My Traveling Sketchbook: Experiencing "Fall Break Co."

Fall Break Co.

presented by Asheville Folk

On September 12th, dozens of people from across the country packed their bags to embark on a creative retreat in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. With a bag full of fall clothes, a few camping supplies, camera, sketchbooks and nerves-- I set off on a four and a half hour drive to attend the first ever, Fall Break Co. An evening filled with cocktail hour, delicious local food, live music, and a styled farm table dinner led to hours filled with engaging conversation, excitement, and new friends. Yurts filled with cozy furniture, gift bags and lanterns, all ready to be home for the next several days. String lights cover the property, warm in the evening glow. Cozy spaces are everywhere; filled with plants, blankets, unique chairs and inspirational sights. Candle flames flicker and dance on the dinner table, as over 70 strangers come together and redefine the meaning of  "community".

And suddenly, in a place you've never been before;

you feel at home..

Fall Break Co. Styled Farm Table Dinners

How often do you truly step out of your comfort zone? 

fall break co asheville NC


what were these four days in the mountains truly like? What type of experiences did each day bring?

After sleeping beneath the stars in a cozy yurt-- filled with furniture, lanterns, and fresh drinking water-- you awake to the crisp morning air. Choose how to rejuvenate your body and mind with yoga in the field or a self guided hike through the mountains. You are greeted with warm smiles for a buffet style breakfast, all served by local cafes and small businesses. 

Sip coffee or mimosas as you sit through your first keynote speaker of the day. Whether they are a motivational speaker, entrepreneur or practicing artist; it is a wonderful way to begin focusing your thoughts. The next few hours are filled with intimate, small group workshops of your choice. Social media concepts, styling courses, public speaking, goal setting, and branding/marketing are wonderful courses to engage your mind and motivate.

Relax and reflect with hours of free times by reading a book in the gazebo, chatting with new friends, or creating with new sources of inspiration. Just before dinner, one-on-one workshops are offered. Portfolio reviews, goal setting courses, website branding-- there are many one-on-one sessions to choose from that allow you to focus on your product and your areas of growth. There are even headshots offered by local photographers for professional website development.

Dinner here is the epitome of community. The farm-style table was glamorously set and styled each night with unique place settings, flickering candles, hand stitched napkins, and watercolor name tags. Food is provided by local chefs and is nothing short of extraordinary. Wine is poured and laughter is heard. Before you know it, sundown has come and gone and conversation continues. 

After dark, choose to wander to the bonfire, photobooth, or cozy spaces for quiet. There is plenty of wine, marshmallows, and live music each night. You find yourself taking it all in, moment by moment, with dozens of others just like yourself.

And what a dream it has been..

first annual fall break co styled dinner 

10 valueable Lessons learned at fall break co.


1. Stepping out of your comfort zone is necessary 

At some point, we all begin to crave routine. As children, we are fearless. Constantly taking risks, leaping, falling, failing, and trying new skills without fear of the future. As adults, whether we realize it or not, familiarity is comfortable. As humans, we are wired for comfort. Any way that we can avoid stress, we do it. Something as simple as taking the same route to work each morning or ordering the same item off the menu are examples of simple routines we carry day in and day out.

For creatives, stepping out of our comfort zone often means personal growth. Each speaker at Fall Break Co. may have come from different backgrounds and had different goals for their future-- but they all spoke on the importance of taking risks. Accepting failure as an insight. And constantly changing perspective.

After moving 700 miles from home in July, I have slowly become a creature of habit again-- even with such an immense amount of change. When I was invited to attend Fall Break Co, four days away from my fiancé and safe little apartment did seem uncomfortable. "What if the people aren't welcoming?" "What if my camping experience is awful?" "What if people judge me and my work?" "What if I get homesick?"

Spend your life asking the "what if's" and succumbing to fear-- or push yourself and be uneasy for a short while. It all melts away the moment you realize you've made a life changing decision, one to step out of your box and live a life you're not only proud of; but feeling refreshed while doing so.


2. Be gentle with yourself

A lesson that resonated through out each workshop at Fall Break Co. is the need to be patient with not only your business or passion-- but yourself. Success takes time, and sometimes it comes in little victories. Nothing great happens overnight. There will be mishaps. There will be questioning, doubt and maybe even rejection. However, this does not give you the right to beat yourself down.

"You are not for everyone"

The sooner we accept this thought, the more confident and accepting we become. Not everyone will want your product. Not everyone will flock to see your galleries, listen to your performance, or buy your new package. Does that mean you have failed? Of course not! It is impossible to market to everyone, and also unhealthy. Brand yourself on what's true to you, as well as how you want others to perceive you. What makes you unique? Embrace it, rather than bury it. And when that rejection does happen, take a deep breathe and know that all steps don't need to be forward. Your showing up, day in and day out, and that will continue to count for something. Be gentle with yourself, and remember that balance is key.

styled farm table dinner asheville nc

3. Find your tribe

A quote that resinated through out the four days, "You are the five people you surround yourself with most". It immediatley made an impact on me. How many of us have family, friends, even coworkers, who participate in our individual journey? Support our dreams, ambitions, and the truest versions of ourselves? If you have those people, you are grateful. If you do not, are you spending your time wisely? 

Are those around you inspiring you to be the best version of yourself? Are they consistent, true, honest-- and willing to accept all parts of who you are; and not just the pretty parts? 

A great lesson learned is to always find your tribe. People you can count on. Like-minded individuals who will push and pull just when you need it, where you need it. This doesn't mean painters need to befriend only painters. Or musicians only other musicians. But seek out those who have similar values to you. People you can lean on, express your thoughts to, stand by you when times are tough. Luckily for me, I have met many incredible people through out my life who support me on a daily basis. And not just in the light-- but the dark times as well. Fall Break Co. also brought several new sisters into my life, and I am forever grateful for their open hearts and warm smiles. 



4. Value-based living is a must

"Being a human is hard. What if we could start every day with a clear picture of our identity as humans?"

Speaker and entrepeneur Rocky Garza pushed attendees to dig down to the deepest part of themselves while redefining identity. Without an identity, Rocky reminds us that there can be no product. In order to begin creating a product, you must be willing to identify who you are. 

Take time to reinvent and locate your values. What can you never give up for someone or something else? Rocky encourages us to lead with these values, rather than the roles we hold in this life. Roles have the tendency to swallow us and push and pull our values, when truly, in order to succeed with our trust self-- we must place value-based living above all.


Check out Rocky's work at Staff Retreat Co. and find out how you can benefit from his incredible program + retreat

Rocky Garza working with photographer Tori Ray in a one-on-one session

Rocky Garza working with photographer Tori Ray in a one-on-one session

5. Connection is key

Connect. Connect. Connect.

In any art form, or form of life, for that matter-- there is a constant need for connection. What exactly is it that draws you to a certain piece of art work? A photograph? A place? Or even people? We tend to gravitate towards any of these based on an initial feeling or connection. If you're an artist or small business owner, let people see your passions! 

"What is your why?!"

Be open about your experiences. Your process. Your goals. Why do you do what you do? What inspires you most? What led you down this path? Share your experiences with people. Post a video of your process, blog about a new project your working on. Why? Because people love to make that initial connection. To notice your core values, accept and relate to them. Stories make you human, they make you relatable. Be sure you're consistent and communicating that story effectively. 

"People don't buy what you do, but why you do it.."

The table is a place for genuine conversation, equality, and balance.

The table is a place for genuine conversation, equality, and balance.

6. Success is a lifestyle; set goals


"Life is more than something we just 'to-do' list through.." SaraJane Case

While attending Fall Break Co, I was fortunate enough to attend a goal setting workshop by the lovely SarahJane Case. Within the first few seconds, I related to her thoughts immediately. She mentions the over emphasis on "the hustle" and reminds us that life and success are all about balance. What a breathe of fresh air, right?

After completing several exercises in this workshop, it was clear that I enjoy writing and creating lists. But are these lists actually benefitting me? Sara gave excellent pointers and strategies on how to make success a lifestyle, rather than a destination. Redefine success, and recognize it in all areas of your life, in little victories. Create intentions, plans and resolutions every 30 days in all areas of your life-- not just for your business. Failure isn't failure if you are learning from it. Accept the small setbacks, and allow them to take you places. Reflect often. Follow through on your day-to-day habits and goals. Without a doubt, they will lead you to new places. Intentional or not!

SaraJane Case is an incredible blogger + life consultant who will help you reach your highest potential. Give her some love and check out her program! 

7. Authenticity isn't dead 

While branding yourself, focus mostly on what is most important + how you want people to feel. It's easy these days to become so involved in marketing and curating the perfect Instagram feed, that you begin to stop sharing your true self. Some may be perfectly fine with never sharing their personal life or thoughts with the world-- and that is okay too. 

For me, I find it hard to swallow that I'm not "supposed" to share anything other than my work on my social media, or never honestly share thoughts on a tough day or project. It was a breathe of fresh air to hear each and every speaker refer to authenticity. 

Yes, your website must be professionally done in order to bring in clients. Yes, beautifully styled compositions on Instagram will get you more exposure. These things can easily be done-- all while still remaining true to who you are. What makes you unique? Show it off and don't apologize. Wear what you want. Share intimate parts of your creative process. Don't be afraid to show some photos of your personal life, tastefully, in the same color scheme as the rest of your feed. If you have a fear, a goal you've met, or a thought that seems 'imperfect' for the world to see, it's okay. You're human. People will appreciate these thoughts once in awhile. Never lose yourself to the curated world we are currently living in.

food styling workshop at fall break co, asheville, NC

Creatives in the middle of Sarah Snyder's "Food Styling and Photography" workshop. This workshop fits perfectly in the essence of authenticity. Styling is a work of art in itself-- but there is still room to show your process, what you're passionate about, and why you do what you do.

"Food Styling and Photography" workshop taught + created by the talented Sarah of @formationsofmentalobjects

8. Your are what you believe 


Entrepreneur + social media expert Tyler McCall gives a workshop on social media branding. Check out his marketing strategy programs + thepersonacreative


Speaker + Author Blaise Foret works in a small group session to give tips on public speaking and find your voice. Check him out as a co-founder of @ashevillefolk! 

If you're like me, you may have struggled (and continue to struggle) with confidence in your daily life. The worthiness of who you are. In a relationship, at your work, for taking risks-- if you aren't sure of yourself, how can you convince others to be?

As artists and entrepreneurs, how you view yourself radiates to not only everyone around you-- but CLIENTS as well. If you start to believe in your inability to perform, succeed, and be enough, your work will become toxic. How can you possibly succeed and convince others of your work, if you, yourself, are weary of your product? Be CONFIDENT! You are unique, You are enough, You are human. Perfection is not the end goal.

Speaker and sculptural artist Matt Tommey gave an incredible insight to this entire thought process as an artist. "Define your new normal." 

Rather than being surprised when you sell work or book new clients, begin to define this by saying "this is normal now". Define this normalcy on a positive note, and change how you visualize yourself and your worth.


9. Align with your design

As the final keynote speaker, artist and entrepreneur Matt Tommey concluded Fall Break Co. on such a powerful note. For me, his speech was incredibly relatable-- with too many great points to name. One of many favorite moments for me, was his phrasing, "As an artist, you don't have to live life in the weeds."

One of Tommey's emphasized lessons was to always follow your design as a human. What do you feel you were meant to be doing? A calling; the part of your soul that sets you apart, makes you unique. If you feel a burning passion towards something, follow it. Whatever it is that you believe you were created to do-- make a plan, and continue on that path. How can you possibly build all you were created for if you're placing your energy elsewhere?

He stresses the importance of non-conformity. That if all of earth's population decided to stop following the norms and dreams of society-- we would all make this world a better, healthier place. According to Tommey, the universe is set up for you to thrive, as long as you accept it. Allow success and growth to come into your life, rather than fighting it. If you feel you are designed to be a creative, do not conform. Be yourself in a world where individuality is so desperately needed. 

Give a look to Matt Tommey and his incredible sculptural work, as well as his three published books regarding the creative process. What an inspiring artist and man.


10. Find Joy

Motivational speaker and interior designer, Ruthie Lindsey, said it best. Choose joy, and choose it everyday. Listening to this incredible woman speak, it was difficult to imagine how she could stand there-- so effortlessly (or so it seemed) with this beautiful smile spread across her face. With not a dry eye in the crowd, Ruthie told her story of heartbreak-- a series of unfortunate events that made for agonizing amounts of both physical and emotional pain. But the beautiful thing about Ruthie, is that she tells it true. She is the epitome of honest and does not fear being vulnerable. Ruthie describes years in bed, hoping and praying for her life to end. A tale of pain and depression, all that she cared for in her life seemed pointless. Worthless. Unattainable. The pain was just too great. Though many of us are fortunate enough to not have gone through something as traumatic as Ruthie, so many can also relate. Was there a time where it felt easier to give in? Throw in the towel and decide you weren't worth the struggle?

Finding strength each day is beauty in itself. We always have a choice, no matter how unbearable it may feel. Ruthie is the epitome of strength. Rather than letting her pain define her, she chose to stand back up and re-create a life she imagined. A broken and damaged girl, blossomed into a successful designer and inspiration to many across the globe. Listening to her speak was magic. Her smile so genuine, a love for life so true. Being present with Ruthie through these few days in the mountains creates an unimaginable impact. Remember to choose joy, no matter the circumstance. No matter what life may throw at you. Each day, you have a choice. How beautiful life can be, with a mindset filled with positive thoughts..


to repair with gold; the art of repairing pottery with gold or live lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken"


Photograph by Torii Bridges at

Photograph by Torii Bridges at

Just a few of the wonderful souls who continue to inspire me after our meeting at Fall Break Co. As shown in order above: Lauren Krieger, Tori Ray, Torii Bridges

Thank you, to Asheville Folk

for giving your all and inviting us to sit down at the table with you..


Gift boxes created by the incredibly talented and thoughtful "Linen and Clover"