Back in July, when I came home from Budapest, I looked at the calendar at work and I booked a week of annual leave for September. I didn’t know where I was going or what I was doing, but I knew I needed that week off.

As August slipped on by, I’d been toying with the idea of spending that week at home, because I had big ideas and I needed to work on them. I wanted to begin my journey towards becoming location independent. I’d made a new friend the month before on an organised walk through the Surrey countryside, and she had assured me that it was a thing, and that lots of people were doing it, and she had added me to several Facebook groups that demonstrated just that – it was a thing, and people were doing it.

So time was getting on and I still hadn’t booked a flight to anywhere, and I still couldn’t decide if my time would really be better spent at home working on my big dreams, or maybe I should work on my big dreams from abroad – as that is the ultimate aim anyway – travel and work remotely.

I was discussing this in the pub on a Friday night with friends, and I still hadn’t decided. Then on the Saturday morning, during my early half awake haze, I was scrolling Facebook, and one of the groups my new friend had added me to posted an advert – Digital Nomad Girls Retreat, Javea, Spain, THE WEEK I’D ALREADY BOOKED OFF WORK!

I laughed out loud to myself, and squealed a little – the universe really had me covered on this!

I’d applied and sent a follow up email within 30 minutes. My new life started here.

I had my Skype interview, I paid my money and I booked my plane tickets. I did not miss a beat. This was it.

This was the third time I’d ever been on an aeroplane and I was off abroad by myself. Apparently this is a shocking thing to do, as many people found it odd that I would go away by myself. But to be honest, I relished the freedom! I could do exactly as I wished, and there was no one to negotiate with. And if I didn’t like the retreat I could always, well, retreat, and take myself off somewhere else.

But as it happened, my week in Javea was transformative. And I do not use that word lightly. It genuinely changed my life. It would take an entire book for me to impart even a fraction of the learning I underwent in that town. Needless to say I came back EXHAUSTED, sunburnt, and a whole lot braver than when I left.

I didn’t see much of the town [I need to go back] but I did learn a fuckload.

Here are the top five things I learnt in Javea.

You are not the sum of other people’s projections.

I have spent the past two years being told I wasn’t good enough. Listening to “no” and “you’re wrong” and eventually I wound up feeling utterly useless.

And I believed it.

I totally believed that I was no good. That I had no skills. That I did not have anything to offer. I’m not exaggerating. When I was asked to put down a topic for a skill share that I would be willing to lead, I didn’t have anything to give. I didn’t write anything down. I was the only person who could not come up with something to share. I was useless.

After a couple of days in Javea, and a few masterminding sessions, it turns out I actually do have LOTS of skills. I know LOADS of stuff. And I have a wealth of knowledge to share! Not only that, but my strengths were different to nearly every other woman there. I mean – I have something to offer that is rare! [Let’s be fair here, I’m pretty sure every woman there can relate to this, being as we were all different. But give me my moment! It’s been a while since I blew my own trumpet!]

You are not the sum of the skills you’ve acquired or the work experience you have.

As the week progressed, so did my understanding of my own strengths. With the direction from an absolute gem of a woman who I believe was clearly sent to me by the universe [yes, me, directly, cos I needed her most (she was a diamond to all the women there, but again, let me have my moment!)] I completed [at the airport on the way home] a strengthfinder questionnaire and discovered that strengths are not actually the skills you learn as you go along, but innate traits that you just can’t HELP but express/do/be/have. Even the way I view the world was a strength, my second one in fact! [the first one was strategic]

So in fact, believing we are all connected makes me a stronger team player, allows me to see the bigger picture, and being strategic means I always have a game plan.

A lot of these descriptions of my strengths weren’t actually news to me – I already knew I believe that we are all connected [duh], and I already knew I was impatient [ha]. What WAS news to me was that all these things are strengths. I was also surprised to hear that my top strength was strategic, being as I have never worked in strategy per-se (not as my primary objective anyway). But it is true. I even had a strategy on how to write 2000 word essays at university [it takes five days. I can teach you if you want.]

You never stop learning, and it just perpetuates itself.

As soon as I started the process of realising these things about myself, the more and more I realised, the more and more I read, and the more and more I learnt. And this is still happening now. Literally. Just 30 minutes ago I was watching a TED talk and I could hardly contain myself – THAT’S ME!!!!!! I AM A MULTIPOTENTIALITE! AND THAT IS ACTUALLY A GOOD THING! Well, who knew.

I am an introvert.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I am an introvert. I realised this a short while before my trip, but nothing hammered it home quite like the extremes of that retreat. An entire week of brain exercise, physical exercise, emotional exercise and social exercise. 24/7. We ate together, played together, worked together, and slept together. I would not have changed that for the world. I think all of that was important and I participated in 95% of that togetherness even when I was spent. But I would change landing at 10.30pm and going to work at 9am the following morning – that, ladies and gentlemen, was a mistake. It took me three weeks [hence the lack of blog posts] to get over that. I didn’t give myself enough time or space to process any of it. I slept for 12 hours after that first day back at work, and I was awoken by my alarm, who knows how long I would have slept had I not been interrupted.

Embrace your inner introvert. I know I will from now on. I require alone time. Every day.

Your tribe is mega important.

The most important thing I learnt was that the people you surround yourself with are going to make all the difference to your journey. These women all rocked up unaware of the massive impact we would make on each other’s lives. I can honestly say that this was a profound experience. We are family now. After one week. We were brought together as like minds. As women who all have something to offer each other, and who never knew our true power until now. And to be honest, I am still grappling with accepting my true power; it is coming though, I am working on it, and I can genuinely say that it is stronger today than it was at the beginning of the week, and that is true for every week.

And I am grateful.

Oh my am I grateful. I can’t believed how utterly BLESSED I am to have met such beautiful, inspiring, life changing, supportive, and unbelievably talented women.

You’re my life. I owe you everything. I love you. Thank you. Don’t ever leave me.

I stayed at Sun & Co coworking coliving community [it’s awesome] and the retreat was organised and curated by the wonderful Jenny of Digital Nomad Girls. Check them out!