I hit Palm Springs 2 days before AltSummit started, spending my time puttering around in antique shops, dipping into the downtown area once, catching up on errands, and banking hours of sleep and quiet. I have been insanely curious about Alt for several years and bought a ticket on a whim after realizing it would be held in California around the time I planned to be there. It didn't hurt that it would be held at the Saguaro Hotel, an iconic property that is quite possibly the most colorful place I have had the pleasure to stay, ever.
Alt is not for the faint of heart. It is 3 full days of bright, shiny, happy, intense, networking and classes aimed at creatives, bloggers, entrepreneurs and social media influencers. With no particular job except wandering, house sitting, and this wee blog, I was free to skip all of the business-focused courses and spend all of my time listening to insanely inspirational talks on things like mentoring, creativity, balloons, books, being uncomfortable, the power of a good booty shaking dance, fear, honesty, party planning, and feminism.
I got to hear one of my personal heroes, Jihan Zencirli of Geronimo Balloons, give a heartfelt and truly funny talk about loving your internet troll. I have absolutely been living under a rock, because although I knew Luvvie Ajayi's name, I was clueless about her humorous, spot on observations about social media and culture. Her book was on my list to read, now it has rocketed to the top. Alison Faulkner of The Alison Show got me up and dancing with a roomful of people. It was not optional, but I would have done it anyway. John and Sherry Petersik of Young House Love gave a great talk, but it was a chance meeting near the pool and a casual conversation about Instagram and travel that had us following each other before we wandered in different directions. This is a conference where the speakers are accessible and very often your peer, though a whole lot farther along in their business or blog. This is a way to give back, to lift up those of us coming along. It's a great model.
I brought the Traveling Unicorn Hat, of course, and 15 brave souls agreed to have their photo taken in it, which was 5 more than my goal. I went into this whole experience worried about feeling exhausted, wanting to hide, and not being able to make small talk. In the end, none of that mattered and none of it happened.
I met dozens of smart, interesting, creative women, all excited to talk and talk and talk, all bubbling over with ideas, collaborations popping up all over the place. I had an amazing roommate, Lexi Soukoreff of Daub + Design. She makes the most comfortable, beautiful leggings I have ever worn and is warm, friendly, and down to earth. I met Adrienne of Animal Cracker Studio and immediately took her on a mini road trip to visit a local stamp and greeting card company, during which we learned that we have a ridiculous amount in common, most particularly our slightly warped senses of humor. Through Adrienne I met Davon, Chief Effervescent Officer of The Bubbleista, who looked at my outstretched hand and gave me a huge, warm hug instead. These 3 became lifelong friends effortlessly.
At Alt I discovered a side of myself that I haven't seen in so long that it was nearly unrecognizable. I navigated a huge cocktail party, multiple classes and meals, impromptu meetings, and networking with an astonishing level of comfort. I saw my photography professionally framed and on display. I volunteered to model for a photographer. I spent a lunch hour being interviewed about fear and self care, offering to collaborate in the future. I got a whole lot closer to comfort with the whole "you should make this trip into a book" idea. I found room in myself to be silly, to laugh, to dance. I surprised myself over and over, in the best sorts of ways.
I had so much fun. I'm still feeding off the experience, so glad that I made the jump, took the risk, said yes to all the things. Signing up for this conference felt like a bigger risk than most parts of this trip. It turned out to be one of the very best decisions I've made.