Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Monastery Retreats Let You Get Away from It All

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Monastery Retreats Let You Get Away from It All

Article excerpt

As the world gets louder, places of quiet sound more appealing.

Enter the increasingly popular travel niche of monastery retreats. You'll find accommodations offered by communities of monks (and nuns at abbeys) worldwide: Rome, Tuscany, Nepal, India, Myanmar, to name just a few of the most well known.

The United States may have started a little late, but we are not slouches when it comes to creating monastic retreats. And according to the just released list of 30 Most Peaceful Monasteries to Visit in America, our area is particularly blessed with beautiful retreats -- many within a two- or three-hour drive of North Jersey.

Theology Degrees, a ranking website that helps students of theology and religion find a program that best fits their needs, compiled the best-of list after its research team evaluated factors, including spiritual development, cleansing opportunities, connectivity to nature and personal peace.

You don't have to be a serious student to stay in most. Curiosity, dabbling or soul-searching are all fine. Often you can schedule an individual retreat, anywhere from a weekend to a week or more. Many places organize weekend or weeklong programs for learning celebration, etc.

These are monasteries, remember. Accommodations range from comfortable with concessions for the average tourist to ... well ... monastic. They are not just BYO towel and soap but bring your own tent and cutlery. Many include a vegetarian (often vegan) meal or two. They're usually a great deal -- at least if they're still functioning as monasteries and haven't been converted into high-end retreats with fabulous historic architecture.

At some, you may be expected to help with the daily chores, or have to follow the code of silence. Not to mention going cold turkey on the connection addiction while you're in that remote and quiet getaway. This information on the Blue Hill Monastery website is typical: "Internet access, including Wi-Fi service, is not available to guests. Cell phone service is not always reliable in our area. Please make all travel arrangements in advance."

Here are some of the nearby places on the 30-best list, which also features many options in spiritual hotspots like California, Colorado and Washington, along with temptingly remote sites in North and South Dakota, West Virginia and New Mexico. …

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