Where can a girl go to get her head clear for free in this country?
December 31, 2006 5:34 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend wants somewhere to, in her words, "detox" in the USA. But it's not drug or booze related. She wants somewhere go, chill, clear her head, be quiet for a while and concentrate on starting her life again. And she wants to do it for free. Any ideas?

She's had a really rough year. She's taken her lumps, professionally, personally and familywise. Now she's ready to move across country and start again. But I think she wants to reset her clock somewhere before she dives into something with both feet. Thus her "detox" plan. I know she'd like something in the pacific northwest - mountains, fresh air, etc.

But...she's poor.

I offered to pay for something I knew about but she's kind of against it. I mean, if it's not too much, I'm happy to spring for it on her behalf. I want a person to better themselves. But I don't think she wants to start her new life in debt to me. She says it'll take away from the experience.

So it's up to you folks. I waited two weeks to ask this question and gave up on my fairly important question I had ready (something about program replacements for Norton Ghost) but if it's what it takes to help her, well then I just gotta use my question for her.

So in the spirit of the new year, give me your best: what buddhist monasteries, 60's communes or special programs does anyone know about that might help her to get her head clear? She's up for anything, but, at the same time I want to steer her clear of anything that might end up with me calling an anti-cult counselor in six months. I don't want to trade one spiritual monkey on her back for another.
posted by rileyray3000 to Travel & Transportation (37 answers total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
For free? I don't think that happens any more, but I think I know how she feels. Most things "free" will probably involve a little behavioral conditioning she didn't bargain for.

If you and she are a good team, and can stick together and make the rent thing work - hit Boulder Colorado - good vibes.
posted by rougy at 5:43 PM on December 31, 2006

I'm pretty sure anyplace she ends up doing this the "free" is more of "exchange of goods and services" and she will have to do some type of work.

So, she can't work it out to sell a few things and get enough cash for a plane ticket and a couple of weeks stay in hostels?

Hell, I saw a hostel on Highway 1 yesterday at a lighthouse.

(it's here if she's interested)
posted by smallerdemon at 5:46 PM on December 31, 2006

Camping is cheap. Send her to climb a mountain or something? But the southwest might be more survivable this time of year.
posted by thirteenkiller at 5:48 PM on December 31, 2006

Some organic farms are essentially co-operatives where work is swapped for room and board -- and they can be very peaceful, unplugged sorts of places. They might meet the "free" criterion, or nearly so, and offer peace through weeding.
posted by Rumple at 5:49 PM on December 31, 2006

Maybe she could volunteer with an organization that offers room & board.

Here's one in North Carolina. They're a little Buddhist, I think, but pretty laid-back from what I can tell.

It would perhaps be helpful to know where you are and/or your/an e-mail address.

Good luck! This could be a good thread.
posted by amtho at 5:52 PM on December 31, 2006

Join the Army/National Guard. They will clear her head of all that nonsense and pay her to boot :)
posted by Osmanthus at 5:54 PM on December 31, 2006

A word about Buddhist monasteries...

Getting into Buddhism is not fun and relaxing. It's a total mind fuck that, for the first few years (sometimes decades) really sucks. Don't have her roll into a Buddhist monastery thinking this will be a great place to chill -- it won't be: she'll get about 5 hours of sleep a night, she'll sit in Zazen for hours upon hours a day, she'll have chores, etc.

My advice would for her would be to get an apartment with a three month lease in a brand new city where she known no one. Cut off all ties to everyone she does know. Have her do nothing for three months but read, watch movies and quality television (maybe even skip cable and do Netflix), write in a journal, listen to music, work out (if that appeals to her), etc. Have her become an island. Spend three months doing whatever the hell she wants to do, all day. You could do it pretty cheap, and maybe three months is even too long. That's better for her than expensive therapy or some type of bullshit retreat where you "get to know yourself".
posted by JPowers at 5:56 PM on December 31, 2006 [5 favorites]

Yosemite National Park is beautiful and accesible for a nominal entrance fee.
But it is kinda cold at this time of year, unless she likes that sort of thing.
As an alternative may I suggest heading down to Baja Mexico?
Fly in to San Diego, rent a car (don't forget insurance!) and four hours later you are basking in the Eden that is San Philippe...
Bring novels, sunscreen and dollars.
Leave refreshed.
posted by Dizzy at 5:56 PM on December 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

For the organic farming volunteer opportunities (contributing good work for good projects is good for the mind and soul), check out wwoofing- wwoof.org
posted by kch at 5:58 PM on December 31, 2006

She wants somewhere go, chill, clear her head, be quiet for a while and concentrate on starting her life again.

On top of my head and lacking any other detail and not knowing her at all, my WILD BET would be she is trying to escape.

From what ? Well again, extremely wild bet would be : from something that depresses her in her life , but that she feels she needs to get away from, which suggest me she think it is something _outside herself_ and _into her everyday living environment_

You see , I don't see the need to go "detox in USA" ..why USA, why not for instance Brasil or Japan ? Considering that she can't afford many extravagant expenses or none at all, I don't see why she couldn't, for instance, just spend a week in a hotel nearby.

I am not suggesting she SHOULD do that or attemting to suggest her into thinking she shouldn't waste money in "silly" trips..that is not my idea, at all. I love traveling :)

But this detox thing suggest me escaping from something, or maybe just she really need to detox from drugs/al and she needs to find someplace far away, for reasons I don't know. If so, I don't really know, sorry.
posted by elpapacito at 6:04 PM on December 31, 2006

There's a Benedictine monastery north of San Diego in Oceanside. It offers itself up for retreat, for cost, but the abbot there is open to negotiation. I enjoyed speaking to him during my visit there; he didn't push religiosity at all, and had a lot of (what I found to be) profound things to say. The place was very open in every sense. It's situated up in beautiful hills and has panoramic views.

It's the Prince of Peace Abbey. It can't hurt to write and see whether it might be an option for her. If she's not religious, she'll still probably find beauty in the silence and rituals. I considered pressing my own reset button up there, but haven't taken the opportunity.
posted by moira at 6:17 PM on December 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'd look into Orthodox monasteries. Christian monks have a long history of welcoming visitors at little or no charge. Here's one for women in Washington state. Wouldn't hurt to call and get info. There's a number just for visits and retreats.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:17 PM on December 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

Here in Virginia we have the Twin Oaks commune. It would be free, in the sense that no money would change hands, but she'd have to work to earn her keep. They are used to shorter term visitors from what I understand. A friend of a friend stayed there a while, I've never heard anything negative about the place.
posted by phrontist at 6:23 PM on December 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

How soon does she want to go? The Abbey of Gethsemani doesn't list any charges for retreats on their webpage - it might be worth contacting them or Bethany Sping, which does have a suggested contribution. These are near Bardstown, KY.
posted by dilettante at 6:59 PM on December 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

A relative of mine goes to Spirit Rock and finds that it allows her to step back, gather her thoughts and put everything back into perspective. It's located north of San Francisco. A week-long retreat starts at $500 but there are alternative ways of paying too, such as scholarships, deferred payment plans and working in exchange.

From their site: Most of the retreat is held in silence—retreatants do not speak to one another. Writing and reading are also discouraged, so that retreatants can better stay with their own present experience as it unfolds, moment to moment. In this silent and mindful environment, awareness sharpens, the body quiets, the mind clears, and space opens for insight and understanding to develop.
posted by nelvana at 7:15 PM on December 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

You could try Spirit Rock Meditation center. It's new agey/buddist and might let her participate in one of the longer retreats if she does work.

It's not a cult. I know several doctors who go there to decompress and they're no more crazy than me.
posted by chairface at 7:19 PM on December 31, 2006

She could try Vipassana Meditation which comes from India. A friend of mine does this every few years to detox his mind. He calls it a "mental reboot."

The 10-day courses are completely free. Those who take them seriously and complete the courses often donate money to cover the costs of future courses. It's very "zen."
posted by camworld at 7:39 PM on December 31, 2006

Well of Mercy in NC has a "pay what you are able" philosophy. I haven't been there myself, but my mother speaks very highly of it.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 7:42 PM on December 31, 2006

I've taken the sort of retreat she's looking for at St. Andrews Monastery in Valyermo, CA. They have a suggested donation, but recognize that there are poor people who cant afford it. See if she can help out in the kitchen or something
posted by anonymoose at 7:45 PM on December 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

I've been camping on BLM land in the Henry Mountains in Utah. If you need to get away from civilization in order to reboot, that's a good place to do it.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:46 PM on December 31, 2006

The forest service lets you stay in fire lookouts in the right season. They're very remote. Some of them are rented by the day, but IIRC some are rented for full seasons.
posted by hattifattener at 8:44 PM on December 31, 2006

She may want to look into Holden Village on Lake Chelan.

The minuses - this is a religious community, and while her stay would not cost her much in the way of money, some labor on her part would be expected. The pluses - while based in religion, that religion is Northwestern Lutherans, which are mellow as Green Tea Sherbet. The village is inaccessible by road and quite sparing of distracting creature comforts. An excellent place to reflect. She'll hardly be able to help spending some time reflecting.
posted by EatTheWeek at 9:01 PM on December 31, 2006

I've been to the Vipassana retreat center in Washington (schedule here), and I can say that it's not a cult. But it is 10 days of intense, silent meditation and training in their method. (I wouldn't think of it as "free," since I found myself wanting to cover their per-person basic costs like food, utilities -- pays nothing to the teachers -- around $100, seven years ago.) But if she wants something "relaxing," I'd find another option.

If it were me, I'd look up hot springs (eg). They feel "purifying," and they'll let her be outside without being chilly the whole time, and since many people go there, she could get a lot of thinking time without being totally alone the entire time. Many hot springs, you can camp at for free. But even for-profit ones will often give someone cut-rate prices for camping in exchange for help, eg, scrubbing the tubs once a week. You can work a similar deal at many youth hostels. She'd probably have to ask in person to pull this off.

She could also check out intentional communities in the northwest -- most would probably let her stay temporarily in exchange for work. (I'd check into Breitenbush and Lost Valley, ones that've been around long enough to be fairly legit.)
posted by salvia at 9:15 PM on December 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

salvia - you just beat me to it. Whilst travelling in New Mexico a few years ago (staying in hostels - not free, but reasonably cheap) I met a bunch of people on what they called The Hot Springs Trail: they just had a book of natural hot springs locations in the US and were travelling around visiting different ones. I went to a bunch myself and they're great - particularly so if it's snowing. And the people you tend to bump into these places - if you're in a condition that you need to climb in a hot spring, then these sure are the kind of people you need to meet.

Oh, and the Riverbend Hostel in Truth or Consequences has it's own hot springs on site if you don't want to go looking for them.
posted by forallmankind at 10:03 PM on December 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

There are hotspings in Death Valley NP,and you may camp for one calender month per year,free.
posted by hortense at 11:10 PM on December 31, 2006

I'll 2nd wwoofing. It's a great way to meet people and it's inexpensive. (basically free, since you get room and board in exchange for 4 hours of work.)

willing-workers-on-organic farms is a world wide thing, so maybe spending a few weeks outside the USA (denmark, canada, new zealand, etc.) will help to clear the mind and get a fresh perspective.
posted by kamelhoecker at 1:06 AM on January 1, 2007

Piggy-backing on those who suggest camping, I would offer camping (which can offer a wealth of solitude and reinvigorate a sense of self reliance) along with her very own copy of Walden by Thoreau, a collection of writings by Emerson, and a blank diary to capture her thoughts. The costs would be small - mostly for camping gear, which she can use again, small fees for access to a campground, and food.
posted by Houstonian at 2:20 AM on January 1, 2007

Caretaker Gazette


partimage, part of systemrescuecd
posted by limon at 8:52 AM on January 1, 2007

Without being specific - one traditional, low cost way of detoxing is to go on a pilgrimage. I think the basic idea is that the journey is at least as important as the destination, that one goes by foot or some other slow means of transport and that the whole thing takes at least several days. Long distance hiking trails would probably fit the bill.
posted by rongorongo at 9:50 AM on January 1, 2007

Land of Medicine Buddha in Santa Cruz, CA.

Can't say enough good things about it or its founder.
posted by gage at 11:11 AM on January 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've suggested the Shadowcliff Mountain Lodge before in this kind of situation. I stumbled upon it while camping in the Rockies this summer. It's a beautiful little lodge close to trails and other things in Grand Lake, CO. There are more expensive single rooms, but I stayed in the hostel, which was fairly cheap. A number of people were there to write books or just detox. The staff is great. While there is a fish on the sign, I found no insistent Christianity there -- just a warm, spiritual place. There was even a Tai Chi workshop going on while I was there.
posted by ontic at 1:11 PM on January 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Okay there are now literally dozens of good suggestions here. I am passing them along to my girlfriend today.

I'm not going to mark a best answer because I'd say, easily, half of these would do the trick for anyone who needs this sort of thing. No matter which one she goes with.

Thanks everyone. If you have more suggestions you can email me at riley_ray@hotmail.com
posted by rileyray3000 at 1:40 PM on January 1, 2007

as far as i know the tree-sitting groups in oregon are still looking for more sitters, and people bring you supplies while you sit up there. i think.
posted by lgyre at 1:41 PM on January 1, 2007

Do you know anybody with a cottage? Even a tiny hunting shack with just the basic amentities would do. If the owners don't normally rent it out, and most people I know with cottages don't, they're unlikely to want cash from your girlfriend for a little bit of off-season use.

Camping would also be the way to go, I think.
posted by kmennie at 3:31 PM on January 1, 2007

Well: It won't be free, but maybe http://www.couchsurfing.com/ might be what she needs? A little bit of bouncing around is good for the soul, sometimes.
posted by GilloD at 7:27 AM on January 2, 2007

I woofed in Hawaii with my now wife. Best 2 month stretch of my life.
posted by zpousman at 8:13 AM on January 2, 2007

Late to the thread but I'd like to add Southwest Louisiana. Start at the Blue Moon Guesthouse in Lafayette and go from there. There's so many wonderful little corners of this world to explore and discover. Friendly people who enjoy a very relaxed approach to life. It's almost Mardi Gras time, the weather is pretty great this time of year, and the small towns around Lafayette have fabulous music festivals all day. Learn about the rich local culture. It's an amazing place to get away from it all and figure out what's important to oneself.
posted by dog food sugar at 9:35 AM on January 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

« Older Have you tried turning it off and then on again?   |   How can I make this beautiful for my dad? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.