9 Lessons I Learned From Vacation with Coworkers

After two years of working from home, I finally met the talented individuals behind the company I’m working for. We, together with my wife, spent a four-day vacation in Puerto Galera — a trip made possible by Damon Burton (lucky folks, thank you).

The Takeaway: Spending time with these people building meaningful relationships — strolling the seashore, sea adventures, eating together, singing and dancing, having endless conversations and laughter, and embracing each one’s character — was a priceless experience.

Lessons Learned from Vacation with Coworkers

(island hoppers)

I’ve realized that it’s not about the place or the food or the amenities that made the vacation unforgettable, but it’s how these people connect with each other, respond to situations, and somehow convey invaluable lessons.

As they say, there’s always something to learn. Sometimes we notice them. Sometimes we don’t. Lessons of course are everywhere.

And now here’s my attempt to impart these gold nuggets, hoping you’ll use them to better yourself, as I have.

Where should I begin? The meetup.

1. Be proactive

My wife and I didn’t expect transit issues, so we were an hour late at the meeting place. Yes, all of them waited for an hour (and that’s not something to be proud of).

It was a different city — busier and more crowded. We’re not used to it (not an excuse, of course).

“What did I miss?” I pondered. Obviously, because we didn’t prepare ahead of time. We didn’t predict worst-case scenarios like traffic or bad weather or public transit issues. We were not proactive. Good thing they were considerate (read #2).

“Highly proactive people don’t blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice.” — Stephen Covey

Lesson: Before visiting a different city, do your research. Educate yourself. Know the ins and outs. Be prepared for any unexpected dilemmas. Have a backup plan. Do you have any relatives or friends living in that city? Act in advance. Be guided.

2. Being considerate

Forty-five minutes behind schedule, I received a text message from Miss Gerlie — the team’s communicator. She was quite anxious about us not keeping track of time. I tried to stay positive believing that everything would be alright. My inner narratives, however, screamed in despair and regret.

It shouldn’t have happened had we left an hour earlier… If only the public transit is much smoother… If only I could… You get the picture.

Upon arrival, I was expecting their rage and complaints. Sweat running all over. But it was different — instead, we were welcomed with smiles and awkward gestures (first meetup is always awkward, right?).

I’m not really good at reading body language (and I’m not a psychologist anyway)… so I couldn’t tell if they’re faking. But from the lens I viewed, I could say they were glad we arrived. Wow. I love them.

Lesson: When someone does something unpleasant, don’t be upset — understand the reason behind the action instead. I know it’s hard to resist emotions sometimes. But I believe, better control it than rant and complain and spread negativity (unless that’s a life-or-death scenario). Take a deep breath and realize you can’t control everything. Move on.

3. Optimism and Positivity

Due to unexpected circumstances, our route to Puerto Galera took more hours than we expected. Seems like forever. How frustrating.

On the road, I wondered what our destination looks like. Is it identical to the pictures I saw on the Web? Would it satisfy us? Oh, how I wish we could skip this exhausting ride.

The team, to my surprise, stayed positive despite the unfortunate events. No complaints. No negativity. In fact, everyone still managed to pay attention to someone’s stories or questions, or jokes (I know they’re tired).

I’ve been on many trips with a group of people. But this, I could say, is a pack of positive individuals — and positivity, of course, always wins. Their attitude reminds me of the famous quote:

“Life is 10 percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.” — Lou Holtz

“Welcome!” The staff at Marco Vincent Resort showered us with hospitality.

In an instant, we’ve forgotten the exhausting ride. We’ve forgotten the unfortunate events. We’ve forgotten that all we want is to eat and go to bed — of course that’s not what happened. Because after the sumptuous meal, we still managed to spend time together. (FYI: The foods are irresistible.)

Speaking candidly, if it weren’t for every individual being an optimist, this experience wouldn’t have been what it was.

Lesson: When things didn’t happen the way you expected, stay positive. I know in some cases it sounds unrealistic. But often, it’s the only way to stay composed, resilient, and sane. Don’t allow minor unpleasant things ruin your day. Life is too short to waste on negativity.

4. Give it a try

I’m an introvert and it’s my nature to keep things myself even if I wanted to say or ask something — I’m working on it. While spending time with them, I’ve witnessed firsthand an admirable attitude: Giving a try to any possibilities.

Miss Anne, the company’s head writer (a brilliant writer), often asks questions or suggestions concerning resort’s services. In fact, the resort granted our random food requests: Miss Recel craved shrimp and my wife craved squid.

I do understand it’s about customer service, but I wonder if it would have happened had they not spoken up. If it’s only me, then I would just eat quietly or maybe accept their limited services. I wouldn’t consider any possibilities like… What if I could ask for a discount? What if I could ask for extra meals? What if I could…

(I’m quite lucky though — my wife always gives a try.)

Lesson: You think it’s impossible to start that business, give it a try. You want that job position but think you don’t deserve it, give it a try. Your boss or co-workers probably hate that idea, give it a try. I understand the risks involved, but honestly, there’s nothing really harmful about most of the things we fear of.

5. Gratitude

Just last year, I started practicing gratitude more often. Big or small acts of kindness, I appreciate with all my heart. And it feels great. Imagine for a second if all people practice gratitude every day. What do you think would happen to our planet?

From day one to day four, I couldn’t remember a single day without “Thank yous.” These people practice gratitude too, reminding me how gratefulness ripples positivity. And they don’t just practice it — they live with it.

From our company president, excellent resort services, assistance from staff, appetizing recipes, and the guidance of the boatmen, to all the people who became part of our journey, the team never missed to thank them (again and again).

This reminds me of a quote penned by one of my favorite writers, Benjamin Hardy:

“Say thank you more often. Say you love people more often. Smile at random strangers as you pass them by. Not only will it make you feel better, it is contagious.

Lesson: There are countless things we ought to be thankful for — our home, family, friends, job, businesses, help from other people, the air we breathe, this planet, our life, and so on. Don’t take these things for granted. Gratefulness, more often than not, not only uplifts you but also the people around you.

6. Be generous

Anne often volunteered to treat us with other extra expenses; Mark willingly spent time to hear my stories; Kim, Shiela, Gerlie, and Recel, on the other hand, were patient enough to answer my questions about their lives (I can listen to their stories all day).

All of them showed generosity in their own ways: Generosity of attention. Generosity of time. Generosity of money.

I don’t know, but stories about generosity are always fascinating. I wonder what would happen if all people practice generosity. I wish we could do that (more about generosity here).

“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the greatest intention.” — Khalil Gibran

Lesson: When you see someone in need and you have the capacity to provide, be generous. Whether it’s time or money or labor or even attention, give without expecting something in return. True happiness, as most wise people say, comes from giving not receiving.

7. Adapt

Legendary Bruce Lee immortalized the Be like water” philosophy. It means learning to adapt to any situation, instead of fighting against it. And I’m one lucky man — privileged to spend time with people who can easily adapt.

Given that we were raised in different subcultures, the team knew exactly what to discuss and how to respond and engage in a mindful yet genuine way (not to mention our different dialects). Even more interesting is that they could still find time to work on their remaining tasks when the day is over — despite Internet issues.

They didn’t allow new situations to feel empty and worthless. They didn’t allow the new environment hinder what they intend to do. Their versatility has been awe-inspiring to me.

Lessons Learned from Vacation with Coworkers Seashore

(Puerto Galera White Beach Resort)

Lesson: When you’re in a new environment, if possible adapt — and it’s possible most of the time. Rather than worrying about things that don’t meet your standards or expectations, learn to accept and live with them. Be water, my friend.

8. Make the most of it

In everything they do, they give one hundred percent — no second thoughts, all in. From trying new things to documenting every nook and cranny, they were like newly freed caged birds, eager to explore, eager to fly. And it was contagious.

In fact, their “make-the-most-of-it” attitude inspired me to document our adventures, which I rarely do. They made me realize how lucky I am for experiencing such privilege. So why not make the most of it? (NOTE: My wife has been teaching me this attitude for years.)

Lesson: The best moments come and go. If you’ve been granted the privilege to travel or try something new congruent with your values, goals, and highest ideals, you’re one lucky person… Go seize it. And once you’re there, make every second count. Don’t waste it. This leads us to #9 — read on.

9. Enjoy the ride

This lesson, I must say, is the most unforgettable — they taught me how to enjoy the moment, enjoy the show, and enjoy the ride.

I’ve become a workaholic for two years, or so — consumed with my job and side projects (blogging and music) that I’ve forgotten to enjoy life in myriad ways such as traveling, island adventures, and casual conversations with friends. For some reason, I’ve become aloof.

I don’t know how to say this and I don’t intend to sound cheesy. But the truth is, I’ve forgotten everything that worries me while spending time with them and with my wife of course (the longest period of not worrying). I haven’t felt that for a long time. It was liberating. Now I’m missing it.

True happiness arises, in the first place, from the enjoyment of one’s self, and in the next, from the friendship and conversation of a few select companions. — Joseph Addison

And you know the best part is? The vacation has strengthened our relationships. They’re not just my coworkers anymore — they’re my friends.

Lesson: When spending time with people, stop worrying about something else. Stop thinking about what would happen next. Stop thinking about your job or projects or businesses or what’s left behindJust enjoy the ride. Feel. Cherish it. Live in the moment.

NOTE: Although it was only 4 days long, I could say that it’s one of the most memorable vacations of my life — or perhaps the best thus far. I have no words left, other than to say I would love to do it again with them. Hopefully with Damon and the other team members. Next time?

What about you? What have you learned recently? 

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