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Aloha!

I'm Gabriella Wisdom, welcome to the Postcards from Hawaii travel blog, an online vacay for the well-organised traveller

How my Pangea Dreams blogger retreat changed my life

How my Pangea Dreams blogger retreat changed my life

To be honest with you all, I have been putting off writing my blog post on my Pangea Dreams experience, not because I didn’t enjoy it or get anything from it, but because I just didn’t know how to do it justice. It has given me so much more than I ever hoped for and I was baffled by how I could put it into words but I’ve done it! I’ve created a transparent blog post that tells you my feelings, my expectations, what I got out of it and why female entrepreneurs should do one.

I had been eyeing up the Pangea Dreams retreats since I saw Lisa Homsy hosting one in Bali. At the time I didn’t know what was involved but it looked fun and I was intrigued by the idea that you could hang out with your favourite Instagrammers/influencers/bloggers for a week.

After looking into it a bit I started reading the alumni testimonies and blog posts, following them on Instagram and I could see their audience growing before my very eyes. I decided that it was what I needed to learn the skills to get my career off the ground and boy was I right.

I got so much out of my retreat: I’m now part of a like-minded community of adventure driven women, I have a new audience of travel bloggers and friends from all around the world who are some of the most supportive people I have ever met, I have creative content to use on my Instagram and blog and I’ve learned so many skills in all the areas needed to make an impact in the travel blogging/influencer industry.

Now I can’t pretend that it wasn’t a challenging week; the schedule is tight, there’s a lot of information coming at you, it gets emotional as your insecurities come to light and eating vegan felt like I was on a season of I’m a Celebrity (by the 3rd day I was like I’ll eat cockroaches to get a piece of meat with dinner), but if crying over a bad hair day and eating flowers in my salad were my sacrifices for everything I received in return, I’d say it was pretty dang worth it.

Let me take you through my experience including the application process, what my expectations were, my opinions on our hosts, what I got out of it and where I am now.

Application process

An application form is necessary but it’s not to vet out the weak by any chance! The application form is there so they can get to know you and have an idea of what it is that you want to achieve from the retreat.

I’ve decided to share mine with you not because I want to influence what you write but so you can see where my head was when I applied. I applied way back in April this year whilst I was on a trip in Mexico. I had only launched Postcards from Hawaii the month before and I was a newborn to the blogging world. There were a couple of options for retreat locations but I had my eye on Bali because it was a bucket list destination that I hadn’t checked off yet, plus it was a good five months away which would give me enough time to personally establish my brand.

Click to read my application.

I remember I was in bed when I saw my “CONGRATULATIONS!!! See you in Bali!!!” email and Michael and I started jumping around! I knew that this was going to be a big investment into my future and I was thrilled.

PFH Real Talk: The deciding moment for my application was when I saw Lisa Homsy was added as one of the hosts to the retreat. Now for one reason or another Lisa pulled out of the trip. Was I disappointed? Yes. Did I doubt my choice to apply when I found out my deciding factor wasn’t going? I can’t lie, yes! The thing is though, while the opportunity to meet and hang out with Lisa would have been awesome and probably would have helped boost followers, I reminded myself that although she might have been the only reason I became aware of Pangea Dreams, she was in no way the only reason why I wanted to go, so that was that.

Expectations vs Reality

Support network

As you can see from my application I was so eager to grow and gain a community. I felt so alone in the industry because I didn’t know any bloggers personally. It was very important to me to surround myself with positive and creative people and I walked away with just that. Read on to community for more on that one but I can tell you now that this goal was definitely met.

Growth and followers

I was so desperate to grow, I wanted to learn all the ways in which I could get a bigger following and audience. I’m not going to lie, I expected the retreat to bring in a lot more Instagram followers than it actually did, but by no means did I not grow. It was a huge goal of mine to organically hit 1k within my first year and I achieved that literally just as we were going to bed on our last night! Rolling back to community, I messaged the group to tell them and the support I got was amazing! I swore to myself that night that I will never forget to celebrate the milestones, no matter the size. It also taught me that I shouldn’t value my success from followers, it’s the quality of followers and the connection you have with them that counts.

Feedback

If you’re aware of the current drama going down regarding a certain travel blogger and her Mastertribe you’ll appreciate the next thing I’m about to say.

About half way into our retreat we, as a group were concerned that we weren’t going to get as much creative content as we had hoped because between the 21 of us girls we only had two professional photographers, and one of them was actually on the retreat! We voiced our concern and no later than that afternoon had our five amazing hosts planned to each become a photographer for the afternoon to make sure we were all shot. The turnaround for the feedback we gave was astonishing, it just goes to show how important our experience was to them, particularly Tracy.

Itinerary

I’m not going to take you through our actual itinerary, that’s for Pangea Dreams to share and for you to find out should you go on a retreat. What I can tell you though is that it is chock-a-block!

Each day begins with exercise and an intension setting. At the time I found the intention setting circles difficult, there were days where I just didn’t know what to put down but on reflection I have decided that goal setting and acknowledging what I’m grateful for is something I want to take into the new year. Starting your own business is isolating and I’ve found it easy to forget what I’ve achieved so far. I believe that taking parts of the intention settings into 2019 will be a great benefit to me.

There were more workshops than you could shake a stick at! With everything from branding to photography, blogging, self love and more. Each host developed more than one workshop that knocked my socks off. Learning from successful people in the industry really is invaluable.

Despite how intense the week was, we were given a decent amount of time to create some beautiful content with each other. We were able to shoot at our hotel, the beach, a villa, the rice terraces and in Seminyak. As I mentioned above, our hosts really listened to us and made certain that we left the retreat with some amazing photos, just take a look through this post to see what I mean.

As I mentioned the events for the week were really packed in, which meant our timeframe for getting camera-ready was tight. I struggled with that because my barnet is a tough one to tame and sharing a bathroom wasn’t easy. My advice would be to have as many outfits completely planned out in advance so you’re not fluffing away your 15mins. I also just learnt to get up 30mins earlier everyday so I could put my makeup on whilst my roomie slept.

Accommodation

How did the accommodation change my life? Two words: Outdoor bathroom! My retreat had me embracing my inner Mowgli. What first terrified me (I was convinced I would be a bug buffet) soon became my haven. Every day I would look forward to my shower under the moon and stars before bed. Game changer!

Photo by @samkat  featuring  @wanderfullyrylie , read about her Pangea Dreams experience on her blog linked  here!

Photo by @samkat featuring @wanderfullyrylie, read about her Pangea Dreams experience on her blog linked here!

Cost

As I made the decision to give Postcards from Hawaii everything I’ve got and blog full-time, I function on savings which took a hit from booking a retreat. I made the decision to spend this money on my career because I fully intend to succeed down this path and I wanted to be able to go into it with the right knowledge and tools, and at the end of the day, the saying “it takes money to make money” isn’t wrong.

At the time I wasn’t as aware of blogger retreats, influencer programmes, masterclasses etc. as I am now. In fact it very recently (as in at the very moment that I am writing this) occurred to me that unlike everything else in life, I didn’t research ANY other options. I didn’t even know online masterclasses were a thing, like I said earlier, I was only one month into blogging when I applied. I just went straight for Pangea Dreams.

Now that I know a little bit more about the options out there and I’ve had time to reflect on my retreat I can say that my answer for the time-old question “is it worth the money?” would be:

For a moment, put aside all of the amazing information you receive, the goodies on your bed when you arrive, the food, friendship, workshops and even the photos. Now think about what is the one thing that all Pangea Dreams alumni have in common, no matter their age, where they’re from, what they do or how successful they are? The answer is a love of travel. Where am I going with this you ask? No matter what you learn from the retreat, at the end of the day you are still taking a trip to whichever country you choose and you get to TRAVEL. You’re not paying to sit at home on your computer.

Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that not everyone can afford to spend money on a trip or maybe you don’t have the time. I’m not undervaluing online courses, but in terms of justifying the price, I can’t tell you how many times I heard something along the lines of “I can’t believe I’m in Bali” and that feeling of utter disbelief and gratitude for your travels well, you just can’t put a price on that.

Our hosts

Tracy Komlos @tracy_komlos

This girl eats, sleeps and breathes work and yet somehow she is still so energised every dang day! She carries a wealth of knowledge on her shoulders and is there to split the load. What she has achieved with Pangea Dreams is truly inspirational and I’m so grateful to her for building this empire and providing a nurturing place for us to learn and grow.

It didn’t take me long to have a meltdown, Day 2 saw my tears as I got myself worked up over not being good enough but Tracy was there for me. Straight away she began questioning my doubts and fears and as I talked through them she helped me see that it was in my head. She picked me up and helped me realise that my doubts aren’t strong enough to take me out of the game and that instead they are a driving force to make me succeed.

Lauren @wanderlulu

The unsung hero of the whole shebang! Lauren is your go-to girl; your cheerleader, your warm hug and your greatest teacher and her most admirable quality is how humble she is. Lauren’s workshops were my absolute favourite! All of our hosts workshops were amazing, but if you’re predominantly blog based and looking to really pursue a career in it then her two workshops, Blog SEO 101 and How to Drive Traffic to Your Blog Using Pinterest, are going to be life-changing for you!

Side note, I burnt my leg quite badly one day on the retreat when I walked into the back of a car and seared the exhaust pipe into my leg. It was so painful and has left a very distinct scar, yes that’s right Pangea Dreams scarred me for life! I’M KIDDING! The moment it happened, Lauren raced to get me ice and thank goodness for her because I was fighting off the tears and trying to play it cool and I swear if it wasn’t for her looking out for my leg the blistering would have been way worse!

Carly @light.travels

I never expected to connect with the hosts as well as I did, especially considering there were 21 of us for them to get around. I am so happy I managed to have a moment with each of them where I felt like we were really getting to know each other with conversations that weren’t about work. Carly and I had my favourite conversation of the trip when we realised both of our long-term relationships with our partners were so similar it was freaky! Carly is a total ray of light. She has the kind of laugh that will warm you through even at the top of Mount Batur on a chilly morning.

Sam @SamKat

Her talent knows no bounds! Another workaholic, Sam will stop at nothing to make sure you get the shot you envision. It didn’t happen often but the moments where I did ask Sam for a shot, she delivered without hesitation. Sam has so much passion for her line of work that there wasn’t one moment where she didn’t answer any photography question thrown at her. Her workshops broke down the basics of photography and gave me the confidence to try out being behind the camera instead of in front of it. Her heart is huge and her patience is that of a Saint!

Deddeh @secretofdd

Deddeh’s life story is mind-blowing! What she achieved, the statement she made, how it made people think twice and the voices that were heard because of her fierce campaign, Black Mirror, is an inspiration to us all. This was Deddeh’s first Pangea Dreams retreat and I hope it’s not her last. Her workshops focused on self love and empowerment and I hope that she shares it with more future alumni because what she gets you thinking about will change the way you see yourself for the better, and that has a bigger impact than you think.

I am still in contact with each of them, and whether it’s questions about work or just having a chuckle with each other, it is incredible that they are still there for all of us long after the retreat.

The community

Want to know what the best thing I got out of my Pangea Dreams retreat is?

The answer: community.

If you’ve been looking into doing a Pangea Dreams retreat you’ve probably seen and heard the word “community” more times than “smoothie bowls” but honestly it’s the best thing that I’ve left the retreat with. It’s not the most meaningful thing to me just because I wrote about wanting one in my application but because they are real connections with genuine ladies from around the world, all with a passion for travel, adventure and creativity. These women understand better than most the ups and downs, the pressure, the fear and how much work goes into trying to succeed in the blogger/influencer world. Better still they have your back! It’s been seven weeks since leaving them and I don’t think a day has gone by where I haven’t spoken to at least one of them. We are still chatting on our group chat, cheering each other on and sharing useful tips and links. Trips are being organised to see each other, hell I’ve already met up with two of them! It’s truly a beautiful thing to be part of.

If you want to get to know my fellow Pangea Dreams Bali October 2018 alumni then take a look at their Instagrams all linked below:

Andi @ouiwegirl

Kim @kimhashai

Nadia @gypsyjournals

Sarah @plume_creative_

Hannah @hannah.rose.says

Hillary @hilanderson

Nicole @nicoles.travel.diaries

Rylie @wanderfullyrylie

Julie @fit.insight

Nikki @nikkilimx

Kelly @misskellyoneill

Erika @aloha_traveler

Johanna @thiswanderlustheart

Caroline @carolinevoyages

Tammi @to.on.the.go

The aftermath

The trip I was on that included my Pangea Dreams retreat was a month long - two weeks in Bali, 10 days in New Zealand and two days in Singapore - so I wasn’t able to able to get stuck in straight away but once I returned to the UK I dove head first into applying what I had learnt.

Since my retreat I have been the most driven to succeed since I launched Postcards from Hawaii in February this year. Just take a look at just a few of the ways I’ve grown:

Collaborations

I have a collaboration with Mantra Band, a jewellery brand who makes minimalist pieces engraved with the most beautiful inspirational words and quotes. Their jewellery is more powerful than you’d imagine, which I saw first hand when Lauren told us about them and how her “Trust the Journey” bracelet encourages, reassures and inspires her in both her life and career paths. Her enthusiasm towards her Mantra Band jewellery lead me to reaching out to them and now I have a collaboration with them whereby I have three of their pieces in return for photography work and promotion on my social media.

I also got my first hotel collaboration. Now it wasn’t for the complimentary stay as I was pitching for but I was offered a complimentary meal in return for photography work and promotion on my social media. I had previously tried to approach hotels for my Bali section of my trip but I was unsuccessful. The collaboration with Le Citizen’s restaurant wasn’t a direct result from Pangea Dreams but it gave me the confidence to keep applying after receiving a lot of rejections from Bali.

Media Kit

I had already made my media kit months prior to my retreat and it proved to be successful when it helped land me a watch collaboration - to see more about that take a look at PFH x David Daper - Banff - but it got a major upgrade after my retreat. During one of our workshops we got to see some of our host’s media kits and we were taken through the contents and the great thing about this is that it’s informative but it’s still a completely individually creative product that no matter what will be unique to you because it’s your own content. Also, the hotels/villas you shoot and stay in and brands that sponsor Pangea Dreams (the awesome goodies you get along with your vest on your bed upon arrival) can all go into your media kit as brands and companies you have collaborated with. You can’t say that isn’t a huge help, especially if you’re just starting to pitch!

Affiliate Marketing

This wasn’t something that was covered in depth on the retreat but it was definitely a discussion between us on the retreat and I am so grateful for them, especially Johanna for teaching me about affiliate marketing. I had no idea that all the links I was creating to the products that I wholeheartedly recommend could have been making me money (albeit very, very small change) this whole time! I have only gotten around to setting this up on one blog post but so far I have actually made money from it! For any of you who are in this blogging game and know this feeling you’ll know how elated I was to see some profits, and for those of you who are yet to give it a go, well I’m excited for you to know!

Google Analytics

I actually understand the data coming through on my Google Analytics, I’ve had it set up for months but kept getting into trouble with Michael because I wouldn’t look at the numbers - because, you know, numbers - but now I’ve got my business head screwed on and I can figure out what is and isn’t working with my audience.

SEOs

I’ve become far more aware of SEOs and I make sure my blog posts are packed full of keywords that are driving a bigger audience to my blog. Now that I know how to use Google Analytics I have actually been able to see how using keywords are benefitting me.

Pinterest

I’m also working on setting up my Pinterest that once I figure it out (which is much alike trying to show a parent Facebook for the first time) will hugely benefit my blog in terms of bringing in a bigger audience. I’m not going to go into this because it’s for Lauren to say in her INCREDIBLE workshop, but trust me, it’s a big deal!

Giveaways

After learning about the many secret and loop giveaways that you can buy into and how they have worked towards and against growth, I knew that those aren’t for me but I was still inspired. I decided to run my own giveaway and I contacted brands I have previously collaborated with to put together something for my PFH ohana in the lead up to Christmas (it’s coming soon FYI so stay glued to my Instagram). If it wasn’t for the conversations between the women on the trip I wouldn’t have thought to do this so early on in my blogging career, I’m really excited about it and having the opportunity to treat one of you awesome followers!

Just in case my ramblings weren’t enough to show you how my Pangea Dreams blogger retreat changed my life, take a look at this beautiful short film that Sam made. It truly encapsulates our experience and I love every second of it.

If this post or any of my fellow Pangea Dreams alumni have helped you make your decision to go on a retreat then click here to get started on your application, then check out my Pangea Dreams Packing List to see what you should be loading up your suitcase with! It’s for Bali as that’s the one I went on but it can easily be transferable to their other retreats.

If you still have questions regarding the retreat then feel free to email me here or direct message me on Instagram. I did the same thing when I was first contemplating going and now I am the one to receive a bunch of messages on Instagram from fellow boss girls looking to go on a retreat too!

Aloha, Gabriella

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