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 equiv