Looking back at a writing-filled weekend in New England, my first trip of this kind
I had wanted to participate in a writing retreat for a while, but didn’t think it would happen anytime soon. The meetings I came across were either too expensive or too far away, even for this frequent traveler. I was hoping to find a weekend retreat that would not interfere with my schedule, but still allow me to immerse myself in writing.
The answer came unexpectedly, in a newsletter from Pink Pangea.
I’d been familiar with this community of female travelers for quite some time. We first connected online, then I invited them to co-host #JAchat about women in travel (see recap here). When I saw Pink Pangea’s email about a retreat in Connecticut, I clicked right away.
Besides group workshops and guided writing activities, the trip included three healthy meals per day and accommodations at a conference center surrounded by forests and hiking trails. It sounded like the right opportunity, even before I noticed information about a partial scholarship.
I happened to apply on the last day. A few hours later, I was surprised with good news – my application had been accepted! I didn’t have much time to prepare since the retreat was scheduled for the following week. Luckily, I found affordable flights to New York and arranged for a rental car at the airport.
It was going to be a long travel day, but I couldn’t wait.
I arrived at the retreat center with just enough time to change and freshen up before dinner. Most of the group was already there, getting acquainted in our meeting room. The spacious attic on the third floor – steps away from our bedrooms – had a couch, armchairs, and lots of natural light. Tables were pushed towards the walls and seating arranged in a circle – nothing resembling a classroom.
“This will be good,” I thought to myself, as we took the elevator down to the dining room.
The buffet-style meal didn’t disappoint on that or any day of the retreat. Breakfast consisted of eggs, pastries, oatmeal, and a selection of cereal. Soups, salads, and sandwiches were served for lunch. For dinner, you could choose rice or potatoes with lean meats, tofu, or tempeh, plus various sides and desserts. On top of that, fruits and refreshments were available 24/7. We had everything we needed to feel nourished and ready to write.
And write we did… a lot!
Our coach and Pink Pangea co-founder Jackie wasted no time getting us in the writing zone. Back in the attic, we went over the schedule and defined individual goals for the retreat. Then it was time for the first writing cue – one of many to come.
Jackie must have sensed our unease when she mentioned feedback. She made it clear that we were in a supportive environment, where the idea was to inspire and not “tear one another apart.” Instead of academic-style critique, which can be harsh, she encouraged pointing out what works in our pieces and offering constructive advice, as needed.
The next two days were wonderfully intense: doing workshops, analyzing travel articles from online magazines, and discussing the business side of writing. We also took breaks to do stretches and breathing exercises.
As the hours went on, we learned more about the group: our background, travels, writing and career goals, even our fears. It felt as if we’d spent more than a weekend together and it was hard to leave. At the same time, I was eager to apply what I’d learned to my writing routine.
A few weeks after the retreat, I feel as charged as I did on the plane back to Chicago.
I never thought I could write longer pieces by hand as efficiently as on the computer, or do yoga at home. But those are some of the helpful tools that I’ve gained.
I also feel more connected to the writing community. While I know a lot of writers and bloggers, our interactions are often limited to social media. It’s not the same as sitting in the same room with others and learning from their stories, like we did in Connecticut.
On the first day, Jackie warned us that we might “get hooked” on retreats, the way she had (and not just Pink Pangea’s). It didn’t take me long to agree with her. Where to next…?