We are going to the monastery this weekend. It is a much-needed retreat. I am hoping for silence and peace. However, in the past, I have not found what I was hoping for, but what I actually needed. Only God knows what I truly need right now. I hope it is peace. But the last time I hoped for that, a group of a dozen or so people were visiting who treated the place like a hotel - one that they owned. When I went hoping for solitude, there was a family with seven children who were very very friendly. (Incidentally, I am now married to their second oldest.)
I think that it's good that we can't dictate what we find or experience at a place like that. The monastery is not a retreat center, or a resort. If we go, we open ourselves to God and his plan. The schedule and rhythm of the place does not conform to what we think it should be. We get up early, we go to services, we eat sparse meals, we work. Not what most Americans would call a vacation. I think that even at many "spiritual retreat" centers - whether specifically affiliated with a religion or not - the experience is more tailored to the individual. But visiting the monastery inevitably gives me so much more than a traditional vacation or stereotypical "spiritual retreat" does.
There are good things in both. And certainly you can grow in the latter, or close yourself to growth in the former. But I am looking forward to this weekend, and learning what it is that I need right now.
Blessings on your travels,