As a group of content creators who love to make videos, not being able to travel to tell stories has been debilitating to say the least. We’ve pivoted a bit in 2020 to go with the flow; posting more articles than videos and introducing Zoom interviews. So far, we’ve seen positive results. But still, we’re “people people” with a sense of wanderlust. For us, not being able to get on a plane with our cameras to eat new foods, immerse ourselves in different cultures, and share their stories has been challenging. Fortunately, with a little help from our friends at Café Bustelo and Collective Retreats, we did something about it. We busted out – old fashioned prison break style to go… camping, err, glamping with high thread count sheets.
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The location we chose was Collective Retreats’ COVID safe Governors Island resort called Collective Governors Island. It was outdoors, breezy, and on an island with Lower Manhattan to the right and the Statue of Liberty straight ahead. No travel needed to get there – just an eight minute ride on NYC’s Governors Island Ferry ($3 rt for adults). Collective Retreats then picked us up in golf carts and shuttled us to the other side of the island.
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I’d be lying if I told you that it wasn’t a little weird to be doing this during the pandemic. It’s not just socially weird: “Hi, I haven’t hung out with any one like this in a year, and I forgot how to talk to others without Zoom.” But also, it’s not lost on us how many people have been impacted, the number of lives lost, and just how devastating the pandemic is to families and businesses. We get it, and we feel it too. From a safety perspective, our group and Collective Retreats took all necessary precautions to keep us COVID safe. This included social distancing, staying outside with a breeze, and wearing masks when that wasn’t possible. Plus, those of us who planned to be in close proximity to each other got tested before and after the event. I personally quarantined afterwards before returning home to my family. None of us got sick.
The pressure of managing jobs, businesses, and families for months upon months while balancing physical and emotional well being was evident, for myself included.
All that being said, we used the time together to talk about the state of the world. We didn’t want to waste a moment – we felt a moral obligation to it. Café Bustelo and Louie Estrada of Brooklyn’s My Cuban Spot got the conversation going with Cuban sandwiches, pan con bistec, chicharrones and empanadas con carne and guava y queso. The Café Bustelo was bubbling in the cafetera all day, and I was mainlining it until at least 3pm(thank you Collective Retreats for letting us crash the party with our own food).
“I think there’s so much power in humanizing your enemy. In meeting the person you think like, ‘we don’t agree at all!’ And then being able to share a coffee and realizing, ‘oh you’re also a human.’”Laura Catana (@lalauracatana)
As the Staten Island Ferry sailed through New York Harbor in all her bright orange glory, we sat in Collective Retreats’ adirondack chairs around an open fire to talk about how to bring us all back together. Not just physically in the age of COVID-19, but also culturally as a society faced with such division, polarization and…hate. I was watching everyone’s faces all day and noticed the sense of levity that the conversation provided. It was a release for us as it was obvious the extra weight everyone was carrying on their shoulders, a stark contrast to the last time we were together, pre-pandemic. The pressure of managing jobs, businesses, and families for months upon months while balancing physical and emotional well being was evident, for myself included.
“There’s seven billion of us. But at the end of the day we all have that common humanity…”Marissa Daniela
We talked about some really good stuff. And, as we chatted we quickly noticed a common thread throughout our discussions: if we’re going to bring us back together as a society, we need to be able to talk to each other (not you and me. Although, that would be great. Shoot me a note here; I’d love to talk). But rather, we need to be able to talk to people we don’t agree with, people who think differently than us. Laura Catana said it best, “I think there’s so much power in humanizing your enemy. In meeting the person you think like, ‘we don’t agree at all!’ And then being able to share a coffee and realizing, ‘oh you’re also a human.’”
“There’s seven billion of us. But at the end of the day we all have that common humanity,” explains Marissa Daniela (@mimaincuba). I agree. A future with more joy, more positive impact and more discovery sure beats the shit out of the current state of things.
Did we change the world? Um, not sure. But, it was helpful to get this stuff off our chest. And, if we can share the story through the video above, maybe we can open an eye or two. That’s one or two more than were opened before.
Watch this space for new stories from the content creators in our video (scroll all the way up to see the video) and Startup Cuba, and give us a shout if it connected with you. We’re going to do this again once the pandemic is over and our group can be larger than just our group of NYC locals. Join us.