Spending time with friends can be enjoyed over a lovely dinner at Napa & Co or Columbus Park, sharing an art film at the Avon or an art opening at the Fernando Luis Alvarez Gallery on Bedford Street. As friends, we support each other’s causes, attend parties and help overcome challenges.

There’s a whole new faction of 50+ boomers out there that are entering a new phase of life where the kids are grown and even the grandchildren aren’t babies anymore. Retired, semi-retired or just pulling back, we find ourselves finally with the time to do the things we’ve always wanted to do. We are volunteering and donating time and experience. We are hungry for learning and exploring. And, we look to our friends to help us along the way.

Friendship is as important now as it was through adolescence, we just have better toys. A true test of friendship, like any relationship, is discovering how well you can travel together

Guzda-Woodloch-DinnerToastSo, when eight friends from Stamford and the surrounding area: Lynne Colatrella, VP Marketing Events for Stamford Downtown; Alon Marom of Greenwich, Director of Development Kids in Crisis; Carol Shwidock, Owner Harmony Yoga in Stamford; Michael Turner, Real Estate agent at Gio Homes in Westchester; Anthony Palazzo, Inventory Analysis at Diageo in Stamford; Todd Kosakowski, Restaurant Developer/Operator;  Philip Heilman, Artist and Art Dealer in Hudson Valley NY; and me, former Stamford native, Laurie Guzda, freelance writer; decided to  plan a “Non Weekend” getaway, we began inquiring upon our resources. With so many schedules to coordinate while looking for a location that offered fun, variety and comfort, after hours of searching, endless emails and texts back and forth, we stumbled upon one of the best kept secrets… Woodloch.

Only a 2 – 2.5 hour drive away, Woodloch is a family owned resort that has been operating since 1958. It’s actually three resorts – the original Pines, the Springs golfing community that rents houses and The Lodge at Woodloch, a destination spa. Although the Pines is predominately know as a family resort (voted the #1 family resort in the US according to Trip Advisor) it’s a haven for adventurous adults during the week when kids are in school.

Guzda-Woodloch-WineTastingIf you have the ability to travel weekdays, then you can find some great deals like we found at Woodloch. Many resorts eliminate staff and activities during the week, but not here. In fact, they’ve amped up their offerings for newly or semi-retired folks, business owners, business people who don’t need an office – just the internet, or people with jobs that allow for weekday travel.

Here we discovered the AWAY package. AWAY stands for Art, Wine, Adventure and You. And we dove in to all of the offerings.  The wine tasting was fantastic. It was actually a wine and chocolate tasting that not only delighted my palette but taught me something new that I could bring home to share with friends. It’s a little trick on how you hold the wine and chocolate flavors in your mouth, time it just right, to experience the full explosion of its essence. The tasting included four wines, four chocolates, cheese and fresh berries.

Guzda-Woodloch-JohnLeoni-LaurieGuzda-AnthonyPalazzo-WatercolorThe wine was easy, something we all enjoyed and did not fear. Next we headed to the Watercolor class. Several of us enjoy doing art and welcomed the class while others were maybe not so much afraid as reluctant. This is when sharing with friends takes the edge off. It’s frustrating to hear someone say, “I have no creative talent.” Most likely a teacher, a parent, sibling or friend long ago instilled that thought; Shame on them. Guzda-Watercolor Through nervous laughter we trusted the enthusiastic and animated instructor, John Leoni, as he guided us step by step along with his personal stories and antidotes. It wasn’t long before a beautiful painting began to emerge. They were all amazing! Todd and Lynne were probably the two most reluctant to paint and yet produced two of the most stunning pieces of art. Later at dinner Todd commented on how much he enjoyed the class and would do it again the next day. However, we had something else planned.

Fear is a funny thing. It’s a thought that gets into your head and can easily paralyze you. But, with trusted friends by your side, you can face any fear head on. Carol was terrified to zip line. She was open and honest about her fear. Because she was surrounded by loving friends, she had the courage to face and overcome it.

Guzda-CarolZipAs far as zip lines go, this is a small zip line but it’s fast. And after you zip down the hill you then have to leap off a platform to be lowered to the ground. That’s not something for the faint of heart. I don’t think Carol was the only one who had reservations but she was the only one who was honest about it. Everyone zipped and everyone’s adrenaline was pumping! Carol’s sense of accomplishment was obvious in her smile after completing the run. In fact, her whole face smiled and radiated her inner strength.

Guzda-Woodloch-FirepitWe did art, wine and adventure.  We also enjoyed the nightclub which featured a song and dance review that was delightful. It was followed by a comedian named, Eric Lyden, who was very funny. I still laugh thinking about the India dating site called, Connect the Dots. The food was abundant and good. We had choices that served all of our needs. Our rooms were very spacious and remarkably clean.

Speaking of service, I don’t think you can speak of Woodloch without speaking about its exceptional customer service. People have been working here for years, some 25 and more. They are so happy that it almost makes you think there’s something in the water. Woodloch is a happy place. I would imagine it starts with the owners who are clearly present and engaged.Guzda-Woodloch-LynneColatrella-LaurieGuzda-CarolShwidock You feel like you’re invited into their home making us all feel like we now have new friends.

The power of friendship to make us laugh, learn something new, push boundaries and face fear is a gift. Here’s to Friendship…. pass the chocolate and the wine, please.