Teen Writing Experience: Pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago

Teen Writing Experience: Pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago

Trip at a Glance

  • June 2 to July 11, 2017
  • A 5-week walking pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago from France into Spain
  • Daily journaling with writing prompts
  • Individual writing instruction with Shannon O’Donnell
  • Limited to three participants
  • Base price $4,200 per person + expenses and travel

Apply Today

  • Review this entire webpage for details.
  • Email Shannon to set up a Skype video chat
  • Review tuition PDF after call
  • Submit 50% deposit by check/PayPal by April 20th

Journey Highlights

  • Partake in one of the world’s most famous pilgrimages and walk 800 kilometers across France and Spain.
  • Enjoy the Spanish tapas culture and experience new food and drink.
  • Access dozens of other travelers from all over the world, each on a journey of their own — learn how to tell their story in a way that engages and inspires others.
  • Pick up Spanish language, or practice your skills from school — Shannon is fluent and can help you level up!
  • Participate in weekly group instruction on how to turn journal notes into compelling travel stories.
  • Learn within one-on-one sessions to review your writing trouble spots — from craft to storytelling to grammar.
  • Finish a complete memoir of the journey and see your name in the Amazon store with a book of your own.

More than a workshop, the A Little Adrift Writing experiences combine transformational travel with personal, hands-on writing training. Small groups (maximum three students), ensure each teen receives an unprecedented level of guidance and support.

The Annual Writing Experience for Teens Workshop takes place in a new location every year — each location and focus is chosen for its potential for a life-changing experience for the teens taking part. Destinations are safe and story-worthy, and the experiences focus heavily on culture, food, and language immersion.

El Camino de Santiago Itinerary

We will hike every week from Sunday through Friday, and take a break from walking every Saturday. Each Saturday includes a cultural immersion activity and a two-hour formal writing workshop. Although many guesthouses have WiFi along the route, students will always have access to WiFi and an iPad to Skype home to their families on Saturday evenings.

All students will eat meals together and Shannon, who is fluent in Spanish, will make sure that each student is comfortable and fed throughout each day. We will hike the Camino as a team, and anything that crops up —holidays, blisters, bad days, and good days — is a part of the journey and we will adjust and shift plans as needed.


  • We will all arrive in Paris on June 2, 2017. Students may travel with Shannon round-trip from New York City (JFK) — flight details to be discussed after booking. Students can also coordinate arrival times with Shannon at Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) in Paris, France.
  • We will travel together to St Jean Pied de Port and we will spend two days at a budget guesthouse here preparing our Pilgrim’s Passport, ensuring that we all have the right gear, and making final checks before beginning the pilgrimage.

Week One

  • We begin walking Sunday, June 4th and we walk approximately 22 kilometers each day for six days through the following towns, among others: Roncesvalles, Pamplona, Puente la Reina, Estella-Lizarra, and Los Arcos.
  • Together we will wake and walk with other pilgrims from 7am until 2pm. Each afternoon, students will have time to independently journal, and we will also explore the churches, towns and UNESCO World Heritage sites that we pass along the route.
  • We end week one with a day of rest and writing on Saturday, June 10th in the charming Spanish town of Los Arcos.
  • SATURDAY WORKSHOP TOPIC: How to record facts, stories, and details to later use within your stories. We will also discuss those people we met on the Camino during week one, and talk about story ideas, points of view, and intriguing cultural points.

Week Two 

  • On Sunday, June 11th we will begin our second week on the Camino. We will walk an average of 26 km each day for six days through the following towns, among others: Logroño, Nájera, Navarrete, San Juan de Ortega, and Burgos.
  •  We will wake with other pilgrims at 7am and walk until approximately 3pm each day. Many of the towns feature incredible historic churches and students will witness a slice of life in rural Spain. Each afternoon students will independently journal and have the option to join afternoon excursions into town.
  • We rest on Saturday, June 17th in Burgos, Spain. We will partake in a cultural immersion cooking class, and a writing workshop.
  • SATURDAY WORKSHOP TOPIC: Types of travel writing, from personal to service writing, and the benefits of each. Students will share their stories from the previous week and will spend one hour writing in a style outside of their traditional style of writing, be it memoir, service-focused writing.

Week Three

  • On Sunday, June 18th we will begin our third week on the Camino. We will walk an average of 29 km each day for six days through the following towns, among others: Castrojeriz, Carrión de los Condes, Sahagún, and León.
  •  We will wake with other pilgrims at 7am and walk until approximately 3pm each day. Each afternoon students will independently journal and have the option to join afternoon excursions into town.
  • We rest on Saturday, June 24th in León, Spain and volunteer at an organic farm just outside of town. We will meet the community and participate in an eco-project on site. In the afternoon, we will return to León for a short afternoon workshop.
  • SATURDAY WORKSHOP TOPIC: How to tell another person’s story. Will talk about how to discuss cultural differences and remain sensitive to a person’s unique story, tone of voice, and spirit. Students will write a 2,000 word story about one person they have met along the Camino.

Week Four

  • On Sunday, June 25th we will begin our fourth week on the Camino. We will walk a fairly flat route an average of 24 km each for six days through the following towns, among others: Villadangos del Páramo, Astorga, Ponferrada, and O Cebreiro.
  •  We will wake with other pilgrims at 7am and walk until about 3pm each day. Many of the towns feature incredible historic churches and students will witness a slice of life in rural Spain. Each afternoon students will independently journal and have the option to join afternoon excursions into town.
  • We rest on Saturday, July 1st in O Cebreiro, Spain. No cultural activity; we will rest.
  • SATURDAY WORKSHOP TOPIC: How to create compelling introductions and the technique of “starting in the middle.” We will review the tenets of strong storytelling, from narrative design to character arcs and how to apply that to non-fiction stories.

Week Five

  • Our final week on the Camino! We leave from O Cebreiro on Sunday, July 2nd we walk for just five days this week before we will reach Santiago de Compostela. We will walk an average of 23 km each day through the following towns, among others: Sarria, Portomarín, Palas de Rei, and Arzúa.
  • The trail is much busier during this stretch and the walking days are moderately shorter. We will wake with other pilgrims and focus on gathering stories and making deep connections with diverse pilgrims. Students will document their interactions and we will journal twice a day during this final week — during our lunch stop, and in the evenings before sleeping.
  • On Thursday, July 6, 2017, we will finish our long pilgrimage at the Santiago de Compostela church. We will celebrate and rest early so that we can take part in the pilgrim ceremony the following morning.
  • After the ceremony on Friday, July 7th, we will make small excursions to explore the town and spend much of the day in rest at a local park and at the hotel. We will stay three nights in Santiago de Compostela.
  • SATURDAY WORKSHOP TOPIC: Student’s choice. Having completed the journey, we will talk about the experience and how to summarize a personal journey and communicate it with a wider audience.


On Sunday, July 9th we will take a train north from Santiago de Compostela to Paris, France. During this long train ride, Shannon will work one-on-one with students to discuss their book idea and to plot an outline, plan, and timeline for completing the book.

We will sleep in Paris on July 9th and Shannon will bring students to the airport on July 10th to meet their flight. Shannon can also escort students on a flight from Paris to NYC on July 11, 2017.

Skype Follow-Ups

  • Throughout late July, August, and September, students will meet in four joint Skype session to discuss steps to collect, edit, and publish their original books documenting their summer travel experiences. Book topics will vary depending on the student’s interest: a collection of short cultural stories, how-to travel advice, or travel memoir.
  • Each student will submit a completed book to Shannon by September 14th. Shannon will edit the work and publish each students’ original book on Amazon on October 1, 2017.

Individual Teen Writing Project

Through this innovative travel workshop, teens who dream of becoming a travel writer have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn the craft of cultural travel and writing from an accomplished writer and traveler.

The What: Each student will work with Shannon to determine the style of travel book best suited to their writing style and goals. While many students prefer to write a memoir, students may also write a service-focused book, a collection of short stories, or other related projects. The student will end the summer with a published book on Amazon, with their name on the byline.

The How: Students will journal every day of their pilgrimage using both their experiences, and a series of writing prompts. This journal will serve as their documentation of the journey, their record of the details, and the basis for their book. Throughout the five weeks, students will learn how to pick a travel writing style, how to develop stories within that style, and how to craft those stories into a larger project — a book.

The Process: In this hyper-connected world, students will disconnect from technology and learn how to connect from the pen and paper to their creativity. The nature of the Camino means that although we will access WiFi along the way, students will spend the bulk of their time journaling and writing by hand. When they return home in July, each student will participate in group and private sessions to hone their stories and workshop any issues with their books. Shannon will perform a final edit on each book and publish their work as a Kindle book on Amazon.com.

“As a first time traveler, I was nervous about what it would be like to be in a foreign culture, away from the familiar. Traveling with Shannon put me completely at ease and introduced me to a whole new world of food, people, experiences in Southeast Asia. Shannon showed me how to share my stories on a travel blog which now reaches 1,500 visitors each month who read my stories and travel tips for teens. I so look forward to future travels now that I have experienced what it is like outside of my comfort zone.”  — Angela R., Age 12

Registration & Questions

Tuition: $4,200
Travel + Flights: Varies, email for details.
Fitness Level: The Camino is a five-week hike of moderate to mild level. While it’s a mostly flat route, students should be in good shape with enough stamina to walk for two hours without stopping. We will discuss this in more depth during our joint Skype introduction session.
Intro Skype: Students, plus at least one parent, must complete a Skype session with Shannon to discuss the student’s goals, the nature of this trip, expectations, and travel specifics.

We will discuss all travel specifics during our first information and get-to-know-you session. Email Shannon: ShannonRODonnell@gmail.com.

Please include within the email three proposed dates and times within the following two weeks that you could participate in a Skype session.

About Shannon O’Donnell

An award-winning writer and photographer, O’Donnell has a passion for empowering students. Named a National Geographic Traveler of the Year for advocacy work for cultural and sustainable travel experiences, she regularly speaks at both middle and high schools across the United States, and to university students from all over the world. Her acclaimed first book, The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook , showcased her passion for helping others learn how to dive deeply into the cultures and histories of the places they visit.

Shannon has led teen workshops all over the world, from a cultural writing tour across Southeast Asia to a sustainable tourism focused writing workshop in Mexico. Shannon chooses each destination with an eye toward experiences that will challenge the teens, broaden their perspectives, and provide ample fodder for interesting travel stories. Fluent in Spanish and proficient in four other languages, Shannon’s workshops offers students a safe and supportive travel experience that will level up their writing skills, and transform their perspective on the world.

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