Adventure has been a fundamental component of our vision for Modern Tribe starting from the inception of the company. Shane, Reid and I have been meeting for retreats in far out eclectic places ever since we started working together.
Last year, we had the luxury of stepping it up a notch and retreating on a stunning 5 day hike along the japanese Kumano Kodo trail. This year, with my father having passed away, and knowing how busy we’ve all been, my only request for shane was “please don’t pick something that takes too long to get to or is too adventurous.”
I’m not sure how he convinced me that flying to Africa would be a good idea. I’m especially amazed that he and Reid managed to then additionally convince me that driving 5 hours south in the middle of the retreat to the Gambian border to do a safari was a smart plan. I figured, what the heck, I’ll just do my best and enjoy the ride.
I can’t emphasize enough how perfect this experience was for getting our heads above the clouds. This is exactly what we needed. Perspective.
Let’s start with a little geography lesson. Senegal is the westernmost country in Africa. Dakar is the capital and is the westernmost part of Senegal. N’gor is a tiny island in swimming distance from Dakar where Bruce Brown’s infamous “Endless Summer” was filmed in 1966. Fun fact: the products retreat in January was in Costa Rica right by Robert August’s Surf Shop (one of the stars of Endless Summer).
Senegal is one of the most stable democracies in Africa with a long history of regional peacekeeping and mediation. It is severely impoverished yet somehow manages to remain peaceful. The people of Senegal have an average GNI per capita (gross national income per person) of $1,000 USD / year. In other words, on average, people in Senegal live on less than $3/day.
Spending time in a country which is laden with the burdens of poverty definitely set a tone when doing a retreat to talk about the future of a reasonably successful American tech company. We visited the island of Goreé and walked through a famous slave house while debating what a reasonable retirement looks like. The experience overall was ripe with contrast.
Senegalese people are often described as being extremely polite and friendly. We found this to be true so much so that we succumbed to what I now call the “helpful hustle” twice on our first day. The helpful hustle is a setup where someone is so helpful that they don’t leave us alone and insist on helping us get where we were going or find what we were looking for and continue until paid for their time. Upon arriving at the beach via taxi, one man helped us figure out which boat to take to the island. He then joined us on the boat and then walked us to our house… and continued on to walk all through our house with us and finally even to walked with us to the neighboring surf house to pick surfboards. He was so consistent at this ‘helpfulness’ that it wasn’t clear until we got to our house and Omar, the keeper of the house, explained that this guy who was now wandering through the house was not in fact sent to meet us. We had just brought some random fellow from the street into our house.
Ali trades for my hat
We spent the last few days at Fathala wildlife reserve. There we worked alongside antelope, warthogs and a rhino who we named ‘Harold’.
Harold would come with all the other animals every evening to drink at the waterhole. One evening as Shane, Reid and I were walking back to our tents, we found ourselves in front of Harold as he grazed in the dark about 3 meters in front of us. He started to charge and stopped just short of us. So that happened.
We strolled with some lions on the final day. Apparently they are less prone to manslaughter after eating a couple of donkeys. Upon further investigation, those donkeys are old and/or sick and are typically purchased for $60. After groking this, Shane proceeded to value everything in terms of number of donkeys. “Peter, do you realize that tonight’s dinner cost us like 2 donkeys?”. I suspect it is entirely possible that he’ll start to present estimations in units of SD (Senegalese Donkeys).
The journey was amazing. It served the purpose of raising our purview perfectly and granted us the ability to seek substantially loftier goals for our company and a path to approach them.
We were flying back from Africa to Washington D.C. on a redeye when the captain announced that Donald Trump would be the 45th president of the United States.
We found ourselves jet-lagged and exhausted, returning to a changed country.
Modern Tribe will always be a place where people are welcome regardless of race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, and politics. Among our own team there are diverse opinions and perspectives. I love that about our company. It is important that we get to shine and express ourselves. But we don’t all share the same perspectives. While we may have different viewpoints on some things, there are so many that we share in common; a belief that our work has the potential to touch people’s lives; that mutual respect and communication are the path forward; that we’re a better company because of our differences not in spite of them. The best way to bridge that chasm is to listen, to respect and to befriend.