I know, I know…I’m a little late to the dance. Everyone has already posted their photos, videos and memories of the 2018 WCI Conference. Please read to the end…I have a good reason for being late…

WCI is one of my favorite events of the year, for several reasons. First, I love kicking it off with the Give Kids The World Village volunteer day. Participating in a day where the workers’ compensation industry comes together to volunteer our time, working side by side towards a common goal is amazing. We get up at dawn, get bussed to the GKTW Village, perform our assigned jobs, then we come back to the hotel for a gala event and marvel at our accomplishments and the magic of the GKTW Village. This year was bittersweet. Henri Landwirth, the GKTW Village founder, passed away earlier in the year. I think we made Henri proud. On Saturday, August 18, WCI organized 1,100 volunteers, representing 187 companies and performed 4,000 man power hours! And the GKTW Gala raised $110,000! It is truly a moving experience. I plan to bring my daughters to GKTW Village for our own family volunteer day soon. It’s good for the soul.

Second, I enjoy spending quality time with some of the brightest workers’ comp industry experts. WCI is like a family reunion for me. I live in Tampa and started working in the industry in 1989. I enjoy seeing colleagues that I have come to know, some for nearly 30 years! And of course I enjoy meeting new colleagues as well. It’s hard not to meet new folks as you make your way through the crowds, especially on Monday and Tuesday nights. It is always a challenge to fit in everyone you’d like to see into the few days of the conference. It goes by super fast. Sun up to sun down, jam-packed days of meetings, sessions, events, impromptu conversations and more. Every year, I make a “let’s connect at WCI” list in addition to my scheduled meetings. I’m happy to say that I successfully conducted 18 out of 20 scheduled meetings and was able to see and have a conversation with 16 out of 18 on my “let’s connect at WCI” list! Whoop! Whoop!

Third, in addition to the awesome educational sessions, excellent keynote speakers and many educational tracks offered at WCI, there are always a number of special events that make WCI a unique experience. I attended the Prayer Breakfast with a wonderful gospel band on Monday morning, several hosted cocktail receptions, dinner and the B-52’s concert Monday night. This year’s exhibit hall theme was “cosmic.” It is exciting to walk through the exhibit hall and see the various interpretations of the theme. Finally, I participated in the Alliance of Women in Workers’ Compensation financial acumen workshop on Wednesday. An expert panel shared their experience and wisdom with the audience, Jean Chatzky shared financial tips and insights from her new book Age Proof and the collaborative table sessions allowed the members of each table to get to know one another better and share their personal experiences.

There is a special camaraderie in this industry, especially when you attend multiple events throughout the year. There is something special at WCI, though. Maybe it’s because I consider WCI to be my “home conference.” Next year, will mark 30 years in the industry for me. Hard to believe!

Many industry colleagues went on to Atlanta for the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Comp Conference or some other event in another part of the country. Many of us go from one event to the next for what seems like weeks on end. I know a handful of folks who average 2, sometimes 3 events per week. We push ourselves to the limit, definitely don’t get enough sleep and ask our loved ones to understand our frequent absences, missed special occasions, etc. One of my personal goals this year has been to shift gears and reprioritize. I still take my work seriously, but I’m pushing myself to read more, sleep more, observe more and generally do more of the things that are important to me and my loved ones.

My Costa Rica “Unvacation”

So, the reason my WCI post is late?…on Thursday August 23, the day after the WCI conference ended, I boarded an airplane at 6:30am in Tampa for a quick trip to Costa Rica with my husband. For six days we went “off the grid.” The Costa Rica trip for me was an “unvacation” — a self-imposed “pause” button. It’s been a busy year for us…a good amount of work travel for me between Texas and Florida, two kids in college, my husband’s three sons are now spread to the farthest corners of the USA: one in Sarasota, FL one in New Hartford, CT, and one in Fresno, CA! Earlier in the year we enjoyed a family trip (16 people total) to Panama that took nearly two years to plan. An annual summer girls trip in June with my two daughters and their friends to Tybee Island — our 11th annual summer trip, 8 of which have been in Tybee Island, GA, just outside of Savannah. My father passed away the night before Father’s Day. He would have been 81 years old this October. In early July my husband and I did a whirlwind NYC and Connecticut trip. We toured the highlights of NYC and visited with family and grandkids in CT. So, it’s been a busy and momentous year already, with several months yet to go…I suppose my father’s passing has caused me to pause and reflect on my priorities.

If you have never been to Costa Rica, I encourage you to visit soon. For a third world country, the airport in San Jose is extremely clean and well organized. Easy in and out. Costa Rica is known for its eco tourism, volcanoes and lush tropical, unspoiled beaches and a variety of adventure sports. We spent 2 days in San Jose, soaking up the city and the local sights and sounds. We walked along Avenida Central on Friday afternoon. The energy was exciting — people congregated in the streets after work — it got busier as the afternoon turned into the early evening. We tried very hard to be “non tourists.” We ate at “hole in the wall” restaurants and avoided the touristy ones. The point of the trip for me was to get away for some alone time — just the two of us.

After San Jose, we traveled by car 4+ hours to Limón, then south along the coast to a spot between Puerto Viejo and Manzanillo on the Caribbean side. Manzanillo is one of the southernmost towns in Costa Rica, very near the border of Panama. We spent 3 nights in an eco-friendly, sustainable tree house, located within a wildlife refuge. Our house was made of bamboo, had no air conditioning and we slept under mosquito nets. We enjoyed walking along the beach, listening to the sounds of nature, waves crashing on the beach, getting caught in the rain and eating and drinking in local dives along the beach. We had a blast!

We saw many expats there. I was surprised to see so many young folks — people in their 20’s and 30’s — looking to escape from the modern world. Many of them sported deep tans and dreadlocks that looked several years in the making. The one touristy thing I did? Visit a sloth sanctuary. The sanctuary is funded completely by visitor donations — no government help whatsoever. I enjoyed hanging out with Buttercup (picture above) and the other sloths. My favorite part of the trip? Waking up early to the sounds of the jungle…parrots squawking overhead, howler monkeys calling out to each other in the tree tops and spending our evenings together enjoying a simple meal, the wood-fire heated hot tub and a balmy bamboo house in the middle of the jungle with no air conditioning. We spent our time talking or reading. It was divine. So I came back, fully recharged and ready to go! My husband, on the other hand, might have a slightly different interpretation of our trip. You’ll have to ask him what he thinks...

NOTE: photo collage by Yvonne Guibert including photo of GKTW volunteers by WCI. Photo of Kristen, Carlos and Yvonne by Bill Zachry and Gospel Choir photo by Bill Zachry.

#WCI2018 #GKTWVillage #mindfulness #CostaRica #PuraVida