Pilgrimage: The Art of Sacred Travel

“Walking El Camino, the path itself, taught me that activism is about the relationships that I cultivate with each person; how I express care, concern, and kindness; and how I offer support to others and for myself. The Way of Saint James helped me to attune to others and to trust my brief moments of clarity and my own intuition.” Read more from Valerie Brown’s blog in Kosmos Journal

“Explore Sacred Places Full of Presence…” John O’Donohue

Listen to your heart. Does your heart yearn to explore some of the most spiritual places in the world, places where wisdom and beauty permeate the land?

Engage sacred landscapes to listen to the wisdom within you, to the mystery of thresholds and ‘thin places’. Come and experience first hand the sacred art and practice of pilgrimage called peregrinatio.

What You Will Experience on a Lead Smart Pilgrimage…

  • Our pilgrimage journeys are designed to ground and center you inward with quiet reflection, using poetry, prose, music, and the land itself. Return home deeply touched by the beauty and inspiration of sacred land and culture.
  • Our pilgrimage journeys offer ample time to connect with like-minded people, and our evening gatherings offer you time to reflect, write, and share from your experience.
  • Our pilgrimage journeys are a different kind of journey; they are not just a cultural tour or a walking vacation. You won’t be spending each night in a different city and then moving on. You won’t be rushing from site to site to ‘get it all in’. You are rooted in a particular place, and on our walking pilgrimage, we move at a snail’s pace, slowly, allowing you to take in the landscape. Be a pilgrim, not a tourist. We include a Sabbath Rest Day in nearly all our pilgrimages.
  • Our pilgrimage fosters respect and integrity for you and for the place itself. No hopping off a giant coach with 50 other tourists to snap pictures and move on. We travel on a private minivan with our driver and 12 pilgrims. And, for our Walk in Beauty Pilgrimage of El Camino de Santiago, our van is fully stocked with healthy snacks, and is available to you whenever you want a ride.

Our Walk in Beauty: Pilgrimage of El Camino de Santiago gets you off the beaten track to explore the hidden treasures of this ancient path and of northern Spain, following the coastal route. You walk on well-marked trails and country lanes through dense chestnut, oak and beech forest, through vineyards, kiwi vines, and fascinating towns rich in Galician culture from Santiago de Compostela to Muxía and Finisterre, ‘the ends of the earth’. We take care of all your needs so all you do is walk! Our hotels are charming and quaint family-run farmhouse inns, not impersonal hotels.

What People Are Saying About Lead Smart Pilgrimage Journeys…

  • “I was surprised by joy, by the deep, authentic connection with those in this group as we shared the beauty and the challenge of the walk.”
  • “I loved the quality time devoted to hearing each others’ stories.”
  • “I loved the sense of community.”
  • “I loved the reflection with poetry.”
  • “Wonderful accommodations, closeness to nature, and solitude.”
  • “I learned to reconnect with what is really essential in my life.”
  • “I was deeply touched by the beauty of the environment we walked through, the silence, the stillness.”


Your Values, Expressed through Sacred Travel…


We know your time is valuable and we want you to experience peace, awaken to new insights, respect the land and a new culture, and return home spiritually nourished, renewed, refreshed, and enriched through sacred travel.

The pilgrimage begins at home with your first step. Come experience pilgrimage and be changed forever. Register now for the experience of a lifetime.

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Named one of the best courageous books of 2014 by the Center for Courage & Renewal, this book is for educational leaders who feel overwhelmed, stressed, and exhausted, and offers explicit practices to help readers avoid burnout and become the mindful, poised, effective leaders they were meant to be. Loaded with real-time encouragement with portraits of educational leaders who are incorporating mindfulness practices, like attentive breathing, mindful walking about the school building, or calming pauses in the office throughout the school day, this book is a must-have guide.

Valerie Brown and Kirsten Olson. Corwin, December 2014. 344 pages.

The Road that Teaches: Lessons in Transformation through Travel.

Not your average travel guidebook, this book explores some of the world’s great pilgrimages, destinations, and the author’s reflections on the lessons she learned from them. Read this book to discover how travel can be transformational, how to be more mindful while traveling and every day, the adventures of traveling alone, the delights of encountering new people and places, ancient pilgrimage journeys and sacred travel worldwide.

Valerie Brown. QuakerBridge Media, 2012, 152 pages. Also available from QuakerBooks.

Heartfulness: Renewing Heart, Mind, and Spirit on Retreat and Beyond Valerie

Valerie Brown guides readers toward renewal of mind, heart, and spirit by encouraging them to take time away from the busyness of their lives through retreat. Drawing on her experience as a retreatant and retreat leader, she introduces readers to opportunities for personal restoration within a variety of focused retreats. She wonders how Friends experience of expectant waiting influences the retreat process and how retreats influence expectant waiting. She encourages the “big questions”—What has meaning and purpose in my life? What am I avoiding? What brings me most alive?—and offers specific practices for retreatants to cultivate in everyday life.

Valerie Brown. Pendle Hill Pamphlet #421.

Quakers are advised to begin worship by “centering down.” This is the first step in a Friend’s intention to wait in “holy expectancy,” to be drawn by the Light into communion with God. Centering prayer is also a practice used by Christian mystics to prepare for contemplation, and “centering” describes the meditation of a Buddhist in pursuit of that deep awareness called “mindfulness.” Valerie Brown is an explorer and teacher of centering practices, a Buddhist, and an active Friend. Drawing upon her own experiences and wide studies, she describes for Friends how these various traditions can offer us a better understanding and preparedness for our precious, elusive, mysterious, and simple practice of centering into worship. Discussion questions included.

Valerie Brown, Pendle Hill Pamphlet #407. 2014.