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i4 Live Retreat 2019 Mexico: It’s Not The Destination, But The Journey That Counts!

February 19, 2019 Silvia Damiano

It is easy to get caught up by what we think we want, particularly when we are stressed and overworked. Taking time to slow down and reset can help us see the bigger picture and the opportunities we would otherwise miss if we only consider certain aspects of a situation or we obsess with our goals & outcomes.


This year, we will be taking our i4 Live Retreat to the Mayan Riviera in Mexico. This magical place will help reset your brain, body and spirit… but before I dive deeper into what we have in store for this incredible program, I want to first tell you a story.


My daughter Relmi has always had a passion for photography. She was very good at it from a young age and took as many photos as she could, everywhere we went.

One day, after watching a documentary, she mentioned her desire to photograph pink flamingos in the wild. As a way to celebrate the end of her high school at age 17, I thought it would be a great holiday adventure if we could find a place to do this.

After some research, I came across a small fishing village called ‘Rio Lagartos’ in the Yucatan Peninsula, which has the densest concentration of these extraordinary birds in the country. With a sense of anticipation, we packed our bags and off we went, very excited to see what Mexico had to offer.

Little did we know the beauty of this area would captivate our minds and hearts forever and that the setbacks we would experience along the way would teach us to slow down, so we could notice the things that truly deserve our attention in life.

We arrived late on a Saturday evening, just to realise that our suitcases, with half of the photographic equipment and most of our clothes, had been misplaced by the airline in the long haul flight from Australia. This loss delayed our trip by four days.

We tried to remain calm with the hope that the rest of the equipment would arrive safely. After all, taking those photos was one of the main reasons for this trip--or so we thought!

We waited around in a city called Merida. As we began to explore what they call the ‘cultural heart’ of Yucatan, we were immersed in the rich Mayan and colonial heritage. This picturesque city, with its local life and street parades, captured our hearts.

Photographs by Relmi Damiano 2007

We bonded over many mother and daughter chats while drinking ‘Horchata’, a delicious and refreshing hand-milled, rice and cinnamon chilled beverage.

On day five, the suitcases arrived, and with great relief, we started our journey to Rio Lagartos, 2.5 hours east of Merida. This trip almost took us 5 hours, due to a few wrong turns (this was pre-iPhone/GPS times), and we ended up on tiny little dirt roads that crossed many rural villages.

As soon as we arrived late that afternoon, in an attempt to get on with ‘the job’ (as one tends to do), we searched for a local fisherman who could take us on a boat the next morning to the Biosphere Reserve.

This incredible 601 km2 Reserve is an area managed by UNESCO, and it presents a rich diversity of landscapes and ecosystems. Mangroves, small estuaries, forests and lagoons house many different types of birds, crocodiles and turtles.

We finally found a fisherman called Miguel, who was unpacking his boat after a hard day’s work and cleaning the freshly caught fish to take back home.

Photographs by Relmi Damiano 2007

As we shouted over to his boat to organise a guided trip with him, he casually warned us that he did not think we would see any flamingos as ‘it was not flamingo season’. My heart sunk when I heard the news and saw my daughter’s face of disappointment. We simply could not believe we had gone all the way to the other side of the world to not find any flamingos! I asked myself…why didn’t I think of checking this out before?!


Despite the bad news, we promised the humble fisherman to be back at 5:00 am to go ahead with the tour. Since we arrived late in the afternoon, there were no hostels available anywhere in this tiny village, so we had to search for a place to stay.

As we drove to a larger village at dusk, I cannot describe the disillusionment we felt every time we thought about the flamingos. We said to each other, should we just go back to Merida or stick it out?

We finally found a small hostel by the lagoon, 30 minutes away. On arrival, the manager of the hostel asked us what we had gone there to do, so we shared our plans for the next morning.

He looked at us and then with a serious tone he said, “I do not think you will be able to make it to the Biosphere tomorrow. We are expecting a big storm.”

Photographs by Relmi Damiano 2007

This was a little shattering, but we decided to stay since the day was fast turning into a stormy night. While we waited for our room to be prepared, we sat next to an old man who was watching Mexican soap operas in the hostel lounge. He smiled at us but did not say much the whole afternoon. We thought he was a guest.

In the meantime, our minds got entangled with the drama of the telenovela, so we forgot about the storm, the flamingos and our disappointment.

Around 7:00 pm, the old man stood up, put a white apron on and asked us if we were hungry. We nodded, and without saying another word, he disappeared into the kitchen. This man turned out to be the hostel cook! In less than an hour, he had prepared the most delicious fish and seafood I have ever eaten.

Shortly after dinner, as predicted, the weather quickly turned into a considerable storm. Strong winds started to hit the timber shutters, and the waters became very agitated. Thunder and lightning followed.

The winds kept blowing hard all night and we worried we would get hit by the same type of cyclone that had washed away the entire village a couple of years prior. We were scared because the small hostel was literally up against a retaining wall next to the Gulf of Mexico!

Somehow we fell asleep and managed to wake up at 4:00 am, with the hope that we could meet our fisherman guide.


As we opened the shutters of our room, everything seemed quiet and still. The storm had passed. We quickly got dressed and drove back to the other village, hoping Miguel would be waiting for us.

When we arrived, he was standing on a small pier with a big smile on his face! The three of us jumped into the little boat and left the dark and sleepy village behind.

At 5:30 am, a timid sun started to appear amongst the heavy clouds. The most amazing sunrise presented itself for Relmi to take her first photo. The colours of the water were unbelievable. Pink, yellow, green, dark blue, all at once. It was one of the most beautiful sunrises I have seen.

Photographs by Relmi Damiano 2007

A few birds started to follow our boat. We sailed for almost 2 hours photographing everything that crossed our path. We were on our way into the unknown, without any major expectations and doubting we would be able to see any flamingos at all.

Miguel, started to tell us about the cyclone from two years ago, and how it had wiped out the area, leaving a mess of rubbish and destruction. He explained that every fisherman in the surrounding area came to clean up the Reserve, saying with pride....

If we didn’t clean this up, who would have done it for us? This is our livelihood!

He was happy we were there, as not many tourists have visited after the cyclone. He thanked us so many times for coming and with the biggest smile, he taught us everything he could about the Biosphere.

We were feeling truly inspired by his commitment to the environment, his home and his knowledge. It was so humbling, so simple, so beautiful.

Suddenly, Miguel nodded and signalled towards the left of the boat.

There they were, a small flock of pink flamingos with their long legs barely touching the water and spreading their majestic wings, taking off just a few meters from us.

Miguel then commented, “It must have been the storm that somehow brought a few of them back home”. My daughter swiftly turned and pointed her camera in their direction, taking her long-awaited shots at last.

Photograph by Relmi Damiano 2007

We all looked at each other and smiled without words. The flamingos were there for our enjoyment, to record in our photos and our memories as if they knew about our journey that took us there. We didn’t see any other flamingos after this moment.

We had a fantastic time at this Reserve, discovering things we never knew existed. It is hard to recount what we both learnt from this experience.


Starting with the humble fisherman, who was eager to share what nature had to offer, to understanding the importance of being patient, to noticing what else was available to us, rather than focusing only on what we want was eye-opening. Every single moment in this adventure was as important as the destination.

It is not the destination, but the journey, in many cases, that teaches us the most.

We left Rio Lagartos full of delight and continued south, exploring the rest of the beautiful Mayan Riviera, experiencing Mexican culture at its best.

Our journey took us to the ancient spiritual pyramids of Tulum where we saw the incredible 3000-year-old ruins, we swam in the majestic underground sinkholes (cenotes), attended incredible cultural shows, and snorkelled in the gorgeous  turquoise waters of the Caribbean sea.

Photographs by Relmi Damiano 2007

As our trip concluded, we promised ourselves to return one day.... So, this is the reason why in 2019, we will be running our i4 Live Retreat in Tulum!

During this trip, you will learn about how to apply brain/body science to your daily life, enjoy new foods, make new friends and have unique experiences.

By combining self-awareness with the most powerful concepts from brain and body science, you will be able to identify what you need to do to perform at a higher level in all areas of your life. If you are looking to take a step back to rejuvenate yourself and become inspired, then this program is for you! Learn to be your best self and recalibrate your brain so you can be more effective as a human being.

Our host, an amazing coach and our Mexico i4 Partner, Ricardo Gonzalez, will be co-facilitating with me alongside Clemencia Gonzalez Silveyra, an expert in neuro-education and neuro-play. Relmi will be sharing her latest biohacking tricks on sleep and brain optimisation.

This program is open for anyone who believes that personal transformation is key for a better society. I invite you to download the brochure and join us by registering today for this incredible adventure in Mexico from November 21st to 24th, 2019

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Silvia Damiano

Silvia Damiano

Scientist, educator, author, speaker, coach, award-winning leadership specialist and filmmaker. Silvia is the Founder & CEO of the About my Brain Institute, creator of the i4 Neuroleader Model & Methodology, author of ‘Leadership is Upside Down’ and director of the 2018 documentary ‘Make Me A Leader’.

Silvia is passionate about leaving a legacy of well-rounded leaders who can act and decide in a way that better serves humanity. Her clients include Microsoft, Australian Stock Exchange, NSW Government, VISA, Fuji Xerox and Manpower amongst many other global companies.

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