This is part of a series of interviews with inspiring travelers. Today’s interview comes from Jeannie Mark about her writing retreat for women. All photos provided by Jeannie, except featured image. See more about tours and traveling with purpose here.
Tell us about yourself and your travel experience.
I can’t believe it, but I’ve been going for five years now. In the last year alone, I was in Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, and now I’m in Mexico.
You and another writer have created a yearly writing retreat for women called Creative Revolution. Can you tell us more about it?
Absolutely! Leigh Shulman and I developed them together and we’re very proud of the community we’re building. Our retreats are specifically for female emerging writers and they run yearly in a variety of international locations. We really believe that writing and self-care are intimately connected, which is why getting away to write pushes you into new habits.
As a result, our retreats are all-inclusive, which means our attendees show up and we take care of everything — including accommodations, meals, spa treatments, excursions and transportation. We also do webinars and that community has grown along with our retreats. It’s an exciting time!
What inspired you to develop a writing retreat for women?
Leigh Shulman and I have known each other for years. In time, we began talking about our experiences as writers and women, knowing we wanted to create a special event somehow. We did a survey, suspecting that our experiences spoke to women the most, but thought it was time to see what others wanted in a retreat. Hands down, 95% of the respondents were women and some even specifically asked for a women’s only retreat.
Our major inspiration is showing other women that they can incorporate writing into their lives, and feel a freedom to express themselves, but also gain the confidence to complete pieces of work to either publish or add to a larger work. Even if they don’t want to publish, the final point of our retreats is for them to concentrate on their needs for a change.
Why Costa Rica? And why Nicaragua for next year?
We chose the Caribbean coast in Costa Rica and a nature eco-resort called Samasati because of it’s sheer beauty. They are nestled on a mountain top overlooking the Caribbean Sea and it’s so conducive to writing – to be in nature and the quiet – just saying that makes me excited for early November! (Our next one is November 1-8, 2015.)
Nicaragua was always on our mind, again, we tend to choose coastal areas for their calming effects. That retreat will be very close to San Juan del Sur, a gorgeous spot off the Pacific Ocean. Mango Rosa is a smaller resort (but gorgeous!) and we intend to fill the place up with writing goodness and sisterhood!
The writing retreat in Costa Rica takes place at a nature and yoga lodge, how does this setting play into the learning process?
The setting itself is essential to being plucked out of your normal routine. Routines are nice if they help you do positive things, but some become detrimental if you’re just clinging to them and not moving forward. A peaceful, beautiful setting gives our participants room to really explore writing without distractions and understand their constructive and destructive habits when it comes to finishing writing projects.
What can participants expect to learn during the retreat?
Many women coming to us don’t think they are writers, or somehow lost their writing practice. That’s where we step in and help them see through their fears and blocks.
Our workshops begin with facing fear head on, getting into writing an actual project, and then we help them through any stuck areas, teach them story elements, self-editing tips, and even pitching and/or publishing options. All these facets are done with a supported, non-judgemental environment. We want women to feel heard and realize that their voice is valid!
What kinds of women typically sign up for your retreat?
Women that come to us are ones who want to write but fear it, have written, but stopped, or are attracted to writing yet don’t know how to begin. We also have spots for women at a mid-point, who just want free time to work on something with an all inclusive-vacation thrown in. Their level of travel experience varies, but for sure, many of them have traveled before, which makes our retreats attractive to them (on top of the writing, massages, and excursions!).
How do you feel that traveling with a purpose helps empower people to book a trip they’ve been dreaming of?
Having a specific purpose helps smooth over the doubts that come with travel. Travel is one of those pastimes that doesn’t follow a set plan (no matter how much we try to plan). There’s always an unknown element or a surprise that happens, so having a purpose (learning a skill or volunteering) really helps newer travelers anchor to something. In general, too, having a purpose is a wonderful way to immerse yourself into a new culture. It seems less scary when you are there for a set role or reason!
Do you think this retreat would be good for a new traveler? Why or why not?
Absolutely! Like I said earlier, we take care of everything for our ladies, so all they have to do is show up and write. Okay, maybe they have to drink wine with us occasionally too. Having to not worry about all those niggling logistical things as a first time traveler is a relief. Once you get used to a different culture, the next trip is a prime time to take on more nitty gritty planning and blossom further as a traveler.
Bio: Jeannie Mark of Nomadic Chick left a thriving corporate career and bought a one-way ticket to India in 2010. That was five years ago, and she’s still traveling and living the life she wants. Now she teaches others to embrace a life set by their own rules. She’s a freelance writer, public speaker, and runs writing retreats with Leigh Shulman at www.creative-revolution.com. You can follow Jeannie on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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