For whatever reason, I have yet to attend a WordCamp. I’m kicking myself for taking so long — folding in on myself, indulging my introverted ways. A month ago, WordCamp Birmingham pinged on my radar and when I looked, the tickets were only $20 and included a tshirt, lunch and a snack.
Sidebar: the snack part made me giggle… I envisioned us breaking between sessions to gather together for circle time and a grown up walking around and placing five animal crackers on our napkin in front of us on the floor.
I had about a month to get my shit together and had not budgeted for the trip. So I had to figure out how to do it super cheap.
I knew exactly how far Birmingham was from home because my husband’s family is from Birmingham. In the last year and a half, we’ve travelled there as a family twice. Once you get through the mad house of Atlanta traffic, it’s such an easy drive — straight shot west on Interstate 20. It takes about one tank of gas to make the trip.
So the final cog in this machine was lodging. I looked at hotels (ranging for $85-120 on average per night) and even checked out AirBNB.com (Booking a place for just me was out of my budget and I’m just not ready to stay in a room in someone’s home while they’re there, sorry. No can do!) So I sent out a ping on Facebook to see if somehow I had missed that one of my friends was living in Birmingham and would perhaps have a couch for me to crash on (I’m so short, most couches are like twin beds)… But that was a dead end. So then I went the family route — messaging my husband’s cousin and his wife to see if I could crash on their couch. They came back to me with something even BETTER, and it’s kind of hilarious to boot.
Joey and Ashleigh (the cousins) have some neighbors that travel a lot and were going to be out of town this weekend and offered their entire house to me.
I didn’t even realize this was a thing that strangers would do, but it was a really big sign to me that I needed to go now… The beautiful thing was that these people (who I still don’t know their names, ha!) opened their home to a stranger in need.
And it was a cute little place! I had a comfortable bed and a nice, big shower and a comfortable recliner to sit in. And it was only 15 minutes from where WordCamp was going to be. The best part? Free! Well, almost. I had Ashleigh buy them a $30 gift certificate to a local mexican restaurant that she knew they frequented for dinner on me when they returned to their home.
So far, my expenses were $20 for the WordCamp ticket, $35 for a tank of gas and $30 for a gift certificate for my kind hosts.
Once I got to WordCamp, my introvert inside crept up and tried to sabotage me here and there. Sometimes she won, other times, she was squished under my thumb as I introduced myself to strangers. I plan to write about the actual sessions later this week, but the highlights, for me anyway, were the session on A/B testing with Bill Robbins and the session on Accessibility with Nancy Thanki.
We actually ended up with two “snack certificates” that we could use at the Harbert Center’s concessions and they had various breakfast pastries and sodas and chips and candy. We had all the free coffee we could consume, which was hilarious as I consider how many of my colleagues have “Powered by WordPress and Coffee” in the footer of their sites. WordCamp organizers setup deals with a handful of local restaurants to accept a $10 voucher for lunch and we ended up at a little Greek/Mediterranean place that felt like it would have been in NYC instead of Birmingham and it was BANGING. So delicious.
I skipped the after party. This introvert needed some serious recharging before I could face people again. I even asked my husband if I could wait and call him just before bed because I was just feeling so worn out mentally. I ended up picking up frozen pizza and went back to the house, crawled into bed and crashed.
Total spent for my first WordCamp: $90 (rounding up, even).
You know, everybody says, “GO TO WORDCAMP!” and you think they’re just exaggerating — like, maybe their enthusiasm is driven by a desire to support WordPress. But really, I can say this without question now, go to WordCamp. It really is awesome.
Was every session the most amazing thing that I ever could imagine? No.
Did I learn something in every single session? Yep. Every single one.
Is it worth your time and your weekend to go and give it a shot? Yep.
Big high-fives to the organizers of WordCamp Birmingham for putting on a great event. I can’t fathom how much work went into making it a smooth process for all involved.
If you want to, you can check out the dedicated hashtag #wpyall on Twitter to follow along with folks who were tweeting about their experiences.