Our theme was “let go”, but ultimately, we did the opposite

For one week, I met with nine other people on retreat. We started each day with meditation and a ninety minute yoga session. We had activities every evening, ranging from chakra training and ecstatic dance, to restorative yoga sessions, which were incredible by the way. But this post isn’t about the yoga or activities per se. It’s about the time we spent together. At a remote location, the ten of us had no choice but to get to know each other better. Our two instructors curated a week of activities that pushed our hearts, minds, and bodies. We did this together, and at the large brunch table, we sat for hours discussing relationships, vegan eating, trauma, ayahuasca, music, yoga, and much more. We possibly ate too much gelato. After sessions, I came back to my room to find my roommate singing opera and Sinatra. Among the ten of us, we were from nine different countries and we bonded. Less than a week later, the chat has numerous texts saying: miss you, when are meeting again, where should we go, let’s have dinner after the class on Friday.

Shared experiences, especially those that involve personal growth, are bonding experiences. I’ll never forget this retreat, not only because our instructors did a great job, but also because of the new relationships. Shared challenges necessarily produce empathy. You don’t need to know anything about who you’re sharing the experience with, just that they feel what you feel. It’s hard, I can’t concentrate, that’s a great song, I need a break, remember to breath, I did it. We experienced the same things, perhaps to different degrees and times, but shared them nonetheless. And shared laughs are unbeatable. We have inside jokes now too.

You don’t have to go on a yoga retreat (although I can recommend one). I wrote here about a trip to Machu Picchu along the Inca Trail, in which you can see similar bonding experiences. On another occasion, I ran a relay race with ten other people. We needed to have one person on the course at all times, meaning we couldn’t stretch, eat, or sleep normally over the 37 hours it took us to finish. One of the vans broke down. We were delirious by the end, but loving every second of it, because it was a shared experience with shared challenges and laughter. It’s been nearly ten years, with a lot of good stuff in between, but as you can see, it was still one my favorite and most memorable experiences.

Traveling need not involve going to fancy cities, exotic beaches, or rugged mountains. I like that too, but my most memorable experiences were determined by the people. The mantra from probably my favorite New Year’s Eve was “good people make good trips”. Sometimes you get lucky or maybe you already have great people in your daily life; in any case, I encourage you to challenge yourself, and to do it with others. It doesn’t matter where, but it should be immersive. Spend some real time together and you could change your life.

Kelsey O’Connor

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