Goa has always been a vacation favorite. It's fun right from the start and has something for everyone. This is why I had voted for Goa when our founder asked for a choice between Goa and Pondicherry. And to my elation, almost everyone else voted for Goa as well, despite a forecast of monsoon rains during our retreat.
We boarded together for Goa. At the airport, we were greeted by hoards of lobbying cab drivers. But we were able to navigate our way to a pre-paid taxi booth, which gave us good rates.
It was raining when we reached the resort. After checking into our rooms, we assembled for dinner where Krishna and Raju had organized a fun introductory activity for us. We had to write 5 funny clues about a team member assigned to us. The activity was received warmly as everyone took guesses after hearing the clues. What made the dinner more special was Rashmi's persistent efforts to get a Cheese-cake for celebrations. It was also Rituparna's birthday that day, and so she cut a common cake for all of us whose birthdays and anniversaries passed recently (including that of 'Dost' itself).
The next day's breakfast buffet was quite refreshing. We were then invited to the open lawns where Ritwik and Rashmi facilitated some physical and mental warm-up exercises for all of us. They followed these with an emotionally intense session of sharing our vulnerabilities with the rest of the group. I was a little skeptical at first, to be honest, about sharing my vulnerabilities - What if I get triggered? But I trusted the process. And as soon as I had shared, I felt quite 'light' and 'free.' It was comforting to hear others going through similar issues or struggles. I felt deeply connected to everyone on the team after this session.
After a while, Aronee and Prateek organized some fun games for us to partake in. There was a 'guess-who' game, where one person was supposed to guess a celebrity assigned to them by only asking yes/no questions. The rest of the team greatly enjoyed giving a mix of confusing and helping answers. Then, there was another guessing game that involved drawing shapes by listening to the instructions of the partner blindly. And then there was a prompt discussion game where we were told to discuss our top 5 essentials to survive on a stranded island for more than a month. Our team members were uber cool here: we mentioned a Camera, a Ukelele, and a Solar Cooker as three of our five essentials!
After these fun sessions, some of us took to the swimming pool to relax, while others took a rest. While the chlorine content in the swimming pool was unpleasantly high, we liked taking some basic swimming lessons as some of us were skilled swimmers. Oh! and we clicked photos while we were in the pool.
Dinner was at the beach, where we explored the famous Goan seafood and drinks, followed by a walk along the coast.
The next day, I was supposed to lead the outdoor activity. Slightly nervous about organizing sessions,I had volunteered to organize the outdoor activity instead, hoping it will be less of conducting and more of traveling. However, to my surprise, not only I ended up organizing an outdoor expedition but also led a session there!
I was constantly scouting for nearest places of interest that everyone can enjoy. And I was worried that the rains will play a spoilsport. The hotel staff helped me with recommendations. We arranged cabs for our activity, which worked out for the best. Furthermore, I was greatly impressed by the socio-emotional sharing that had taken place the previous day and wanted to continue some reflection-based activities. So, when we went to Chapora fort, I requested each team member to write a short letter to their thirteen-year-old selves. The wide landscape of the top of the fortress suddenly became an ideal place to think about life. After some time, everyone shared how they felt connecting with their pasts. We got to hear some enriching life stories and lessons.
This was followed by a hike below to the 'Vagator' beach. We had planned to conduct activities there too, but the sporadic rains and the high tides made us change our plans. We rushed to an outdoor restaurant 'Artjuna' for lunch.
After some relaxation (chlorinated swimming pool again), we were invited to a hot-water jacuzzi where Sindhuja conducted her session. She asked everyone to share any good qualities they found in each team member. So everyone spoke about each team member in-turns. Personally, this was a very uplifting and fulfilling experience for me. The compliments received reassured my faith in some core parts of my personality and I felt deeply humbled and acknowledged by everyone.
After this, our retreat officially ended.
The next morning, we bid farewell to team members one by one. Some of us even stayed back and worked from Goa for the next week while taking time to see some more beaches.
The most significant benefit, in my opinion, of such non-work and in-person retreats is to be able to gain an understanding of the multi-dimensional personalities of each other. When we work together, we often see only one or two sides of a person without knowing how they are in real life. However, when we spend time in-person, we come to see various layers in each person which makes them feel far more 'real,' enabling us to connect more deeply with them.
Thank you everyone for such a wonderful time. Ending with a swimming pool photo.