A Creative Pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago

Sunday, September 1 -  Monday, September 16, 2024

Due to Cancellations, Spots Claimed as of 7/8/24
11 Out of 14

Hike the Camino While Learning to Use Words, Watercolor, and Sketches to Create a Memorable Travel Journal

Our 16-day trip will include:

  • Eight days hiking the Camino de Santiago (French route) beginning at O Cebreiro Pass and ending in Santiago de Compostela, Spain
  • Six days focused on the creative arts: writing, sketching, and watercolor
  • Instruction in writing, sketching and watercolor techniques designed to be used on-the-go to capture the beauty and meaning of your journey
  • A small travel watercolor sketch kit with watercolors, watercolor brush and paper
  • Your own pilgrim passport, to be stamped each day along the 100 km journey (roughly 62 miles), qualifying you for your Compostela Certificate, on arrival at Santiago
  • Delicious foods from the Galicia region, including local cheeses and wines
  • History and traditions of the Way

About the Writing, Sketching, and Watercolor on this Trip

This is primarily a hiking trip, enhanced with creative elements to enrich your travels and record your pilgrimage experience. Writing and drawing will accompany and support your journey, but this trip will not provide a deep dive into either discipline.

Beginners in both writing and sketching are welcome to attend.

But I'm not a "real" writer. I haven't published anything. I just write for myself. Can I come?

There is no level of writing experience required to join us on the Camino. If you like to write and are open to creating a travel journal, you're welcome to come.

In our classes, Laura will teach you the basics of travel writing, and we will focus on honing our skills of observation and descriptive writing. She will also guide you in using writing to deepen the pilgrimage aspect of our trip by guiding you to document the thoughts, feelings, and insights that arise as you walk the Camino. Our focus will not be on craft, critique, or polishing work to completion.

So, this is not the trip to take if your goal is to hole up to finish your novel or to do a deep dive into only writing. This is adventure travel with a wonderful creative bent.

Unpaved country road leading to Viana on the Way of St. James, Camino de Santiago in Navarre, Spain

But I'm not an artist. Can I come if I can't draw?   

Yes! Drawing, like writing, is a practice and a craft. Some of us will be total beginners (like Laura) and others have been practicing for longer and are more skilled.

Detailed drawings are much different than the techniques for quick sketches and watercolor that we will utilize to take in and savor our journey more deeply. Our focus will be on learning to see and sometimes slowing down to look closely at the details of our surroundings.

Brenda will help us shift from 'left brain' thinking of "I know what a tree or house or ___ looks like," (which gets in the way of drawing) to 'right brain' exploration of edges, values, and colors through activities and practice as we walk along the Way.

And, if you don't enjoy sketching, you can still add color and borders to your written work.

After my lessons with Laura and Brenda, what will I come away with?

After 16 days in Spain, immersed in beauty and a creative traveling community, you'll return home with a personal journal documenting your journey.

Full Itinerary

Important: Your trip begins and ends in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. We will designate a particular flight we want you to take from Madrid to Santiago on September 1st so that we can all arrive at the airport together.

B=Breakfast, D=Dinner Meals listed in parentheses are included.

Hiking distances are approximate. On our walking days, plan on walking between 9-15 miles a day on a variety of surfaces and terrain—pavement, cobblestones and dirt.

Note: Our itinerary is designed to integrate creative expression while hiking the last 100 km of the Camino, inn-to-inn style. Like all adventure travel trips, the itinerary may need to be altered due to weather, unforeseen circumstances, new opportunities, and group interests. Weather may also cause changes to our itinerary. There will be no refunds for any activities that participants do not attend. Anyone who leaves the tour itinerary at any time FOR ANY REASON will be responsible for their own costs and safety.

Who This Trip is For:

Trip size is limited to 14 pilgrims. We will be an intimate hiking group, with a focus on supporting creativity through writing and sketching in community. Complete beginners in both disciplines are welcome, as well as experienced writers and artists. You do not have to consider yourself a "writer" or "artist" to come on this trip.

Participants should be able to walk for up to 6 hours a day (up to 15 miles one day; most days are 8-12 miles) on a variety of surfaces, including country lanes, dirt trails, pavement, and cobblestone streets. The hiking is not difficult, and does not have significant elevation gain, although there are rolling hills in places. There are a number of restaurant/bars along the way to stop for lunch and refreshments. We will also have a support vehicle available to carry our luggage or anyone who gets injured and needs transport to the next inn on a particular day. Everyone’s intention, however, should be to hike the full distance on a daily basis and to train accordingly. We will provide guidance on getting in shape for the trip.


Our 16-day trip includes:

  • Fifteen nights lodging in twin/double rooms. Two singles are available for an addded fee.
    Note: Hotels on the Camino are small, and accommodations will be mostly double-occupancy. We will help you find a roommate if you don't have one in mind.
  • Eight days hiking the Camino de Santiago (French route) beginning 103 kilometers from Santiago de Compostela; we will also do a warm-up walk just before the O Cebreiro Pass.
  • Six days focused on writing, sketching, and/or watercolor.
  • Breakfast and dinner each day, with the exception of one dinner.
  • Shuttle service from the Santiago airport to our first hotel if you arrive with the group.
  • Transportation from Santiago to the start of our walk.
  • Luggage transfer between lodgings. Our private driver can also provide transport in case there you're injured or can't hike for part of a day.
  • Guidance along the Camino, including hiking support, as well as creative support in writing, sketching, and watercolor techniques designed to be used on-the-go to capture the beauty and meaning of your journey.
  • A small journal, travel watercolor sketch kit with watercolors, pen, and water brush.
  • A small field notebook for taking notes on what you're seeing, hearing, observing and thinking.
  • A pilgrim shell and your own pilgrim passport, to be stamped each day along the 100 km journey, qualifying you for your Compostela Certificate, on arrival at Santiago de Compostela.
  • A copy of Laura's award-winning memoir, The Burning Light of Two Stars.
  • Suggestions before the trip for getting in shape for this hike.
Photo by Casey Conerly
Photo by Casey Conerly

What's Not Included:

  • Round trip flights to and from Santiago de Compostela.
  • Overnight accommodations en route if necessary for your flight itinerary.
  • One dinner and all lunches.
  • Laundry.
  • Personal, medical, or the required trip cancellation insurance.
  • Souvenir shopping.
  • Personal phone calls.
  • Beverages and alcoholic drinks.
  • Extra snacks and extra taxis.
  • Optional tips for local guides.
  • Transit from Santiago at the end of the trip.
  • Travel insurance.
  • Costs of Covid tests, testing, medical or quarantine expenses (extra hotel and meals) should it become necessary.
  • Anything you're inspired to do not included in the itinerary.
Photo by Casey Conerly
Photo by Casey Conerly

Your Guides

Laura Davis: Writing Teacher

The author of seven non-fiction books, including The Courage to Heal, Becoming the Parent You Want to Be and I Thought We'd Never Speak Again. Laura's groundbreaking books have sold more than 1.8 million copies around the world. Laura has also worked as a columnist, talk show host, radio reporter, radio producer, blogger, editor and speaker. Words have always been at the core of her work and her self-expression.

Laura's 2021 book, The Burning Light of Two Stars: A Mother-Daughter Story, her first memoir, tells the story of her dramatic and tumultuous relationship with her mother from the time of Laura's birth until her mother's death.

Laura has been mentoring and supporting writers for the past 20 years. It is truly the work of her heart: "I love teaching. I love watching my students find their natural voice and their rhythm. I love it when they find their true stories and discover the courage to put them on the page. I feel like a midwife as my students birth their stories, and I feel honored to witness their bursts of creativity and pure life energy pouring out on the page. Our writing circles are safe places where skills are honed, tears and laughter are welcome, and each writer is seen, heard and deeply known."

Laura leads weekly writing groups and retreats in the Santa Cruz, CA region and online, as well as retreats internationally. She has taken writers to Bali, Scotland, Greece, Vietnam, Peru, Laos, Cambodia, and Spain.

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Brenda Porter: Camino Guide and Art Instructor

Brenda Porter is a passionate world traveler. Just out of high school she traveled to India on a Girl Scout exchange and fell in love with experiencing other cultures. After college, she worked with women's groups and lived in rural Honduras as a Peace Corps Volunteer where she learned Spanish.

She has guided adventure travel trips across the world for more than 20 years from Everest Base Camp to Kilimanjaro and Machu Picchu, as well as on the Camino de Santiago.

Brenda is a watercolor artist and her secret goal on most trips is catching moments to sketch and encouraging others to do the same, while forging connections with nature. She leads Hike and Sketch trips and is delighted to add sketching instruction and opportunities to our creative pilgrimage on the Camino.

Brenda lives with her wife, Jen, along with Kali, their golden retriever, in a co-housing community in Colorado.

Andre Mallinger: Camino Guide

Andre Mallinger is a skilled hiking and adventure travel guide who has led groups of women on hiking trips all over the U.S. and on numerous trips to Cuba and Portugal over the last ten years. Andre’s outdoor recreation and sport passions have taken her on many extended personal expeditions, including sea kayaking the length of Baja, trekking in Nepal, rafting the Grand Canyon and Karnali Rivers, climbing in the Canadian Rockies and, most recently, pedaling her recumbent trike on a 3-month cycling tour through the interior of Portugal. Andre travels with an open heart and an inquisitive mind that draw her to different cultures, languages, and the world’s creative and philosophical traditions.

A fantastic addition to our Creative Camino team in 2023, Andre’s role in 2024 will be to provide additional logistical, hiking, and physical support on the trail, while sharing her knowledge about the culture and history of the Camino and Galicia.

Andre’s colorful career has included more than 30 years of teaching, collaborating, creating, performing, and directing music and cultural educational programs. She lives at 8,600 feet in a small mountain town in Colorado with her husband, John, and loves exploring the mountains of her backyard year-round, preferably with a good dog by her side.

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Am I fit enough to do the hiking on this trip?

Participants should be able to walk for up to 6-8 hours a day, up to 15 miles one day; most days are 8-12 miles on a variety of surfaces, including country lanes, dirt trails, pavements, and cobblestone streets. The hiking is not difficult, and does not have significant elevation gain, although there are rolling hills in places, with both ups and downs. The biggest challenges walking the Camino are two-fold: hiking for multiple days in a row and the stress on your feet of walking for hours on hard surfaces: asphalt, cobblestones, and sidewalks. We walk through towns, villages and cities on the Camino so surfaces like this are common, with lots of dirt and wooded lanes mixed in. The scenery is stunning and varied and rest is possible in many places. You get to walk at your own pace.

We will send hiking training tips after registration.

El Camino

I have never participated in a group walking tour. What if I am too slow, or too fast?

We have designed the trip so that you will be able to hike at your own pace, with two hiking guides—one at the front and one at the "sweep." There will be times when we all walk together as a close group and other opportunities to stop to write or sketch.

Do I have to walk with the group?  

At times, when there is a great sketching opportunity or a favorite stop or site that we don’t want you to miss, we will walk as a group, but there will be multiple opportunities to walk at your own pace, to stop to write, sketch, or just be. Each day, we will have designated locations where we can meet for lunch, have a quick art lesson on the trail, write in our journals, and check in with each other.

What is a pilgrimage?

The simplest answer is that a pilgrimage is a journey on foot to a holy place, seeking connection. It provides time and space to process thoughts and emotions, and to encounter self without convenient distractions. The pilgrimage has been described as neither non-religious nor religious, welcoming people of all faiths or no faiths. It also helps us to connect with others - companions and strangers. It's open to all with an opportunity to put one foot in front of the other on a journey toward unknown outcomes.

On our journey, we will pass by (and sometimes stop to experience) numerous Catholic churches, shrines hand-made by other pilgrims, rivers and streams, light-filled forests, vistas, and cobblestone streets. We will create and converse with each other, as well as strangers who share "the Way" (el Camino in Spanish). These places and experiences will be "holy" or "spiritual" (or not) in different ways for each of us. We will each commune with our deeper selves in our own unique way.

Peregrinos, Camino de Santiago, Vía de la Plata, España
Jakobsweg Camino de Santiago Pfeil
Photo by Casey Conerly
Photo by Casey Conerly

What will the weather be like?

The weather this time of year in Spain is typically very nice, daily highs range from the 70's to 80's during the day to lows of 50's at night. As with any hiking trip, it's good to be prepared for rain and/or warmer temperatures.

I don't have anyone in mind to room with. Can you help me find a roommate?

Because we stay in very small, locally owned accommodations, walking directly from lodging to lodging in pilgrim fashion, there will be only two single supplements available for this trip. Everyone else will be sharing a room with a roommate.

As of January 7, both single occupancy rooms have been claimed.

We will match you with a roommate if you do not already have one in mind.

Can this trip accommodate my special diet?

Vegetarians will find plenty to eat. People who are gluten-free and vegans will have a much harder time balancing your diet. Depending on your restrictions, it may be possible to bring extra supplementary food yourself.  If you have questions, please click here and send us an email describing your diet and one of us will get back to you to discuss your particular situation.

Is travel insurance required for this trip?

Yes, we require travel insurance that includes trip cancellation and medical coverage to protect your investment in the trip.

It is never too late to purchase travel insurance. However, to cover pre-existing conditions, insurance must be purchased 14-21 days after you pay your initial deposit (Stage 1 of our registration).

If you are buying your own insurance, be sure to read the fine print as policies can differ greatly. Confirm with your insurance provider what Covid-19-related issues are covered. No policy covers all COVID-19 travel risks so check your policy carefully and ensure you understand who will pay for additional costs if incurred.

We will send information about purchasing insurance after you register. Our travel agent can also assist you in finding and purchasing a travel insurance policy that meets our requirements and your particular needs.

How important is it to pack small and light?

You will be staying at small inns/hotels that in most cases do not have elevators. You will be carrying your luggage up and down stairs. (Practice at home!). How much can you carry up a flight of stairs? We recommend a maximum luggage size of 22" X 14" X 9" because the luggage van is small and there is no need to dress up for dinners. Laundry services are available at a couple of the hotels. And you can wash out quick dry clothing in your room. Become part of the pilgrim culture by leaving the extras at home.

The yellow scallop shell signing the way to santiago de compostela on the st james pilgrimage route
Way of santiago in the pirneos by valcarlos

This trip recommends trekking poles, but I don't want to check a bag.

Unfortunately, you cannot carry-on hiking poles, so you will need to check a bag. Brenda often checks a small duffel with collapsible poles and other non-essential items and carries on her suitcase and daypack with all the essentials for the trip.

Are there hair dryers in the room?

Some rooms will have hair dryers, but not all. So, if a hair dryer is important to you we recommend bringing a small, dual currency appliance.

Will I need a convertor/adaptor for my electronics/chargers/hair dryer?

The electrical current in Spain is 220 volts and 50 hertz If you are bringing anything you need to plug in (e.g. chargers, cellphones, hairdryers) you need to bring a plug adapter. Adaptor needed: European adaptor F. Most of our electronic devices are built for dual currency but check your own to be sure. Many travel hair dryers are dual currency. If you are bringing one that is not dual currency, then you will need a convertor in addition to a plug adapter. For an overview of plug adaptors and pictures of specific adaptors for all countries, check out this website.

What are your policies around COVID-19 and what safety measures can I expect?

Our COVID-19 policies follow CDC guidelines and evolve to consistently balance convenience with safety. We recommend, but no longer require, guests to be vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19.

See our Covid Policies for our current policies.

Is there anything unique to this trip that I would want to know about beforehand?

Yes! Bring a stone, about the size of an almond, from home with you. This is a pilgrim tradition and you will leave it along the trail.


How Do I Sign Up For This Amazing Adventure?

Write, Travel, Transform: A Creative Pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago, Spain

Your Investment:

Cost: $6,900 per person for double occupancy based on two people sharing a twin-bedded room.

Roommates: Hotels on the Camino are small and accommodations will be mostly double-occupancy. We will help you find a roommate if you don't have one.

Single Supplement: $1,000 for single-occupancy accommodations. As of January 7, both singles for this trip have been claimed.

Payment Schedule: Payment in full is due to register.

Please read the cancellation and refunds section carefully so that you understand the policy.

The trip price is based on the current exchange rate as of September 29, 2023: $100 = 94.90 Euros. If the rate of exchange goes down under 90 Euros per $100 by August 1, 2024, we will need to add an exchange rate supplement of $200 to the cost of the trip.

Cancellations and Refunds:

After April 5, there will be no refunds. Exceptions to this cancellation policy cannot be made for any reason, including personal emergencies. After this point, travel insurance will provide your only option for recouping your investment in the trip.

We reserve the right to cancel the trip if it is not meeting the trip minimum. If we cancel, everything you've paid will be refunded.

It's essential that you carefully read and understand the refund policies from any airlines and travel insurance companies you use, so that you know exactly what is covered and what is excluded.

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