As with everything in life, there comes a time when even your sacred “guy's trip” must evolve. When most people think of a guy's trip, they picture a wild week full of late nights, clubs (discos if traveling internationally) and golf. The truth is, once I married, had children and reached a certain level of success professionally, the traditional guy's trip concept became less appealing to me.
Of course, I still wanted the bonding and benefits that come along with the experience but was over debauchery. I say that with no judgment and many fond memories. As Black men, we need to bond and spend time with other Black men. The level of comfort, camaraderie and relationship building is important for us because we deal with a unique set of challenges in our society that few can empathize with. So, when my two brothers and I turned what was planned as a traditional guy's trip into a life-changing self-care retreat, I wanted to share it with other brothers.
Chris, Joe, and I grew up in Milwaukee Wis., one of the worst places to raise Black males in the country and fought our way up the economic mobility ladder. Each one of us is successful in our own right; Chris as a chef, Joe as a financial activist and yours truly as a social entrepreneur. We often reflect on how growing up we couldn't have imagined the life we've been blessed with. So in 2017, we decided to plan a trip to Costa Rica as a celebration of how far we’ve come in life.
As we sat in our ridiculously plush Airbnb in Costa Rica overlooking Jaco Beach, there was a growing awareness among us; we were all dead ass tired. “Let’s try a short meditation,” Joe suggested. All agreed and after 20 minutes of “being present,” we emerged with new energy, calmness and peace. Wanting more, I suggested we turn the whole week into a wellness retreat. Everyone agreed and what follows are some of the principles and outcomes which organically emerged from our decision.
We carried these practices into our second annual self-care retreat to the Caribbean island of Bonaire earlier this year, causing me to reflect on the journey and these five principles below.
Principle #1 – Clean Living. During the trip, we decided to focus on our bodies. Clean eating, limited alcohol and plenty of rest. If we were serious about self-care we couldn't party until 4 a.m., spend the next day recovering and ultimately need a vacation from our vacation.
Principle #2 – Do You. One of the challenges of vacationing with other “alpha males” is that we're all used to leading the pack. So, to avoid any issue, we establish the mutual understanding that everyone is entitled to “do you.” Meaning no matter what it is, if someone doesn’t want to do it, that’s okay. Bro decided to skip dinner and read at the pool, cool. Bro decides not to try surfing, no problem. Everyone is entitled to take what they need when they need it.
Principle #3 – Go Within. You've got to find quiet time to reflect first and foremost. However, deep conversations, meditation, and journaling can lead to self-realization of the journey you’ve been on and where you need to go in life.
Principle #4 – Be Present. One way to be present is to limit technology. In Costa Rica, I literally unplugged with almost no interaction with the outside, but in Bonaire, I limited technology to nights and evenings because I had just started a new position. Additionally, I traditionally avoided posting on social media until after the trip. For me, part of being present is not sharing the amazing trip with others immediately.
Principle #5 – Grow. All of these principles can lead to growth, but trying new challenges takes it to another level. In Costa Rica, we learned to surf and in Bonaire, we became certified as scuba divers. Both were extremely challenging and fun at the same time, but best of all, when you're learning a new skill you're not thinking about work or problems. Best of all it feeds the human need to grow and learn new things.
Our annual self-care retreat is something I need now as it helps carry me spiritually through the new year. I believe it makes me more productive and a better husband and father. I think many Black men are missing an opportunity to repurpose their guy's trip for self-care, strategic life planning and reflection. Not to say ripping it up with your boys isn’t needed from time to time, but as we grow and gain more responsibilities, money and problems, there's an even more significant need to refresh, rebalance spiritually and fully rejuvenate so you can be your best you.