Hi, I’m Saul and I’ve spent the last few weeks as a marketing intern for Happy Retreats. I could share with you what I’ve done over the course of my time here but I think it will be more insightful to write, instead about what I’ve learnt. As well as improving my marketing ability, I hope that this experience has shaped me in other ways. In essence of this, here are some things the last month has taught me.
Trying new things
Being a vegetarian retreat, it would be easy to assume that meals would be a boring and bland experience. However I quickly learnt that this was not the case. If anything being vegetarian this past month has exposed me to more unfamiliar cuisines. Although I’m less of a picky eater than I used to be, my meals at university often consist of the same three or four foods in slightly different combinations. However now I have a host of ideas for vegetarian meals to cook at university that I didn’t before.
A special mention must go to the vegan chocolate cake which tasted better than many non-vegan cakes I’ve had and the eggless omelette which, although didn’t look like something that should have been eaten, tasted like something you’d want to have again and again.
My new culinary experience has gone hand in hand with a new potential hobby of mine. Yoga.
I’ll stress that yoga, meditation and mindfulness were never part of my routine back at home. I’m not even going to profess that I am now good at yoga or even overly passionate about the discipline, but it has definitely been an experience to remember. Although I struggled to replicate even the simplest poses that others were executing seamlessly I’ve realised it’s not always about success in the discipline you’re attempting but the ‘try something new’ attitude that I’ve acquired. Although yoga is probably something I won’t continue with regularly, being willing to open my mind up to new opportunities means that at some point I’ll take-up something that I’ll really enjoy, all because I’ve realised there’s no harm in giving it a go.
I applied this attitude to other disciplines. Although I worked at a dance class for four years, I never really took the opportunity to try the sport. However, surrounded by elderly Spanish people at an outside bar with a bit of a peer pressure and it was a different story. Again an activity I struggled with but an experience nonetheless.
Sometimes people around you will tell you that opportunities are not worth taking. And in these cases you need to be open-minded enough to be able to tune those people out (except when they have a point for instance when I tried to take-up the ukulele, in this case it’ll be everyone around you trying to tune you out…).
Joys of getting away from modern life
When I told people about what I was doing during the summer, understandably I was met with concern. I received a stream of comments about how it might be boring to go to a place in the middle of nowhere and I really began to worry. Had I made a mistake? I’d grown up in a city my whole life, a city with a population nearly ten thousand times bigger than the one in this Spanish town.
However, if anything being here has been liberating. Despite my marketing duties I have found time for things that I don’t necessarily get to do at home. My free time involved activities such as jigsaws, riding a bike, relaxing by the pool and reading.
Being in an environment where there was less urgency to move from activity to activity helped me to enjoy mealtimes. After doing research for a blog on solo travel, I learned a lot about the scientific benefits of communal eating. These advantages have become clear to me after spending countless hours around the table. Some of the most memorable moments of my time in Spain were in-depth debates over pasta or paella.
Importance of listening
One of the big reasons I took this opportunity was to learn. Consciously and inadvertently my hosts Andi and Terry have taught me that you don’t learn anything from talking, you learn through listening. While being surrounded by people from diverse cultures I was able to take a lot from the different cultural perspectives I heard from people at the retreat. Hearing about outdated and backwards Dutch Christmas traditions and how real people are being affected by Trump’s America has made me think more deeply about the country I live in. It’s become clear that you can learn and be entertained by everyone and by talking and not listening, you’re missing out on that opportunity.
Fortunately, one of the things I managed to pick up from a month’s marketing internship was… some marketing skills! A mixture of being guided and being given some creative freedom by Andi has meant that I was able to create marketing content of value. I’m sure I’ve picked up social media and design skills which will become vital at some point in the near future,
However, marketing wasn’t the only thing I did in my time here. I learned how to and how not to build a shelving unit. Even opening the bag of screws was part of the challenge and when I finally did that, I ripped it open and they spilt everywhere. I had made negative progress. However I think it’s all about the end result and the shelf is still standing in Andi’s kitchen. Last time I checked.
The first thing I talked about was trying new things and opening myself up to new opportunities. Therefore, I’ll close this piece by the result of trying new things, being thankful.
Economic theory I study at university teaches giving and receiving on a purely mathematical basis. It says that individuals will give resources to others if they get something of perceived equal or greater value in return. However this has been the opposite of what my experience has been in the real world. Many people have gone out of their way to cook food for me, give me advice and help me out in other ways. The prime example of this is Andi letting me stay at her retreat to give me the opportunity to improve my marketing skills. And when so many people go out of their way to make you feel comfortable and you cannot pay them back with actions, I think all you can do is make clear that you appreciate their gestures.
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