Travel speaks to us. It’s embedded pretty deeply into Travel Noire’s core values — so much so that our entire remote team meets up twice a year at various spots around the world.
Our Travel Noire retreats are special times for our remote, distributed team to connect in person with one another, our audience and with the communities in our host country.
There are an incredible number of benefits that come from being a distributed team (different time zones make you awesome, the freedom is amazing, no office means low overhead, our team is super productive, etc). But at the same time, we realize that if we don’t arrange retreats, we would never meet each other (crazy, right)?
There is something magical that happens when you meet in person. A retreat setting is even more powerful. We learn what truly makes each of us tick and what our goals and true passions are.
This year has been a banner year for Travel Noire. We launched two products, received really great press coverage, grew our small but mighty remote team and most importantly, provided a ton of value to our customers. In the spirit of keeping the momentum going, we decided to head to an amazing new country to strategize for 2016 and beyond.
But this couldn’t be just any destination. We needed a place to get our creative juices flowing. We needed a place that would deeply inspire us to be better friends, coworkers and individuals. And that decision arrived as natural as the sunrise.
As alluring as it is naturally, Morocco is one of the most diverse countries in Africa. With high mountains, a sweeping desert, rugged coastline, and the winding alleyways of ancient medina cities and souks, it was the perfect backdrop for a transformative team retreat.
In order to really make the most of our experience, we needed to choose ideal “offices” that would set the tone for the strategy discussions that would help us propel the business forward. Our offices not only needed to be airy and beautiful, but they needed to reflect where we were. We needed to have interactions with locals as a way to really put things into perspective. The perfect solution: Airbnb.
Haphazardly landing in Marrakech, our attempts at purchasing cell phone service for each team member were futile — only one of our phones was truly unlocked. After making our way to our rental car, we nervously packed up, hopped in & put the pedal to the medal.
While Zim was the only one who had experience driving in foreign countries, by the end of the trip, we had each earned our Moroccan driving badges. But that wasn’t without our fair share of miscalculated routes — we got lost for 4 hours in the middle of the night — and fumbled through Arabic and French daily. Every time we left our retreat headquarters with our rental car, we knew we’d be in for an adventure.
Amazing adventures aside — we actually came to Morocco to work.
What we love most about Airbnb is that it consistently allows us to get off the beaten path and into the culture of wherever we land. We meet fascinating people and get to interact on a deeper level with those around us. We split our time in a vacation home right outside Essaouria and in a villa nestled around the outskirts of Marrakech.
As you entered the compound of our beach hideaway in Essaouria, the dusty path gave no hint of the beauty that was within. The house was beautifully crafted — in the foyer was a marble water fountain that complimented the uniquely crafted rooms. As you walked out of the foyer — clear glass doors opened up to the beautiful azure blue pool. Off to the right were trendy pool chairs just begging to be sunbathed in. With a property so beautiful, it was easy for our ideas to just flow.
During the day, we worked hard — extremely hard. We were pulling 14-hour days — discussing everything from email marketing sequences and Snapchat Ambassadors to adding new TN Experiences destinations and growing the size of the team in 2016.
The long hours often reminded us of the importance of our experiences outside of work. These serendipitous moments jolted our creativity and allowed us to recharge for the following day.
One day after a long team meeting in Marrakech, we went for a long walk in the community. On our walk, we happened to pass a group of adorable kids playing soccer. We knew this would be a great opportunity to interact with our neighbors, so we seized the opportunity!
We certainly weren’t dressed for the occasion. We didn’t have the right shoes and we barely kept up with the kids. But it didn’t matter. We had no real way of communicating with the kids but they welcomed us into their circle and we quickly set a game up. It was a close call, but the kids eventually beat us — but only by one point!
While staying at our Airbnb in Essaouria, we took a break after lunch to check out the community from a bird’s eye view. After firing up the TN drone, we invited our chef and her family over to drone with us. Her son was so ecstatic to play with his new flying toy, that he almost crashed it!
We flew for about an hour before tragedy struck — our battery died. And with the help of our chef and her family, we scoured the neighborhood on a mission. After 30 minutes, a few mini-heart attacks and some negotiations with some neighbors later, we eventually recovered the drone. Success! We couldn’t have done it without them (remember how horrible we said our French and Arabic was)?
Staying in an Airbnb allowed us to to interact with the community in an incredibly authentic way. We waved to cars as they drove by and our neighbors started to acknowledge us every day. We felt like we were home. We won’t soon forget our time in Morocco — filled with laughter and bonding, we were truly able to learn more about each other in the context of a foreign country. And even with everything happening in the world, we went and saw for ourselves, and that made all the difference.
This is a series in partnership with Airbnb.