On April 22, 2016, 50 mainly African-American, mostly millennial international travelers headed to Vermont for a 4 day 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’ve started a series of blog posts explaining my group trips because I want to help others plan amazing weekends with their friends too. I figure, if I teach you all my secrets, you’ll create a trip that’s up to my personal standards and then I can pay and go to yours and be a guest versus a planner/ host. So far, I’ve written four posts in this series.
- Part One – Why Vermont?
- Part Two – Logistics and Planning
- Part Three – Group Dynamics and Those Damn Introverts
- Part Four – Food and Menu Planning
Today, I want to talk to you about Agenda, Itineraries, and Activities because every time I talk about these trips people ask, “Well what did you do in Vermont? What did you do in Maryland? Did you go to some fancy party in the
Hamptons? How did you spend your time?”
In one word, to sum up our experiences, we did absolutely NOTHING!
The idea to rent a house in the Hamptons was because we wanted to just chill in a cool house, lay out by the pool, grill some steaks and turn off our phones to the rest of society. We had no agenda. We told attendees, we would find the house and they had to figure out the rest of their life. A small group went to visit other people in the area. A small group went to a wine tasting. I heard one girl who flew in from down south went horse back riding on her own. There were no organized excursions to “white parties” or fancy restaurants. Anyone could come and go as they wanted but as a collective house, there was nothing. Our activities happened organically. We had one group dinner, two group breakfasts and a game night. On one afternoon, most of us ended up by the pool and someone played music. One night about ten of us sat outside by the fire pit and just relaxed. I think three people took a midnight swim. Someone asked me to dance. So everyone sat down one evening and watched me dance. Once it was over, people went back to their one off conversations. That’s what we did.
We connected. We conversed. We laughed. We danced. We ate. I never even left the house until it was time for me to head to the airport.
The video below shows not only the highlights but really what happened for majority of the weekend.
During our Maryland trip. It was very similar. This time we did have most of our meals together. And not just one big group dinner. Throughout the day, 5 or 10 of us would go to the hot tub and pool area together. (It was an indoor pool and hot tub.) We had a few moments of playing group games. I think three women woke up early one day to do a work out together. Sometimes we’d organically end up in someone’s room or on a couch or in front of the fire and talk about things….business, dating, travel, family…whatever. And that was it.
I remember leaving the house once on the first day to help grocery shop. Other than that, I was at the kitchen table or dancing on counter tops or in the hot tub…dancing. We just wanted to take a break from our normal everyday lives, relax, chill and have fun. Oh, one night well after midnight, we did have an epic singing and dance party too.
EXHIBIT A, B, C, & D
A video posted by Sheena LaShay (@sheenalashay) on
For our Vermont trip, the main goal again, was to relax. We found technically three big houses that could fit us all with lots of lounging spaces and couches and bean bags. We alternated cooking. Someone lit a fire. There were hottub games. As we were on a property with a lot of land, people went on walks along the property or we had #TeepeeChurch. Teepee Church meant we werent around the circle saying what our biggest hesitancy was in preparing for the trip as we planned it and grew as a community for eight months and we shared our favorite moments from the trip too. There were lots of tears, a happy birthday song and we all were deputized as Aunts and Uncles to Tasha Sim’s baby…since she announced her pregnancy during our epic photoshoot in a Beyonce moment!
Since we did have separate houses where each houes was responsible for cooking the meals assigned, we did plan on big group dinner in one of the houses. (See Food & Menu Planning.) Other group activities including game nights, to which Mafia became a crowd favorite. One night, many of us gathered around the TV to watch Beyonce drop Lemonade. Half the men watched with us. The other half rolled their eyes. And one of our biggest group activities was to do a photoshoot.
To prepare for the photoshoot, during the months prior we had already come up with a theme for our trip, the colors we would wear and some of the styling. So on our very loose and organic itinerary there was a photoshoot. You can see all the photos here.
That’s it people! We didn’t technically “do anything.” These trips that I host are like adult sleepovers. The goal is to stay put and connect. Anyone can travel to a city, load up the itinerary with a bunch of excursions, tours, dinners at fancy restaurants and more. But it takes a special kind of group to stay in the house, cook for one another, play dress up for ridiculous photoshoots, watch Beyonce, play Mafia and lay out by the fire or dance in the hot tub.
Our lives are busy as fuck. Even our travel lives…the leisure travel trips. We just have a lot going on. So my goal for my weekends with my friends when we rent a gorgeous, big house with lots of space is to get real close and spend time together in the kitchen or on the front porch! Also, please note, the ONLY reason we were able to experience this kind of connection in close proximity was because we created this type of community. Review the blog post series as I explain how I set expectations, how we built our culture and more!
As we begin plotting our our July 2017 trip to Seattle, new people and others have already begun asking what we have planned. Nothing boo, boo. We’re going to be in the infinity pool. We’re thinking of having a “Talent Show” since the house has a huge theater and game room. We will be eating and playing games and I heard the hot tub is the biggest yet. Whenever someone posts in our sub group about interesting activites in the Seattle area, I always remind them a great option is to add a few days before or after our trip, to go see Seattle. If they’re coming to my sleepover….all they need is their dance moves ready for when we start singing to Beyonce.
Addendum: One thing I forgot to mention, my friend Monique Boyce, who attends every group house, always facilitates a massage day. She finds a local massage therapist at each location and has them come to the house and if anyone wants to schedule and pay for one, she makes sure that is taken care of. I play no part in it though, I am the host. I always encourage the attendees to take ownership and facilitate awesome experiences to, so long as they are in line with our group expectations. So yeah, professional massages happen at the houses too!
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, part three, here and part four, 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!
- 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.
- 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?