I Went on a 3-day Magic Mushroom Retreat…

Mushroom Retreat

There I am, lying down on a mattress with an eye mask on. In front of me is a pensionado crying like a child, next to him someone bursting into uncontrollable laughter and on my left, someone is vomiting.

No, it’s not what you think.

I am on a three-day magic mushroom retreat.

Let’s go back a few weeks…

After listening to some podcasts and diving into research on psychedelics I had become fascinated with the power of magic mushrooms and felt the need to try it out and experience the effects myself.


Psilocybin is the main active ingredient in magic mushrooms. Its chemical structure is similar to that of LSD.

Psilocybin was first synthesized by Albert Hofmann in the late 1950s.

The effects of psilocybin include euphoria, visual and mental hallucinations, perception changes,  an altered sense of time, and spiritual experiences.

In the 1960s, psilocybin research boomed with more than 1000 studies published on psilocybin and its effects.

However, recreational use got out of hand and in the 1970s, psilocybin and other psychedelics were classified as Schedule 1 Drugs.

That’s right, it got the same status as Heroin. After some decades of silence, we saw a renewed interest in psilocybin research in the late 1990s.

The number of publications on psychedelics is currently increasing by the day and recently, the FDA even approved a psilocybin trial for treatment-resistant depression.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University have recommended that psilocybin be reclassified as a Schedule 4 drug, so that it can again be used for medical purposes.

After a few Google searches, I found out that, apparently, there’s a whole world of ‘Magic Mushroom Retreats’ where you can go tripping in a controlled environment with like-minded people.


That sounded like a fantastic idea for a first-time experience, so after comparing all the options, I signed up for a 3-day retreat in my home country, the Netherlands, with Synthesis Retreat.

Magic mushrooms are prohibited in most countries, but not in the Netherlands. That’s why many retreats are organized here and people from all over the world fly in to legally experience the holy ‘shroom.

I chose Synthesis because it seemed the least ‘hippy’ out of all the retreats I found online. To each to his own, of course, but the whole ‘kumbaya hippy thing’ just isn’t for me and with many of the retreat options, you definitely get that feeling.

Synthesis appeared more geared towards people looking for both an experience and to improve themselves, so my mind was made up.


After signing up for a retreat starting in 3 weeks’ time, the preparations began. I received an e-mail regarding how to prepare for the experience and how to make the most of it.

The main thing is to ensure you have the right intentions. I was asked to think about what I wanted to get out of the trip and to think about my primary intention in signing up for the retreat.

This exercise has a lot of value in itself. You’re pushed to think about what you want to change the most in your current life.

After a lot of thought, I settled on breaking out of a pattern where ‘everything is always fine.’ I’m the type of person who plays everything down, whether good or bad. Therefore I never fully enjoy the moment and I don’t have many things I’m truly passionate about.

It’s something I’d like to change and perhaps an experience like this could break down some barriers.

Besides the intention setting, there was a list of recommendations from the retreat organization to get the most out of the experience. Included was a list of recommended books and videos and the advice to start meditating and journaling daily.

One of the recommendations for the last week leading up to the event is worth mentioning:

“To abstain from heavy food, news and media consumption, sex, alcohol and any other recreational drugs.”

I don’t know about you, but for me some of the listed things are not easy for me give up (no it’s not the heavy food part J ).

To be honest, I skipped most of the recommendations leading up to the retreat and from talking to the other participants, I wasn’t the only one.

The retreat experience

On a Friday I’m picked up from Amsterdam Central Station by taxi and from there it’s just a half hour ride to a beautiful location close to the beach.

The retreat house is a stunning place and has every luxury you could wish for. We’re met by the team who will guide us through the weekend; there’s a lead facilitator and two co-facilitators (one of whom is a Doctor). Then there’s also the private chef who cooked us delicious vegan meals the whole weekend.

Magic Mushroom Retreat House
The Retreat House

I’m a meat-eater but almost went vegan after the weekend, the chef was that good.

Later we’re joined by a medic who oversees the ceremony and makes sure no one gets hurt. For me this is a bit over the top but for some people, the medic’s presence helped to make them feel safe. Lastly, there’s a guy joining who taught a few breathwork sessions during the weekend.

I’m also meeting the other participants, a mixed bunch of people from all over the world, 8 peeps total. I can’t really say they’re all a certain type but without exceptions, a group of very nice people.

The first day is quite relaxed. There’s room to hang out, everyone has a 1-on-1 session with one of the facilitators to talk about their intentions and there is an introductory exercise where everyone sits in a circle and introduces themselves.

The next day is the big day.

It starts with a breathwork session to optimally prepare us for the mushroom trip. This is really impactful and for me; it almost feels like I’m tripping already. The other participants experience intense emotions too; I hear a lot intense laughter and crying.

We all get a few hours to relax afterward and then it’s time for the moment of truth.

The ceremony

The ceremony is set up with elements from traditional rituals which make the whole experience quite mystical.

Everyone queues up for the ‘smudging’. This is one of these ancient rituals where you get covered in sage smoke to ‘cleanse the mind, body and spirit’.

I’m not a believer, but hey, smudge me.

I take my place on one of the mattresses (you lie down during your trip) and wait for what’s coming. I haven’t done psychedelics before but I’m not unfamiliar with mind-altering substances so I’m quite relaxed. Some of the others seem a bit tense.

We get our portion of mushrooms together with a portion of raisins and a cup of ginger tea to help with nausea.

Fun fact: For the stomach, it’s actually better to make a tea from the mushrooms but it’s forbidden in the Netherlands to prepare shrooms for others as it’s a criminal offense to ‘extract psilocybin’.

A bowl of mushrooms it is, then.

You have to chew the small pieces well to get the full effect so I take my time. The flavor is ok-ish, not too bad.

I take my time to finish the whole portion of mushrooms and put on the eye mask which is given to everyone to go deeper into the trip.

For me it takes a long time before ‘anything’ happens. From my left and right I already hear the first cries and laughter while I’m still just lying down waiting for what’s to come.

After about an hour and a half, it’s time for the ‘booster dose’ – This is an optional extra dose that you are advised to take if you’re not already tripping your balls off.

I still don’t feel too much except for some more vivid colors and sounds so I happily take the extra dose.

This time it doesn’t taste very good and I don’t finish the whole dose. While taking the booster dose it seems the first dose is really starting to kick in and I’m not sure what’s happening.

It’s hard to describe the experience of tripping. I don’t know what’s real or not and it feels like I’m in another dimension.

I hear an annoying whistle that I think is not real, but afterwards, one of the other participants told me that he was, in fact, walking around and whistling this tune I heard.

Next to me someone is puking his brains out, and yes, that was real too.

I have to go pee and the tiles in the bathroom are moving in waves which felt pretty cool.

I get back to my mattress and I flow into a state that can be best described as having a high fever without the fever. Later on, I feel more like getting up and doing something but I’m not sure what, so I stay put.

I’m looking at the two female facilitators who are watching the whole time from the side of the room. They are dressed in white and look like goddesses.

Before I know the magic is fading and start feeling bored. Because I’ve read quite a bit on the subject, I expect to get all sorts of insights on how the world works, directions to take etcetera but it’s one big nothing.

We’re now about 5-6 hours into the trip and I see the effects waning in the rest of the group so there’s sort of natural ending to the ceremony. I’m feeling really hungry I hadn’t eaten since breakfast (it’s now 7 or 8 PM) and luckily there’s food.

I feel disappointed about not feeling more than I did and the disappointment increases when we do a closing circle where everyone shares their experiences.

Almost everyone had had a magical experience with lots of breakthroughs and had felt deep connections to other people.

I don’t want to rain on the parade and decide to not share my thoughts. Everyone is excited and cuddly and I don’t feel like that at all. I go to bed early, still feeling disappointed.

The next day I wake up early and take a long walk on the beach. The walk works well for me and I’m able to collect my thoughts and feel better about yesterday.

They say that psychedelics give you what you need and not what you want and maybe this is what I needed. I do feel a stronger need now to work on the things I wanted to change and when I get back to the house I also feel much more connected to the others in the group.

This last day of the retreat is perfect. I discuss life with the lead facilitator, speak about how to integrate the experience into real life, and I have a deep and special conversation with a few other attendants.

By late afternoon it’s time to pack the bags and get back to the real world.

What’s next?

Just one strong dose of hallucinogenic mushrooms can change someone’s personality for a year or longer and perhaps even permanently. The cited research found significant increases in openness following a high-dose psilocybin session.

For me, personally, it did not have the described effect.

I felt grateful for the experience but did not feel like a changed man. In talking to experienced trippers afterwards, I learned that changes can be small but they are there if you pay attention.

Funny enough, I did sign up to be a blood donor two weeks after the trip. It’s something I promised an aunt who works for a blood donor organization I would do…20 years ago.

I’m not sure why I followed up on the promise now, and if something can be read into this, but I did and it’s worth mentioning.

Also interesting to note is that I kept in touch with the rest of the participants and the others do seem to have felt significant changes due to the experience. A few notes from the Whatsapp group we set up after the weekend:

  • “…enjoying the little things more…”
  • “…feeling quite happy and fundamentally different than before the retreat…”
  • “…interestingly, I didn’t feel much of the eternal bliss during the trip but after it only gets stronger and stable day by day…”

In conclusion

Although the mushroom trip didn’t lead to the profound changes I had hoped, I am very positive about the whole experience.

It has now been a month since the experience and I often think back on the retreat. I met some great people and I would like to go on another trip in the future. I see this as a beginning of something bigger.

This is also why I would recommend going on a retreat vs. ‘DIY tripping.’ Experiencing this with other people in a retreat setting is what made it special for me.

I can’t fully compare it to taking magic mushrooms on my own in another setting but I’ve talked to many friends who self-experimented with this, and it does seem to be a very different experience.

Perhaps I will follow up with a trip on my own to be able to compare the experience to that of my retreat.

Would you guys be interested in that? Let me know in the comments!

Obligatory legal disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, psychiatrist, therapist, or mental health professional. The experiences and writing I share will be for educational purposes and does not condone the use of illegal substances. Please do not use any dose of psychedelics without medical supervision.

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