One Company, No Internet, Full retreat

Friday morning, everyone gathered around our HQ. Bags, guitars, a keyboard, games, food were split across cars, our team distributed, and we headed to Loural - a very very tiny village, about 76km far from our office. An incredible experience with our team had just begun. The three day Whitesmith retreat.

Why we did it

Being a flexible and young team is always great - mainly for who we work for. We are passionate with the work we do. We can’t simply go home and continue the next day while we don’t clean our todo's list. It works fine - and seriously, we can handle some less hours of sleep when we need to. But with time passing by we feel the need to:

  • Spend more time with our newly arrived interns and know them better
  • Have more time together than we are able to do on our Friday team building events
  • Implement some of our dumb ideas
  • Refuel our creativity
  • Stretch our minds

Of course, we have great times with our team. But we need to and we strive for more.

The fact is that we really love - but miss a little more - discussing politics, music, movies... We enjoy laughing a lot to the things only we know about because in the end, we spend all the week together. It’s like a second family, Whitesmith family. And like any other family we have our duties, but sometimes we just want to relax, recharge batteries, spend some quality time together, and go far away from our home and environment.

And c’mon.. is there a better time than Christmas?

How we did it

Miguel Tavares was the one who brought the idea and the place. He did a quick search on airbnb for a place around Lousã (far but not too far from home) which could hold more than 16 people and was in the middle of the woods (surrounded by nature). As soon as he found Loural, we scheduled a weekend when most of us could attend and it was done.

A small "committee" was formed to organize the gathering. Besides Miguel, Beatriz and Rui joined to help with food supplies and to coordinate the activities for our stay.

Where we did it

Loural is a very tiny and peaceful village. It’s formed by a few old restored houses which were very cosy and warm (most of them had fireplaces lighted up since morning). Besides us, there were only two more people there, who were responsible for managing the village.

The place is so isolated that the last 2 km had to be done on a bad unpaved road. There isn’t anything else around.

On the village we had access to:

  • Two houses with rooms and beds where we slept
  • The main hall, which included a kitchen, living room, sauna and pool
  • Workshop hall, that had a very large room with a fireplace, and a great view to the woods were our workshops occurred

To sum up, a tiny and cosy village with no people around, no cars, no cell phone signal and no light pollution

What we did

We may be a team of computer science, design and financial people, but we have some other skills. During these three days, a couple of us offered their knowledge of their hobbies and we decided to have some workshops.

Day 1

As soon as we arrived, we were presented with a choir rehearsal presented by Miguel Tavares who was part of Orfeon Académico de Coimbra. It was quite nice how all of us ended up singing Adestes Fideles in two voices.

The afternoon was a great time to relieve our daily stress by kicking and punching each other on our Karate workshop. Of course, Diogo Bastos - our karate Sensei - brought some protections. When we finished, we were completely tired but with a great sensation of relief.

Some of us still tried to do some jogging but it was so dark at night, with no light pollution at all, that we had to bring lanterns to see anything away from 1m. A good experience to listen nature and see the stars when we lay down on the ground to rest.

The day finished with a great party and a board game created by a couple of us named “Julio’s game” - private joke. Every card and step were related with every single one of us.

Day 2

Very calm day. Thanks to Beatriz, we started our day with a Yoga class to stretch our body and focus on our mind. Which was followed by a meditation session presented by José Ribeiro, who started to practise 2 months ago.

Workshops were great but we had to explore all that surrounding nature. We decided to go for a walk around our village. Felt great to be with our entire team in the middle of the woods, no cell phone, and barely any light. Just a great group of people relaxing.

To finish the day, most of our guys went into the sauna room before dinner. After that, we had a short unplugged concert session of original songs (played by myself), which was followed by all the other guitar guys, to play a couple of music that everyone knows how to sing. We finished the night with plenty of music and dancing until the sunrise.

Day 3

Well... it was a day dedicated to sleeping, cleaning, packing up and leaving. All under a strong and heavy rain.

What we brought home

It had been too long since we had such an event. We brought new and recharged minds prepared to get back to work on their full creativity. We relieved our stress with karate, tried to achieve mindfulness on yoga and meditation sessions, we had fun with our music, we had a great moment with every single one of us.

By the time we arrived at our office to gather troops again, we were completely tired. Was it worth it? Totally. It feels like we brought with us more people than we took to Loural.

People may call this a team building event. We agree with it, but we prefer Whitesmith family retreat.

In the end, we felt great to drive away and wave each other a “See you again tomorrow!”

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