My First LIVE Retreat Done: Reflections & Future Events KDS: 120

first live retreat

I did it! My First Live Retreat is in the books!

It was everything I hoped for and some huge a-ha moments for me.

I’m going to share how it came about (Finally! This has been on my list of things I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember), taking imperfect action, the work involved, the event itself, and how I’m feeling a few weeks later.

Even if you don’t want to host your own retreat, I’m hoping this will give you some insight and clarity into how your business should support your personality, strengths, and how you want to feel.

I had some huge epiphanies that, in all honesty, really surprised me.

Including, “Do I really want to do in-person events?” 😲

How the event, IGNITE Women’s Business Retreat, Came About

As I mentioned earlier, hosting a live event has been on my list of things to do for as long as I’ve been in business (almost 16 years!).

After a couple of months of living in Costa Rica, I knew that’s where I wanted to host an event. At the time, I had mentioned this to someone I had connected with in my building (that didn’t last; she was just too much for me), and suddenly I found myself planning an overwhelming event.

Fortunately, that friendship ended, and I stepped back and knew that what we had started planning was nothing like any event I’d want to host.

Fast forward to June 2023 (five months after moving back to California from Costa Rica), and I was planning a visit back for October with a friend. I connected with this online years ago, and we have stayed in touch on & off throughout the years.

I wanted to rent my friend’s beachfront house that I had stayed at a few times, but the discounted price for me had gone up (rightfully so; the house is impressive, and she’s actively renting it), and my friend said it wasn’t in her budget.

I wasn’t interested in pivoting plans and going somewhere else because my initial goal to return to Costa Rica was to visit friends, which feels like home to me. Plus, it became apparent through our conversations that we had different ideas about what we wanted.

That’s when the idea hit me.

Why don’t I see if I can host a retreat instead?

I called my friend and asked if she could give me a week (she gave me two); I reached out to a couple of people and got a yes immediately.

So… my first-ever live retreat in Costa Rica was born.

One of the ‘yes’s’ came from a dear friend, Liz Weaver, who jumped in to co-host with me (best decision ever!).

What started as a vacation back to the place I called home for almost two years quickly became a Women’s Business retreat, and it was to happen in 3.5 months. Not a lot of time in the bigger picture of retreat planning, but that brings me to my next point.

Imperfect Action

You’ve probably heard the statement, “Imperfect action beats no action,” which is 100% true. It can also bring a little bit of chaos into the mix.

That said, sometimes I think this is the best way to make things happen.

Because you don’t have time to overthink, you jump in, say yes, and make it work.

The house we were renting is an incredible beachfront property in Play Potrero, Guanacaste (available for rent. You can go through Airbnb here or through me and get a discount. Wink wink, nudge nudge) and sleeps 10.

We figured us, plus eight guests, would be plenty for our first retreat.

However, after we sold the first four spots, we decided not to keep selling it so we could all have our own rooms (each room comes with its own bathroom).

Because we had such a short sales cycle, this also removed a little pressure from this first event. Our goal was to cover our costs (which we did, I think. We still have to tally everything up. I have a pile of receipts), figure out what worked and what didn’t, and plan accordingly if we were going to continue doing this.

You can check out the event website here, but here’s the TL;DR version of the event.

  • Guests arrive Tuesday evening
  • The workshop would be Wednesday, Thursday, and half of Friday.
  • The second half of Friday would be the Catamaran cruise.
  • Guests leave on Saturday morning.

Best laid plans…

Because of the time of year (the end of the rainy season in Costa Rica), there weren’t as many flights as during the dry season. There are two major airports in Costa Rica – San Jose (which is big), and Liberia (smaller of the two, but much closer). Our attendees flew into Liberia, and three of them had to take the overnight flight from LAX I took (never again).

So, our first three attendees were at the house by 8:30 Tuesday morning.

Which threw a little bit of a monkey wrench in our plans because it took almost a full day out of our prep time.

Side note:

I arrived a week before the event started, on Tuesday, October 17th. I drove down to LA on Monday the 16th, had dinner with my daughter, and then she drove me to the airport Monday night.

My friend & co-host, Liz Weaver, arrived on Friday the 20th.

I wanted a few days to myself and see friends, but that flight was a doozy, and I was wiped for a few days.

Except for a movie night on Friday and a little time on Saturday, it was pretty much non-stop for Liz and me from the time she got there.

The Event Itself

This probably feels a bit like I’m reading an itinerary, but we’re almost done with the overview, so hang tight. 😉

In addition to their stay at the house, the retreat also included all their food. Which meant Liz and I had to shop for, prepare, order, or arrange all the food. Which we did (well, Liz did. haha… she cooked some incredible meals, we went out for one, had one on the Catamaran, and breakfast was self-serve).

The cost for the event was $1850.

Which, like I said, *might* have covered hard costs, but this was way too low.

The nice thing about a smaller group is that it’s much easier to build in some flexibility. Our first day was sort of “heavy” in that we did the personal and mindset stuff, had a couple of exercises the attendees did, and then did our first hot seat.

We started at 9:00 am, and by 4:30 pm, people were fried.

It was a fantastic day with lots of personal “a-ha’s,” some vulnerability, and even some tears (good tears; I promise we didn’t make anyone cry).

On the second day, we did two hot seats, plus a photographer came to the house, and everyone got photos done (sending those off this week). We flipped Friday, did the Catamaran cruise in the morning because of the rainy afternoons, and had our fourth and final hot seat early Friday evening.

Obviously, there’s a lot more to the event, but we’ll be here all day if I go into more detail.

I want to share my reflections and thoughts (to the degree I can without sharing about anyone else) and how I feel a couple of weeks later.

Reflections and Future Events

First and foremost, I’m incredibly proud that I did this.

I also want to make it crystal clear that there’s no way I could have done this without Liz Weaver. I was fortunate enough to have her as a dear friend prior, but I will forever be grateful for having her embark on this with me.

I’m also happy to say her husband came down after the retreat, and they stayed for two more weeks. They both fell in love with Costa Rica, which makes me incredibly happy.

In May of this year, I did the exercise by Dr. Benjamin Hardy and wrote a letter from my future self. In that letter, I stated I was planning my first live retreat in Costa Rica for February 2024.

Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined achieving that four months early when I wrote that letter (this is the power of writing things down!).

One of my biggest epiphanies was the moment I had when I thought to myself, “Do I really want to host in-person events?”

Having lived alone most of the last few years (sans this time with my Dad), I’ve grown incredibly accustomed to a lot of white space and quiet in my life.

At the risk of sounding like a stick in the mud, I quickly get overstimulated when I need to be “on” for too long.

This last year has also been a lot.

I don’t feel like I’ve had much downtime at all.

A year ago, at this time, I was recovering from back surgery in Costa Rica, went back to California at Christmas, and then turned around in February to move back permanently.

The first few months back were a big adjustment. It was super cold (lots of snow here); I ended up sick within a month, then Shingles two months later, followed by a bit of travel, lots of family events, and then the retreat.

I hadn’t realized it until writing this episode out, but there’s a general weariness from the last year.

I wasn’t aware of it because I’ve been super focused for the last six months, feeling good emotionally, and have a deep trust in how everything unfolds (new chapter). I also became acutely aware that it was time to rebuild my strength.

As trite as the saying is, it really is true that “health is wealth.”

I think what would be hugely helpful (and something I remember from having participated in mastermind events as an attendee) is to build in more downtime for everyone.

It might mean adding a day to the retreat, but the benefits of creating that white space for everyone will be priceless.

Future Events

I’m writing this episode and reflection before Liz and I have had a chance to do a recap together (her husband got into town a day early because of snow storms in Colorado, so we’ll catch up in a few days). Still, we’ve discussed enough to know how we’re shifting things for the future.

And yes, after we dropped everyone at the airport Saturday morning, had a quick stop in Pricesmart to feed my addiction to the most delicious snack ever (it’s labeled as trail mix, but really, it’s a lot of chocolate with some nuts and pretzels), and got the car washed…

We stopped at the local bar & restaurant, Las Brisas, for lunch and margaritas to celebrate having pulled this off. 🥳

first live event

And yes, those margaritas are big and a wee bit dangerous.

Here’s what we’ve decided…

Our next event will be stateside, likely in late Spring of 2024 (probably on the West Coast). It will have a very different feel than the Costa Rica Mastermind and operate more like a traditional event (at a hotel with a small conference room, and attendees will pay for their lodging).

We’ll have a couple of other speakers, mix up the workshop activities and content, and host a slightly larger group (probably a maximum of 20 – 30 people, as we both prefer smaller events). We have another friend who will also co-host with us (we wanted her for Costa Rica, but it wasn’t right timing for her).

From there, we’ll offer the Mastermind in Costa Rica, which will be by application.

The second event in Costa Rica will be in October again (maybe a week later, weather permitting).

The most significant difference in the Costa Rica event next year is that we’ll rent two houses (technically three). I have other friends who own two homes that mirror each other (they call it a ‘compound’) – right next to each other in the same area.

These homes are less than 10 minutes from the beach house we rented and are up high with a beautiful view of Potrero Bay and an Infiniti pool.

This is where the attendees will stay.

The hosts & any other speakers will stay at the beach house. The workshop portion of the event will still be at the beach house, and we’ll have a driver pick up the attendees and take them back each night.

We were super fortunate that the attendees were all fabulous, but to be able to turn off outside of the planned events would have been helpful.

This also gives the attendees more time to connect without us being around.

Lastly, and probably most important…

We’re going to bring some help. 😉

Liz has a friend who volunteered as tribute… I mean to be a runner, haha…

In other words, someone else will be our point person for logistics, food, schedule, and everything else that comes up right before, during, and after the event.

We’ve also decided we need a whole weekend a few months before the event to iron everything out. We had several calls and emails back and forth, but we also spent the weekend right before the event dialing everything in.

So we’re planning a long weekend with our other friend after the first of the year to start planning the Spring event.

We get clarity through the doing.

I’ve been saying that for years… and this event was no exception.

Clearly, my answer to “Do I really want to host in-person events?” is yes, but I have a list of criteria for myself to make this feel right:

  • Charge more
  • Have help (one, possibly two people)
  • More white space/downtime
  • Separate accommodations for attendees
  • Get as much rest before the event as possible.
  • More time with co-hosts to plan and prepare (together, in person)

I shared this via email with my newsletter subscribers, but I actually cut my trip short by a week.

I was scheduled to fly home from Costa Rica on the 11th of November (I was staying with friends) but decided to fly home on Monday the 6th.

I knew I’d end up socializing with friends a lot the last week, and I didn’t have it in me (I did get together with friends a few times).

At this stage in my life, I’m pretty clear about what I need (even if it’s sometimes after the fact).

Reflecting on this trip (three weeks total), some of my favorite times were when I got to spend one-on-one with people I love (outside of the event).

All in all, this was an incredible experience.

I’m so very proud of Liz and me for having done this. It means the world to us that these women chose to invest in themselves by flying to Costa Rica to attend this event.

We’re honored and look forward to the next event and supporting and connecting with even more incredible women.

the SPARK newsletter

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