We’re all go­ing on a silent hol­i­day…

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - Front Page -

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

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