maria Waickowski

Both Sara and Brandon expressed how the community of Nantucket is special. One can build a community well virtually, but it’s even stronger when you’re in person at retreats and multi-day live events.

Preparing for a ceremony at a recent retreat By Maria Waickowski

There are a myriad of definitions and experiences. A retreat participant, Harprit Kaur, may have captured it best, when she said the following: “Vacations give you what you want, not what you need. A retreat gives you what you need, not what you want.” Followed by a retreat organizer and leader, who followed up by saying, “ I say this, because you go into a retreat with an intention, as it is a very intentional trip and experience, but you may leave with even more than what you were hoping for. When our emotional, physical, mental health needs are met over a course of 4-5 days in retreat, we can expand our awareness and our capacity to hold life even more,”says Navjot Dhaliwal, who is not only a subconscious healer, yoga teacher, life/personal coach, but also a ‘retreat’ host.