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"Where there is no vision, the people perish" is a proverb that I believe has an important application to families.

When you become a grandparent, suddenly you find yourself at the helm of a multi-generational tribe or clan: a unique family unit held together, not with contracts, but with lifelong relationships, good communication, shared values and the expectation that if one of the clan hits a rough spot the family will be there to assist in whatever way is necessary.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish” is a proverb that I believe has an important application to families. Just like corporates need leadership retreats to massage the organisation’s shared values and vision into its executives to keep the company on track, I believe that maintaining healthy families requires similar kinds of strategic getaways, especially when family and business overlap.

Tortilis Camp

From Weekly Family Meetings to Annual Retreats

I first encountered the concept of forums through my YPO (Young Presidents’ Organization) membership. Members are allocated to small groups of 8 – 10 individuals who meet once a month for a confidential exchange of ideas, challenges and triumphs concerning both their personal and professional lives. These forums meet with highly structured times of both giving and receiving input. (It’s a bit like having a board of advisors to help guide you through life!)


I saw how effective these forums were for YPOers and decided to implement something similar once a month to help guide and develop my immediate family. In a nutshell, family-style forums are a way of building better family relationships through improved communication and decision making.


When we all still lived under the same roof, van Embden meetings always started off with heart checks where family members could share their news and express more personal matters. The rest of each meeting was dedicated to business-related talk. While these regular discussions proved an innovative family-building tool, we soon made the move to incorporate annual forum-style retreats into our family’s rhythm, too.


Annual retreats provide a wonderful platform for motivating, mentoring, and connecting the younger generations to the business side of family life; an essential part of succession planning and building a long-lasting legacy.

They are also an ideal opportunity to reinforce the family’s preferred philanthropic pursuits.


If you’re considering trying a family forum retreat, why not pick a location that lends itself to strengthening your family’s appreciation for giving back, too?


Philanthropy has become a key pillar for my family, most likely due to my continuing love affair with travel in Africa, which also birthed our family business – Timeless Africa Safaris. Not surprisingly, it is by far my favourite endeavour because it combines family time, going on plenty of safaris, doing good for others and making people happy!

Location, location, location

When it comes to choosing where to host a family retreat, my top three requirements for a meeting place are:

  • The forum must be held in an inspiring setting that is considered ‘neutral territory’ by everyone
  • Going off-grid must be possible
  • Arranging team-building experiences to suit a variety of personalities, levels of fitness and age groups should be easily accomplished.

There is a great number of destinations in the world that would be perfect for a family retreat, but there is nowhere else like Africa.


From world-class cuisine to the magnificent wildlife and breathtaking landscapes; Africa has something for everyone in the family. Hot air ballooning over the savannah, desert quad-biking, gorilla trekking and big-five safaris… There is a plethora of family-friendly adventures and activities to be enjoyed together. Not only will this be an unforgettable experience for your clan, but by holding your family retreat on African soil, you will also have the bonus of contributing to the ongoing development and growth of this incredible continent.


If you’re looking for somewhere truly special to take your family for your annual retreat, I cannot recommend Africa highly enough.

Top 5 tips for planning family retreats

If you have never held a family retreat before, I’d love to share some of my insights to help make the start perhaps a little less bumpy for you and your loved ones!


  1. Prepare an agenda in advance and make sure to allow for some unstructured time, too. This will help ensure that everyone feels they have had a chance to share their thoughts and be heard by the group.
  2. If you have young children, consider hiring a babysitter or nanny for the duration of the forum so that the adults can focus on family matters without distraction.
  3. Be mindful of time differences if you have family members joining your retreats from overseas – try to arrange each family member’s travel itinerary so that everyone can join without having to sacrifice too much sleep!
  4. During a retreat, make sure to plan for a variety of fun group activities, as well as lots of free time, too. Different personalities and workloads mean individuals’ needs will vary, but make sure that you allow for plenty of recharge opportunities to help the introverts enjoy themselves, too!
  5. Finally, and most importantly, remember to have fun!
    Family retreats are a wonderful way to connect with your loved ones and create powerful memories that will last a lifetime. Africa is the perfect place to do just that.

The benefits are clear; from improved communication and stronger relationships to succession planning, legacy building and memory making, family retreats hosted in Africa are a wonderful tool to lead, motivate, mentor, inspire and connect your multi-generation family.

If you have any questions or would like help putting an itinerary together, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I’d be more than happy to connect you with our team of brilliant travel managers at Timeless Africa Safaris.


In this article
  • Introduction
  • From Weekly Family Meetings to Annual Retreats
  • Location, location, location
  • Top tips for planning family retreats

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