Ok where do I start about the secret retreat 2017…. I don’t just want to write about my experience of the 5 days we spent there, I want to tell you the whole story, the why’s and the lead up to this crazy adventure.
I first saw this workshop advertised back in 2015 and I was so desperate to go on it but for some reason I thought I wouldn’t be good enough and totally doubted my ability, I thought I would be judged so I decided that I was living in a dream world and I’ll see if it ever comes up again. Fast forward a year to 2016 I remember messaging these wonderful ladies desperate to go on this retreat but I had totally missed the boat, all the places were full. I was devastated!!!! I told myself that no matter what, I was going on it next year! Early 2017 the places went on sale, I paid my deposit and I was literally bouncing around my living room with excitement doing my silly happy dance, my exact words were ‘this will be the making of me’. Rather quickly we were added to our secret facebook group, writing our about me thread… oh my gosh that bloody post, I remember thinking ‘holy shit, I can’t actually write about me properly, all these strangers will think I'm a total weirdo’. In all honesty I can’t remember what I wrote now, but I know it was only snippets of the person I am. We all got talking, chatting away and I quite quickly became close to a lovely chick who lives just down the road from me, she started second shooting with me, all we talked about was that we were going to bloody Italy!!!! Regrettably she could no longer make it, had to pull out, and then it hit me. ‘holy friggin shit I have to get on a plane, go to a country I don’t know, try to find somebody in a group of women that can tolerate me for the week, what if people didn’t like me’ all these crazy thoughts were going through my head. I just wasn’t sure I could do it, I was totally pooing it!
A couple of months before we jetted off we started chatting more on the group, it hadn’t actually been that active other than the about me threads, and I realised that there were a couple of ladies travelling on the same crazily early AM flight from Manchester as me, so we arranged to all stay together in an airport hotel the night before and stick together. My husband drove me to the airport and I couldn’t stop saying crazy stuff like ‘what if they don’t like me or I don’t like them and we have to be polite all night’ I mean, what bloody nut jobs in their right mind would arrange to stay in a hotel, not just a hotel but share a room with two random people off facebook!? Yeah us! And do you know what, this was hands down the BEST thing we could have done. You see I’d booked the hotel room, I sat there nervously perched on the chair staring at the bedroom door waiting for a knock, instead I got a text saying ‘I’m coming to get you’ I could only laugh hysterically. The knock came, I opened the door, and their staring back was my twinnie, both of us rocking black skinnies, and fedora hat!
All three of us laughed, chatted, ate food and then off we went for our 4 hours sleep before our get up for the airport. Not one of us was nervous going to Italy, we felt like we had known each other for years! We were 32,000 feet in the air by 06:30am drinking passion fruit martinis all discussing and doing our homework exercises. When it dawned on us with the pricing exercise that we were F****D! pfft who cared, we knew Claire Andrea and Lucy would kick our butts and get us to another level we needed. We knew we’d figure that stuff out!
Walking out of Naples airport, looking for the glass café outside, we kept checking facebook to see who was there for the first transfer, we trotted up to the table, waved said hello… there was sooo many faces sitting there and the only face I really recognized was our Berni. We boarded the transfer, laughing, singing, excited and nervous wondering what Italy had in store for us. After around a 2 hour scenic transfer with that crazy Italian driving, we made it, two lovely friendly faces running down the steps from the pool to great us with hugs, it was our Andrea and Claire. Hugs, hellos, and whisked off to check in before we all sat there scoffing the first of many pastries and Italian delights, chatting with a bunch of strangers who should have felt like strangers yet didn’t. We had time to ourselves until our first dinner that night, so we all went exploring, wondering round the gorgeous little streets, exploring, snapping away, taking pictures of each other and landmarks, walking the beach, feeling the sea crashing against our legs, it was so peaceful....before deciding the pool was calling us. Boomies at the ready we had our first bomber!
Now I’m not going to write about what we got up to on each day, as I don’t want to give away any surprises for future Bellas, but what I do want to say is that what these amazing ladies have created is beyond magical! I went having already done mentoring with Andrea and many many other workshops and courses before, I was worried that the one question I needed answering wouldn’t be answered, as never before. But, it was, it was clear, that clear the answer virtually slapped me in the face!
Claire, Andrea and Lucy, three amazingly talented photographers, passionate about doing their shit their way, they totally blew me away. We had down time, we had workshops, practical exercises, we listened to stories, we ate, we drank, we danced, we partied like it was bloody 1999, we drank shots, we looked out for each other like family, we had tears because these amazing ladies made us reach so deep down into ourselves, the soul searching, the sun bathing, the sea chasing. Exploring medieval quaint locations with views stretching far and wide across the coast and the mountains, the most amazing styled shoots with the fittest couples imaginable. We were treated like we were on an exclusive retreat. There was surprise after surprise, moments of shear hilarity. Every little thing we did was a life changing experience. I have made friends for life, friends both near and bloody thousands of miles away. Friends that just get you, and friends you feel like you’ve already known a life time, more importantly true friends that have got your back no matter where in the world they are.
This will be the only workshop you will ever go on that will be life changing, this will be the only workshop that you will ever go on that you will come home absolutely blinking shattered, yet so crazily inspired you’ll be drafting plans for how to get your business moving immediately. Not everything that’s discussed may work for you, but do you know what, that’s the biggest thing I realized on this adventure. As professionals, and professionals earlier on in their development we look to the seasoned pros thinking they have all the right answers, when in actual fact, no two businesses will run the same. All pro’s talk about is their personal experience. These amazing ladies talk of what’s worked for them, they are crazy honest and straight to the point, the talk openly of their mistakes, their successes and I guarantee there will be a huuuuuuge portion of this that will resonate with you. So take away from this experience all the things that’s relevant to you, learn from it, reach inside yourself and let go of all your inhibitions.
Now, to all future Bellas, what the hell are you all waiting for… this is something that you have to do, this genuinely is a life changing experience, no matter where you are in the evolution of your business, you girl bosses will all go on a crazy adventure here, professional and personally. You will turn over every part of your business, from pricing, to reaching out, to advertising, finding your ideal clients, talking to them, and the biggest thing you will learn (for all those self doubters out there) that you are amazing, you have what it takes, and there’s a shit load of couples looking for you just like you are looking for them. I for one, wish I could go back year on year – I’m secretly hoping one year we get an amazing reunion… all retreats that have ever happened together! Until that day arrives, I will sit back and be bloody jealous next year when I see 2018 Bellas going on their adventure.
Claire, Andrea, Lucy, Julie, Mandy, and Melissa – Thank you for giving me the kick up the ass to remember why I fell in love with photography!