An Unexpected Writing Retreat

By guest blogger Valeka Cruz

Milli’s Fear of Writing post, How To Dream a Writing Retreat Into Your Life, inspired me to think about going on a writer’s retreat of my own. My budget was extremely limited so I wasn’t sure how I would afford a getaway. I shrugged my shoulders and tossed the idea into the back of my mind to think about at another time. I had resigned myself to the notion that, financially, a trip wasn’t feasible for me at this time.

The next day during a conversation with my best friend, I mentioned Milli’s blog and how I would love to get away for a few days to get in some quality writing time. She knew my finances were limited so, in true best friend fashion, she suggested that I go along on her family’s camping trip and use that as my writer’s retreat.

I didn’t want to infringe on her family time but after a bit of coaxing from her and her cousin (also a friend of mine), I was convinced – I would be going on a three day camping trip to Garner State Park!

Garner State Park entrance sign

Greetings from Garner State Park!

I hadn’t been camping since I was a young girl and didn’t know what to pack. My friend told me to just bring comfortable clothes, sunscreen and a journal to write in. She assured me that everything else would be there (and it WAS!). I knew that being with friends would be nice, getting fresh air would be nicer and possibly eking out some time to write would be nicest. As great as the idea of writing outdoors sounded to me, I didn’t anticipate getting much writing done with all of the other activities that would be taking place. But, I was optimistic and took a journal and pen with me just in case.

The road trip was long and familiar. My bestie and I took the same route that we travel on our trips home (the park is about 40 miles north of our hometown). Once we made the turn on the highway that would lead us to the park, the scenery became more beautiful. I could feel my mind and body relaxing as I looked out at the rolling green hills standing against a clear blue sky that was dotted with fluffy white clouds.

Texas landscape near Garner State Park

Landscape en route to the park

We made it to the park and found our campsite. The weather was perfect and relatively cool by Texas standards. The gentle breeze made it easier for us as we performed the usual camp chores like scoping out the area, setting up our tents, and unpacking gear.

Camping at Garner State Park

My cozy little home for the long weekend

Despite a brief freak out about not having wifi for my cell phone, I had to admit that there was something soothing about unplugging from the world. It felt good to not have my hands on a keyboard or a phone attached to my ear. Instead, I used my hands to gather wood and my ears to listen to the sounds of nature.

The rest of my best friend’s family arrived and hellos and hugs were exchanged, so I snuck away to do a little exploring on my own. I took my notebook and a pencil and headed out to see what I could find. Maybe, just maybe, I’d find inspiration.

I came across some beautiful tree-lined trails and walked along the river’s edge. I found myself smiling a lot as I continued on my path.

A hidden trail, Garner State Park

A hidden trail . . .

Frio River

The sparkling Frio River

I discovered a nice little place to sit and enjoy the views that surrounded me. I felt very fortunate to be where I was at that moment. I knew I was exactly where I needed to be and it was such a wonderful feeling. I took a deep breath, got out my pencil, and opened my notebook.

Writing outdoors

My office with a view

My writing mimicked nature. The words flowed onto the paper . . . once I got past a few rocky parts. Some ideas moved rapidly while others were simply trickles of thought. I welcomed each of them as they presented themselves to me because I knew that they all had their own special place in my notebook.

I would take an occasional pause from the words to admire the beauty around me. I wished I could be surrounded by it all the time. It lead me to wonder what beauty there was in my daily life that perhaps I had overlooked because it was too close for me to really see. Maybe there is inspiration in my own backyard that has been untapped and is quietly waiting for me to stumble upon it.

I didn’t write in large volume during the camping trip but what I did write was quality. The ideas I received while I embraced nature are great little nuggets that will surely inspire future projects. And I have some wonderful pictures I can view when I need reminders of my impromptu writing retreat.

An added bonus: I learned that the creative spark I sometimes need may be right outside my door – no tent needed.


You can also enjoy Valeka’s travel story about her camping trip on Milliver’s Travels:

Garner State Park: Caves, Trails, Tubing – and Texas swing!

Valeka Cruz

Valeka & Karlee


Valeka Cruz (@runningonheavy) is a freelance writer and blogger living happily in Austin Texas with her three fur babies. Her weekly blog, Running On Heavy, provides health and wellness motivation along with life lessons. She loves chocolate, hiking, laughing, hot tea and, especially, writing (not necessarily in that order depending on what kind of a day it is).

Please leave a comment for my guest writer

15 Responses to An Unexpected Writing Retreat
  1. Charlotte Rains Dixon
    Twitter: wordstrumpet
    June 12, 2012 | 11:01 AM

    This is such a great post–it proves that you can create a writing retreat with very little money. I’m so glad you got to go and I love the photos, too.

    • Valeka
      Twitter: runningonheavy
      June 12, 2012 | 4:44 PM

      Thank you so much, Charlotte! I admit, I was hesitant about going on the trip but the Universe seemed to be steering me in that direction so how could I NOT go? I’m so glad I did! 🙂

  2. Carole
    Twitter: cjtreggett
    June 12, 2012 | 12:02 PM

    Another wonderful post about your trip to Garner State Park, Valeka! Thank you for including all the photos so I get a little taste of what it must be like there 🙂

    So glad you were inspired and I’m grateful for this well-written and heartfelt reminder how vital it is for us writers to get out into the natural world as much as possible to get creatively re-fueled.

    Like Charlotte,I love how your trip encourages writers that it is always possible to afford going on a soul-nurturing retreat!

    • Valeka
      Twitter: runningonheavy
      June 12, 2012 | 4:51 PM

      So happy you liked the photos and post, Carole Jane! It really is a beautiful park. The pictures don’t do it justice!

      I was (and still am!) very inspired. Nature is the ultimate muse for me. Just getting out for a walk break during my day revitalizes me and gives me ten new things to write about.

      The most valuable thing I learned was that a retreat can be had anywhere! It didn’t need to be fancy or have internet for me to get in touch with my creative self. So I will be going on more of ’em!

  3. Lois
    June 12, 2012 | 2:30 PM

    What an inspiration! 😀 I’m glad you got to have your own mini retreat. Nature is an awesome muse. 🙂

    • Valeka
      Twitter: runningonheavy
      June 12, 2012 | 4:53 PM

      Thanks, Lois!! I was elated to have a few days away for a little retreat. I really do believe that, as I mentioned to Carole Jane, nature is my ultimate muse! Some days, I just need to visit her for 30 minutes and some marvelous idea will sprout! Hope you are getting some great outdoor time as well 🙂

      • Lois
        June 12, 2012 | 8:44 PM

        I have, but it’s kind of hard to write when you’re walking around a trail at a 4 mph pace. 😉

        • Valeka
          Twitter: runningonheavy
          June 13, 2012 | 2:18 PM

          Good point!! It may sound silly but sometimes I record myself on my cell phone when I get an idea or a sparkle of inspiration. It ensures that I don’t forget it!

          And congrats on completing your 5k! Great job! 🙂

          • Lois
            June 13, 2012 | 2:30 PM

            I hadn’t thought of that. I’ll have to try it if I come up with any ideas while I’m out there. To be honest, I’m mostly thinking about how much fun I’m having moving. And talking to Hubby. 🙂

            Thanks! I’m not sure if I did 5K on that day, but a lot of days, I do 5K or more in my living room. 😀

  4. Annie Neugebauer
    Twitter: AnnieNeugebauer
    June 12, 2012 | 3:45 PM

    It sounds like a wonderful trip, Valeka! Although the idea of camping right now in Texas makes me sweat. 🙂 I’m glad you got the inspiration you were seeking.

    • Valeka
      Twitter: runningonheavy
      June 12, 2012 | 5:02 PM

      Let me tell ya, Annie, at the time of the trip the weather was perfect(well, by Texas standards!). The high temperature was in the mid-eighties at best. It was wonderful! Now that we have hit triple digit temperatures, I am reluctant to go camping! Although camping at the beach is a possibility! 🙂

  5. Kate
    June 12, 2012 | 6:04 PM

    Great post, you’ve inspired me to ensure I carve out some writing time or an artist’s date on my upcoming family trip to Ireland. Even if it’s just half a day exploring and filling up on new scenery. Kate

    • Valeka
      Twitter: runningonheavy
      June 13, 2012 | 2:20 PM

      Thanks, Kate! Glad my post inspired you 🙂 I’m sure the scenery in Ireland will be the source of lots of great ideas for you! I’m sure it’s beautiful there! Have a great trip 🙂

  6. Estrella Azul
    June 13, 2012 | 3:43 PM

    Fantastic writing retreat, and I love how well it turned out for you. We sometimes just have to have a little faith and the Universe provides 🙂

    • Valeka
      Twitter: runningonheavy
      June 14, 2012 | 4:28 PM

      I was very fortunate that it went so well! I agree with you 100% – the Universe provides us with what we need. So I guess it knew I needed a retreat! 🙂 Thanks so much for reading my post!

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