The sun beams down on us as we discuss our nomadic lifestyles and passion projects. One moment, we’re doing burpees on the beach and the next, we’re sharing our skills and expertise in a business mastermind session. This is just a typical morning at one of the world’s coolest business and mindset retreats, hosted by The Nomad Escape.
I recently spent two weeks with The Nomad Escape in Madeira, Portugal. The first week was the Level Up Business Retreat, an intimate group experience geared towards business and personal growth. And the second week was Nomad Island Fest, which is exactly like it sounds – a festive celebration of all things digital nomad. Each retreat offered plenty of opportunities to network, learn new things, and soak in the beautiful island of Madeira.
For our group — ranging from online coaches and digital marketers to content creators and software developers — we all came to Madeira for three things: people, purpose, and fun. I’m happy to report that we experienced all the above and so much more.
If you’re a digital nomad looking to take your business to the next level, The Nomad Escape is calling your name. And even if you’re not a remote worker just yet, you can still come along for the ride. You’ll leave the experience feeling inspired to take action on whatever journey is true and authentic to you.
Based on my two weeks with The Nomad Escape as both a participant and speaker, here’s a review of my experience and what you can expect on a retreat with them.
What is The Nomad Escape?
Before jumping into my experiences at these retreats, let’s first cover what The Nomad Escape is all about.
Led by Michelle Maree, a passionate visionary and community builder, this organization hosts retreats and events for digital nomads all over the world. Their community also consists of entrepreneurs and creatives who aren’t location independent, but are open to living a more nomadic lifestyle. The main focus is to help participants learn new skills, level up their businesses, and connect with like-minded people — all in exotic locations around the globe.
But it’s not all work and no play at The Nomad Escape. These retreats offer plenty of opportunities to relax and have fun, with activities like yoga, karaoke, and sightseeing built into the schedule. Plus, with a focus on building a sense of community and supporting one another, you’ll come away from the retreat feeling not only more productive and successful in your business, but also more connected and inspired by the other digital nomads you’ll meet.
Without further ado, here are some key takeaways from my recent retreats with The Nomad Escape.
Level Up Business Club Retreat
One month ago, I arrived in Madeira for the Level Up Business Retreat. I went there craving new ideas and skills to help me level up my business, and left with all the above and so much more.
I spent the week with a group of 15 like-minded entrepreneurs and digital nomads from around the globe. Together, we shared ideas and skills from our personal and professional lives – all while taking in the beautiful landscapes of this exotic island. Here were some of my favorite parts of the experience:
Masterminding sessions and workshops
I was absolutely blown away by the masterminding sessions and workshops, which inspired me to make important changes in my life and add more value to the world as a travel blogger.
For those who aren’t familiar: a mastermind is a group of like-minded individuals who come together to share ideas, support one another, and push each other to greater heights of success. Think of it as a high-level think tank, where everyone is focused on achieving their goals and helping one another do the same.
During these sessions, each of us shared some pain points in our business lives. From there, we received feedback from our peers. For me, this was a powerful exercise. Having 14 other people with totally different life experiences and perspectives weighing in on my situation was super valuable. The exercise also alerted me to some blindspots and new ideas that I hadn’t considered before.
Beyond the masterminding, I also really enjoyed the skill-sharing sessions, where each of us got to present our area of expertise to the group. I did a 15-minute presentation on personal branding, which I felt landed with many in the audience. With so many group activities and workshops, there were many opportunities to work on public speaking.
Whether you’re looking to level up your business, improve your personal development, or just want to surround yourself with driven, successful individuals, these mastermind sessions and workshops were a key part of the overall experience.
For me, this was another highlight of the Level Up Business Retreat. Each morning, we did a workout on the beach – including yoga and high intensity interval training (HIIT). Some workouts were led by Luis Calado from Madeira Friends, a non-profit that organizes fitness and other community-oriented activities to digital nomads, expats, and locals on the island. On other mornings, we did yoga and sound healings with Cristiano and Anna, two lovely locals from Madeira island. Such a great way to start the day!
Some reading this may dread the thought of a morning workout as part of a business retreat, but hear me out. When you prioritize physical activity, you’re not only taking care of your health, but you’re also setting yourself up for success in other areas of your life. Finding your physical edge in a workout has positive effects on your physical and mental health, and ultimately gives you more energy and confidence to tackle any other challenges that you’ll face during the day.
There are many other retreats out there where physical activity is not on the menu. So, I appreciated that they incorporated this into the daily schedule.
Each night before dinner, we spent an hour doing heart-centered activities as a group. This included the Connection Card Game, where we would each draw a card from a deck and answer whatever question was on it. The questions were designed to get us a bit out of our comfort zones – encouraging us to share deep and meaningful thoughts with the group.
We also spent an evening watching the sunset on the beach and another doing karaoke and dancing. Each of these connection-focused activities brought us all closer together.
Fantastic facilitators at The Nomad Escape
Such a collaborative and supportive group environment wouldn’t have been possible without the facilitators.
Tiago guided us through most of the activities and exercises that week. Not only is he a cool and personable guy, but he also takes a genuine interest and curiosity in other people. Add to that his fun and playful demeanor, and he was the perfect facilitator for this experience. Tiago was born on Madeira; his passion for the island and personal and professional development was truly contagious.
In addition to Tiago, Michelle (the Founder of the Nomad Escape) also led us through some exercises and workshops that week. I met Michelle virtually before the retreat and was impressed by her passion and drive. But once I saw her take the reins and guide the group through some activities…that’s when I fully realized why The Nomad Escape is the smashing success that it is.
The breathtaking location on Madeira Island
The Level Up Business Retreat was an incredible experience in its own right. However, when taking into account the serene location in the heart of Madeira, the retreat was truly exceptional.
Madeira is a tropical paradise that will transport you to a land of endless adventure and relaxation. Nestled in the Atlantic Ocean, not far from the African coast, this island gem is bursting with vibrant culture, breathtaking landscapes, and plenty of opportunities to disconnect from the hustle of daily life. It’s no wonder, then, that this was the perfect retreat location.
I thoroughly enjoyed staying in Ponto do Sol, the sunniest part of the island. It has a super low-key and relaxed vibe that gives you a great taste of island life. During both The Level Up Retreat and Nomad Island Fest, all of the venues were only a short 5-10 minute walk from one another. So, it couldn’t have been a more convenient and idyllic place to host a retreat.
The accommodations were picture perfect and convenient
Beyond the windswept coast and stunning views of mountains and palm trees, I also enjoyed the hotels we stayed at. We spent the first week at the Enotel Sunset Bay and during Nomad Island Fest, we stayed at the Estalagem da Ponta do Sol. The first hotel had an indoor pool and sauna, while the second had an outdoor infinity pool and spa area.
Each accommodation offered staggering views of Madeira’s sun-kissed coastline and great amenities for a weeklong stay.
The Nomad Escape knows how to have fun
As mentioned above, there’s a good balance of work and play at The Nomad Escape. One of my fondest memories of the retreat was exploring Madeira on an open-air bus, all while singing karaoke songs by Britney Spears and The Backstreet Boys.
We also spent a few nights jamming out with a guitar and singing and dancing to our favorite songs. This gave each of us the opportunity to be fun, silly, and authentic – the recipe for success for any retreat.
But beyond the early 2000s throwbacks, it was also nice playing games in between workshops, including a Rock Paper Scissors tournament. On the first night, we also played a name game, where we introduced ourselves and acted out certain movements that each member of the group had to memorize. With 15 people all attempting to recall each other’s names and poses, the game went exactly as you would expect…it was a shit show in the best way possible, bringing a lot of smiles and laughs to the night.
Needless to say, my inner child loved all the fun and silly activities throughout this retreat.
The amazing people at The Nomad Escape
Traveling is all about the people, and I really loved getting to know each of the participants and facilitators on this retreat.
With such a small and intimate group, we shared so many fun memories together. During those 7 days, we learned, laughed, and grew together. We got to know each other on a personal and professional level – learning about the wins, the losses, and everything else that sets our hearts ablaze.
I left the retreat feeling super grateful for all the amazing times spent together. It’s always sad to say goodbye, but I have no doubt many of us will see each other again real soon.
Final thoughts on the Level Up retreat
Overall, the Level Up retreat was a super fun, insightful, and grounding experience for me. Unlike other retreats, which have a more spiritual and free-flowing side to them, I felt that The Nomad Escape provided so much real-world value that you can start applying at home right away. Somehow I learned so much more practical knowledge in one week here than I did in a semester at business school.
At the end of the day, learning concepts and tools are great, but it’s the soft skills and business experiences that matter most. By the end of the week at The Level Up retreat, I gained so much clarity about my unique strengths, interests, and passions that will undoubtedly make me successful in anything I set my mind to in life. I know the others in the group felt the same way.
Nomad Island Fest
My second week in Madeira was spent at Nomad Island Fest. As you can probably infer by the name, this was basically a one-week celebration for digital nomads, paired with personal and professional development. Though the vibe was high and upbeat at all times, we learned a heck of a lot during that week.
While the Level Up retreat was small and intimate, Nomad Island Fest was anything but. There was close to 100 people there – including nomads, travelers, and creative spirits from all corners of the globe. It was quite the adjustment going from such a small gathering to a big one. However, it was a great opportunity to let loose and have fun.
Below are some of the unique qualities of this retreat as well as the key takeaways. I won’t be discussing the location, accommodation, or the morning workouts here, as they are all described in detail in the sections above. Now, without further ado, here’s what Nomad Island Fest was all about:
High vibes all around
From the moment Derek Smith, the Master of Ceremonies, walked on stage to kick off Nomad Island Fest 2022, I knew this was going to be a party. He and Michelle brought a tremendous amount of energy to this event, and it was a feast for the senses from the beginning.
We started the retreat with a speed networking session, which helped us get to know one another. From there, we were led from one engaging activity to the next – including guest speeches, workshops, and so much more. Throughout the week, there was such a wide variety of activities and experiences that kept us entertained (and inspired). This kept the vibe high the whole time.
As they say, time flies when you’re having fun. And let me tell you…this week absolutely flew by.
Knowledgable guest speakers
At Nomad Island Fest, one of the biggest draws was the lineup of guest speakers. Okay, I may be a bit biased because I was one of them, but this was such a valuable part of the retreat.
Throughout the week, speakers provided value to the audience on a variety of topics, including entrepreneurship, personal growth, sales, sustainability, and other niche areas pertaining to business. One of my favorites speeches was by Jimmy Naraine, titled “how to create your bestselling online course.” I hadn’t really thought about making an online course until that lecture, and now I’m super inspired to start one.
Other speakers discussed topics like how to build a 7-figure business, how to scale your business, and how to build a killer sales team. Overall, I found the content to be very practical, tangible, and something you could begin applying right away when you get home (well…whatever “home” might be for a digital nomad, anyway).
The event spaces at Nomad Island Fest
From the Estalagem glass house and sundeck to the John Passos Cultural Center, the venues for the workshops and activities were absolutely perfect. All the open spaces at Nomad Island Fest provided a super laid-back retreat experience, which was quite a different vibe than other business conferences and retreats I’ve been to.
It was inspiring to be in such a beautiful oceanfront location – learning about new and exciting things while taking in views of palm trees and watching the waves as they crashed against the shore.
Both retreats had a dedicated day for exploring the island, which was definitely a highlight of the experience. After all, when you’re in a destination as beautiful as Madeira, you have to go out and see it!
As mentioned above, during the Level Up retreat, we got to explore the island on an open air bus – seeing the raw and unspoiled nature up close while doing some karaoke.
During Nomad Island Fest, we spent an afternoon touring the island in a jeep. We visited some incredibly stunning places, including Fanal forest and São Vicente. Unfortunately, it was rainy and foggy for much of the drive – making it difficult to see the surrounding landscapes. Turns out that a sunny day in Ponta do Sol doesn’t always translate to sun up in the mountains. Madeira has 4 different climate areas at varying elevations, so always be prepared with a swimsuit and a jacket!
Group dinners were a great way to end the day
After a long day of business mindset and personal development activities, it was so nice to relax and enjoy dinner together.
Each night of the retreat, we got to enjoy a three-course meal at the Estalagem Da Ponta Do Sol Restaurant. Though there was a fixed menu each night, there was definitely enough variety to keep vegans and carnivores alike happy. But of course, the best part was getting to know others and sharing how our days went.
Final thoughts on Nomad Island Fest
Jam-packed with workshops, activities, and networking events, Nomad Island Fest was a sprint and a marathon at the same time. The week totally flew by and left me feeling stunned by all that had just happened. With so many people here, this retreat carried a very different energy than the more intimate Level Up Retreat experience. However, it was certainly no less warm, inviting, and impactful.
In any article where I review a travel experience, I also like to provide opportunities for enhancement. After all, no retreat is perfect and there’s always something to work on. If I could offer just one way for The Nomad Escape to improve this experience going forward, it would be to have a little extra free time to explore the island.
Sure, the jeep excursion was a great opportunity to do some exploring. And of course, some people came to Madeira early (or stayed later) — giving them ample time to see the island on their own. However, I believe that just a few extra hours of free time would have been helpful – not only to explore the island in more depth, but also giving people more time to integrate everything they’ve learned. Given the fast-paced tempo of the retreat, I feel that a little extra exploration would’ve been nice. Of course, if you were to skip an activity on the schedule, there would be no hard feelings either. Just an idea!
The Nomad Escape: the bridge between the digital nomad & personal development worlds
After two weeks of retreats with The Nomad Escape, I felt super inspired and empowered to integrate these new skills and experiences into my own life. I would 10/10 recommend these retreats for anyone who is either a digital nomad already or is considering making the leap into this world.
With its amazing leadership, unique experiences, and close-knit community, The Nomad Escape is truly the best possible foray into this realm of possibility.