My Unforgettable Journey at WordCamp US 2023

On a water taxi at WordCamp US 2023

After a week of whirlwind experiences, I’ve finally arrived back in Seattle, resuming my spot behind my work computer. WordCamp US 2023 has left an indelible mark on me, from incredible moments to a few unexpected challenges. I’m excited to share the ups and downs, the insights gained, and the lessons learned during this remarkable event.

The Venue: Where Learning Meets Grandeur

I was surprised by the venue’s scale when I stepped into the Gaylord at National Harbor. It’s like a Convention Center that comes with a room. My elevator emptied right into the heart of the conference. The sprawling hotel grounds and expansive convention areas housed our WordCamp and various events, including weddings. The National Harbor area felt like a haven for events like WordCamp. Despite the massive scale, getting around was surprisingly easy, earning the venue a solid ten on my evaluation scale.

Contributor Day: A Dive into the Unknown

Contributor Day was uncharted territory for me, having attended WordCamps for nearly a decade without participating. As someone dedicated to my local Meetup Group, contributing seemed like pushing beyond my limits; I had reservations about my capability to do so. Opting for the community topic group, the morning discussions opened my eyes to the global challenges facing WordCamps, such as pricing disparities between urban and non-urban areas.

The afternoon was dedicated to documentation, a task that felt strange to me. We tackled creating a mental health questionnaire for WordCamp organizers. The process felt more suited for trained professionals in the mental health field. Despite the mixed feelings, I left with so much respect for all those who dedicated their time to contribute. I may be best suited to contribute at the local level.

The Sessions: Gems of Learning and Mansplaining

My WordCamp experience included two sessions that enriched my knowledge. The first, on accessibility, armed me with valuable tips for my clients. The following day, I found myself in a workshop led by Femi Lewis, centered on AI and writing. The insights into utilizing ChatGPT for content creation were invaluable. However, the Q&A session took an unexpected turn when an attendee considered themselves an “expert,” critiquing Femi’s outstanding presentation. Femi’s graceful response was a testament to her professionalism, while Amy K.’s mansplaining intervention after the talk was enjoyed by everyone who witnessed it.

The Events: Uniting Fun and Friends

The conference wasn’t just about sessions but a whirlwind of fun events. An unforgettable painting session with GoDaddy customers and employees offered great bonding. Josh Hall, founder of Web Designer Pro, graciously invited me to dinner with his students. I’m a new member of that group and thoroughly enjoyed talking shop and sharing tips with other business owners. The Pride Party at the Gaylord was an unequivocal highlight, bumping with loud music and celebrations of inclusivity. While the run-up to the event had its share of drama, the organizers turned it into a teachable moment, showcasing grace under pressure. The closing event at the Natural History Museum, while initially mixed up in my mind with the American History Museum (I was expecting Fonzie’s jacket, not fossils), was a beautiful affair I’ll remember always.

The Connections: Building Memories

Every moment was a chance to connect with others. An impromptu water taxi ride with longtime GoDaddy friends and new connections set the stage for a great dinner and a nighttime tour of the monuments. I had preplanned a sightseeing day with my dear friend Adam Warner. We hit the Spy Museum, the White House, Old Ebbitt’s Grill, and a Capitol Tour. Finally, time spent with fellow Women of WP friends made everything better. There are so many people I didn’t get a chance to spend quality time with. And I wish we had made time for a WebCami Cafe group photo. Next time, I’ll be more organized about that!

Reflections and Future Growth

Amidst the overwhelmingly positive experiences, a sense of exhaustion crept in. Balancing the conference with my business commitments took a back seat. Despite the sleep deprivation and missed opening remarks, I’m grateful for the extra day after the event to recharge. It’s become evident that giving myself time to process after WordCamp is a crucial aspect of the experience.

As I boarded my flight home, a flood of ideas emerged, unburdened by distractions. WordCamp US goes beyond just sharing thoughts; it’s a place to build connections, dive into learning, and set out on a journey of self-improvement. It’s an opportunity to grow in all aspects of our personal and professional lives as WordPress users.

I extend a heartfelt thank you to the tireless volunteers who made WordCamp US 2023 an exceptional event for all of us. If you’ve never attended a WordCamp US, I highly recommend it. The experience can reshape your perspective about life and your career. It will make you believe in the WordPress community.

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Cami MacNamara

Cami MacNamara has 20+ years of experience running a small, profitable, one-person web design business, so she can walk her dog whenever she likes. WebCami.com / Twitter / Instagram