I’d always liked the thought of going to a retreat, especially a business retreat. I know online business retreats exist and I have been to a couple before. However, I think that sometimes nothing beats going to one in person – somewhere you can get out of your usual routine, in a new place with great new people to network with face to face and get your head down working on your business without staring at a screen all day.

I saw that one of my favourite business networks, The Nomad Escape, offered a few business retreats, called the Level Up Club, throughout the year. I’d previously been to other events by them; Nomad Island Fest 2022 and Build Week Bali. In 2023, they held business retreats in March, May, September, and December. When the September retreat was announced, I decided that that was the best time for me to go. These retreats cost a low 4-figure sum, which is a lot of money to me. However, I was fortunately in a position where I had managed to earn and save up enough money, plus I also got a discount as an alumnus (anyone who has attended a previous Nomad Escape is entitled to money off their next one as a loyalty reward). I also had this drive to keep developing myself, personally and professionally, so I saw this as an investment in myself rather than an expense.

The Group

The Nomad Escape Level Up Club business retreat that I attended in September 2023 was a lovely and diverse group of 12 participants, plus 3 facilitators – all ambitious remote workers from a range of professions, industries and countries all over the world. Facilitating was Michelle Maree, CEO of The Nomad Escape, Desphina Kessels, Midwife, Pregnancy Coach, and Yoga & Meditation practitioner, and Moritz Hohne, Health & Vitality Coach and Sales Expert. The participants were:

  • Marissa Liesenfelt from the USA, Chief Operating Officer & Integrator
  • Toks Coyle (me!) from the UK, Award-winning Virtual Assistant
  • Daniel Gómez Fernández from Spain, Head Product Manager and E-commerce Manager 
  • Cristina Suciu from Romania, Freelance Web developer and Professor
  • Coenraad Fick from South Africa, Managing Director
  • Jacquie Wortley from Canada, Director of Product Design
  • Razvan Buda from Romania, Architect
  • Eileen Farnham from the Netherlands, Real Estate Agent, Videographer, Content Creator, Trainer
  • Jonas Lunendonk from Germany, CEO of Freelance.de
  • Mark Stuart from the USA, International Director, Producer, Executive Coach, Facilitator and Speaker
  • Thomas Kirner from Germany, CEO & Founder of Pure-water.com
  • Tanja Gerster from Liechtenstein, Funnel Marketing, Copywriting & Digital Growth Strategy Expert

Please note that these were all correct at the time of the retreat in September 2023, but some people may have since changed roles or companies.

All these people (attendees and facilitators) that I met at this business retreat were so kind, helpful, supportive, knowledgeable, and ambitious, and happily, they said they thought the same of me! As with all The Nomad Escape events I’ve been to, you’re instantly welcomed and it’s an amazing community to be part of!

The location

This business retreat takes place in the coastal village of Ponta Do Sol in Madeira. Here, we all stayed at the luxury 4-star hotel Enotel Sunset Bay, which has a charming exterior that looks like a terraced row of typical coloured Portuguese buildings. The hotel bedrooms are lovely, and we got welcomed with bottles of wine and goodie bags that we get at every Nomad Escape, which included a little Nomad Escape notebook and “Nomad coins” that you can give to other participants to reward them for providing value to you. The Nomad Escape offers the option of having a private room or sharing a room with another participant. I chose to do the latter mostly because it was cheaper, and I also saw it as an extra networking opportunity. Michelle is strategic with whom she matches roommates up and does well to ensure that they’re likely to be of benefit to each other, from what she knows when we apply for these events and enter our details. With this in mind, I was fortunate to have Marissa as my roommate, who at the time was COO of a huge female entrepreneur community and transitioning into doing her own thing, which she does now with her coaching business. We would sit in bed at this retreat, and she would give me lots of great business advice that I’ve been taking on board!

Enotel is just a stone’s throw away from the rocky beach and many cafes and restaurants. Also, many of the retreat activities were held in the nearby Estalagem hotel, only a few minutes away by walking and the same venue that is used for December’s Nomad Island Fest.

View of our beautiful retreat hotel, Enotel in Ponta Do Sol

The Schedule

The retreat kicked off on a Friday afternoon with the group all arriving to Enotel and meeting each other for the first time. We did a fun little game to learn each other’s names, and then we were treated to a delicious first group dinner together.

On the first two nights of the retreat, there was a festival happening right in front of our hotel. This wasn’t great for sleeping as loud music would play right until 3 am on Friday night and 5 am on the Saturday night – Madeirans don’t give a damn and will party when they want! We got given earplugs, so that helped to quieten the music when we did sleep. Otherwise, it was a bit of fun local culture to experience – I could literally go watch the show from my bedroom balcony. A lot of us from the retreat ended up going downstairs into the crowd for a bit, and then partied from the Enotel rooftop where we had a great view of the stage and some fabulous musicians performing!

Anyway, back to the business bits! We had a great structured and balanced programme of activities each day. Most days started with a morning workout or yoga out on the beachfront. If I’m being honest, this is not something that I usually do myself, but it was good to feel motivated to join this group and get energised to start the day. After this, we’d go back to Enotel to shower and then have a tasty buffet breakfast full of so many choices, sitting on a table together.

After breakfast, we’d meet in the Estalagem hotel to have our morning session, where we would do some business training or professional development. We also got provided some snacks, which was a nice extra. At the start, Michelle gave us some very useful tips on how to best structure our notes in our The Nomad Escape notebooks. Our session on the first morning then consisted of each of us telling the group a little of our life stories to help get to know each other a bit more. Then we did a skill mapping exercise to let everyone know what skills we could share and then vote on what people wanted to learn. The group decided that they wanted to learn about LinkedIn marketing from me, so I had a few days to prepare my 12-minute presentation for this.

One of our many personalised worksheets before it got written on

Every day, we had a break of at least 3 hours in the middle of the day. I appreciated the team for not filling every single hour with a planned activity because we really did need those breathers! During these long breaks, we would go have lunch if we wanted to – lunch isn’t included in the retreat price, but this is good for flexibility if you wanted to try a different restaurant, or just skip lunch altogether, which I did a couple of times because the morning snacks were quite filling! The breaks were also a good opportunity to do extra networking and 1-1 chats with each other, spend time alone to re-energise, have a nap, or do some work (if you really must!).

Then most afternoons after the extended breaks, we had our afternoon business development sessions. The first of these afternoon sessions we had was a mastermind, where we each took it in turn to sit in the hot seat, talk through a professional issue we were having, and try to get answers and advice from others in the group. It was very useful to do this sort of peer support, and I learned a lot not only from my own hot seat, but also from hearing other people’s as well as being able to offer my ideas. We then had the second of the masterminds in the next morning session to fit everyone in.

One of the retreat participants, Mark, held a special workshop for the group on “suspending disbelief”. With him being a motivational speaker as one of his professions, he was very good at captivating our attention and inspiring us to think more positively. He then got us to do an exercise where he asked us a question about our goals and got us to post them in the retreat WhatsApp group.

In the middle of the week, that day’s schedule deviated from the other days’. We got up very early in the morning to do a sunrise Jeep tour. This was a great change to have a break from our usual business sessions and workshops. It was intended for us to network together more casually, but also just to have some fun and explore more of Madeira after having stayed in the one village for most of the time. We got the opportunity to visit and view different parts of the island, and thankfully the weather was sunny too. The peak of this tour was when we went to the top of a mountain above the clouds and watched the beautiful sunrise. A truly wonderful experience!

After the Jeep, we got back to Ponta Do Sol and had a group lunch together. Then the whole rest of that day was free time for us to do whatever we wanted. My husband Tam was staying over in the nearby village of Ribeira Brava, as this was in the middle of our big trip to Spain and Portugal together that summer, so I took a taxi to go visit him there for a couple of hours. Then I went back to Ponta Do Sol and had dinner with a couple of my retreat mates.

Watching the stunning sunrise on this Madeiran mountain

The morning sessions on the next couple of days (and the final two full days) saw everyone performing their skillshares. We’d all been preparing presentations to share with the group something we’re skilled in that they’re interested in learning about. We only had around 15 minutes to do this, including a Q&A, which I found to be a bit of a challenge to get my message concise. I did a slideshow presentation and talked about how you can use LinkedIn to promote your business, and the group told me it went well. Other people’s skillshares were great for me to learn from too, which included topics such as financial planning, manifestation and funnel creation.

On the penultimate full day of the retreat, we took an excursion to a park to do some Wheel of Life exercises and enjoy some nature and sunshine. After this, we went to have a relaxing time at a lovely beach and then dinner and drinks at a nearby restaurant to wind down.

Our final workshop on our last full day had us reflecting on our experiences at this business retreat and then deciding on goals for the upcoming month. And we don’t get left high and dry when the retreat ends – we had a group catchup call a month later to see how we got on with our goals. The retreat WhatsApp group has also remained open months later, occasionally having people message what they’ve achieved and photos of reunions that have happened since. Truly a supportive community!

On the last night of the business retreat, we had a leaving party on the rooftop of Enotel, where we all received certificates for completing the retreat, the winner of the Nomad coins was announced (Jacquie), and we danced, ate pizza, drank cocktails and sang karaoke.

The retreat ended on the morning of the very last day, we all said our goodbyes, and then half the group ended up staying in Madeira to attend The Nomad Escape Build Week, which is a pop-up coliving and accountability programme that was held in another village in Madeira. I decided to join this as a further opportunity to extend my networking with this community as well as help me implement things that I’d learned on the retreat (blog post coming on this soon!)

The reception area of Enotel in Ponta Do Sol, Madeira

Conclusion

So, what were my main takeaways from this experience of attending The Nomad Escape Level Up Club Business Retreat? Well…

  1. I validated my ideas for courses that I want to create to spread my expertise and build on my semi-passive income streams.
  2. I got advice on how to view the development of this travel blog and not get stressed about it – just have fun with it, practise my writing and see how it goes.
  3. Michelle offered me a slot to speak at Nomad Island Fest 2023, which I did! It was great to have my expertise recognised and get the chance to share it with the wider Nomad Escape community at the same time as pushing myself out of my comfort zone.
  4. After helping a fellow retreater on a 1-1, I unintentionally created some great content for a lead magnet of mine.

If you’ve ever been on the fence about joining a Nomad Escape – well, all I can say is, that they’re not one of those businesses that are about just taking your money and teaching you a bunch of fluff that still leaves you scratching your head at what to do next. It can be a fairly intense experience, but you will actually learn many valuable practical things in such a short amount of time that you can apply straight away in your business and personal life. You enter an amazing network of the most brilliant business minds who are willing to help you without asking for much. You’ll probably even make some friends, as Escapers definitely love to work hard and play hard! Believe me, it’s worth every penny!

Click here for details on how to attend the next Level Up Club Business Retreat by The Nomad Escape!

And if you want to hear more about what this same edition of the retreat was like by my fellow attendees, here are some video testimonials from them:

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