A Creative Pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago, Spain

Hike the Camino while Learning to Use Words and Sketches to Create a Memorable Travel Journal

This retreat has been canceled until 2023. Details will be available in 2022.

Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, all of my in-person retreats have been temporarily suspended. This page will always have the most up-to-date information about their availability. You can scroll to the bottom of this page to sign up to be notified about future opportunities to write and travel with me in person.

In the meantime, to learn about my online offerings during the pandemic, you can go to this page.

2 spots remaining
As of 5 February, 2021

Our 14-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
  • Four days focused on writing and sketching at the beginning, middle and end of our trip
  • 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, 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
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About the Writing and Sketching 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 feed 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 are no writing qualifications or benchmarks you have to pass to qualify for this trip and participate. If you enjoy writing and are open to creating a travel journal, you're welcome to join us.

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 teaching you to document the thoughts, feelings, and insights that arise as we walk the Camino. Our focus will not be on craft or polishing work all the way to completion.

In summary, this is not the trip to take if your goal is to hole up to finish your novel in the next two weeks or to do a deep dive into only writing. This is adventure travel with a deep creative bent.

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

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

After 14 days in Spain, immersed in beauty and a creative traveling community, you'll return home with a personal journal documenting your journey.

Full Itinerary

Note: Dates mentioned below are for the original schedule of the trip. This retreat has been canceled until 2023. Details will be available in 2022 and the dates below will be updated when arrangements are finalized.

Note: Our itinerary is designed to maximize creative time, 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.

Who This Trip is For:

Trip size is limited to 12 walkers. 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 7-9 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 and in case anyone in our group needs transport to the next inn.

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Our 14-day trip includes:

  • Thirteen nights lodging in twin/double rooms
    Note: Hotels on the Camino are small, and accommodations will be double-occupancy only. We will help you find a roommate if you don't have one.
  • 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 Cebreiro Pass.
  • Four days focused on writing and/or sketching at the beginning, middle and end
  • Breakfast and dinner each day, with the exception of two dinners.
  • Transportation from Madrid to the start of our walk.
  • Luggage transfer between lodging. Our private driver can also provide transport in case there is a reason you 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 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
  • Suggestions before the trip for getting in shape for this hike.
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What's Not Included:

  • Round trip flights to Madrid and from Santiago de Compostela
  • Overnight accommodations en route if necessary for your flight itinerary
  • Transit from the Madrid airport to our meeting place and from Santiago at the end of the trip
  • Two dinners and all lunches
  • Laundry
  • Personal, medical or trip cancellation insurance
  • Souvenir shopping
  • Personal phone calls
  • Beverages and alcoholic drinks
  • Extra snacks and extra taxis
  • Optional tips for local guides
  • Travel Insurance
  • Anything you're inspired to do not included in the itinerary.
Statue on top of the Monte del Gozo, the first point where you s

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 newest 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 and Scotland, Greece, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. She documents these trips to the delight of many readers in her blog, The Virtual Vacation. You can read a wonderful interview with Laura here.

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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, the golden retriever, in a co-housing community in Colorado.

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FAQ

Am I fit enough to do the hiking 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 7-9 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 challenge is walking for a number of days in a row. There are restaurants/bars along the way to stop for refreshments and we will have a support vehicle available carrying our luggage, in case anyone in our group has a need to be transported to the next lodging. Everyone's intention, however, should be to walk whenever possible.

We will send hiking training tips after registration.

Walking through the grain fields near Ciruena on the Camino de Santiago

I have never participated in a group walking tour. What if I am to 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?  

Our group will mostly walk together, yet you will also have opportunities throughout each day to walk at your own pace, to stop to write or sketch, or to just be.

Walking through the grain fields near Ciruena on the Camino de Santiago

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

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 small, locally owned accommodations, walking directly from lodging to lodging in pilgrim fashion, we will not have any single supplements on this trip. We will match you with a roommate of your same gender. We expect most of our participants to be female, so if you are a man registering on your own, your participation will be contingent on us finding you a male roommate.

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 it too late to get travel insurance?

Travel insurance is required for this trip. It is never too late to purchase it, however, if it is more than 2 weeks after you register, any pre-existing conditions may not be covered. Each company has different rules about this. Insure my trip.com offers a variety of plans that you can choose from depending on your personal needs.

Jakobsweg Camino de Santiago Pfeil

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. Also, 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 currently 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.

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.

Way of santiago in the pirneos by valcarlos

How Do I Sign Up For This Amazing Adventure?

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

This retreat has been canceled until 2023. Details will be available in 2022.

Your Investment:

We understand that deciding when to travel next, with the evolving Covid-19 pandemic, is a personal decision that comes with both excitement and a bit of trepidation. Our goal is to help you feel comfortable and supported during your adventure. We will be continually assessing and working to manage the risks, using Covid-19 guidelines from the CDC,  the Adventure Travel industry, as well as Spain's local and national requirements.  In June 2021, we will make a final determination about the safety of proceeding with the trip. If we go decide to proceed, we will share our specific Covid-19 response plan, along with emergency contacts and other safety information at that time.

Pricing and registration details may need to be updated for the 2023 trip.

Cost: $6,500 for lodging in twin/double rooms for thirteen nights.

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

Payment Schedule: A non-refundable deposit of $500 is due upon registration. A second payment of $3000 is due on March 1, 2020. The final balance of $3000 will be due June 1, 2021.

Cancellations and Refunds:

The initial $500 non-refundable deposit will be forfeited in all cases. A cancellation fee of $3500 (this includes your initial deposit) will be collected between March 1, 2021 and June 1, 2021. After June 1st, there will be no refunds, unless we cancel the trip, in which case all monies you have paid to us will be refunded. 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 or if considerations around Covid-19 warrant cancellation. If we cancel, everything you've paid will be refunded.

In this time of uncertainty due to Covid-19, 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.

Please do not purchase airline tickets until we have informed you that the minimum number has been met.

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