Do you ever find yourself reflecting at this time of the year? I For the past few years, November has consistently been a big month of change for me. 5 years ago I was working in a job which I had outgrown, painfully leaving a long term relationship which had run its course and with everything thrown up in the air I was completely reassessing my life. As a result I started investing in my self development and worked with a life coach for the first time. This proved to be the catalyst for much of the change which occurred in the years to come. I took my first significant leap in 10 years and moved from Manchester to London and set up my own PR consultancy. I feel like my London years cracked me open to new possibilities, both personally and as a new business owner. I remember telling my coach that I was planning to move to London but I knew it was only going to be the beginning of my journey. My gut told me this wasn’t going to be my forever place. In 2017 I became location independent and decided to go for my BIG dream which was to live between Spain and the UK. To kickstart my adventure I wanted to try a co working retreat. I'll never forget before I left talking to a lady at an event about what I was doing and she thought I was a little crazy "You really like pushing yourself out of your comfort zone don't you?". The simple answer was no I didn't and I don't but I make myself because I know that growth is on the other side of fear.
After much research I chose a co working/living retreat to Porto organised by a company called Unsettled . I would be spending a month with 30 strangers and I was quite honestly terrified with no idea what it would be like. I had taken part in weekend retreats and organised similar experiences for clients, but this was my first experience of this type of retreat.
For 30 days I co worked, took part in workshops and hosted a talk and planning session with two fellow female entrepreneurs in the group, went on a journey of self discovery and had a series of lightbulb moments about my own life and business. It could be best described as going back to university in your 30's but with a bunch of professionals rather than students and reliving those giddy times of making multiple new friends, being spontaneous and letting go of the restrictions we tend to set for ourselves as we get older.
Sitting on my delayed flight back to snowy London in December 2017 I felt like a new person, so much had changed in such a short space of time. I know for certain that had I spent those 30 days in London in my usual routine, I would not have experienced such major personal shifts.
But what was the key factor at play here? was it the place? the overall experience, the change in routine, the feeling of freedom? yes all of these things had an impact, but ultimately I am certain it was the people who really blew the experience out of the water for me. These were people from different walks of life, from all over the world. I made friends for life with people I'm not sure I would ever have met under normal circumstances and that is powerful.
So what about my business and how did that change? It took a week or so at first to really get settled into a routine which allowed me to manage client work and still participate in the day to day activities on offer. Aside from that, just being in a different environment, having different conversations and being mentally challenged made me feel more inspired, more creative and re-connected to my purpose.
Not everyone on the retreat had their own business but each and every person in their own right had a passion for what they did and was there to create change, shake things up, try something new. I learnt so much from the other attendees during that trip and it was like tapping into a hub of fresh insights, knowledge and new perspectives on a daily basis.
My biggest takeaway? increased confidence in my own skills, an improved mindset around my work and the realisation that I wanted to take my business in a different direction. One of the things I wanted to do was to create more real life experiences for female entrepreneurs looking to build their community and their business.
I believe there has never been a bigger need for this type of experience especially for anyone who is running their own business as a solopreneur. It can be very easy to get stuck in the to do list, behind your laptop and become disconnected from yourself and others.
Making that commitment to yourself to try something new, get out of your comfort zone and take time for yourself works wonders not only for your confidence as a business owner and your self esteem but also for your focus and drive.
The great thing about truly connecting with another human being is that that connection can be nurtured and developed over time into something amazing. I now have a group of unofficial mentors all over the world and I know that if I ever need advice on something they are only ever a WhatsApp call away. In the past year we have ran webinars together, brainstormed business ideas over drinks in Seville, supported each other through personal and professional dramas and most importantly we are not afraid to give each other honest advice when it is needed.
I know we all live in an online world and the benefits from networking and doing business online are undeniable otherwise so many online businesses wouldn't exist, BUT there is no substitute for creating real life connections. Whether that's going to more in person events, making a conscious effort to take your online relationships offline and build them in "real time, join a Mastermind Group in your city or set aside some time and money to attend a retreat yourself.
12 months ago I arrived in Spain to make it my primary home and this year I bought an apartment here. I have an amazing group of friends and feel like my world is expanding all the time. Becoming location independent has helped me both personally and professionally in ways I couldn't imagine back in 2017.
All of the things I have now didn’t seem possible or obtainable even 2 years ago and the greatest thing I have learnt is how quickly life can change if we can take a leap of faith, feel the fear and go after what we want. I am certain that had I not taken a leap of faith, signed up for that retreat and hopped on that plan to Porto my life would be very different now.