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Mystery trip offers adventure, bonding and personal growth

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Patrice Hayward, seated left, at the Girl I Got You mystery retreat in 2022 (Photograph supplied)

If you are a female who enjoys meeting strangers, does not mind surprises and loves to travel, Patrice Frith Hayward is offering something you might find appealing.

She calls it “Girl I Got You” and describes it as a “mystery retreat”. Women who sign up do not know where in the world they are going or who they will be travelling with. The idea is that through master classes and bonding experiences, they return home feeling improved and enriched.

Eighteen women between the ages of 40 and 70 joined Ms Frith Hayward for the first trip in 2022. A second is planned for July.

“We focus on returning better than we left – supporting better, living better, being better, loving better. It’s about women learning to support each other,” Ms Frith Hayward said.

Some women shared personal experiences; others listened and offered advice.

Two years later, the once group of strangers remains in contact.

“In our WhatsApp chat, we are on the chat every day with each other just sending a greeting or sending encouragement or a birthday message, things like that,” Ms Frith Hayward said. “We’ve gotten together a couple of times since then and just had such a great time.

“If we see somebody from the group, we take a picture and put it in the chat. If someone loses a loved one, we go to the funeral if we can …. two years later [we still talk] every day. I can look at my phone now and I guarantee you there'll be a message from somebody.”

The idea of a mystery retreat likely started to fester 25 years ago when about 50 people from Bermuda travelled with Ms Frith Hayward and her husband for their wedding reception in Florida.

Having once been a travel agent, she organised it all.

“I guess that’s where I started my group planning. I’ve planned couples’ retreats overseas, I’ve planned group cruises … It’s wonderful. I absolutely love it.”

Thirteen family members and friends celebrated Ms Frith Hayward and her husband’s 20th wedding anniversary with a trip she planned five years ago.

“That was kind of a test run,” she said. “They had no idea where they were going, what we were doing. I send them a list of things to pack; I send them what type of weather we're expecting as we get closer to departure. I have a to-do list for the month leading up to it where I send out clues to keep it fun.”

In 2022, with some of Covid’s social restrictions still in place, Ms Frith Hayward posted an invitation on social media asking women to join her

“I've been doing women's retreats, locally, for years. I was hosting a radio show on Magic 102.7; I write and produce plays; I've written books. So people kind of know me, they have a little trust in me, [even though] they might not necessarily know me personally,” she said.

“So I pitched it as a women's mystery retreat where we would go together in sisterhood and form a bond. We had masterclasses every day with bonding sessions. We talked about women's issues and gave them an opportunity to unpack some baggage, not in a whiny type of way but just sharing experiences, learning from each other how to handle certain situations and just building sisterhood.”

Patrice Hayward, third from right, organises mystery retreats for women (Photograph supplied)

Twenty women signed up. One had to cancel at the last minute because she caught Covid, a family emergency stopped a second. Ms Frith Hayward’s efforts were boosted by girlfriends who flew in ahead of the group and set various things up.

“It ended up being 18 women, most of whom did not know each other. So we had some people who were friends and some people we met at the airport. And that was intentional. I didn't have a meet-and-greet beforehand. We had a group chat but didn't share names or anything on purpose,” she said.

“They did not know where they were going. They only knew the date, the cost, what to pack, and that was it. And women actually paid and came to something when they had no idea if we were to be on a yacht or a tent in the wilderness.”

The group travelled to the US; where, exactly, remains a secret. All that Ms Frith Hayward would say is that they lived together for the entire five-day trip.

“There were times when I said to myself, ‘Am I doing the right thing? Is this going to go south? How are we going to manage 18 women under one roof?’ [But] it was such an incredible bonding experience. I'm not saying that we didn't have a few differences of opinion from time to time but the differences of opinion were handled in a very mature manner,” she said.

“At the airport is where we did our introductions and people were, in true Bermudian fashion, just happy to greet and meet new people. The bonding started there.”

She believes part of the success is because she was clear in her description of the type of person that would get the most out of it.

“I tell them that this might not be for you if connecting with new people is something you're not interested in, if confidentiality is a struggle, if you're impatient, if you're moody, if showing or learning empathy isn’t something that you like to do and things like that. I helped them to vet themselves.”

Some of the women on the first trip have signed up for the coming one. A description of the retreat given by a member of the first group as part of a promotional video was a highlight for Ms Frith Hayward.

“She said the destination was wonderful but we could have gone anywhere, the retreat content itself was life-changing for her,” she said.

Women who travelled to the US for Patrice Frith Hayward’s Girl I Got You mystery retreat in 2022 (Photograph supplied)

Also making her happy? The support from “Legend Angels”, people who aren’t able to go on the retreat themselves, but give donations that cover meals, go towards accommodation and other events.

“They want to see women get together and bond and form sisterhood. They just want to support other women. Women in Bermuda are absolutely amazing when it comes to support. The level of support that I received last time was unbelievable and then the support is coming in again this time,” Ms Frith Hayward said.

“This was absolutely life-changing for me to get to meet people, to live with women who were ready to just be better versions of themselves. It just warms my heart.”

For more information, contact Patrice Frith Hayward on vipnetwork@northrock.bm or 535-8829

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Published May 30, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated May 31, 2024 at 8:18 am)

Mystery trip offers adventure, bonding and personal growth

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