Silent Retreat – 19% Health Uplift!

Deano Hewitts
8 min readAug 19, 2023

How the 1st half of my European camper van trip made me 19% Healthier.

How taking a trip to Europe turned into an 11-day silent retreat with meditation, journalling and the most laser-focussed clarity I’ve ever had. How I broke my meditation record — and realised just how nuts I’d become — and then ‘un-nutted’ myself.

Going around in circles

Life was getting out of control again, I was getting distraught, procrastinating, low energy, and low self-esteem — all the things I need to push me back down into feeling negative emotions, like shame and guilt, envy and; generally feeling like shit.

I quit my role in finance in 2020 to become an artist! I started painting as a hobby in 2016, and with no thought, naivety and no research, I sold up. Armed with a few quid from the sale of my business and with some blinkers strapped on my head so, I didn’t for one minute consider the almost impossible task of pulling this off!

Well, this was 3 years ago now, and as the money runs out and, surprisingly, not being propelled into the limelight and not selling out all of my originals and prints — as Tom Cruise does in most of his films I was starting to have a ‘crisis of confidence’.

I quit the corporate world as I had literally no soul. I was either looking back in disgust at my life, dreaming of wealth, or thinking about money.

I’ve been sober for well over 4 years now! I am 45! I was on it, hard, for 25 years with weed, cocaine, alcohol, smoking and gambling!; to name a few.

I was very blessed to have done some Ayahuasca 8 months ago, I was riding high after this! The medicine taught me a lot — but it is starting to fade — well, maybe this is where the real work starts!

I am now experimenting with psychedelic mushrooms. But I’ll write about this another time.

So what was going on?

Life was getting pretty distraught — all good on the outside, you know, because if I saw someone, it was a pleasure to be near someone.

But I was isolating a lot. If you think the corporate world is a lonely place — try being a painter; it isn’t a team sport!

All in one place!

I live in Richmond! Near Heathrow airport, every five minutes, a plane flies over the house — reminding me that I could be somewhere else!

My house is my studio!

It’s my YouTube Studio (subscribe here)

It’s where I sleep, eat, clean, wash, and do house admin!

It’s where my beautiful 5-year son lives 3 days and nights a week.

It’s my office. Where I run this, yet to get off the ground business! Did I say I was an artist? These two are hard to marry together.

It’s stories all of my art — and all the prints that I sell, and all the cardboard that goes with this.

It’s my small little garden that needs maintenance.

It’s getting ready for the camper van trips…

You get the picture.

I was going fucking mad!

I couldn’t walk past my son’s bedroom without knowing I had to tidy it, past the canvasses without thinking I should be painting

The laundry without…

The YouTube studio without having to…

The sketch pad without thinking I should be…

And so I was just getting into a state of ‘should’ be’s’ and getting nothing much done — and feeling shit about myself all of this time.

This, of course, leads back to old habits, luckily not the drugs or alcohol, but I did dip back into gambling, luckily not mega money — but it wasted a lot of time. Binge-watching TV to escape, getting up really late. Poor sleep.

When you’re going mad, you tend to get triggered quite a lot

And then you spend a lot of your time recovering from these triggers. It’s a never-ending cycle. But part of the joy of being away from ‘normal’ life is the number of times you get triggered goes down. The daily happenings in my environment, some mundane, some not, have the power to constantly remind me of the past, my anxieties about the future, where I am in my journey and how much further I’ve got to go. Being away from all of that means I get time to process things because my headspace isn’t so crowded with triggers.

When you quit ‘work’ to become an artist, and you’re not doing hardly any art, you know you got a problem!

All of the time, knowing I ‘should be’ meditating, walking lots, taking cold showers, CREATING ART. Seeing friends.

When my son arrives, life changes, the paints all go away, I am ‘on’ 24/7 — If there’s ever a time I am focussed, it’s with him — he’s my life. But the energy I put in leaves me pretty exhausted afterwards.

Why the camper van?

So earlier this year, I decided to trade my car in and get a Mercedes Marco Polo camper van! Yes, very fucking lovely and a completely absurd amount of money.

But I figured. How nuts can one go — when you have a space that is 5 metres long and about 2 metres wide — and drive wherever the fuck you wanted.

Well, once I got over the initial shock of the stuff you need to put in one. And once I finally got it out of the garage after 3 weeks of repairs!

I find myself in Croatia 11 days after I left the UK.
Today I pick my Son up from his Mum; she’s spent 7 days with him here on their own holiday.

Silent Retreat

I didn’t intend it to be a silent retreat — but short of a few calls with my son, a brief exchange whilst checking into a campsite, and one hand gesture — interaction with an Italian man whom I borrowed an electric cable from (neither could speak each other’s language); I’ve really spoken to no one.

I spent the first few nights sleeping in car parks and lay-bys on the way down — and then in the serene presence of Lake Garda, Italy and now Croatia. I was also blessed to have driven through the Alps in Switzerland.

How do I know my heart is 19% healthier?

I am not going to be the 1st to list the basic requirements of a better life, less phone, more sleep, meditation, being creative (sketching for me), grounding (mainly on the beach), cold showers (some of the campsites don’t have warm ones), healthy food, lots of steps! — we used to call it walking, journalling, working on goals, exercise (running for me), and being with people (well, in a campsite there are lots of people, so good energy; not that I’ve chatted to anyone!)

Do you know what HRV is? There’s a good report here.

But basically, it’s the irregularity in milliseconds between your heartbeats. The more varied, the healthier you are.

I have used Whoop to measure this for years now. It’s helped enormously in my recovery.

And here are the stats, up 19% this month! (My trip started on the 1st of August)

So it’s official, my trip has made me healthier.

Energy

As for meditation — I listened to Joe Dispenza’s ‘Becoming Superhuman’ on the way down through Europe — It completely changed my understanding of energy. We can create energy by having a body and mind that are united.

If your mind and body are not united, well, I am back to where I was at the start of this blog — going fucking mad.

The book teaches some incredible techniques to get in the moment, gives you the reasoning to go through with it, and helped me break my own personal record for time meditated (yes, I appreciate once you’ve read the book, that time may seem irrelevant) of 1 hour!

Sitting on the couch, as I so readily put it with recovery, is not the answer — mediation and movement are.

Why getting away was the answer — and it didn’t need to be a camper van.

c. 95% of the things we do are on autopilot. So trying to learn meditation, or walk more, or eat better whilst in our autopilot world is incredibly difficult. Gifting yourself some time away — getting out of yourself and practising these things is so much easier. And hopefully ingrains the new habits so you can take them home with you.

Until you start going mad again and — well then, I suppose, go away again!

Getting away — it’s given me a chance to do the things that I know I ought to, so I can form habits ahead of the old habits.

Chatting bollocks

I wasn’t quite aware of how fucking mad I was going! When I started the trip with my ego in tow — it was like my ego had Tourettes. I was f’ing and blinding at anything and everything. I was chatting to myself in my head at 100 miles an hour. I was shouting out loud at anything that displeased me.

One of the great things I did in Ayahuasca was reframing my internal dialogue to a more happy, joyful, caring, and considerate one. I hadn’t realised how much I’d slipped back into old habits.

I am so much calmer and at peace.

And now the journey home!

As I said, I am so stoked to get my son later. Whilst the meditation may be more difficult, I think the rest of the things I’ve been practising should be great. And I get to be with my Buddy.

One thing is for sure — though — the way home isn’t going to be silent!!!

On my journey to becoming an artist and thoroughly enjoying the ups and downs. Visit my website here

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