JournalJul 2016

Team retreat: back to the future in Valencia

Last month, team Hanno gathered in Valencia, Spain, where it all began 3 years ago for what would be our fifth remote team retreat. It was an exciting one, with all of us being in the same place again after 8 months. Usually, we’d try to cram in as many internal work sessions as we could to get the most of our time together. But for this trip, we wanted our 10 days together to be way more relaxed so that we could focus on spending quality time with each other that didn’t involve too many lengthy work chats, screen time and tiring ends to our days. Here's what the team has to say about their most memorable takeaways from the trip:


There were so many meaningful moments during this team trip, but if I’d have to narrow it down to just one, it would have to be the final day of workshops when Jon gave us a very inspiring presentation on the future of Hanno.

Jon sharing his vision for the future of Hanno 🔮

I didn’t know what to expect really, all Jon had told us prior to his mini-but-oh-so-fascinating talk was that it was going to be ‘fun’. It was far more powerful than that though, and maybe Jon being his usual humble self probably wouldn't realise it, but it was one of the key moments of the trip that made me realise why Hanno is such a fantastic team.

It’s easy to forget that organisations like Hanno are unique when they become a regular part of your life. Thankfully, this moment reminded me why I joined them in the first place over a year ago.

They’re an inspiring, visionary, progressive and sometimes crazy bunch of people who are constantly proving that we’re capable of creating the futures we want to have, and that work and life can go hand-in-hand successfully if you know what you want for yourself and have a supportive group of amazing, passionate and talented people who share your vision.

It also pushed me to think more deeply about what I really want from my life and not remain idle about it—that may sound like the usual self-realisation crap we’re bombarded with these days, but placed in this context it made perfect sense and I consider myself lucky to be working in an environment that makes me evaluate such questions.

I won’t reveal all the wacky ideas that Jon envisioned for Hanno but what I will say is this: we’re going to be much (much) more than a digital product design team with our own take on the future of work and living. Stay tuned ;)


Prior to the trip, I had been working on defining our value to the people we work with.

Workshops Hanno style: in the park 🌳 ☀️

I also began putting together a strategy on how to execute that through roles on the team so that it would be communicated clearly across the company. My favourite moment was getting to share all the learning I had gathered getting to this point over the last year and taking the team on the journey I had been on.


We’ve had so many incredible team trips, but our last 2 retreats in Argentina and Croatia turned out to be pretty intense affairs. In both of those, we spent most of our time shacked up in a small room having deep and valuable conversations, running workshops and learning new skills.

I don’t regret those trips at all, but leading up to our Valencian meetup, we’d had a really tough 6 months of financial and business challenges, as well as some very demanding projects. We decided to change things up a little bit and instead, only plan a couple of morning workshops on 3 of the days we were there. The big thing we all wanted from this trip was to create many more opportunities to relax together as a team and spend quality time together.

Arnas and Jon having a special moment

Sometimes it’s easy to forget how much you enjoy spending time with certain people when you go 8 months without seeing them. On this trip, the social moments were definitely the highlight for me: we had so many great conversations, fantastic dinners and long Valencian lunches.

Oh, and if pressed to pick a single favourite experience, I can’t see any other contender than the impromptu rooftop karaoke session we managed to orchestrate on our final night. I’ve no idea how it didn’t get shut down by angry neighbours, but it was definitely one of those special little moments that makes you remember why you enjoy the company of your team so much!


Having missed the original Valencian trip 3 years ago, I was beyond excited going into this one. I knew it would have a huge sentimental value for that reason alone—I was finally going to see the place where it all began for Hanno.

Valencia failed to disappoint for the second time in a row

On top of that, a team retreat was long overdue so us being able to make it happen despite all the challenges we faced in the months leading up to the trip pumped me up even more.

My hope for the trip was to maximise the amount of time we spent hanging out informally, as we didn’t really get a chance to do that as much as we wanted during the previous trips. At first, it seemed like we were off to the usual start, though: working most of the day and running out of energy by the evening. It got me worried that I wouldn’t be able to get what I wanted out of the trip. But I guess, we simply needed time to loosen up and get into it ;)

Fast forward 10 days and I’ve lost count of all the fun things we did together. If I had to choose the moment, it’d be the impromptu rooftop karaoke, hands down. We’ve finally seen Jon let the inner Rocket Man out 🚀, rocked out to Limp Bizkit, ‘What is love?’ and last but not least, got totally surprised by Zsolt’s incredible rendition of Jozin Z Bazin in the dark of the night.


It’s hard to imagine but even a place like Valencia can get quite boring after a couple years. You settle in, you get into a routine, you don’t see things with the same excitement as someone who has just arrived.

On the other hand, whenever somebody comes to visit me in Spain, I’m able to revive this feeling of curiosity and wonder. And the entire month—culminating in the one-week Hanno team trip—was full of those moments of inspiration and joy.

Café hopping with Marcel

Being the local tour guide for Valencia, I felt it was my duty (and also a big pleasure) to introduce the team to the local restaurant and beer scene. And looking back, it feels like we spent more time in those places than we spent working. And that’s the most positive thing for me about this whole trip. We probably all spent a fortune on food and drinks last month (and occasionally felt guilty of doing so), but looking back that’s probably the best investment of time and money we could have made.

Hanging out with the team is a rather rare occasion for us but when we are all in the same place, it feels like we’re a team that has known each other for ages and there are no strangers. That’s why I think bonding remotely isn’t in any way inferior to hanging out together in the same place every day. We’ve experienced so many things in the past couple of months that the food for thought and conversation at lunch and dinner seemed to be never-ending.

We stopped by Wayco to share our experiences with remote work with the folks of Remote Year

It also seems that our attitude towards life (despite our remote culture) ranging from consumerism to ethics to digital nomadism is more aligned than ever and that each of us has grown a lot personally since our last encounter. A simple proof for that was that I think all of us were nodding our heads in total agreement when Jon talked about the future of work on our last workshop presentation.

Last but not least, I think you get to value those short and intense moments a lot more when you’re a remote team. Even though they only happen once or twice a year, it feels like the bonding and experiences we have on those occasions have a lasting impact. And I’m sure many of us will remember Vertigo for the rest of our lives :) Looking back, I’m really happy to be part of this crew and already looking forward to our next trip in 2017.


When you’re working remotely, meeting your teammates is probably one of the biggest events you look forward to. It’s been awhile since we all last met in Croatia, so I was excited to see and hang out with the team again. Previous trips we had were rather challenging and intense because of the amount of work we ended up doing. So, we planned this trip to be more like a fun team building experience instead of an intensive series of workshops. This paid off well and we had way more fun during this trip than any of the previous ones I think. Many excellent meals were had and a few great football games were watched (Euro 2016!).

Zsolt getting his tostada fix 🍅 🍞

For me, this trip has been the most inspiring so far. We needed a push in planning and strategic thinking to be able to focus our efforts towards goals we had as a team. It massively helped when we had plenty of discussions about recent learnings in the team and how we can move forward together.

Back to the fun parts of the trip; there are two particular events which are burnt into my memory. First, was our trip to Benidorm Aquapark where we spent an amazing day together. And the second would definitely be the last night on Marcel’s rooftop which turned out to be an epic Hanno karaoke party.


Personally, it was great to be back where it all started. This meet up was big a milestone, because exactly 3 years ago in Valencia I met Jon and Matt and joined the Hanno ship full-time. Despite the fact that so much has changed in my life since then, it was awesome to be back in Valencia as a much bigger and stronger team.

One of the small but meaningful things I enjoyed about this trip was our rule to have minimal interaction with our phones at the dinner table, which led to more quality time together. I think in general the whole team did very well with this. Some of the shipmates even wanted to contribute to this blogpost on my behalf to say that “Arnas enjoyed having a break from his Instagram account”—something I can't quite deny 😉

It wouldn't be a complete team trip without post-its

It was also fun to spend less time indoors and more time outside in the park for our workshops, which was helped by Valencia’s excellent weather. The change of scenery felt great. It was nice to be somewhere relaxing when we had our intense team conversations. I really appreciated some of these conversations though, and the fact that we could discuss things like our failures in the past openly and critically. Not only did we spend time reflecting on our flaws, but we came up with solutions we could start implementing to improve things on deck. To me, that was one of the most crucial parts of this trip that I’m proud we tackled.

Posted by
Jon Lay

Jon is a Partner at Hanno. He wears many hats, but his primary focus is on leading our engineering and technical operations.