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Today, I’m back from the exhaustive DIY conference known as Haven. Thankfully, this thing is held in Atlanta every year, so I don’t have to deal with the whole travel thing quite so much as the rest of the attendees. But if you’ve never been to a conference before, trust me when I say that I am tired. I spent all of yesterday (the first full day at home afterward) sprawled out in bed with Charlie, dealing with what should be dubbed “The Haven Hangover” (it impacts even non-drinkers, but in my case, I’ll admit that mine was helped with a few beers in the process).
I’ve already done previous recaps from years one and two, but this time around, I thought I’d give you more of a personal recap: to tell you more about why, in three years of going to the same conference, I still went back, and how that has changed each time.
The Haven Conference began just a few years ago and was formed by a few seasoned bloggers that felt they needed a conference to call their own. There are others, like SNAP! and Alt, but they all seem to fit other niches (like crafts, mommy blogs, higher-end design, etc.). For example, the fact that one of them is in all caps with an exclamation point should probably tell you that this particular one may not be for a power tool chick like me. Haven, however, is exclusively for DIY home bloggers (or others who just want to meet people in this genre).
And surprisingly, even when you specify what you think is a niche like “DIY home”, you still get a huge array of blogger types: there are the kind that are simply amazing at styling and showing off their magazine-worthy room makeovers (like The Hunted Interior); the kind that like to talk about organizing and making a home fit for their family (like Organizing Made Fun); the kind that are experts at rehabbing furniture and thrifting (like Vintage Revivals); home renovation experts that will spend their time checking out the cool new eye protection styles and learning more about DIY-friendly concrete (like Pretty Handy Girl); and then, there’s the single one who just wants to play with power tools and drink beer (you guessed it: me).
In reality, it’s a way for a bunch of bloggers who meet on the internet to come to a single hub and get face time with each other. And okay – a little bit of face time with Mike Holmes and Chip Wade too.
And something new: baby snuggles all around.
I’ve been blogging long enough at this point to see the blog world change from a sort of odd thing to want do to something that it seems everyone has these days. Even so, it’s still kind of weird to mention it to non-blog-friends. I feel dumb mentioning it on a date and fully expect an eyeroll (or perhaps worse, an acknowledgement like “oh… that’s neat”). And not a lot of people know why it’s important that I stop in the middle of my project to take a photo of something half done. Because blog.
But for three special days out of the year, there is a group of folks who get it. Every dinner you go to, every vendor rep you talk to, every class you take, is all built on this thing you have a passion for. Most of the time, it’s specialized to focus on what you find most important: building a blog that’s more user-friendly, or learning the latest power tool features, or getting hands-on training for better photography (both styling for photo shoots and actual camera info). And we all come to the same place, which means that you get to meet the folks you like, they get to meet the folks they like, and we all sometimes make a lot of new friends in the process. And that’s pretty much the only thing I came for this year.
In years past, I’ve done a lot more talking to vendors, meeting the “big blogs” that I’ve admired the shit out of, and taking blog-savvy classes (naturally, a conference is a good place to establish new relationships or simply stop and say thank you to reps you’ve worked with before). It is, after all, a business in many aspects, and networking is something that you have to be mindful of (and if I were a new blogger, I’d probably still go that route at first). But this year, that just didn’t seem like the thing I was really wanting. My blog has grown to a point that it is something I do for part of my income, and networking an important element of that. But if I only have three days to see some of the wonderful people I find myself texting on a daily or weekly basis, then that’s what I wanted to do. Just do the real friend thing. Talk a little blog. But mostly just get down to the root of why I began a blog in the first place: for that pure, filter-less connection with other people who really understand what it’s like to DIY and put it on the internet (and don’t get tired of me talking about the blog again). The good and the bad. The wonderful things that come out of it. Where/what we’re planning to go/do/build next. And then fall down awkwardly on the dance floor in front of the hot Ryobi tool reps.
Yep, that happened. I was taking a half step off the dance floor when my friend hip-bumped me and I wasn’t paying attention to what was going on (no, it’s wasn’t Jessica). I could blame my friend, my natural awkwardness, or the few Coronas I’d kicked back to get the kind of courage this white girl needs to “Get Low” this many years after college. But regardless, the last night of the conference, I totally ate it in a white dress in front of a table full of guys (and c’mon, hiring that many good-looking dudes to help out at a conference of 400+ women simply cannot be a coincidence).
But ya know what? When my friends helped me up, I was nearly in tears from laughing at myself. We were having a good time. We were all just so glad to see each other. The hugs goodbye were longer and sadder than usual. There were plans for visits outside of the once-a-year conference. It was exactly as I wanted, and that made it perfect.
In all honesty, I have no idea if I’ll go back next year or not. The classes at the conference itself are becoming less and less what I’m going there for. Perhaps I’ll switch it up and try to teach one instead. Any thoughts on a topic? “How to Not Fall on the Dance Floor” springs to mind for some reason – what? I have a whole year to learn!