By: Eli Shostak

“…Do not believe any idea that was not born in the open air and of free movement.” 

– Nietzsche

So What About an Outdoor Retreat?

Why are leaders often skittish about leaving climate-controlled environments when looking for new ideas?  Classic texts describe how Moses went to the mountaintop and Buddha sat under a Bodhi tree to find inspiration, but these days we leave our desks and head to homogenous indoor spaces on our quest for innovation. Sounds like going to the neighbor’s house for vacation. 

It’s time to consider taking the team on an actual trip. As Albert Einstein reminds us, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Changing our environment is a quick way to change our thoughts. 

Leaders worry about the investment needed to run a retreat, but the moment has never been better. Recent events have provided precisely the motivation we need to get out the door. As workplaces have transformed, many of us have been experimenting in open spaces and discovering how getting outdoors, exploring new places, and sharing these journeys with others enhance our creativity and decrease our stress levels. 

Since we’ve started to run, bike, hike or just go someplace NEW, we’ve been spending more time with the once elusive Muse. Worn-out ways of conjuring innovative ideas (sitting at a desk, staring at screens, meeting in stuffy rooms), now look like trying to sprout arugula in a microwave. 

Given all this new information, when it comes time for a retreat, forget the conference center, cancel the caterer and skip the surveys. 


Top Reasons for Taking the Team on an Outdoor Retreat


OUTSIDE IS IN!: Our ideas about offices have changed. From plazas and park benches to porches and picnic tables, we’re finding success working outside. And, if the experience isn’t enough, research also highlights how being outdoors can improve our work. Consider; “In mid-2021, a study from the report concluded that spending just 29 minutes outdoors can result in a 45% increase in productivity; and 63% of the employees reported feeling much better after getting some fresh air” (from 

DON’T JUST SIT THERE: Exercising, especially outdoors, has been proven to lower stress levels and increase well-being (sitting indoors for extended periods has not). Physical activity is good for the mind too; test subjects who moved around while problem-solving worked more quickly and creatively than their sedentary counterparts. Building these habits on retreat means keeping the dream alive at the office.

DIGITAL DETOX: Even though facilitators implore us to turn off, put down and silence our devices, we usually have a pressing reason why we must always stay connected. But when we go beyond the bars of reception (it can be done!), unplugging is easy; distractions disappear, and our attention reappears.

FRESHEN UP: Maybe it’s time for a new voice to inspire, facilitate and guide the group toward a goal. For example, Holiday River Expeditions works with Melanie Webb of WebbWell to map out ways of moving beyond business as usual and towards business as it could be.Camping along the Colorado River in Cataract Canyon

FUN IS GOOD: When was the last time the team had a chance to get to know each other in new ways, create shared memories (besides Zoom meeting wreckage), and work on their relationships? Getting to know each other better means strengthening the team in significant ways and improving job satisfaction. 

GET AHEAD: Returning from a retreat is the perfect opportunity to apply new perspectives BEFORE getting stuck in the same ruts. Rather than just catching up, take time to rethink old patterns, redefine priorities, and set a new course.

OUTSOURCE THE DAILY GRIND: Having guides take care of the chores means having more time to expand the mind. Instead of long to-do lists, you’ll have space and time to think differently. The best retreats (river trips for example) remove us from routines and replace them with fresh opportunities for imagination and collaboration.

Holiday River Expeditions (HRE) is staffed with these experts; professionals who look forward to spending their days in beautiful places facilitating transformational journeys for teams like yours. With excellent people taking care of just about everything, your team has more time to think outside the box, connect on meaningful levels, and get inspired by nature, awe, and each other. 

With a variety of trips running from May to September, all in amazing destinations, HRE surely has a perfect fit for the team’s next retreat. Whether you’re looking at a long weekend or more than a week, HRE has you covered and will dial in just the thing for your team. It’s time to look beyond the “bored” room.


Eli Shostak is a Lecturer of Adventure Education at Fort Lewis College. A former river guide, NOLS Course Leader, and sea kayaking instructor, he is a firm believer in the power of shared experiences in wild places. Eli is dedicated to using his expertise in mindfulness, leadership, and expedition planning to facilitate journeys for finding the personal and interpersonal benefits of exploring diverse landscapes. His favorite game to play on trips is called “Knuck Tats,” something you’ll have to ask him about.