Why We Host Our Travel Writing Retreats in New York’s Catskill Mountains (And We Couldn’t Make Them the Same Anywhere Else!)
I spent this morning ripping apart rose-fleshed plums.
For the first few, I’d place them delicately, just so in the waiting glass jar—already studied with an intoxicating Saigon cinnamon stick. After ten minutes passed, and another ten, and then another, I realized I was going to run out of jars, so I started smooshing them in, the magenta juice bursting out to fill the crevices between plum halves.
On the stove, a syrup of local wildflower honey simmered. I added a little molasses-colored buckwheat honey for extra depth of flavor.
Once all the plums were pulled apart and all the jars filled, they went into the canner to become glimmering jars of breakfast food.
These honeyed plums will find their way into galettes for dessert and heaping bowls of house-made yogurt and granola for breakfast.
Not for me. For you.
Don’t like plums? I hear you!
They’re an acquired taste for many. A quick scan of the shelves reveals that we’ve also got:
- Meyer lemon marmalade
- caramelized apricot rosemary jam
- oven-roasted spiced yellow plum butter
- rosehip jam
- honey lemon pear butter
- vanilla apricot compote
- over-roasted rhubarb
- spiced Italian plum maple butter
- strawberry rhubarb butter
You can mix your favorite in with your house-made yogurt and granola or spread it on house-made sourdough bread for breakfast. At snack time, we’ve got local cheese—including feta from a Nubian goat dairy nearby we visited last week and a cheddar-type flecked with smokey lapsang souchong tea—to pair it with.
Snack time typically also revolves around some of our house-grown and -made pestos as well, such as the vegan cashew carrot top and classic Genovese (basil, pine nuts, and sheep cheese) that I picked the greens for and made yesterday.
Our pantry, the garden we cultivate to feed, and our connections with other farms in the area are just one of the reasons we host retreats exclusively at our retreat house in the Catskills.
Because I know all of these reasons, I always feel a little bit of horror when I see, in places like our survey on what events to schedule for this fall and winter, people saying things like “you should really do an event on the west coast,” or “why do all the events have to be in New York?”
The retreat house where we hold our retreats is a place that we purchased specifically for hosting writers. (You can read the whole story in the about section here!)
We’ve built out everything there with this purpose in mind.
In diverse spaces, from a room with 30 feet of floor-to-ceiling windows to a screened-on porch for enjoying fresh air sans mosquitoes in the summer to a library with cushions for lounging with a stack of magazines, we’ve set up dedicated writing areas so you can camp out in your favorite or find a new home each day.
It’s set up with tons of light flooding into the main work rooms so you can get Vitamin D even in the winter 🙂
The library has been stocked with long-form narrative travel writer, anthologies of short travel stories, pillars of modern and classic fiction and non-fiction, and piles and piles of books on craft to help you through whatever you’re feeling stuck on.
Truly though, the clincher in terms of why many of our retreats just wouldn’t be the same in another location comes down to the library. Because it’s not only home to books. We’ve also got 16 shelves of magazines.
One bookcase just holds hundreds and hundreds of indie magazines that are hard to get your hands on anywhere in the world.
If there’s an independent magazine you’ve seen in the Travel Magazine Database, we’ve got it there. Along with hundreds and hundreds of magazines from around the world, from major newsstand magazines from English-language markets to every airline magazine we can get our hands on.
I get it that people have some sort of beef with New York when it comes to travel writing. There’s so many events there! You can have free drinks and food at some PR event or another every night of the week!
One particular issue with New York that I hear frequently is about flight prices.
I spend a considerable amount of time flying between New York City and other locations myself, and honestly, this is one of the reasons I would have a hard time living somewhere else–New York’s numerous airports make it is much less expensive to get places that anywhere else in the U.S.
But all assumptive issues aside, we are simply able to offer events much, much more cheaply by doing it in New York than anywhere else we could offer them in North America.
(NOTE: If you’re thinking, well, offer them on another continent! I can tell you right off the bat that (a) for me in terms of set-up and break-down time and associated rentals and monetary outlay for acquisition of basic items that we need for the week, it would never be possible to offer a weekend event somewhere else–it would have to be a week-long thing, and (b) we have been conceptualizing a week-long bootcamp in Italy in an area that I know well and have lodging connections to for a while, but it’s difficult to operate tours on the type of tight schedule we need to fit things in in many cultures; we’re continuing to work on it though!)
Let me break this down by first offering some examples–many in less expensive areas than New York (not factoring in flights):
- A Writer Within (Tuscany) – $2,700-$3,000
- The Taos (New Mexico) Writer’s Retreat – $2,205-2,655
- Write ‘n Walk Spain – ~$2,400–$2,745 (lunches not included)
- Write Your Journey Vietnam – $1,650
- Hamlet’s Hideaway (Denmark) – $2,700
(Please note: Names and prices on the above come from the delightful Susan Shain’s post on The Write Life. We aren’t able to answer questions about other folks’ events listed above though if you see one that strikes your fancy; please contact the organizers of the respective events directly.)
Many of the above are more residency style, for instance, the Aegean Arts Circle Writing Workshop has afternoons free, so the education component is also considerably less than our retreats, which primarily focus around a strong, takeaway-centric lesson plan.
The closest I could find in terms of the includes we have and location (in Susan’s post above) was the TLC Writing Workshops:
Schedule your own private retreat with Tammy L. Coia, a memoir-writing coach who lives in Bellingham, Washington. You’ll stay at her house, in a private bedroom with water views. Each day, you’ll have one-on-one coaching alongside home-cooked meals. She offers this at her home in Palm Springs, as well. Cost: $1,800 per person for three days.
Or, if you’d rather work in a group setting, Coia holds retreats in Mexico in February ($3,000) and Greece in May and June ($3,900–$4,400).
The retreats we offer are not in our home (rather a house that we purchased just for running writers retreats and individual residencies) though, and I know a lot of folks would not love the idea of staying in someone’s primary home (yay, introvert writers!) as the only individual being worked-with and coached for three days.
Still, she offers that with the home-cooked meals and one-on-one coaching for $1,800 for three days.
That’s the closest I could find!
So, if you feel like you’d like to take a guided retreat, in a lovely setting, with farm-to-table (well, traveled 10 feet!) healthy food in line with your dietary requests cooked fresh every day, that is designed to help you through crucial milestones with your travel writing….our early-bird prices end on Friday, August 30th, at midnight PST.
Spots in our brand new Travel Writers Detox + Reset are available for a first-timer rate of $249.
Our week-long bootcamp with daily tours and the option to stay on for a week-long individual residency following the event is available for $499, or less than $100 a day for lessons, tours, accommodation, and all meals and snacks.
Early-bird prices are only exclusive for our subscribers; head here if you’re not already on our email list: