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Imagine yourself in a riverside studio in the Ecuadorian cloud forest. That’s where we will provide the perfect environment for tapping into your highest form of creativity. Harness, expand and cultivate your writing skills with Sue Kenney, a screenplay writer and best-selling author of the book My Camino. Whether you are journalling, blogging, writing your own story or the next best seller, this retreat has been designed to guide you to access your inner source of creativity. We will approach the creative process with a holistic theme that encapsulates mind, body and spirit in a natural environment.
Your creativity will thrive in the lush natural surroundings of Mindo, Ecuador located almost right on the Equator. We start each day with a morning mindfulness practice and a nature walk, followed by breakfast beside the river. The rest of our days will be filled with daily writing workshops, an interactive conversation about your individual writing challenges, and free time to write. The retreat also includes several other daily activities, such as touring an artisanal chocolate factory, a butterfly garden, and guided nature hikes through some of the most biodiverse places on Earth.
Writing can be a personal journey and keeping that in mind, we have set the stage for you to explore the narrative of your own life story as a means to embody and access the creative flow. We will also tour authentic small village Ecuadorian culture with local friends and family. No previous writing experience is required. You only need an open mind and heart.
Your retreat guides are author, Sue Kenney, and EarthTreks’ founder, Alison Braun, who invites you into her home and new yoga studio for the retreat. This is going to be a fabulous week of relaxation, creativity, learning, and fun!
Sue is the author of best-selling book My Camino. After being downsized from her corporate career, she decided to embark on walking 800 kilometers along the medieval pilgrimage known as the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Sue brings readers along with her on this solo journey by sharing personal stories about how she faced her fears and learned to embrace the power of surrender. She later directed the feature documentary film, Las Peregrinas which was screened worldwide and released her second book, Confessions of a Pilgrim. Currently she is working with Academy Award Nominated Producer Item 7 (Brooklyn) on a project co-writing the screenplay for the feature film adaptation of My Camino along with her writing partner Bruce Pirrie, of Second City fame. It is expected to be released in 2018. Sue has walked various routes of the Camino and each year coaches, guides and walks with her group in the spring and fall. She is a Camino/Life/Writing Coach and offers a writing workshop called How to Write Good. Sue is also the designer of a new kind of footwear that was seen on Dragon’s Den, called Barebottom Shoes. With the foundation of her barefoot practice, Sue is constantly pushing boundaries and expanding her creative talents. Her purpose in life is to serve the world by using her voice to inspire others on their life journey, to be a greater contribution to the universe.
Alison combined her love of travel in search of the world’s abundance of natural and cultural treasures with her personal commitment to effect positive social and environmental change to form the vision of EarthTreks, her thriving sustainable travel company which specializes in trips through Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. Alison discovered the natural paradise of Mindo, Ecuador in 1997, when environmental work took her there. She has maintained a home and close network of friends and family there ever since, and now has the pleasure to bring groups to meet them, staying right in her village to experience the magical surroundings and natural abundance first-hand.
Mindo is a small village of approximately 3,000 people, located in a valley in the foothills of the Ecuadorian Andes. This was the first Important Bird Area (IBA) established in all of South America, and has built its reputation as an ecotourism destination greatly upon its notoriety for excellent birding and biodiversity more broadly. There exists a tremendous amount of fresh water in the area, from a few major rivers to endless numbers of streams and waterfalls. Mindo is a safe, small village that boasts what many describe as the ‘perfect climate’ – a subtropical climate that is warm year-found and rarely climbs above the mid-20s (C) or below the mid-teens (at night). The rainfall is significant, with precipitation throughout the year and an average annual rainfall of well over 2,000 mm, which is more highly concentrated during rainy season (January to May). The rain is quite predictable, however, generally not starting until the afternoon, so it is easy to plan our daily activities around staying dry. Mindo is located in a cloud forest, and as such, is green and lush, offering the ideal climate for mosses, orchids, and ferns to thrive. Our accommodations are at the Casa de Cecilia, a small, simple yet beautiful hostal located on the banks of the Canchupi River. The three cabins that make up the hostal are quite removed from the village’s hustle and bustle, even though it is only a short walk (just a few minutes) to the village’s main square. Cecilia Perez was the first person in Mindo to host international guests – right in the house we will be staying in – starting early in the 1980s. Cecilia has since passed away, and her daughter, Paola Peňafiel is now the Owner and Host of Casa de Cecilia. It remains one of the tourist favourites for accommodations in the village. Cecilia was Alison’s mother-in-law and Paola is her sister-in-law. Our private cook for the week will be Tia (Aunt) Marta, Cecilia’s sister. The beautiful Mot-Mot bird (seen to the left) will likely be a frequent visitor to the Riverside Studio, where our daily writing workshops take place, as the studio is very close to her nest.
Your flight will arrive in Ecuador’s capital, Quito, late afternoon. We will be at the airport to meet you and whisk you away from the city to the village of Mindo, which we will call home for the next week. This final leg of your journey will take about two hours.
Start the morning as the birds are waking with a sun salutation, a short mindfulness practice and nature walk prior to breakfast by the river. This will be our daily practice. Following breakfast, we will gather in the Riverside Studio for an orientation and overview what the week has in store. We will take some time to learn about the workshops and writing activities planned for the week, as well as other daily activities you may choose to participate in. Next we will spend some time defining what is a story and creative ways to develop a narrative. Following lunch, we will embark on a walking tour of Mindo to help you feel at home in this sleepy little ecotourist village and explore some of the sites and activities you may want to take in during your free time. Later in the afternoon, there will be an opportunity to either explore writing on your own or with a guided activity. After dinner, you will have free time to either do writing, relax or otherwise.
An early start to enjoy the beautiful morning will include a sun salutation, a short mindfulness practice and nature walk prior to breakfast by the river. After breakfast, we will head to the Mariposario (or Butterfly Gardens in English), where we will be able to see butterflies at every stage of life – from eggs to when they emerge as adults from their chrysalis to dry off their wings – including monarchs and the big, iridescent blue morpho butterfly. Afterwards we will have some free time to hike the trails at the nearby Environmental Education Centre, where we will stop to explore how to find inspiration for your writing, unleashing ideas, and making them grow. After lunch back at home, we will return to the Riverside Studio for a writers’ workshop that will include more formal writing time and exploring the use of different techniques to achieve different results. The theme for this day is to work on finding your voice – what is the tone, the genre, and identifying who is telling the story. As with each day, the formal workshop will be followed by a time for interactive conversation about your individual writing challenges. After dinner, we will bring in an instructor to learn a little bit of Salsa dancing (optional). Then you will have free time to either do writing, relax or otherwise.
An early start to enjoy the beautiful morning will include a sun salutation, a short mindfulness practice and nature walk prior to breakfast by the river. After breakfast, we will head out with local naturalist Pedro Peňafiel, whose knowledge and appreciation for the natural world are astounding. You will be amazed by how fast trees grow, as we hike through a private nature reserve before moving onto EarthTreks’ reforestation project to see some of the over 13,300 new trees now growing there. Then we will head back to the village for a healthy traditional meal, followed by a writing workshop on developing the arc of your story using specific exercises and creative games. As with each day, the formal workshop will be followed by a time for interactive conversation about your individual writing challenges. After dinner, you will have free time to either do writing, relax or otherwise.
An early start to enjoy the beautiful morning will include a sun salutation, a short mindfulness practice and nature walk prior to breakfast by the river. After breakfast, we will head to the Trail of the Waterfalls, to take in some of the waterfalls Mindo is famous for. We will take the opportunity for nature to inspire our collective creativity. Then we will head back home for lunch. Our writing workshop this afternoon will focus on developing your characters, including establishing the protagonist in your story and the obstacle they need to overcome. As with each day, the formal workshop will be followed by a time for interactive conversation about your individual writing challenges. After dinner, you will have free time to either do writing, relax or otherwise.
An early start to enjoy the beautiful morning will include a sun salutation, a short mindfulness practice and nature walk prior to breakfast by the river. After breakfast, we will head to the Riverside Studio for a workshop on how to say good-bye to writers block forever. We will have some fun exploring how to overcome both common challenges as well as your own personal ones. We will engage in exercises using tools and strategies on how to keep moving forward even when you feel like you can’t get over the hurdle. As with each day, the formal workshop will be followed by a time for interactive conversation about your individual writing challenges. Later in the day, we will treat ourselves to the local chocolate tour at our neighbours’ chocolate factory, the Quetzal. During the tour, we will learn about how artisanal chocolate is made, from bean to bar, including a delicious sampling of chocolate and brownies at the end. After dinner, you will have free time to either do writing, relax or otherwise.
An early start to enjoy the beautiful morning will include a sun salutation, a short mindfulness practice and nature walk prior to breakfast by the river. After breakfast, we will head to the Riverside Studio for our final workshop to review all of the topics that we have covered during the week and how to apply your new writers’ toolbox to your next project. You will also have the option to provide a writing sample to Sue, who will edit and provide feedback on your particular writing project. Then we will schedule half an hour of one-on-one mentorship with each individual. Following lunch, you will have free time to engage in some of Mindo’s other tourist offerings you have yet to fit in. We will plan something special for our last evening together. After dinner, you will have free time to either do writing, relax or otherwise.
After packing up and having breakfast, we will make the two-hour trip to the airport and see you off on your way, after a enjoying such a wonderful week together.
The most important thing to prepare is your preferred writing mediums – whether that be your laptop, a favourite kind of book (you may want to bring more than one), your favourite pen or pencil – all of those tools you that may help to express your literary voice on paper. When trying to figure out what else you may need to pack, please go to our TRAVEL TIPS or you can also feel free to CONTACT US at any time to answer questions you have. We want you to feel comfortable and prepared for an absolutely magical week of creativity together!