One of our coolest traditions is our annual company trip! We've been to Lisbon, Prague and this year, we are in Barxeta, a small town near Valencia (Spain). It's when we get everyone together - people from the Amsterdam office and our remote colleagues - and have a great time together (and to make it better, we kept the destination a surprise until the last minute!).
This year we decided to make it different, and instead of going away for just a weekend, we are staying away for a full week, mixing work with fun! It seems like the perfect way to get everyone together, strengthen our bonds and our culture, while having a great time. We've updated this post with our daily activities there so you can follow what we've been doing on our time away.
You can also see a small video of how we spent our time there:
Day one - Flying to Valencia!
An early start to the day! We were all at the airport by 5AM! A lucky few seemed to have gotten enough sleep; others found some comfortable spots at the airport to get in those valuable eye-shut moments.
On arriving to Valencia, we quickly split up in a few small groups and drove for an hour to our accomodation in Barxeta. We arrived at the house, settled-in, faced some internet issues, but found some ad-lib solutions and managed to start working shortly
Our villa is quite remote.We're surrounded by farms, providing us with fresh peaches, mandarins, loquats (google it, and then go get yourself some. Amazingly sweet and delicious!). The trees are sturdy enough for us to install a slackline. Added bonus: Adorable kittens, dogs, donkeys and goats!
To end a long, yet satisfying day, we ate some delicious Paella and stood witness to a beautiful sunset over an infinity pool.
The trip is off to a great start, and we are looking forward to the rest of the amazing workation.
Day two - Breakfast Runs, Beaches and Burning Villages!
What could be better than waking up to a breathtaking view outside the window? A power run up and down the hills in early morning! That's what our most sporty team members count as a good start of a day. For some others (like me) a delicious breakfast and a portion of kitty cuddles are good enough too.
The day itself was very productive for many of us, either having a meeting in the fresh air, or coding in a shadow – everyone found his perfect working spot. After the hard and hot working day, the best way to cool down and chill out was to get to the swimming pool! However, when you have a great director in Joao, and a master of drone in Guru, regular pool activities quickly transform into a sport performance – check out our cool video here
For those of us, wanting more salt in their water, the area also offers a nice beach. To get there we had to take quite some dizzy roads in the mountains, but it was definitely worth that! We were awarded not only by the gentle sea waves but also by an amazing sunset up from the lighthouse.
Finally, to end the day, we decided to play a game of "werewolf"! With Omer providing amazing visuals with his beautiful showmanship to our little village (as we were lynched and eaten to death), we got an insight into our teams passion and dedication to some detective work (and gore). (If you want to check our skills out in person, apply here). The award for fastest guessing went to Guru :D So if you're ever a werewolf, always kill Guru first!
Day three - Team goals, Team Sports and Team Betrayal(At Werewolf)
You would think that 2 days would be sufficient to not be awestruck by the view you wake up to, but you would be wrong. Also awestruck. Very! If this were a vacation, one might be tempted to just sit here and contemplate the meaning of life, make peace with an almighty, or just relive the most embarrassing moments of your adolescence and feel the cringe through your spine.
However, this being a work-ation saved us from that risk. After a glass of Horchata with breakfast, it was time for us to jointly set our goals for the next quarter. With Luca leading the workshop, we were split by our squads. Within our teams, we discussed what projects we believed to be the most valuable for the company. Personally, this was an amazing way for me to influence what I would like to work on, while interesting to see where others' priorities lie.
A rousing game of Ultimate Frisbee marked the end of another work day. Unfortunately, an enthused Abhisek sprained his ankle! (For everyone holding their breath, he is all good now, but the walking stick, along with stories of his youth make for an amazing nostalgia of story-time with grandpa for me)
A slight delay in dinner meant we got to have our first candle-lit dinner in Spain, followed by yet another night of Mafia/Werewolf. I saved myself the blushes of an early elimination by choosing to be the moderator. In my version of the game, we call the moderator "God", but the real superhuman performance was by Enrique, who after voting his werewolf-friends out, went on to single-handedly eliminate 9 civilians!
But then, a little gore is always an amazing way to end a brilliant day!
Day four - Celebrating our core values, birthdays and world cup wins!
Have we mentioned how lovely it is to wake up here? I don't think we have covered how lovely it is to wake up here. Well, it is absolutely lovely to wake up here!
While some of us slept in after a late game of werewolf the previous night, some of us greeted the wonderful morning with a sun salutation. Our in-house Yoga expert Kostia guided us through a wonderful session. (Yes,it was by the pool, but you guessed that already)
After a discussion yesterday on "what we want to do" as a company, today was a discussion on "who we are". We are a growing team, and it is becoming pertinent that we have a discussion on who we are, and who we want to be as a people of a company.
A value workshop, guided by Joao and Omri ensured that the values which define us as a team are decided upon by the team themselves.We were divided into small teams to take up each value up for debate. With some reference points to start with, the values were modified, expanded, or in some cases, straight away discarded for a replacement value. After some final touches to them, we will soon have them up here for your access as well.
Did you know, in a room of 23 people, there is a 50% probability of 2 people sharing a birthday? This is called the birthday paradox. Probability of their birthdays falling during the work-ation remains unknown. However, based on a sample size of one company trip, we believe it to be a 100%!
Saad and Antonio celebrated their birthdays together! (which considering Danil and Omer also having their birthdays this week is making it quite a celebratory trip!)
In other news: Our Russian colleagues were mighty pleased at their 5-0 win in the opening game of the World Cup. We are looking forward to some interesting face-offs at the culturally diverse FindHotel. (which you can join here)
Day Five - Football Games, Drinking Games and 'Quit Playing Games'
After an internal discussion, we have decided to not repeatedly mention the scrumptious food, amazing view, Mafia nights and lazy pool time anymore. We just urge the reader to imagine all of that surrounding us at all times. It helps to merge them all into one mental image of us playing Mafia in the pool at lunch time. Also, imagine some of us being in very flexible yoga poses on one side, while Omer leads a group of us on a hike somewhere in the background. (If I'm expecting a lot from you, you don't need to imagine it. Join us physically for our next trip by being part of our team here)
Friday morning, there was a buzz in the air. An early morning message from our CEO, Oz letting us know that working is disallowed past 5 PM ensured that everyone was working at maximum efficiency. Resourceful Mike had figured out a way to ensure we get our dose of Football, by streaming the Spain vs Portugal game in HD!
Some of us however, still decided to head into the neighbouring town(Xativa), to explore it's famous castle and watch some locals express their love for the game.
(Side Note: The Valencians are an expressive bunch, and the roller-coaster game meant we got to see a range of emotions I had not seen in even Bollywood movies! Imagine being more expressive than an industry synonymous with melodrama)
After a couple of post-game drinks, we headed back to reconcile with the rest of our reasonably inebriated team. Some nostalgic 90's music, sing-alongs, dance breakouts, and 3 AM pool-dips meant the boundary between Friday and Saturday is rather fuzzy for most of us. Which brings us to...
Day 6 - Hot Wet Sand, Cool Dry Rivers and Fiery Hot Dances
...THE WEEKEND! The most awaited part of the trip! With our Yoga teacher (Kostia)'s help, any possible hangover was dealt with as early as 9:30 AM. A quick breakfast later, half of us were on our way to the beach (in Cullera). While the anticipation of reaching the beach was quite high, a road trip through the hilly route made the journey equally pleasant. (Also, personal bucket-list item, 'Long drives through Spain's landscapes ': check)
A swim,few games of frisbee, and one attempt to 'submerge Luca into the sand' later, we were en-route to regroup with the rest of our colleagues (who went hiking/took the day to recharge their energy levels)
Around 5 PM, we had our extremely animated and joyful tour guide walk us around Valencia. An insightful history lesson (they love demolishing and rebuilding their walls!), a dried river (Turia), and some 'Agua de Valencia' later, we were on our way to have an amazing dinner at La Buleria. Unbeknownst to us, the committee had picked a restaurant with an included Flamenco performance. For an hour, we watched in awe, as guitar fingers, vocal chords, and tapping feet achieved levels of vibrations you would be remiss to expect from a tuning fork!
As a designated driver, the espresso shot I took before we drove back home meant I was alert enough to win a game of mid-night chess against Andrey! (This has nothing to do with the trip, I am just really proud and wanted to flaunt this victory). For one last time, we said our goodbyes to the clear skies, devoid of a moon. Quite poetic to be honest; A real diminuendo mirroring the end of our wonderful stay here.
Day Seven - Unplugging like we mean it, before hitting the road back home
"Saturday night, what a night!". That's the thought most of us woke up with on Sunday, our last day in Barxeta.
We had a magnificent plan for the day: no plan at all! And, believe you me, we took it very seriously. Most of the crew opted for a day at the villa, with sweet nothing on the agenda, simply enjoying the sun, the pool, and various naps in between meals.
A few braver, more sporty fellows decided that there's plenty of time to sleep later on in life, so they hiked their way to the top of a local hill. Lastly, someone made a trip to a nearby beach to soak in all the sun they could, or paid a(nother) visit to the splendid castle in Xàtiva.
Throughout the day, some of the designated drivers accompanied the remotes to the local train station, as their flights were scheduled earlier than the Amsterdam crew's. There was a lot of hugging and things might have gotten a little emotional (I'm not crying, you're crying).
Around the end of the day, the remaining troops packed their bags, said goodbye to the villa that hosted us for such a wonderful week and left for the airport, where we watched our Brazilian teammates suffer through the world cup game against Switzerland, before taking off towards our city and getting a ride to our homes.
Looking back, I feel comfortable speaking for all of us when I say that it has been a great experience. One might think of the obvious reasons why: we got to hang out all together in a great location, enjoy fantastic food, got much more sun that most of us are used to.
But there's much, much more: this trip took many of us outside of our comfort zone while being in a safe space, we got to bond with people we barely see due to being a partly distributed team, and we got to know each other in a deep, personal way.
While I might be somewhat biased by the fact that I've spent quite a few years at FindHotel, I truly believe this is a great group of people with talent, passion, and the emotional strength to achieve great things in life, and I'm genuinely happy for the chance to share this long-term journey with them.
Until next year...