I work on multiple virtual teams. Last week I was invited to a team meetup for a company I work with in Cape May, NJ.

Even though I could have jumped on a plane at the prestigious Erie International Airport, I opted for the 18-hour round-trip drive. It ended up being time well spent, as I plowed through some audiobooks and found it to be relaxing.

It was great getting out of the house for a few days — it’s where I work and spend 99% of my time. I take advantage of any opportunity to see anything other than these four walls.

I’d never been to Cape May before. I was told that it is beautiful. I learned some wonderful things during my stay.

Cape May is indeed beautiful

I was expecting Cape May to be more urban. Fortunately I was wrong. Rows of Victorian-style structures are settled along the Atlantic shore. You can smell the ocean and feel the breeze wherever you are. It resonates with a small-town vibe.

The town is clean. It’s clear that the people take great care to keep things looking nice.

Cape May is historic

Cape May, I discovered, is rich with history.

The Underground Railroad went straight through it.

In the 19th century, just about the whole town burned down.

I was amazed to learn that in the 20th century, half the town was bought by a religious leader. It was transformed into a religious settlement.

I visited the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities, the organization celebrating history and culture in Cape May. I visited the Physick Estate, a restored 19th-century mansion. I was short on time, or else I would have stayed longer to learn more.

Cape May is full of culture

While visiting the MAC, I also learned of its year-round calendar of events, including music festivals, tours, wine festivals, and even burlesque shows. Cape May is primarily a tourist destination, but even in the off-season, there’s a lot going on.

Cape May is expensive

I’m pretty sure this is a New Jersey thing, not just Cape May. The first thing I noticed was the price of gas. Then I noticed the price of everything else.

Cape May is a wildly popular destination

When I started telling people I was going to Cape May, I began to feel like I was the only person on Earth who hadn’t gone there.

“I used to live there.”

“I worked there when I was a teenager.”

“I go there every year.”

Unbelievable. I’ve been missing out all this time.

The people of Cape May are very friendly

During walks around town, I was greeted with a smile and “Hello!” from every person I passed. I thought this kind of thing was extinct.

New Jersey’s gas stations are full service

I pulled up to the pump, got out, and began to fiddle with the credit card reader. A worker approached me and asked how he could help me. I was momentarily confused. He glanced at my license plate, smiled, and said, “New Jersey is full service.”

I had no idea this still happened. The chat we had while the gas flowed made it a great experience.

It’s extremely beneficial to meet your virtual team face-to-face

Of the fifteen or so people that met up on our team, I had physically met only three before. As for the others, I’ve only had email exchanges or phone calls—for years.

Meeting everyone face-to-face humanized them. They weren’t just words on a screen or a voice on the phone. They all come from different backgrounds and have different interests. And they’re all warm, caring people.

I know that we’ll work together even better after having hung out for a couple days. The conversations, the laughs, and the hugs are helping to grow relationships that have existed on a more surface level for years.

I learned about distilling

One of our clients is a new distiller, and one of New Jersey’s largest: Nauti Spirits. I was given a tour, seeing how their vodka, gin, and rum are made. It’s a beautiful facility. And remakably clean for being a place that deals with truckloads of ingredients every day.

I learned that they use sweet potatoes to make their vodka. I never knew that was a thing. And when I tasted the vodka, it was outstanding. “This is a dangerous drink.”

Sitting on the beach watching the sun set over the ocean is amazing

On my last night in Cape May, I was invited to dinner at a colleague’s house, which is situated on the beach. We hung out on the deck all evening talking about music, books, and photography.

Watching the tide come in, and then seeing the sun set over the ocean, was the perfect close to my Cape May experience.