Last month, I boarded a plane to summer camp in Bali. For the record, sleep away summer camp is still just as much fun as it was as a kid.
More formally, it was a Bali blogging retreat through a collaboration between the Blonde Abroad and the Institute of Code.
The Blonde Abroad
The Blonde Abroad is a well-established travel blog featuring Kiersten Rich’s solo travels, vectoring around the world. What started out as a backpacker’s diary and budget travel, has since evolved into a largely luxury solo travel blog for millennials with disposable income – or for anyone who likes to live vicariously from the scrolling comfort of their beds (yes, please).
Between trips to Bali and Malta, Kiersten’s current home base is in Cape Town, South Africa. She looks like a character from Sweet Valley High, with impossibly straight, yellow blond hair. For those who know the books, she inherited the best qualities of Jessica and Elizabeth.
The comparison ends there, as her personality is not dramatic or sensational in the least. Kiersten is down to earth, easy to get along with, and a great teacher. She is also clearly committed to building up other women and helping them slay (á là Beyoncé, #slayonslayer).
She does not refer to herself out loud as an “influencer,” although she certainly fits the bill, with close to half a million Instagram followers, established audiences across the other social media platforms, and a team of employees who help with all things Blonde Abroad. She was also recently named #2 of the 2017 Top Ten Travel Influencers by Forbes.
The retreat content she led was exceptional, and she defied expectations by transparently sharing her business story, tactics, and strategy. She was also genuinely committed to providing a high-quality experience, and actively sought feedback to meet the varied expectations of everyone in the group.
Institute of Code
While Kiersten was the personality of the retreat, the logistics and infrastructure were coordinated by the Institute of Code.
Institute of Code (IOC) is the brainchild of an Australian couple, and complements Kiersten’s blog-focused content by facilitating sessions on web design, HTML, CSS, SEO, and providing extensive 1:1 personalized support to help each attendee customize their blog.
IOC launched two years ago in moving locations – Sayulita, another villa in Bali, and most recently at this sick villa in Canggu (see below). This was their first blogging retreat collaboration. All of their retreats until now focused on coding.
IOC co-founders, Tina and Emile, are a great team. Tina brings the coding skills and Emile is a photographer (and aspiring bar tender). They themselves are millennial entrepreneurs who surround themselves with other talented entrepreneurs – who play the part of mentors throughout the retreats. Tina and Emile are always looking for creative ways to marry the things and people they love, with building an increasingly viable and impactful venture – a home for digital nomads.
Our group was composed of twelve 21-35 year old badass gals (attendees and staff alike were mostly twenty-somethings). This dazzling dozen ranged from attendees who had already launched and moved on from a successful venture, to individuals navigating the murky waters of post-college or post-grad school life, to brave young souls opting to travel the world on $35 per day (retreats and side trips excluded…) instead of pursuing the traditional college route.
All of us travelled a distance to attend, with home bases everywhere from California to Toronto, Denver to Amsterdam, Florida to Turkey. This diversity, coupled with the diversity of life experiences, enriched classroom discussions and casual conversations – everyone had a unique story to tell.
It was soul-lifting and empowering to be surrounded by a community of ambitious and talented ladies. Each day, I was inspired by the collective courage it takes for 12 ladies to fly halfway around the world to jumpstart a passion project, a business, a brand.
I am still processing what a special and unique experience this was, and find massive value in building a community of fearless femmes and gorgeous go-getters who are equally comfortable discussing HTML shortcode as they are the very real vulnerabilities of imposter syndrome.
The July session has 17 attendees lined up – I’m sure the composition will shift and it will have its own unique dynamic, but I wish every girl who attends (and every girl or boy who aspires to attend in the future) an equally soul-fueling experience.
The retreat upheld the expectations of summer camp. Fast friendships. Time on fast forward. Transforming, empowering, life changing, and highly instagrammable.
- The Content: What I Learned in 10 days in Bali
- My Digs: The Institute of Code Villa
- The Noms: What I Ate for 10 days in Bali
- The Funs: Activities & Adventures in Bali
- The Ultimate Bali Packing List
- 12 Girls Convened to Follow Their Dreams (a poem)
- Bali: Know Before You Go
- The Girls: 12 New Bloggers to Know (coming soon!)
Follow @hautescout on Instagram for past and future photos from the retreat!
*Tip:* Look up #tbaretreats on Instagram for pics from all the girls.