This past weekend, I hosted a group of 50 people from the Nomadness Travel Tribe on a four day trip to Vermont known as Bourgeoisie Noire or the #VermontBlackOut. Considering my travels to Chiang Mai, Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Valencia, you may wonder, WHY VERMONT!?!?!?
Let me back track a little for context.
Common Denominator: Nomadness Travel Tribe
I am a member of the Nomadness Travel Tribe, which is, according to their website, “an urban, travel, online social community of over 10,000 members. We’re the edgy, under represented demo in the international travel industry, and we’ve formed our own Tribe.” Members of the tribe have the freedom to create meetups that are local to their cities or hosted throughout the world within the private group. One of the perks of being a member is that eventually you form long term friendships with many of the members. Therefore, even if you didn’t host a meetup within the group, you will probably find yourself out to dinner on a Wednesday with someone you initially met in tribe or traveling the world with someone you met in tribe. My life seems to be a hybrid of the two: hosting meetups within the group and creating life experiences that include travel with people I initially met in the group. Between 2014-2016, I’ve hosted over 30 meetups ranging from pole dance classes, photography walks, co-ed panels, vision board parties, family park days & beach days, sensuality workshops and a speakeasy tour. Most taking place in NYC but others in Atlanta, DC, Philly and now Vermont.
Back in January of 2015, a few friends and I posted in the tribe that we were sick of the winter and wanted to start planning a summer trip in the Hamptons. With over 200 people initially interested, we ended up taking about 25 people to the South Hamptons for a long weekend. Our highlight trailer can be found here: Weekend in the Hamptons with Friends.
The Beginning of the #VermontBlackOut
With the success of the Hamptons trip, immediately after, guests asked us to plan another one. In what can only have been perfect timing, my dear friend Caitlin, had just posted about a new house she and her husband owned and rented in Vermont. It looked cute. I had never been to Vermont. The prices were reasonably cheaper that what we had just spent in the Hamptons and I could vouch for the house considering my close friend owned it. I posted the info in the group and the rest is history.
Well, technically its not history. What followed was 8 months of meticulous, OCD planning with numerous google docs, google spreadsheets, facebook private group files, tons of emails, $2000 in groceries….as we cooked all of our meals family style in each house.
Wait, each house. Sigh. I’m jumping ahead.
So in September, seeing as to how we had 20 spots available and all our previous Hamptons guests wanted to attend AND other friends from the tribe wanted to attend and we hadn’t even posted it in the tribe yet, we created a buyin day where at a certain time, everyone could try to purchase a space in the house and the first 20+ people who did it, got the spot. It appeared to be the only fair way to widdle down a list of 60 people to 20 people. Once the buy in occurred and all spots were filled, we immediately created a waitlist and moved forward with planning the trip by picking a theme, assigning roommates and more.
In doing more research, I discovered the plot of land the Farmhouse was on, also had another house called the Cabin. I didn’t know if I’d create a monster by renting the second house so I kept it quiet. Then I felt bad. So I asked my other co-hosts what they thought I should do. (Those cohosts at the time were Kamara Coaxum of Kamara Afi Jewelry, Tamara Hawkins of Stork and Cradle, Noonie Greene of Socially Single and Omar McKenzie of Omega Imagery.)
Initially we collectively said NO! It would be too much work and energy and planning to manage another house of folks. Except our waitlist kept growing. One day back in October 2015, Omar pulled me to the side, at yet another meetup and told me to get over myself and my issues with not wanting to add another house. He emphasized how they were on the same land. In fact, they were right next door to each other. He reminded me that so many more people wanted to come. He promised to be the “manager” of the second house and to keep everyone in line. So…we created another buyin and rented the second house.
4 months into the planning process, I posted the following on facebook.
Event Themes: Bourgeoisie Noire aka #VermontBlackOut
Because I am an Event and Project Manager and an Artist and have hosted travel trips and retreats and workshops for years, I knew I needed a theme for the weekend. Wanna know how ratchet I am? I had my close friend who is also in tribe help me create the theme and I had forgotten to tell her about the trip. She was on the waitlist too. (Eventually she came on the trip as 16 people dropped their spots throughout the eight months and replacements had to be found.)
Our theme: Bourgeoisie Noire: Belles journées et belles nuits which roughly translates into Black Bourgeois: Beautiful Day and Good Night. It took awhile to get there. Initially our themes ranged from:
- Apocalyptic Dark Jungle
- GQ Glam Outdoors
- Urban in Vermont
- All Natural & Earthy – think organic, apple, maple nature
- Dark Circus Magic/Creepy Vampire Ethereal Circus
- Dark and Glam
- Black Carnival in the Woods
We settled on “Bourgeoisie Noire” with a differnt hashtag because that theme is just asking to be spelled wrong. Our hashtag, #VermontBlackOut. We knew our theme was mainly created for an epic photoshoot we wanted to do. We told the guests to think “GQ Outdoors meets Black Bougie.” or “Glamourous, Sexy & Sophisticated” sprinkled with “Fun, Relaxing, Indulgent and Ridculous.” I created a pinterest board and then the rest was history.
Psych! I lie.
The rest was not history. This shit was hard and I may have a few extra grey hairs because of it. But it was amazing and life affirming and ridiculously good. And this post isn’t enough to explain what went into and what happened. Therefore over the coming days, I’ll share more in this mini travel series. You can expect posts covering the following:
- Logistics and Planning – how do you ensure everyone is on the same page and someone with shitty energy isn’t attending and that everything is organized and that at a moment’s notice you know who the nurse is and everyone’s contact info and such?
- Food and Menu Planning – we were renting a home. Which means, why eat out? Its more cost effective and tasty to cook the meals in the kitchen in said rental home. But how do you do that for 50 people and all those allergies and shit?
- Vendors. Supplies & Tech – What vendors, websites and apps did I use to make my life simplier? There are some great resources out there to keep you from going insane.
- Attendees & Group Dynamics– how do you keep track of everyone, keep them happy, informed and satisfied. How do you foster community long before the trip every occurs so people feel like their meeting a long time friend the day of?
- Agenda/Itinerary/Activities – how do you keep everyone entertained and ensure everyone’s having fun without spending more money on tours, events and such?
- On Site Logistics – Now you’re at the event, as a host, how do you not go fucking insane? Is it possible to relax and enjoy the trip to?
- Feedback and Review – After all of this was it worth and did the guests have a good time? What did they have to say? What was their feedback, critiques and review?
What else do you want me to cover in this mini series? What questions do you have?
Until the next post, enjoy some of the photos from our trip! Click the images to see them bigger. Also you can see an almost complete album on facebook.
As so many took pictures and we handed off our cameras to others, the photo credits are all over the board but includes Omar McKenzie, Wayne Gowdie, Nyree Daima, Rosie Fenty, Sharise Skeete, Steve Bryan, Michelle Jackson, Tasha Sims, Alana Gardner and myself, Sheena LaShay