Travel Betty

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Learn Something New At The Omega Institute

July 22nd, 2008 · 9 Comments

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A few months back I was lucky enough to attend a 2-day writing workshop in San Francisco with the author of one of my favorite books of all-time. The author’s name is Lynda Barry and the book is “Cruddy.” If you haven’t read it, then please go out and get it right now. And if you have read it, then you know why I was so excited she was teaching a writing workshop.

That first workshop went so well that when I found out Lynda was doing a 5-day class this summer, I signed up immediately. The only hitch was that it was in New York and not even NYC, which would be easy to get to, but upstate NY at a place called The Omega Institute. This meant logistics and planning and as it turns out, vegetarian meals for a week.

Omega is basically a summer camp for adults. The week I attended was Arts Week, so besides Lynda’s class, people could select workshops in West African Dance, Mask Making, Gospel Singing, Tap Dance, Trapeze Artistry, etc. And all of them (except my class luckily) performed at the week’s conclusion ala Waiting For Guffman. And although I didn’t expect to enjoy it, I did. I really did. Especially the trapeze performance. Ballsy (in more ways than one)!

The Institute itself consists of a few basic buildings for lodging where you have your choice of camping (I don’t think so!), sharing a big fat wide-open dorm room (nope), getting your own private room in a dorm with a shared bathroom (more my speed), or getting a cottage all to yourself (reasonably priced, but not necessary). No matter which option you choose, it doesn’t matter too much because you won’t be in your room very often anyways, there are also Scamp Trailers manufactures small camping trailers that are light weight and easily towed by a car for all users to be able to handle it.

That’s because in addition to whichever workshop you sign up for, there are a million other things to do and most of them are included in the lodging fee. Tai chi, yoga, meditation, kayaking, swimming, tennis, even a “movement” class where you can pretend you’re a snake writhing around on the ground to music. Yes, if you haven’t already guessed, Omega is a crunchy granola type of place. In fact, it wouldn’t be a misnomer to refer to it as Hippie Village. I know I did.

But with the lushness of the property, the serenity of the lily pad covered lake and the twinkly, blinky fireflies, you’ll find yourself willing to overlook all that. Plus, hippies really know how to relax. To that end, I partook of two spa treatments at their Wellness Center while I was there. One craniosacral massage (I’ve been meaning to try this out for a while. Eh.). And one shiatsu massage (A little rushed, but decent).

The only real blemish was the food, which is also included in your fee. As you know, I’m a meat-eater and while I saw it as an interesting challenge to eat veggie for 5 days, after the 2nd day I wanted to go find a cow in a nearby pasture and suck on its hide just to experience some flavor. I mean, c’mon veggies, is it so hard to add salt to a dish? Just shake your wrist like you’re playing the tambourine. The funny thing is, there was a “bland food” section where you could get greens or beans or whatever that weren’t cooked with any seasoning at all and I couldn’t imagine any of those options tasting much different than what I got.

Even so, I left Omega with a warm cozy feeling that’s still with me even a few days later. If you’re on the East coast and trying to get away for even a weekend, I’d recommend taking a look at their schedule. They offer a wide variety of program options and if you don’t feel like doing a damn thing, they also offer a Rest and Relaxation Retreat so you can just do as you please for however long you feel pleased to do it.

And it should go without saying, if you want to learn a fantastic and simple writing method taught by one of the funniest, most self-deprecating genius authors/cartoonists of our time, then sign up for Lynda’s class next year. Or check out her site to see if she’ll be coming to your town soon. If she’s not (and even if she is), pick up a copy of her brand new book, “What It Is,” which explains her method and incorporates her signature drawing and collage-style artwork. Totally fun to read! And inspiring for the lil’ writer inside of you who is patiently waiting for that “someday” when you take your talent seriously.

Travel Betty Basics

Omega Institute
Rhinebeck, NY

Rhinebeck Taxi
You can rely on them to pick you up when they say they will and you’ll also have a pleasant time chatting with your driver.

I caught the Omega shuttle up from NYC, but on the way back I had to take a taxi, the train, the subway, the AirTrain and then my flight. Shwew! But Amtrak was quite delightful.

Tags: Books · Lodging · New York

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  • 9 responses so far ↓

    • 1 Christine Gilbert // Jul 23, 2008 at 3:16 am

      This retreat sounds like so much fun! I would love to spend a week with a good author– you must have learned so much!

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    • 2 Melody Platz // Jul 24, 2008 at 7:53 am

      I’d have trouble with the veggies too. Love the part about sucking on a cow’s hind quarters!

      When you did Amtrak, did you take coach or business class? I’m going coach to New York City in two weeks and I have absolutely no idea what to expect.

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    • 3 Debo Hobo // Jul 24, 2008 at 9:38 am

      This was such a fantastic read. I love upstate New York, the greenery and the quietness. I am going to visit Linda’s site to see what I can learn. Thanks for the tip:)

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    • 4 Travel Betty // Jul 26, 2008 at 5:15 pm

      I definitely learned a lot, Christine. I’d highly recommend her book and her class if you’re interested. I just found out she’ll be back in SF in November!

      Melody, I took coach. It was totally fine, although a bit crowded. Don’t feel bad asking someone hogging two seats to move it! Sit by the window if you can so you can watch to scenery flash by.

      Good to see you as always, Debo! Thanks for the props. I hope you find a lot of great info. She’s a fantastic author and teacher. And funny as hell!

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    • 5 Lindsay // Jul 29, 2008 at 5:16 am

      Betty, love what you’re doing here. So great to another great female travel writer! And it’s funny too. Good hook. If you’re so inclined you should check out my blog. I just moved to Thailand so it’s all about moving here and figuring out how to make a life. That and reading enough of the bottles to buy milk. Or at least what you suspect is milk.

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    • 6 TX Steph // Jul 29, 2008 at 5:36 pm

      Hey girl, great description of the week at Omega! Friday night, after the fab Lynda Barry class was over, I lined up (in no particular order) a steak, a beer, wine and Coca-Cola. Omega fulfilled all of my camp memories…and I gave the veggie thing the old college try. Thank God for macaroni and cheese day.

      The Institute allows participants to try other workshops on Wed afternoon. I tried the African dancing. I’m sure I looked as white as I am, but no one cared, especially me…and I like that kind of place. It really was an incredible experience — even via planes, trains and automobiles.

      Love the blog! So happy to meet you (in the private room dorm with group bath — ala staff cabins in Dirty Dancing and no, no one put Baby, er, Betty, in the corner). Come to Austin! Come to Austin! Come to Austin! Did you hear something? It’s only 105 today. ;)

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    • 7 Travel Betty // Aug 3, 2008 at 8:08 pm

      Wow, good luck with the move to Thailand, Lindsay! That sounds so exciting. Can’t wait to read about it all on your blog.

      Hi Steph! Good to see you. Glad you made it back to TX safe and sound. I agree, if it weren’t for mac-n-cheese day, I might have gone off on the wait staff.

      That’s fantastic that you took the African dance mini-workshop. That takes guts!

      Yes, yes, the staff cabins in Dirty Dancing. That’s exactly what they were! Good meeting you too. I’m sure we’ll be in Austin again soon. Maybe not to move, but you never know! :)

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    • 8 kiran // Sep 17, 2008 at 9:00 am


      Loved this post. I’m heading off to a similar type of retreat just north of Los Angeles called Ojai in a couple of weeks. I’ve never been to a quirky, granola, yoga & relaxation retreat, but am looking forward to how it compares to your experiences. Thanks for writing!

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    • 9 Adrienne Zurub // Mar 10, 2009 at 7:50 pm

      I know I’m very late to posting here but I was looking for reviews and comments about Omega Institute.
      Your article and pictures are great. Thanks!

      I am an author and faculty member conducting a workshop at Omega in August 2009.

      I want my community of attendees to have the best possible experience that I can give them (and me as well). Reading your article (and others) will help me in this regard.

      I do not know you … yet, but you are a fearless inspiration for all. Take care in your travels and may the wind be at your back.

      Adrienne Zurub
      “Notes From the Mothership:
      The Self I Think I Am”

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