Our First Company Retreat: Transitioning From Coworkers to Friends (& Coworkers)

From its infancy, we’ve had a thousand and one hopes for Intellitonic. A system where the company thrives because the people thrive. A space where anyone can speak their mind and everyone listens. No average products, no half-baked results, and no monotony in our office lives.

As Intellitonic has grown, we’ve introduced new perks one by one, each improvement serving as a milestone and measurement of success. As we started our fourth year as a company, the concept of a retreat spread like wildfire. It would be a chance to set down our day-to-day worries and get to know each other on a more personal level.

Our first retreat looked a little like this: we replaced two regular work days with two days of adventure. Our time was split between the vibrant city of Port Townsend and the historied grounds of Fort Worden. Why? Because they’re far enough away that it felt like a mini vacation, we had the opportunity to ride a ferry, and it’s a great place to explore. We made a lot of memories in those 30 hours, but these are a few I held onto:

Moments from the First Intellitonic Retreat

After a gorgeous ferry ride, we arrived hungry in Port Townsend. We followed our noses to a little place called Banana Leaf Thai Bistro. Once the food arrived, all eyes latched onto one particular plate. 

That looks good, Frank,” said Lauren tactfully. 

“Oh, what is that?” said Spencer, awash with awe.

“I’ll trade you a sample for a sample,” I said, my high school-level economics coming into play.
Frank, with his kind heart, did not let anyone go hungry. His Singapore noodle dish arrived on many plates before the meal was over.

Once we reached Fort Worden and unloaded the van, the first thing we did was hit the beach.

“Everyone must find one thing on the beach, and then we’ll have a contest!” Blake exclaimed out of nowhere. Immediately, we transformed from straight-laced professionals into schoolchildren. Some went down on the ground, searching for that perfect morsel of sea debris. Others juggled rocks in their hands, unable to pick one from the mix.

Our objects found, we gathered on solid ground one by one, displaying our discovered objects with pride. We were all feeling pretty good about ourselves until Blake revealed a piece of sea glass the size of his palm.

Two men looking at rocks on the beach in Washington
Treasures found at the beach at Fort Warden

To turn breakfast and dinner into a group activity without the ‘too many cooks’ problem, we turned shopping into a game. Courtney gave each person a grocery list, then we conquered the local Community Food Co-Op. (Yes, there’s one in Port Townsend!) 

Dinner was tacos with tons of veggie options, and breakfast was oatmeal packed with fresh fruit. For a special treat, we enjoyed a glass or three of apple cider vinegar drinks kindly gifted to us by Shrub Farm

We had free time the first afternoon after lunch, so Alex decided to put together a last-minute game. He and Clint gathered silly prizes from Quimper, then we all sat around a table filling balloons and hiding prize tickets inside. We then took turns throwing lawn darts at the balloons to unveil our prizes.

Courtney won a whoopie cushion, and shenanigans ensued. I won soap; Jared won a rock. Lauren won a red hat which is now the centerpiece of our company photo. The grand prize was a Bluetooth frisbee that plays music as it flies across the field. When it came time to drive home, that frisbee acted as our karaoke machine. 

I brought another element to the retreat: a wooden puzzle with uniquely shaped pieces and no flat edges. I set it on the table on the way to my room, and by the time I came back down, a small crowd was clustered around it, trying to make heads or tails of it.

“What do you think?” I asked. Words were exchanged, not all of them nice. 15 minutes passed before a single match was found.

The puzzle became a place of respite during our trip, a quiet place to ponder things while finding, or not finding, sets of pieces that perfectly lock together. This is as far as we got before the retreat ended, but it was never about solving the puzzle anyway.

Lauren Howland and Courtney Rambo smiling with leaves on their noses
A hard puzzle laid out on a table

When the sun retreated behind the hills, the true adventure began. Everyone ran to their rooms to dress all in black, feeling giddy despite our serious secret agent attire. Then up we climbed to what would have been the artillery line, had a war reached the shore of Port Townsend. 

We trekked as quietly a flock of geese, poking our heads into crevices and climbing ladders in the dark. The Blakes among us sidled down cliff faces without a care in the world, while I cast my flashlight into the shadows nervously. No ghost sightings were had, at least none that anyone dared to mention.

Fort Warden Interior
Washington Coastline

One thing that really made the retreat work, something I would encourage for every company retreat, was downtime. At least a couple times a day, we had a chance to go off by ourselves and relax. This was key for the introverts among us, while also giving everyone the option to hang out in small groups. We had time to ourselves in our lodgings, where each person had their own bedroom. We also had a chance to explore the city on our own terms, getting coffee with friends, window shopping, or gazing at the sea. Downtime is not something I’ve encountered at a company event before, and I can’t understate its value.

Intellitonic team photo sitting on the steps of Ford Warden in Washington
Port Townsend from the water

For two days, we hiked, played games, and explored the never-used artillery buildings of Fort Worden. We sang each other’s favorite songs, and tried to spook each other in the dark. I count each person at the office among my friends, and I have events like this to thank for that.