This write-up is long overdue. Having been caught up with work and other adulting stuff, I have finally created time to write about experiences. As my backlog dates back to 2016, let me start from there. It is apt, too, ‘cos this was the first ever meet-up with my old friends and new acquaintances in Bali. And, I might be seeing some of them again quite soon. :)
A little preamble
I work for an online travel company for over 3 years now. When I joined in May 2014, it was only 2 years in existence and pretty much a start up at that time, with only about 30-40 team members working remotely from different countries. I joined its Operations team for its yoga website and, on my 7th month, I started working with the Human Resources team. Being focused on recruitment, I only knew my teammates from their CV, current job title, location, and warm voices. While working remotely definitely has the benefits I look for, the personal human interaction can also be sometimes lacking. However, we make do with what we have. In the countless times we’ve had conversations over Skype and Slack, we got to know each other better – professionally and personally. These made me love my job more day by day.
Fast forward to December 2015, I received news that I will be joining the founder, senior managers, and HR for a one week get-together in Bali, Indonesia, to collaborate on projects that we would eventually roll out throughout 2016. I have visited Indonesia a couple of times before but there are still a lot of places to explore and things to experience – this definitely got me excited. What made it more exciting was that I would be meeting my friends that I haven’t seen in person, ever!
That excitement, though, was coupled with concerns and worries. Because this was the first time that we will be working together on a project, I was not sure how it would go. Working from home allows you to breathe when conversations aren’t going the way you envision it to go. It allows the parties to be professional and reach a point of consensus without the awkwardness that comes after a disagreement. We all work together really well remotely. But, would we also work well and harmoniously when we are facing each other in real life? I had my doubts.
When my plane landed in Bali, I dropped them a message on Whatsapp. I was still so scared to do so, haha! Would I look super excited? Was it not cool? LOL. I was so self-conscious and insecure. I was kinda hoping that they were not yet in the airport. That they were still on their way to pick me up. I was hoping for these things so I could still grab a cup of coffee, wash my face, or just prepare myself a little bit more. However, our founder, Rob, said that they were already waiting for me at the arrival area – my worries were eventually replaced by the excitement I initially felt when I received news that I would be meeting them. Funny how much roller coaster of emotions I went through, as if I didn’t know them at all.
I got my bags, walked to the arrival area, and saw this tall guy with a few people who seem to still have a bit of awkwardness between them. I knew that they were my crowd.
I sneaked myself into the group. Said, “Hi, Rob!” and shook his hands. Haha! So formal, my goodness. Despite that, I could sense his warmth, the same one that I felt when I first spoke with him during my interview. Rob also introduced me to Chimeg, his adorable and very nice girlfriend.
But, it was different with Rina. Rina was my first manager in the company. I hugged her (probably she was like, what’s going on? LOL) and I didn’t give her a chance to do her originally-planned spiel, “Hi, I’m Satiti.” When she shared this with me later on, I told her that, even if she did, I wouldn’t have believed her ‘cos I know how Satiti looks like.
It’s like seeing old friends, new acquaintances, and family. Hugging them and hearing those all too familiar voices coming out of their person – waaah! That was so amazing. I knew that my worries were just worries and my team are indeed the compassionate, loving, warm, and smart people I’ve always enjoyed to work with. For me, this week was just going to get better.
Balian Beach Villa
We drove to Balian, where the company rented a villa for the week. It was spacious, cozy, and very comfortable. The only concern of Rina and myself was that it had no bidet. Lol! Priorities.
From our villa, you can see the vast green and the beautiful sunset.
It also had a pool and, beside it, was a table we would hold our meetings in and eat. That table was a witness to the many conversations we had in the villa. From work stuff to personal things.
One by one, the rest of the team arrived – Shweta (That warm hug, girl! All those interviews we had together came rushing back), Joyce (so nice to finally have a face with that soothing voice I would hear weekly), Blaine (who spoke to me in Tagalog for the first time ever, I was like “What’s going on?”), Paul (whose name I would always see but have never really worked with directly), Satiti (the first voice I heard from the company), Stefanie (that smart cutie-pie of a lady). We would have so much fun talking about work and how we can contribute to the team members.
Through those conversations, my belief that I am in the best company was reinforced. The results of which would be implemented throughout 2016 and spill over to 2017.
Meeting our partner organizers
As part of our itinerary, we visited some of our partner organizers and went around their properties. This had always been something I wanted to do. When I visited Palawan, I was supposed to go on a retreat with one of our partner organizers. But, when I was already there, the organizer went incognito. It was disappointing, especially since I know that they are people that we also work with. I hope they have never done and will never do the same with other customers we send their way.
In Bali, it was different, though. I was so amazed with the results of the meetings, where we found out that both usually get their online clients through our website. Seeing what they offer, the kind of people our organizers employ, and the venue of the yoga vacation packages we advertise on our website – these definitely made me happier with what we do. I’ve seen how much of an impact we make to the customers we serve. But, seeing that our organizers also embrace the same level of service that we offer in the company, that makes it all the more better.
We also had the chance to visit Balian Beach, where surfers abound. For real, this is a place I can stay in for long. Peaceful, diverse, open, and with awesome internet connection. Love!
We also had the chance to visit one of the local companies in Bali that has some sort of similar set up to ours. It was founded by a non-local and run by local. While it was interesting, I though that the person who did the tour with us had a difficult time expressing herself and making us understand what we were asking about. In any case, the colors of the place were so eye-soothing that we made the most out of it with the photo ops.
While we were all serious and intentional in making the most out of this meet up, we also didn’t forget to have fun. In the company, we encourage our team members to take time off by giving them a certain number of days off in a year. When I first heard about this benefit before, I couldn’t believe it. I was ready to work my a** off and just have my weekends free. We are able to plan our work week and are very flexible as long as we meet the 40-hour-a-week requirement and communicate to our team leads any changes in our schedule. Having a good number of days off (probably more than what local companies offer) was a complete pleasant surprise. And, when I share this with team members I interview, I tell them that we do believe in work-life balance. So, this is something that we also applied in this trip.
Because, it was the first time for most of the team members who joined us to visit Bali, Indonesia, we went on a few short trips and let ourselves be tourists. On our first weekend together, we went to Uluwatu Temple and was amazed by the gorgeous sunset. We also enjoyed ourselves in their Kecak Dance. Having visited Uluwatu Temple a year before, Rob asked me where the dance was going to be held. I told him, uhm, we didn’t watch it lol. So, we just walked the entire stretch until we saw the location where a lot of people congregated – that’s when we knew that we were heading to the right place.
After visiting our partner organizers in Ubud, some of the team members went to the Monkey Forest while some of us went around to do some bit of shopping. Satiti was the best in haggling! LOL. Ubud has always had a special place in me and, at that point, I was considering if I would like to spend my next few days there so I could have coffee and just experience the place. However, considering the logistics, Sanur came out as the best option. I’ll write more about this in my next post.
We also went to Tanah Lot to see the sunset. However, because it was raining at that time, we didn’t get to witness it. Nevertheless, it was still a lovely experience, especially since I was sharing it with my friends.
While we would have our dinner mostly in the villa, there were a couple of nights we spent outside. We had an amazing beach dinner at Jimbaran and in somewhere expensive haha. One night, before we headed back to the villa, we also had dinner in Balian Beach. This was after we went on a walk-a-thon and braved our way past the dogs that were very protective of their turfs. The dinner at Balian Beach was the first time we ran for the bill, so we could pay for Rob’s and Chimeg’s dinner (‘cos Rob and Chimeg are so sneaky for this).
These were all nice and fun, I admit. Experiencing these things with friends, exploring places, enjoying the scenery. But, I guess, the most precious memories for me were the after-work conversations. Those happening before we would one by one tuck it in. A bottle or 2 of beer. Getting to know each other and our personal lives. Playing charades. And, the conversations about life. It’s like getting to know them beyond work and now as friends and family.
When the week was about to end, I felt like I would miss them all again. We shared so many special memories and experiences together that it made me quite sad that the week was finally over. I experienced gratefulness for each of their persons. They are the reasons why I love doing what I do.
There were countless photos and selfies (thanks to Shweta who’s an expert in this) to commemorate this meet-up. Joyce, my manager, also thought that we could probably write each team member or whoever we would like to write to, a short note. I was kind of expecting that not all of us would do this. But, we all did! And, those little and precious notes are still with me up to this time. I had my Mom read them and I think that made her believe that I was in the right company after these years of struggle.
It was so awesome that even after a year since it happened, I still remember it like it was yesterday. On countless occasions, I would still look back to January 2016 as the moment my love for the company was sealed. The tiny bit of sadness that I felt when we were saying good-bye was replaced by the happy tidbits of anecdotes of each other. I am so grateful for the memories that we shared. And, I am quite sure that I will have a next rendezvous with them – wherever in the world it may be. :)
So long friends and colleagues!
See ya on Slack, Skype or on the road,
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Thank you! And, in whatever space you’re in now, I hope that you get something from reading my articles.