On April 22, 2016, 50 mainly African-American, mostly millennial international travelers headed to Vermont for a weekend getaway of relaxation, connection, and bougie fun via carpools, trains, shuttle buses, tiny planes and more. This four day event was hosted by Tamara Hawkins of Stork and Cradle, Noonie Greene of Socially Single, Omar McKenzie of Omega Imagery and myself, Sheena LaShay. Everyone attending were members of an online travel community known as Nomadness Travel Tribe, as well as many other network groups such as Bucket List Beast and Up in the Air Travel.
I previously shared an overview of WHY such a seemingly obscure place would be the hot spot for four incredible days of home cooked meals, fireplace talks, and one epic, glamorous photo shoot. I also shared HOW I made it happen with my personal logistics tips.
Now lets talk about how half of you are recoiling because you’re introverted, or you only do solo travel and group trips sound like a headache, especially because you know how you are and what if that one chick shows up and if somebody drinks your fucking orange juice, you’re gonna flip the table!
Lets get a few things out the way to make your life simpler so that you understand my perspective. I plan these group trips, and I myself am an introvert. I am not shy, but I am an introvert. Learn about introverts by reading The Quiet of a Roaring Soul. Also, I host workshops, events, retreats and more, so I’m sort of used to thinking about group dynamics. Learn about that by reading Managing Group Dynamics in a Candle Making Workshop.
So there are a few concepts I want to go over.
- How do you keep everyone happy, informed and/or satisfied?
- How do you foster community and connection long before the trip ever occurs, so people feel like they are meeting a long time friend, the day of?
- And an Instagram user question by one of my favorites, “In your opinion, do you think that an introvert would enjoy this kind of group travel? I get the most joy when I travel solo, but this looks like a lot of fun.” She also asked, “How often do you all do these trips? Do you all live in the same city?”
Create a Group on Some Platform For All Members to Interact
First, you need a central location for everyone to shoot the shit. Point. Blank Period. When you’re fielding interest and once you know who your confirmed guest are, you need one place for them all to interact. As all those who attended the Vermont trip knew each other from various private Facebook travel groups, the natural inclination was to start a private Facebook group for our confirmed guests. We did the same for the Hamptons and Maryland. My preference is using the groups via Google+, but most people don’t do that, so for now, I deferred to Facebook. I create a facebook group for every house.
Set the Tone of the Trip Before a Buy-In
Before worrying about everyone else’s happiness, the first thing I did was set the tone for the trip. That way, you as a potential attendee could measure your own sense of happiness against what was to be expected if you attended our group trip.
Some of our notes on the Information Document and the Private Facebook Group description stated, “This group is for those attending the Weekend in Vermont meetup. We are renting two houses, ‘The Farmhouse” and “The Cabin” to accommodate 52 members. This meetup is designed for those interested in participating in a GROUP TRIP where we share experiences, meals, activities, laughter and more. This meetup is not for those with such particular and personal preferences that they lack flexibility and understanding. THIS IS A GROUP TRIP! Please remember that. This meetup is not for those who will spend the entire time on their phone, or complaining or counting the gender equation. This meetup is also not designed for those who are unwilling to engage with the other members in the house. This meetup is designed for those who want to relax and chill and have an amazing weekend.”
No matter your personality type, reading that paragraph should set the tone. If you wanted your own personal vacation locked away in your room or was on the hunt for your new travel boo, this wasn’t the trip for you. For those willing to take the plunge, they moved forward in our community, after payment. After each house, we refine our description and tone and ensure that everyone knows just what it is.
Create a FAQ List Based on Notes from Guest Profiles
The next thing that I did was pull quotes from everyone’s Guest Profiles and use it as a FAQ document in our group so that members could see what other members were expecting out of each other. Remember, in the Logistics and Planning post, I insisted that you creat a Guest Profile. Well, our completed Guest Profiles revealed a few questions, preferences, nuances and synergies. They naturally formed a FAQ page and encouraged ongoing conversations. These were some of the notes that our members wrote on what they wanted and did not want.
- “Allergic to nasty attitudes and those who can’t have a good time.”
- “Mildly allergic to apple skin and magnetically repulsed by negative Nancys.”
- “Mildly allergic to shellfish and bitchassness.”
- “Allergic to any type of negative energy. Only positive vibes please and thank you! “
- “Allergic to bad humans and negative attitudes. “
- “Are you the type of person to take jokes well, or are you going to be that one uptight ass in the corner isolated or causing issues?”
- ” Are there topics off limits for discussion?”
- “Who’s bringing the incense for the bathroom?”
- “Can others use the bathroom while you’re on the toilet? “
Now, lets go back to the private group that you’ve created…….
Discuss Hot Topics in a Candid yet Open Way with the Private Group
Well, considering, we are a group house and considering we are living under the same roof, sharing bedrooms and even beds, sharing bathrooms and meals and more…we had a group discussion about it and came to an agreement regarding candid photos! Have those hard discussions. Have those thought-provoking conversations. Say the shit. Trust me. It fosters community, connection, compassion, empathy and more! By the time, your group meets one another in person, you have built relationships based on some REAL SHIT!
Keep the Group Alive with Curated Content
Create a Culture of Collaboration
I have a method to my madness. There are things done in the planning process that are simply my way of doing things considering my experience in meeting planning, event management and more. BUT some things, because a collaborative effort with the group. While everyone may not have contributed, everyone had the freedom too. Together, we’d muse and then vote on a theme for the trip. We’ve muse and vote on our color ensemble for the group. We would muse and discuss possible recipes, develop the menu, share it, change it, reject it, accept it. We did numerous things that allowed for everyone to have a voice and a say. We did things and created concepts so that we could learn each other and listen to one another.
Shy People. Introverted People. Extrovert People. Obnoxious People.
Debs and Errol categorize people between four areas of existence. On the scale, your personality can range from shy, introverted, extroverted and obnoxious. If you’re obnoxious, my weekend trips are not for you. Awesome people are who we want, and obnoxious people are not awesome. Thus, the equation means, no trip for you…in the experiences I create. If you’re introverted or extroverted, you’re just fine as well. We don’t hold hands the entire weekend. We rent large houses complete with multiple hot tubs, bedrooms, multiple living rooms and more. The new house has a library room and a game room and a theater. You don’t want to talk to someone, all day every day, in Vermont, you could walk around the property or sit by the creek.
To me, being introverted simply means at some point you need to be alone to regain your energy. There are numerous opportunities for that during the trip. Sure we eat together. We may do a group photo together. We may plan a talent show or Mafia game night. But other than that, you are free to do as you please. Go read a book. Go talk to one person. Get into a thought-provoking social discussion with ten people. Go streak. Whatever. Of course, this means if you’re an extrovert, you’re in HEAVEN! And if you’re shy, you will have already gotten to know people in our Facebook group over a period of months. Level one in your comfort is already ok. And when you arrive, you are accepted as who you are. You decide how much you want to engage with people and how much is too much for you. You’re a grown up, remember!
So to answer my friend’s question on Instagram, if you enjoy solo travel, that’s cool. If you’re ONLY interested in solo travel, of course, this doesn’t work for you. But if you take joy from your solitude, and you’re an introvert, you’re fine. Our guest list is partially curated. We intentionally build a culture. There are no fuck boys, basic bitches or assholes. And we have some people on stand by as nurses or fire guards or “security” should shit pop off. Because you know, we’re human. But obnoxious people? No. No. Just stay away from this post. This place is not for you.
So how do you ensure everyone is happy?
First as the planner, you set the stage for what will make you happy. You set the tone. Then you create guest profiles that help you gauge other’s levels of happiness. Then you take their words and selectively share them, so everyone can see, we like our “happy” the same. Then you curate content that engages people; that provoke people…that will entice them to contribute and share so that you can learn their personalities some more. Then you collaborate and build together. And when you pick a house, you pick a house that has lots of rooms and lots of space for small groups and large communal moments too. If people get petty, check it real quick. If someone starts to go too far, pull them to the side and have a conversation. You are hosting a group of people for a long weekend who LIVE together, EAT together, SHARE rooms together and more. It is ok, to take a stand for a certain standard of behavior and to insist and build a certain kind of culture. If done right, it works. I took 50 people to Vermont and all I’ve been hearing are wonderful things. Even their critiques were great. None of it was about anyone feeling uncomfortable or left out or too included or smothered.
That’s what I have for you today folks. Is there also anything I’m not covering or questions you have that you’d like me to address? You can view all of our photos over on Facebook. And you can read part one, here and part two, here. Also, if you’re interested in joining one of our future Weekend Trips, sign up for our mailing list. When we pick our next location or need to poll for the next date, you’ll be among the first to know. Go HERE!
- 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 simpler? There are some great resources out there to keep you from going insane.
- 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?