This autumn, we decided to do something new. For the first time in our group's history, we ventured outside the "ivory tower" to spend an entire week in the heart of nature in Limburg. By changing our scenery and distancing ourselves from daily distractions and obligations, we aimed to create fertile ground for deepening our existing work and initiating new, exciting projects. But the retreat offered more than just a change of workspace; it was an opportunity for us to bond, to understand each other's strengths, quirks, and music tastes.
During the retreat, each of us had a specific area to focus on. Eva worked on developing plans for new research lines and grants, laying the groundwork for exciting future projects. Alexandra and Marloes devoted their time to finalizing their latest research papers, while Lou immersed herself in more than 300 abstracts for her literature review. Joris and Caroline, on the other hand, made it more of a "code retreat," focusing on data analysis and crafting intricate, beautiful graphs. Everything went remarkably smoothly, and we were all amazed by our productivity. As a side note, Eva might need a separate "reading retreat" just to get through all the materials we generated during the week!
From time to time, we also took breaks to recharge and refresh. After lunch, we'd often venture into the nearby areas for some quick forest baths. Unfortunately, there weren't enough mushrooms for Caroline to teach us mushroom hunting. Joris, however, took the lead and shared his passion for bouldering with us; one evening, some of us visited a nearby bouldering hall with him. If our fingers weren't sore from typing, they certainly were from climbing! In the evenings, we took the opportunity to exchange delicious recipes and cooking techniques while preparing dinner together. After dinner, game nights gave us a unique window into sides of our personalities that we usually don't let to be seen at work (like our competitive side in playing Taco Goat Cat Cheese Pizza). Finally, over the weekend, we went to visit Maastricht, where we enjoyed some bubble tea and explored a few local bookshops.
We had a great time in Limburg, and we are thinking about transforming this into a yearly tradition. Unfortunately, Samira was not able to join us for our retreat. She received a last-minute invitation to a leadership program organized by the Embassy of the Netherlands in Lebanon, aimed at preparing future leaders to drive change in her country. Maybe she will join us next time!