Big Sur Soul Quest

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girls near the creek
marbles vista
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Glorious mountain lily



Grades 10-12 & graduating seniors ~ July 14-21, 2019


Come to a Pizza Dinner & Open House to learn more!

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? ~ Mary Oliver

Being a teenager or young adult means that you are taking on more responsibility and facing opportunities and challenges in all areas of your life with family, peers, relationships, school, and purpose.  A Gaia Girls Soul Quest is a chance to be part of a community of other seekers and explorers while bringing a question or intention for your life to wise and wild places.  

You will learn and experience the skills of backpacking and living in the backcountry such as wild herbal and food harvesting, tracking animals, and beginning nature crafts, as well as be guided towards a two day, one night wilderness solo.  

Out beyond the distractions of everyday life and modern civilization, if we allow ourselves to become a part of the natural world, our own inner knowing and the drumbeat of the world can be heard more clearly.  Amongst the wildflowers, waterfalls, tall trees, burrowing animals, crackling fires and starlit nights, you might just find a treasure (or two or three) that is awaiting you.

We welcome you wanderers, wondering ones, weavers, dreamers, witches, activists, artists, earth warriors…

Gaia Girls Nature Soul Quest is for you if…

you have a sense that there is something deeper waiting for you…

you are running into challenges in your life that you don’t have answers for…

you’re not sure who to take advice from …..

you feel a calling and want to inquire deeper into that calling…

you are at a loss and not sure where to turn ….

you’re looking for more “realness…”

you want to connect with something greater than yourself …

you want to get real with a group of other teens and mentors…

Where will we be?  

The wild beauty of Big Sur is truly epic. A land of crossroads and meeting points: the humid NorCal ecosystems of lush redwoods meet the dry, arid desert climate of southern California. It’s highest mountain at 5000′ is only 3 miles from the ocean, the most extreme sea-level-to-elevation in North America. Where the largest bird on our continent flies among the tops of the tallest trees, no one leaves the “Big South” without a deep sense of awe. This 7-night, 8-day trip traverses the high coastal mountain range that overlook the Pacific ocean to the west and the Central Valley to the east, down through the redwoods, along rivers and valleys, ending at the Pacific Ocean. We will begin by exploring the higher elevations of Big Sur before descending into redwood canyons and following creeks and rivers to the sea.

Gaia Girls Soul Quest draws from ancient ceremonies used for finding personal empowerment, connecting with life and mystery, and deepening one’s relationship to the world we are intimately a part of.  Each participant will be guided to find and prepare a special site and power circle that they will mostly stay within for the full length of their 2 day, 1 night solo.  (Caregiver(s) are invited for send off and return)

The term soul quest is derived from the term “Vision Quest” which was coined by anthropologist Arnold Van Gennep in the early 1900s after observing many indigenous cultures who sent their youth out into the wilderness for days, weeks, or months a time, often to seek a “vision” for their life and to restore balance with the spirits, the earth and people.  The reasons for doing a “vision quest” are many and vary across cultures. We give gratitude to the Esselen people of this region and to the First Nation peoples of the Americas, recognizing the depth of their traditions and wisdom from having lived here for thousands of years.

At Gaia Girls, we offer the opportunity to share in a tradition that has existed for millennia and helped people and communities stay in a sacred balance.  We do not base our Soul Quest in the lineage of any Indigenous community or tribe, and we allow nature and the great mystery to be our guide. Sarai has been trained in the Four Shields lineage of Stephen Foster and Meredith Little, a contemporary and pan-cultural way of offering Vision Quest.


8-Day Trek: $1400 (before March 15), $1460 (after March 15)

Scholarships available on our online registration, starting at $1220 (before March 15), $1280 (after March 15).

Payment Plans Available on our Online Registration. Contact us if you need additional scholarship. No one turned away!


We value ethnic, gender, and economic diversity. All backgrounds and identities are encouraged to join!

Check out our Mountain to Sea Trip!

Back to Main Backpacking Page

birds big sur

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting  

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.


Mary Oliver


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Contact Information


Phone: 510-731-0308

Address: 651 66th Street

Oakland, CA 94609


Most photography by Erika Gagnon

Gaia Girls Passages is a project of Gaia Passages, a tax-deductible 501(c)(3) organization. Tax ID # is 82-1688828 

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