Alisea and the Sea
And good thing, too, because when the rain cleared up a couple days later, I was treated to stunning vistas and realized how nice the hotel was, once I could see it clearly in the sunlight.
We arrived with boundless fresh energy of change and intuition and fun about to happen. And we weren’t disappointed. We did yoga and pilates. We ventured out into Southern Thailand. We took advantage of the private cooking and dining area they provided for the eight of us, as well as the carved-from-a-whole-tree lacquered table-plus-benches in the lobby.
But it was far from perfect. The mosquitoes were brutal, despite the ugly tanks full of insecticides left in full view of the kitchen. The view from my first floor room was a depressing window directly into the abject poverty of Thailand, with trash strewn on the hillside and people making do with barely enough to survive. I had to switch to a different room for the final day or two, and the new room was dark and dinghy and depressing.
All in all, though, Alisea Hotel provided a phenomenal venue for our retreat, and I would return there without hesitation.
I guiltily admitted during my self-introduction that a major part of my excitement for the retreat was that one of the other participants was from Brazil, and the cook was from Japan, so I got to practice linguistic and cultural exchange in addition to the adventures and business masterminding.
Our First Mastermind
Our mastermind conversations ranged widely and curvilinearly all over the place. In seconds to minutes, we went from inventions and copyrighting (and copywriting) to apps to website design to productizing services to sales and marketing to podcasts to blogs, and just everything else in between with relation to online business.
Despite the dreary start for me, the day itself dawned hot and clear, so we took advantage of it and had our first major adventure, to Railay Beach.
After an exhilarating long-tail boat ride, we enjoyed a languid hour on the perfectly sunny hot beach and sporting among the waves.
Just as we walked off the beach to go caving, the monsoon struck with a crashing vengeance. The clouds rolled in with frightening speed, and less than five minutes after dozing under a crystal-blue sky, the forebodingly dark clouds enveloped the heavens and let loose a barrage of heavy rain in sheets.
We keep glancing at each other with and asking with our big round eyes: “is this for real? Is this really happening?”
While I kept my dark feelings completely at bay by wonderment at the caves and views, after we exited the cave and the rain mostly stopped again, my personal-situation-anxiety started getting the better of me. We headed back out to the beach, and most of our party either chilled on the beach or hopped back in the water.
Me? I paced. Back and forth, back and forth the length of the beach, to burn off the sadness and longing and grief and… desperation? I’m not even sure I could identify everything in the amalgamation of feelings, but it certainly wasn’t pretty. The pacing helped, as did talking to a few more people about why I was acting strangely, and soon after I felt a little less shattered.
And it paid off, too. I felt “stuck” in a situation and needed advice/help to navigate it. I perked up and dragged my head off the table when it was my turn to get masterminded, so I laid all the shit of my current monumental business problem on the table to be dissected.
It was a tremendous relief to get help on it, and hugely successful. My biggest takeaway was a mindset, rather than an idea or particular plan. I had been operating under an expectation/feeling of scarcity, rather than abundance. Once my mastermind group rattled off at least ten ways to reimage and refocus the situation, I felt a heavy weight lift immediately off my shoulders.
I proceeded to drink my pineapple shake and the water from 2 coconuts in an effort to remain hydrated, then went back to the hotel and crashed to dream abundant dreams.
Raw Vegan Chef Extraordinaire Aikawa Shinobu (相川忍)
One of her most remarkable culinary feats to me was her watermelon birthday cake. It was Amber's birthday during the retreat, but she is 100% raw, so doesn't eat regular cake. Someone else suggested a bowl of fruit with a candle in it. Shinobu took that and ran with it, and came up with a clever raw watermelon-based creation so Amber could have her cake... and eat it too.
Shinobu is an accomplished chef at a vegan restaurant in Tokyo, and it showed. Despite serious lack of ingredients and help, she created tasty creative dishes for us every day. She did almost all of the preparation, serving and cleaning up afterward herself, and worked extremely hard to do it. Color me impressed.
Shinobu and I had numerous fun conversations on many topics. I wasn’t able to speak to her in 100% in Japanese, because my language abilities have definitely slid downhill since leaving Japan. However, it was great to connect with her on a cultural level and use whatever Japanese I could dredge up to speak with her.
When the problems did surface, I got to use not only my language skills, but also my culture-broker skills to smooth over interactions, interpret actions, words and intentions and help navigate this maiden Japan-USA business-cultural exchange in the most respectful way possible.
Now lest you think I’m getting a big head, know that I am fully aware that the only reason I’m such an expert on this particular cultural exchange is because I spent six months making every mistake imaginable for an American in Japan, looking like an idiot on a daily basis and getting called out and humbled on it repeatedly.
Island Hopping and Snorkeling
Unfortunately I did get a face-full of jellyfish stinger, which hurt like hell. It stung my upper lip, actually, which puffed up and got red and went “ouch ouch ouch!” for 36 hours. No, I’m NOT going to post pictures.
Nonetheless, the views were fabulous, and the boat company served us a vegan-and-carnivorous feast on the beach at the end of this trip, and it was delicious. I actually found out halfway through my first plate that what I thought was the vegan dish actually had some meat in it. By then it was too late, and I was too hungry to slow down, so I just finished it. Yeah, that’s how I roll.
Muay Thai Fight
I have studied various martial arts over my life, though never seriously or long enough to earn a black belt. I know enough to be able to appreciate the level of skill and training required for these matches… but as a healing professional, all I could think of was every time someone got seriously hurt, my heart went out to them and I wanted to “fix” them, or cover my eyes, or both.
Speaking of “fixing” it was clear that several of the fights’ outcomes were pre-determined by the betting pool rather than the actual contestants. I am glad I went, for the cultural experience.
Yoga & Pilates
I am proud of myself for it, too. The views were magnificent almost every day, and my body thanked me every single time I showed up. At first there were four of us, then three, then just two of us. We all worked our butts off for Amber and ourselves, and noticeably improved physical fitness as a result. Rad.
Sea Kayaking and More Caving
We headed out to the beach again, but instead of hopping on a long-tail boat, this time we brought our own sea transportation… sea kayaks. We rowed against a fierce wind, and my arms were tired in under a minute. Fortunately my kayak-buddy was much stronger than I was, and could take up the slack.
We had a brief but fun kayak ride to a deserted beach with more caves to crawl around in. Despite my headlamp, I managed to smack my head against the stalactites not once but twice, increasing my “grumpiness” factor fivefold. The second time I hit my head so hard I landed on my butt, stunned, and it took a minute or so before I could get up and start walking again.
After climbing around inside the caves, we played in the water and chilled on the beach for a couple hours before heading back for an excellent dinner at our guide’s restaurant.
At this point I was getting a good "mad" on, and wanted to be left alone. While I tried to be nice, my patience was threadbare. I had three different canker sores and it hurt every time I tried to eat something. I was feeling sick to my stomach again from Thai food/water/whatever. I just wasn’t feeling up to being around people and pretending everything was all right.
Yeah yeah, I know. I’m not supposed to blog about the negative parts. I’m supposed to pretend it’s all rainbows and butterflies and amazingness and shit. But it isn’t. YES, there ARE rainbows and butterflies and phenomenal experiences. Just look at my pictures! But in the end it’s real life, translated to an exotic, idyllic location. Sometimes you have fantastic days, and sometimes they suck. Anybody who says otherwise is selling something.
The moment we got back to the hotel, I went straight up to my room and ignored the world for the rest of the night, a thoroughly antisocial hermit, albeit temporarily. I knew if I spent more time around people, I would say something I would later regret. And they didn’t deserve that, since my mood had nothing to do with them.
I felt much better for it in the morning, too.
Over the course of the retreat, I got crystal clarity on a major life problem, and initiated what looks to become a long and fruitful collaboration with one of the other retreat-goers. I got to speak tons of Japanese and Portuguese, and connect with all kind of people on many different levels. I got new energy and inertia on my own business, and helped others with theirs.
I took remarkable photos, climbed literal and figurative mountains, and enjoyed adventures of a lifetime. I learned loads about how other people conduct business and solve problems both personally and professionally. I made connections that will last a lifetime.
I am so grateful to have had this opportunity, and gotten so much from it. If you have a chance to do something like this, take life by the horns and GO FOR IT!