Reflections at River Lodge

Bill Gates is more than just a pretty face. That we know. What you might not know is that along with working hard, he is an advocate of taking time off. In typical Gates fashion, this time-off includes work, but it is taken far away from the office. Think secret cabin in the woods with not a soul around. Only the trees and their leaves and the sun’s rays dancing across your face to wake you each new day. Gates calls these breaks “Think Weeks”.

Bill Gates

“Twice a year, I get out of the office, breaking from my normal routine, for much needed ‘Think Weeks.’ By actively disconnecting and looking at everything from 50,000 feet, I am able to effectively reflect, reset, and clearly rethink my goals and aspirations. For each ‘Think Week,’ I create a life to-do list, do a lot of research, and think through big ideas and challenges deeply. Going through this process has been enlightening.”

– Bill Gates, American business magnate, philanthropist, investor, computer programmer, and Co-Founder of Microsoft, which became the world’s largest PC software company


I stumbled upon the concept this year while paging through a travel magazine (snippet above) on my own mini Think Week, or rather Think Weekend at Royal Chundu, but Gates has been taking his biannual breaks since the 1980s, according to Robert A. Guth, Wall Street Journal writer in, In Secret Hideaway, Bill Gates Ponders Microsoft’s Future.

On these retreats, Gates usually heads to a remote cedar forest in the Pacific Northwest, staying in a secluded cottage and seeing no one other than a caretaker. He uses the time away from the office to assess what his company has been doing and where it ought to be going.


He spends 15 hours a day reading newspapers, magazines, and company reports, papers he requests from his employees about new ideas and trends. These include people from every corner of Microsoft, on all levels. He breaks only for the occasional walk or a game of online bridge.

There are different ways to do it… But the point is to get away from your usual routine. You might find it better not to think about work at all. To take the time to focus on other concepts, like your health and wellness.

View from the river

Before you feverishly point out all the reasons you can’t take your own mini hiatus, journalist, Mark Morgan, writes in an article on Early To Rise:

Yes, your company needs you. But not every single day. Consider your time gone an opportunity for everyone to take a step up in terms of responsibility and skills. Plan the time off and then take it…. [But] Have you ever noticed that some of your best ideas come to you when you are on vacation? It’s a common phenomenon. And there are three good reasons that it happens so frequently:

1. When you are far away from the quotidian emergencies of your busy life, you can begin to see the big picture.

2. When you are in a relaxed atmosphere, it’s easier to remember what really matters to you.

3. When you are out of your common element, the creative part of your brain is stimulated in new and different ways.

On the Zambezi

  1. Shut out every one and every thing. No e-mail or phone contact. Leave an emergency number – but define what a true emergency is. Give yourself the time, space, and quiet to think.
  2. It can be in your back yard or across the globe in a cabin in the middle of nowhere (or a private suite on the remote Zambezi River…)
  3. Take a few inspirational materials.
  4. Plan a kind of schedule that will work best for you.
  5. Record the many stimulating ideas and fresh solutions to old problems that will arise.

View from the river

Time away from the office can help to cultivate creativity and is almost always rejuvenating and productive – whether on a scheduled working retreat, your own mini-retreat or one such as our Soulful River Retreat.

To whichever environment you return, the offices of Microsoft or the demands of a stay-at-home parent, you’re bound to do so with renewed energy and enthusiasm, more in touch with yourself and better able to handle the pressing matters that await.

Should you wish to join us for our own version of a Think Week – the Royal Chundu Soulful River Retreat from 18-22 February 2016, to rest, reflect, reconnect and replenish body, mind and soul on the Zambezi, take a look at our event teaser and contact us to book a space.