TRAVELLING ON A CHICKEN BUS ON A GUATEMALAN GRANDMA’S LAP (EN)
Let’s come right out with it: who’s going with me at the end of August to a career retreat in Guatemala? I would guess that a couple people hesitate a little because even if they let themselves be seduced by the Mayan Empire, they still have no idea, just as I still had no idea a short time ago, what a retreat actually is, let alone a career retreat???
So, is a retreat another buzz word from the area of personal development? Perhaps a little, but it more highlights the fact of something specifically connected with the current work rush (i want to be positive at the beginning, so I won’t say the “rat race”:) So this is maybe why I would first like to explain a little about what you can expect with this terminology, what I see as a career retreat, why I named it Zen & Surf Your Career, even though it actually isn’t about surfing, and why I’m organizing it in Antigua, Guatemala.
(reading time about 10 min)
In the dictionary, retreat is precisely defined as “...shelter, privacy, quietude, remove, distancing oneself...” So it literally means that from time to time we should disappear somewhere? And actually, simply said, yes.
If I skip over the militaristic use of “retreat”, such as when an army pulls back,or otherwise when you hole yourself up in the attic with a magazine or book, or more ambitiously when you rent a cottage for example, to write your own dream book (it is already possible to do this specifically in the Czech Republic), so, all of this can be referred to as a retreat in English. And, as those of you who have read the book Deep Work by C. Newport already know, such focused concentration on one thing and creating outside the standard routine makes our work more effective and opens our heads to new ideas due to the deeper concentration.
The moment I randomly type “retreats” into Google, it spits back at me over 300 million links... most of them connected with holiday wellness / yoga / meditation getaways. But you will also find articles that simply connect the term retreat with company trips in the sense of teambuilding or off-site meetings. You will even find super fancy retreats spent with dolphins in Hawaii, with whales in Mexico, or a bit more poetic “walking retreat” across the Swiss Alps.
At any rate, the underlined included – whether to the mountains or to the dolphins:) we go on retreats to recharge our batteries, get new ideas, and simply to physically step out of the routine paths of our corporate or home offices, where we often have our (natural) cyclical tendencies of habitual thinking and often a pile of bad working habits as well (most often connected with different types of procrastination).
And with nearly all types of retreats, it is the different environment that plays a large role: outside of our routine and/or type of activity through which we want to realize something (yoga, meditation, trekking, climbing volcanoes, diving, speaking with local people in other countries, etc.).
And all of this enables us to look at our current lives from different perspectives. For some, this sudden change in our life routine helps to make some new decisions, take new steps that we have been putting off. Some truly do go to the Beskydys or to Indonesia to mentally or physically relax. And why not? What is important is to decide what you want for yourself from the retreat and then to set up your own selection criteria.
Why a career retreat?
Since 2013, I have been travelling at least twice a year to countries in Latin America. At first this was as a wide-eyed tourist excited by everything. For the last four years, however, I have been travelling to Guatemala and Mexico primarily for work. And so through gradual tuning, I have created a kind of private “little career retreat” for myself there:)
And because I often work in co-working spaces, a.k.a. shared working spaces (my favorite is Guatemalan Impact Hub), I have not only observed what such a stay outside our Euro-American standards does with me, but also with other people who, beside the classic freelancers, often take a kind of working break from the corporate or the non-profit world and think about their next moves.
And so during my last few stays, I worked on how to create a retreat for people who don’t only want to relax, but also want to get new ideas for their further professional life after returning to their country, so that they leave with renewed energy and experiences, but also with concretely named inspiration for their next career decisions.
Why a retreat in Central America?
Central America is still quite exotic for us. However, for Canadians or people from the United States it is something like a trip to Croatia or Greece. A kind of lesser exotic, but basically all of the services and goods that you buy at home are already available (for better or for worse:)
No armed conflict has occurred in the entire region since the 1990s. Safety is on the same average level as when travelling e.g. through Southeast Asia – it is simply necessary to watch out for pickpockets and avoid problematic areas and people. I think a good indicator of tourist safety is girls travelling alone, and in Latin America you find quite a lot of them.
And what is unique about Central America? It truly is a mix of everything in a relatively small space, and you can see most of it during a 14-day holiday: mountains, volcanoes you can climb, Caribbean beaches for relaxing and diving, Pacific waves for surfing, food spicy and non spicy, high-quality rum, non-alcoholic, and fresh juices and coconut water, national parks with gorgeous mountains and unbelievable varieties of flowers and animals, live music and dancing, a cradle of legal drugs such as chocolate, colonial cities and ruins and the pyramids of the original inhabitants. There are 17 places in Central America on the list of UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage.
And why in Guatemala?
As I was travelling and enjoying all the splendor of Central America, I finally chose the city of Antigua in Guatemala. It is a gorgeous miniature colonial town (also UNESCO), where the locals meet for weekend fun (Latinos truly know how to do this:) and to eat well, and foreigners most often learn Spanish, dance, buy coffee and chocolate and make trips around the area.
Antigua is about 40 minutes from Guatemala City, i.e. the airport. And 3 hours by car from the Pacific coast. You can also playfully reserve a shuttle bus from Antigua to any other tourist spot in “Guate” as well as neighboring countries (people often go to Salvador for surfing, to Belize for diving, or for culture and the excellent cuisine to southern Mexico).
If you want to travel around the area like a local, there is nothing easier than to wave down a local chicken bus anywhere from the street (camionetas = retired U.S. school buses spruced up in new colors). It’s great that they ride everywhere all the time and I guarantee you that you will always have a place to sit on the bus. If you pay for a ticket, a spot can always be found, even if you end up on the lap of an indian grandma.
The local currency is the quetzal (1Q= about 3 CZK) and the prices are equivalent to those in the Czech Republic. Dorms cost about 200 CZK/night. And if you want to treat yourself to some luxurious colonial accommodation, you can find fantastic hotels in all price ranges. Street food ranges from 50 CZK for something similar to a Czech “lunch menu”... and then there are the expensive luxurious restaurants. Coffee lovers like me will be very pleased here (prices from 30 – 90 CZK). Bank machines are on every corner and you can pay by card in most places.
Return flights from Prague run about 19 thousand CZK, but if you will search for flight from e.g. Madrid, Paris, Frankfurt, or Munich, one can find sales with ticket prices around 10 thousand CZK.
The weather in Antigua is a kind of eternal sping. In August you should expect regular rain, but it usually rains at night, or through the day for an hour or two. Otherwise it always clears up and it’s sunny.
In any case, if you want to get in the mood, take a look at some really (in my opinion) perfect Czech Television documentaries about Guate: Objektiv, Na cestě and Cestománie. I only warn you that you may already fall in love from a distance:)
And, well, it is necessary to get yellow fever – not the illness, but the vaccine, obviously. Occurrence in country is not recorded, but upon landing they may want see a stamp in your international inoculation card. This is a condition for traveling throughout most of the world outside of Europe and this inoculation then lasts for your whole life.
How then can I combine chocolate and my career?
When I was looking into how to combine the presentation of this beautiful country with work, it took me, as a career coach, about 3 years for it to sink in... I am not a travel agency (and I don’t want to be:), but on the other hand I did not want to do ordinary career workshops just somewhere else. And what’s more, I would definitely not want to close someone in Guate for the first time inside a meeting room (albeit colonial) for a week.
And this year, when I’m almost at the end of my eighth stay, saying goodbye to so many wonderful people, I realized that that is what I would also like to give to the people who fly to meet me in Guatemala: get to know themselves through the stories and work experience of the local people. What neither a travel agency cannot give you, nor travelling on your own with a backpack when you only have a few days to get to know a country.
So come and let me introduce you to Eduard, Nancy, José, Jenni, Frank, Luis, Laura, Eduard, Patti and others. Come try making your own chocolate, how it is to work a piece of local stone into your own jewelry, how coffee tastes the evening after being collected from the surrounding hills, how to plant avocados (which are not at all hipster here:), how it is to teach non-dancers the basic steps of salsa, how it feels to go shopping in local markets like people from surrounding villages, have a look at how the startup scene works in Guatemala, social business non-profits, and how other professions look... Come try it, chat with the locals (and don’t worry, I will translate:) and then we will go together and discuss in groups during short development activities concerning what we learned through all of it that day that we can apply to ourselves personally.
Come and try for once to see less and meet people and places in a deeper way (#slowtravelling)… I believe that this slowing down will lead people to find inspiration within themselves for their further career decisions. And if you have a desire to see more, at the end of the retreat week it will be a pleasure for me to give you tips on what to see in the next week or two if you decide to stay and travel through the rest of the country on your own steam – it’s really worth seeing.
Why am I doing this for free and what is my role?
I am a career coach and trainer and that’s what I will continue to be. Even in Guatemala:) I am not a travel agency:
- I have a business license for travel agency only to be able to train in foreign countries = doing this retreat
- I cannot procure flight tickets and accommodation – nevertheless, I will be more than happy to give you great recommendations
This means that those interested must be able to book the trip, find accommodation and standard travel insurance by clicking through the internet on their own. For the trip from the airport I recommend ordering an Uber or I will happily give you a contact to my friend, a Venezuelan engineer who sometimes works as a taxi driver.
Our 7 days together on the site is then completely organized – the structure of the program can be found at www.ZenKariera.cz. After a common meeting on the first day, you will receive a map of the town center and an itinerary with meeting times and places for activities as well as common mini workshops. Late afternoons and evenings are free and I will be ready and willing to provide suggestions for places you can go.
As this is not a beach holiday in Bibione, but a career retreat in Guatemala, I suppose that the main motivation for attending the retreat is truly to get to know yourself through the planned activities, as well as the local people and culture. I planned most of the workshops in various places for different activities and trips in the area. I suppose that your desire to work on yourself is as strong as your desire to travel – otherwise, your participation on a career retreat will not make much sense.
Because this experience personally gave me a lot of inspiration and time for creativity (most of my career tool were developed here in Latin America) I decided to provide the same experience to others (including you). And because I understand that this is a new thing, Guate is far away and tickets to Thailand or Bali are cheaper on average (but everyone goes there, right?:), so I have decided to motivate you and everyone who signs up for this year’s 2019 retreat by 15 May, 2019, by making you ambassadors and giving you one whole week of my services for free, including payment for activities with locals during the weeks, and as another bonus you will receive the printed coaching materials into which we will write our observations and inspiration.
As my reward at the end of the retreat I expect your feedback, with which I will be able to improve and tune my concept for future retreats, and I will appreciate and utilize your online reporting from your trip (sincerely of course, personal and those who are not experts with social media don’t have to worry because just before your departure you will receive a free training in online marketing from the amazing Anda Bubníková, a value of 5,000 CZK), and then the willingness to have yourself photographed and filmed during our activities so that I will be able to transfer your experiences as authentically as possible to others.
If by 15 May, 2019 you send to my email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) the following:
- Your CV in pdf format including your active profiles on the social networks that you use
- In your CV include a link to a 1-3 minute motivational video about why you personally want to go to this retreat in Guatemala,
You have a chance to become an ambassador for the first Czech career retreat and thus gain a week full of unbelievable activities and experiences valued at 23,669 CZK!
I will then inform you by the end of May if, on the basis of your motivation, you were selected, and you can buy your flight and accommodation for the dates 17-23 August, 2019 (and don’t forget to get insurance).
Will you go for it? You can find everything about the retreat here:
Oh yes,and I still have not explained the title of the retreat, so
a) It is in English because the word “retreat” has no Czech equivalent and because I am also planning retreats in English
b) And I like to play with words that have their own symbolism, i.e.
… “ZEN your career” = symbolizes space for your focus and peace
… “SURF your career” = symbolizes energy needed for re-start
… “ZEN & SURF YOUR CAREER” = peace and inspiration at a professional crossroads