I spent last weekend in Palm Springs for Designer VACA. I came away feeling equal parts inspired, happy, and exhausted. I got to meet a lot of designers that I’ve admired for a long time and a ton of designers that were new to me and I’m so glad I was introduced to. There was a lot to process when I got home, but I’ll try to string together some coherent thoughts about the things that I learned!
It’s a little hard to describe this trip, because it wasn’t really a conference- it was more like a little, well, “vaca” (or “vacay” depending on your spelling preferences) that included deep conversations about being a designer in this online arena- whether you’re designing for the web or using the web to market your work. The whole thing was really relaxed, which was refreshing. I was stressing on the way there because my business cards were outdated and the new ones I’d ordered hadn’t come in time, but I think I saw literally one card exchanged the whole time I was there. I loved how it was focused more on connections and conversation and less on traditional networking type stuff.
On Thursday and Friday we had several casual panels on topics like personal branding, work life balance, and web design. When we weren’t in panels, we had long breaks to go get lunch or lounge around the hotel. I have to give a shout out to Lisa and Ashley, my awesome roommates, and Cathy, who joined our late night chats and was like our honorary roomie. I learned a lot from our conversations and it was so valuable to me to get to talk back and forth with these ladies about our businesses while we ate lunch or fell asleep.
Besides the people in attendance, the place itself was just inspiring in general. I expected the Ace Hotel to be cool, but it totally blew expectations out of the water. Speaking of water, one of the main highlights was the pool. Just look at it. It’s amazing. The weather while we were there was apparently cool for Palm Springs, and it was so wonderful to get some quality time in the sunshine and explore downtown Palm Springs. I’ve never spent any quality time in California, so it was really cool to explore somewhere so different from home.
When it was all over, I took the red-eye home on Sunday night (thanks to Dara for being my travel buddy for the first leg of the trip!) Note to self: avoid red-eyes in the future. Recovery was kinda painful, but in the days following I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this trip.
I came away with some concrete goals for my business, meaningful relationships and new friends, but mostly a sense of peace that I’m okay where I am unless I say I’m not. Does that even make sense? I hope so. I put a lot of pressure on myself to have things more figured out than I already do. But the reality is that it’s okay to be where you are. Everyone there was in a different place, some have been doing this forever, some just started months (or weeks) ago.
If you’ve seen any of the other recaps (don’t worry, next week I’m hoping to round them up) you might have noticed that some of the common themes are feeling like you’re faking it and following your own journey. Even though most of us are a part of the same field or discipline, we all go about it in our own way. And even on the days when it feels like your work is toppling over you (which has been me the last two weeks, if I’m being honest) it’s okay to be where you are. Just know that you have the power to make it better in the future.
The one other thing that was reinforced for me is the value of relationships. I got to meet old friends face-to-face for the first time, and I was introduced to a lot of new people that I’m excited to keep in touch with. It was really cool to see the vets, the ones who went last year, return to their group of friends. Even though we’re online most of the time, the relationships that we make and the impact that we have on others is real.
Sometimes I have a hard time figuring out how my online relationships factor into my world- people who aren’t online don’t really get it. As an introvert, in the past I wouldn’t have guessed that I’d want a job or business centered on relationships. But I’m realizing that there isn’t really anything else that is more important to me. Connecting with other talented women (or people) inspires me more than anything else. I’d already kind of come around to that in some business soul searching I’d been doing lately (more on that later) but this weekend reinforced that I’m on the right track.
Next week I’m planning on sharing some of the things I’ve added to my reading list after this trip. If there’s something you have questions about, feel free to ask away in the comments!