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Argonaut Team Vacation: Bonding, Exploring, and Unwinding in Meghalaya - Guhan Sundar

Just a little over a year later, we find ourselves gathered in Shillong, Meghalaya, for Argonaut's second annual team meeting. This year's gathering had a slightly different format. As a team, we have worked together for over a year now on many significant releases. Therefore, we decided to focus entirely on rewinding and connecting with one another and nature around us.

I'm Guhan, and I'm in charge of marketing at Argonaut. Perhaps you're reading this before applying for a job at Argonaut or to learn about the culture, or as a chill read amidst all your technical readings; either way, I'm glad you're here 😊. Let me introduce you to the rest of the team, from left to right (standing) - Ananya Lohani, Subham Mishra, Surya Oruganti, Prajjwal Dimri, Guhan Sundar (me), Abhijit Hota; (sitting) - Prashant Raj and Nischal Talluri. Unfortunately, two members of our team, Ankit Gupta and Aadhav Vignesh, were unable to join us this time.

Argonaut Team Picture as of May 2023

Having met almost everyone on our team, I must say that we are a fun and diverse bunch from all parts of India. The annual gatherings are becoming a tradition at Argonaut, and the time together really provides a great space for the team to exchange ideas, discuss current topics, and also get to know each other on a personal level.

Format for this year’s gathering

It was once again a week-long gathering (Monday - Friday), while weekends were when we took our flights to and from Shillong to our cities. Some of our folks had to spend ~20 hours in travel to get here; we love to see such enthu from the team!

As mentioned earlier, the format this year, we took away the work aspect and focused solely on unwinding and connecting with each other.

Additionally, we all had a say in choosing the location of this year’s gathering. While we went with Shillong, the other contenders were Dharamshala, Jim Corbett National Park, and Bangalore.

Expectations before the trip

A lot of us recently completed our 1-year work anniversary at Argonaut. And this trip felt like a great way to celebrate our accomplishments and bond over the past year. Compared to the previous entanglement when we were all fresh to this space, today, we are all a lot more familiar with the work we do, the product we are building, and the space we work in. But though we discussed work at times, it was good to have a week where that wasn’t the top focus. We also had two new employees joining us on this trip, and we were excited to get to know them better.

Northeast India

Northeast India is a treasure chest of untapped beauty. Though Shillong is a relatively large and developed urban center, heading about 10km away from the center brings you into the lap of nature, and you get to see beautiful valleys, streams, and lush greenery.

It was the first time our team members were visiting this part of the country, and we were super excited about discovering the natural beauty and curious about the culture, food, and traditions here.

The key places we wanted to visit were the double-decker root bridge, Cherrapunji’s lush valleys, cloud-covered hills, limestone caves, and the beautiful waterfalls in that region.

Day 1 at Shillong

Day 1: Shillong

Six of us met up in Guwahati and traveled to Shillong together on Monday morning. We checked in around noon on Monday and had a bit of a rest day. Surya joined us at Shillong, and we headed out to check out the Police Bazaar, which had a variety of local stalls selling clothing, groceries, fruits, and souvenirs. For lunch, we got to try the local Khasi tribe cuisine, which had a delicious, homely, and healthy mix of dishes. The rest of the time was well spent in the hotel, enjoying the warm jacuzzi in the cold mountain weather.

Takeaway team memory:

Even though our official trip began on Monday, six of us decided to show up earlier, explore more, and spend even more time with each other. Our car ride to Shillong was fun, vibing to good music and setting the right mood for the trip. The local Khasi lunch in a compact room of a traditional restaurant was our first meal together on the trip. I cherish this bond with my colleagues, and our willingness to explore, and this is something only a close-knit startup team can achieve.

Day 2 at Shillong

Day 2: Shillong

On Tuesday, we started off the day by finding a cab driver for the rest of our days here. different types of skills to communicate effectively with the drivers about our places of interest and get to agree on a reasonable price. Touring Shillong and exploring the local sites Don Bosco Museum and the elephant falls. We also got to catch a pretty sunset from the Sunset Cafe. Later in the day, some of us hit up the gym at the hotel, and it was a good end to the day and a good warm-up for the hikes to come.

Takeaway team memory:

All of us wore Argonaut t-shirts while touring the various exhibits at the museum and learning about the clothing, history, culture, weapons, and jewelry of the Northeast states. In the end, we all arrived at the outdoor viewing deck of the museum, from where we saw panoramic views of the city.

Day 3 at Cherrapunji

Day 3: Cherrapunji

Wednesday was my favorite day of the trip. We were on our way to visit the living root bridges of Meghalaya. There are several out there, and we visited the two popular ones - a long single-root bridge and the double-decker root bridge.

The road to the entrance took us along the edge of the ridges, and we got to see beautiful green rolling hills on both sides. As we got closer, a thick layer of fog settled in, and it was quite a magical experience to begin the day. The road then descends into the valley, and the weather completely changes and feels more like a tropical rainforest.

We now had to climb down (steps) before reaching the bridges. The single bridge was about 20 minutes climb down, and the double bridge was another hour from there. We spent about 15 minutes at the single-root bridge. The spot was well nestled in lust forest, and the sound of the gushing stream below was very refreshing.

Once we reached the double root bridge, we spent nearly an hour there relaxing, taking in the views, creating memories, and splashing our feet in the flowing steam. The hike back up was even way more challenging and took us twice as long. The big motivation for us was to have a warm cup of Maggi noodles once we reached the starting point.

*Takeaway team memory:*

The ~3600 steps really put our fitness levels to the test. We split up into smaller groups as we maintained our own pace, but we also ensured that no one was left behind. This experience built true understanding for the team and gave us a taste of the resilient effort required to reach ambitious goals. I have already seen this quality when we bring ourselves to work on multiple occasions.

Day 4 at Cherrapunji

Day 4: Cherrapunji

On our second day at Cherrapunji, we started off by visiting the garden of caves. It’s a nicely maintained park that has several natural features, such as waterfalls, caves, streams, and views of the surrounding forests. We got several pictures, enjoyed slight drizzles, and took in the place as a team. We then headed on to a couple of viewpoints and to Mawsmai caves after a brief lunch stop.

The crowd outside Mawsmai caves was really lively, with live music, fog, shops, and food stalls. Inside the caves, we explored several paths in the two caves present, and it was quite a unique experience crawling and moving around in such spaces. The last stop for the day was the Wei Sawdong Waterfalls. A short hike down to the falls grants a spectacular view of the majestic three-tiered waterfalls. We rested a bit, got lots of pictures, and headed back to base (Shillong). It was a sight to remember!

Takeaway team memory:

The fact that there was more than one hobbyist mobile photographer on the trip was truly a godsend. Not only did we have the opportunity to capture each other's stunning photos, but we also had the chance to explore different photography styles and techniques that we would have otherwise missed out on. Consequently, we were able to capture the mesmerizing background from different angles and perspectives, providing us with a diverse range of photos that we could cherish for years to come.

Day 5 at Shillong

Day 5: Shillong

On our last day at Shillong, we split up into two groups; while Surya stayed back to catch up on work and two stayed back to relax and explore the city, five of us went on to explore the two other points around Shillong - Shillong view point and Laitlum Canyon. We couldn’t catch many views on that day due to the intense fog that had covered the valley, and visibility was just a few 100 feet.

We enjoyed the fog, the cold weather, some grilled cor, and some local tea. We headed to a cool spot (Dylan’s Cafe) for lunch, which was a Bob Dylan-themed cafe! Later, we decided to walk back to our hotel, which was about 2 km away. It was a nice way to wrap up our trip and also catch some city sights as a local. And in the evening found ourselves back in the Jacuzzi! Post dinner, we gathered once again and had a debrief about our trip experience.

Takeaway team memory:

Not everything goes according to plan. Sometimes, a thick, unforeseen fog settles in, and your world turns into a video game where random characters and objects spawn as you move a few steps in any direction. This was a good reminder for me that not everything in life (and work) goes as planned. Even on dark and foggy days, when things look uncertain, there are things we can achieve by living in the moment and doing things under our control.

Other team activities

Daily team breakfasts have become a hallmark of entanglement gatherings. It's refreshing to start the day with a meal and plan out tasks for the rest of the day. We also played team games on a couple of nights, such as Codenames, Psych, and Heads Up! The two cars had their own vibes, and we shuffled the folks between them to keep the conversations and music fresh. On the last day (Saturday) of our trip, before heading to the airport, Prajjwal and I went boating at Ward's Lake in Shillong, which was a fun activity.

Conclusion

Overall, the Argonaut team vacation was an amazing experience. It provided us with the opportunity to bond with our colleagues, explore new places, and take a break from our daily work routine. The combination of natural beauty, delicious food, and exciting activities made this trip one to remember. It was great to see everyone come together and have fun outside of work.

If you have the opportunity to go on a company vacation, I highly recommend it. It’s an excellent way to build relationships with your colleagues and see a different side of them. Plus, it’s a chance to recharge and come back to work with a fresh perspective. At Argonaut, the annual team gatherings have become a tradition, and I’m already looking forward to next year’s entanglement.