The Real Escape Retreat

I wanted to sleep in tents, meditate, do yoga and hike in the hill country; it was that simple. I couldn’t be the only one.

People kept asking me, “what are you going to get out of running this retreat?” To their surprise, I responded, “nothing quantifiable but I think it’ll be a cool experience.” There really was no real agenda for me to put on a wellness retreat other than to find likeminded leaders in the real estate or real estate technology industry and bring them together for a few days to do something different and hopefully build a bond. The idea birthed out of a conversation with my friend Ginny about the sterility of conferences and how we yearned for more authentic, small format experiences with people in our industry that allowed us to do the things we enjoy and remove the transactional nature of industry events. We joked that we wanted to put on a yoga retreat in Costa Rica…except only one of us was fully kidding.

While I didn’t want to ask people to fly internationally in the 8th inning of a global pandemic, I figured the hill country of Austin, Texas would be a decent spot to host a retreat. I partnered up with a glamping style lodge in Wimberley, TX (an hour outside of Austin) worked with them on building an itinerary for the retreat and held my breath that those who committed months prior wouldn’t bail last minute due to COVID concerns, family matters or otherwise. Leading up to the retreat I was so anxious that it wouldn’t be fun, enjoyable or all that meaningful for the group. Luckily, I was in the midst of reading, and deeply internalizing the message of, ‘The Surrender Project’ by Michael Singer which helped ease my frame of mind to let the trip play out the way it was supposed to and surrender to the outcome. To my surprise, we had near full turnout from those who initially committed (one dropped due to an unexpected conflict) and this past Wednesday, we all set off to the hill country.

Over the proceeding two days, our group of twelve would follow a fairly involved schedule while leaving just enough time for people to build a cushion of time to get some alone time as well.

Everyone had their own luxury style platform canvas tent outfitted with a comfortable king sized bed, rainwater showers and full air conditioning. I will note however that it was a bit of a juxtaposition sleeping in a luxury bed in a tent that also happened to welcome in grasshoppers, daddy long legs and other sizable critters.

We did our morning yoga in a beautiful canvas tent that overlooked the hill country followed by green juices and healthy breakfast options. Our two instructors provided for very different experiences. One led us through a fast-moving sun salutation while simultaneously sharing the life lessons of co-existing and building a house alongside his wife’s ex-husband. The other led us through a Bikram style practice with soft music and deep vibrational sound bowls. To continue the mindfulness trifecta, we did a sound bath meditation that led to deep relaxation and some hefty snoozing from at least a few folks in the group. Interesting to say the least of all the Śakra experiences.

We went on daily trail walks overlooking beautiful hill country vistas that gave everyone the space to talk with someone new. We spent time basking in the Blanco river while enjoying some cold beers as the water flowed under us. We were all fairly enthralled when one of our guests shared his experience of beating all the sports books in New Jersey and Las Vegas.

We had deliciously well-crafted BBQ and American fare-style dinners followed by campfires with s’mores & drinks that left everyone feeling quite satisfied.  

Lastly, we created a leadership style discussion built out of the ‘Mastermind format’ led by one of our group members. Marc who runs a company called Step Outside was gracious enough to come on this trip with us and help me build out some programming tailored toward deeper connection and leadership work. My hope was to make it light touch but meaningful at the same time, I think we achieved that. I’m super grateful for Marc’s help in planning it. Everyone had a chance to talk about their life and business endeavors and Alex volunteered to give a spotlight on what he’s working on and then solicit feedback, take thought provoking questions and try to publicly work through one of his deeper life questions. It was inspiring to say the least when Alex shared that he built his company on the backbone of a 2-2-2 model. 2% of profit, equity and time would be donated to a philanthropy. He’s leading with his heart and soul.

By the end of the trip, I couldn’t believe how much we’d done in under 48 hours. I felt that the intention of this trip was to remove some of the distractions of our daily routines and find some space to do the simple and pure things like move our bodies, embrace nature and spend time with each other in a new way; I think we accomplished all that. For me, I was reminded of the notion of ‘addition by subtraction.’ Remove what feels like clutter, return to the basics of joyful activity and you will feel renewed. This trip certainly had that effect on me and gave me some space to process a few things I’m working on internally. What I found really fascinating were the motives for why people came to the retreat in the first place. I’ll paraphrase a few answers:

RB: “I’m surrounded by people who think the same about real estate all day long, I wanted some new perspective while doing something different”

AL: “I’ve had my head in the sand buried on building my business, I needed to take some time to take care of myself and meet other successful entrepreneurs”

Chris: “It sounded cool and different”

TH: “I only came because Chris came”

BC: “I didn’t look at the itinerary, but heard it was proptech and said why not.”

RM: “I wanted to see what a retreat like this could look like because I want to build something similar in Australia”

When I was recounting the trip to my best friend Stevie he broke it down well for me. He recognized that this trip was the amalgamation of all the things that I love to do and have always done:

  • Be a counselor or a tour guide (I’ve done this as a teen tour counselor, an overnight camp counselor and as an adventure tour guide)

  • Be outside (anything outside > anything inside)

  • Do mindfulness stuff (I’m big into journaling, meditation, prayer, and anything that works on the deeper side of self)

  • Be a connector (I get more professional joy out of connecting good people with other good people than I do pretty much anything else)

  • Real Estate (We talked a lot of shop during this trip and I absolutely love talking about deals, new companies, new approaches and pretty much anything around the space)

Everyone had their reasoning but I was just thankful to surrounded myself with some incredibly ambitious, intelligent and diverse individuals who were all seeking to work on something over two days.

Although when Marc asked me on the first day what success would look like in my eyes, I boiled it down to two aspects: 1) I want everyone to feel healthier leaving the retreat than coming in 2) I want everyone to form a connection with at least one other person and feel that it was a worthwhile experience to leave their family and business behind for two days. Overall, I think it was a success and it certainly hit both of those markers. I saw handshakes at the beginning and hugs at the end. I left with a heart full of gratitude and more fire in my soul than before. That’s a win in my book and enough for me to want to run it back next year!