Course Review: Retreat Leader Certification

January 1, 2021
Retreat Leader Certification Course Review

I love traveling. Preferably solo, without a travel partner to distract me I soak in the local culture and surroundings more intensely. But I admit, on occasion, I’ve wished for a couple of hours a day I’d be able to share my experience and exchange tips with a fellow traveler – be it a friend or a stranger. I’d have liked to do something in a group setting. Perhaps a tour or a class to connect with like-minded people.

I had known of yoga, wellness, and spiritual retreats for a while, but I discovered other retreats only recently. I enjoy writing, so you would think I’d go to a writing retreat. Yet, I found many writing-focused retreats are for committed writers with serious projects underway, or led by well-established teachers with hefty fees.

As soon as I read Pink Pangea’s Retreat Leader Certification Course announcement the light bulb went off – I can learn how to lead and organize the retreats that I have not found yet.

Retreat Leader Certification, Greece View

The timing of the training couldn’t have been any better. After a year of the Covid-19 pandemic complete with trying times, social distancing and all kinds of gloominess, we all needed an exciting project going forward.

I was excited to join the class and learn from the experts.

I love traveling, I like writing, and I am good at bringing people together. This course felt like a good match for me. I was excited to join the class and learn from the experts.

The event was held on three subsequent Sundays, starting at 12 PM EST which was great for late risers like me, but also suitable for West Coast folk and even participants from Europe. I had taken a few of Jackie’s travel writing workshops and truly enjoyed them. Still, I was curious how this course would go. Spoiler alert – this class was very much worth it!  

The course consisted of three parts. Part 1 focussed on budgeting and announcing a retreat. The second part was dedicated to marketing the event. The last part was about scheduling and the logistics of a retreat.  We were walked through every step of the process of organizing and leading a retreat, alternating between setting out intentions, envisioning elements of the process and learning the spot-on material Jaclyn had prepared.

Here is what I truly loved about this course – using creative prompts, Jackie led us and helped us develop the components of a retreat, so that organizing and leading the event unfolds organically. At the same time a few visualization exercises nurtured our motivation to work diligently.

Spoiler alert – this class was very much worth it!  

The material from each class was provided afterwards, along with a recording of the video of that day. We had some homework assigned as well, to complement what we did in class, and to bring out retreat plan closer to completion. Sharing in class lead to very interactive learning process. Enough time was allotted for Q&A, and hearing from other participants was inspiring.

Pink Pangea was very generous with the information and materials they shared with us. But here is the thing, even an impeccably prepared event can experience an unexpected glitch. So, for me personally, the most valuable aspect of the course was when Jackie highlighted what could go wrong and how to handle it.  She called these “Oh shit!” moments. Sharing real-life experiences she illustrated the reality of organizing and leading a retreat.  

Along with teaching us, from A to Z, how to organize and lead a retreat, Jackie also encouraged us to think up agendas, announcements drafts, budgets, and programs to design own unique retreats. I liked Jackie’s definition of a successful retreat, it must be a “win-win experience for both the participants and the organizers”. Therefore, in Part 3 it was invaluable to talk about the importance of people skills. About making sure the retreat participants are comfortable and happy throughout the trip.

I liked Jackie’s definition of a successful retreat, it must be a “win-win experience for both the participants and the organizers”.

Some may claim that organizing a retreat is no different than organizing any other event like a workshop, or a conference. I think it’s way more elaborate than that, especially if you are the only person that is going to organize and lead a retreat – every detail needs to be thought of and prepared for. Jackie addressed some legal aspects like cancelations, insurance, liability waivers, and emergency contacts. These would certainly come in handy to any retreat leader newbie. On the other hand, retreats tend to be smaller and more intimate events where it’s all about the people, the experience, and the genuine connections. This prompted a few more ideas for my vision of retreat.

In conclusion, I may not have been to a retreat yet but I feel prepared and confident in my newly acquired skills to organize and lead one. I plan to start small with a local, weekend-long cultural immersion writing retreat.


Course Review: Retreat Leader Certification photo credits by Unsplash. 

About Iliana Genkova

Iliana Genkova is a scientist and a living abroad strategist. She has published science and non-fiction, facilitated memoir workshops, and won The Chicago Literary Club’s Collyer Fellowship 2021-2023. She likes big cities, Dutch bicycles, maps, weather satellites and Greek food. Follow Iliana on Facebook at @olivemaps and Instagram at @ilianagenkova.

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