We’re all going on a silent holiday…
Silence is golden, they say – and I’ve been convinced for the past few years that it’s becoming ever more precious, not just because of its scarcity but because of our own increasing need for it.
Most of us live in cacophonic chaos. Wherever we go there is noise, and nobody speaks quietly any more. Why? What is it about being quiet that unnerves us so much? Some people are so wary of silence that they live with the television or radio constantly on.
We’re all familiar with the “digital detox” – at a hotel, retreat or spa where mobiles and screens are banned – but total silence is much scarier. When I told friends I was going on a silent retreat, just for four days, they were aghast at the prospect. They wanted to know what I was going to do all day. How would I sleep at night without listening to the news or some soothing music?
The truth is, I loved it and wanted to stay longer. Indeed, I’m working my way up to a Vipassana retreat – a full 10 days of stillness, silence and meditation – but I’m not ready yet.
Many retreats, digital or otherwise, include a meditation aspect – and it’s the surge of interest in meditation, mindfulness and yoga that has highlighted our need for silence. Spas invariably have a quiet room; mobile phones are banned from treatment rooms and communal areas; and most people at a spa speak in hushed tones.
The near-silence can be refreshing, although it is often broken in the treatment rooms with the introduction of “spa” music – the sound of waves, tinkling bells and chanting. You can ask for it to be turned off or for the music of your choice to be played. And I’ve noticed more and more people in restaurants asking for the music to be turned down (some of them under 30!).
Just a few years ago, Selfridges launched a No Noise campaign with the reintroduction of a Silence Room, first established by the store’s founder in 1909 as a place for customers to retreat from the hustle and bustle. The latest one was in partnership with Headspace, the meditation app, and visitors were asked to leave their phones and shoes at the door. It was planned to run for a couple of months, but proved so popular it remained open for six.
We’d all agree that beaches are playgrounds by the sea, but must they be so full of noise? Never mind the kids having fun – that’s normal – but what about the racket from the watersports on offer, such as jet skis, wake boards, banana rides and jet packs? Now some resorts with a choice of beaches, such as D Maris (dmarisbay.com) in Turkey, have one designated silent beach. No music, no mobile phones and no banana rides. In fact, children under 12 are not welcome.
For a beach holiday that is also a retreat, head for the island of Lefkada in Greece where Serenity Retreat (serenityretreat.co.uk) offers just that: guided walks, qigong and meditation. It’s geared towards solo travellers and you can do as little or as much as you want – and I’d say the place is tranquil rather than silent. Should you want to try complete silence, the company offers weekend silent retreats in Yorkshire as well.
Eremito Hotelito del Alma, in Umbria, Italy