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San Francisco is Full of Romantic Flowers

I visited San Francisco for a week in July. Flipping back through my photos I realized just how many foliage shots I had from walking around. You could go on a thousand first dates here and have a different backdrop for each. It’s goddamn gorgeous.

So here’s to you, San Francisco, a bunch of different foliage photos.

People in San Francisco really like succulents.

Is it illegal to not have one on your doorstep?

But they’re into flowering plants too.

Their doorstep game is A+

That doorways almost always have some sort of greenery.

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The Conservatory of Flowers

And the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park is a great place to hang out. It’s also the oldest existing public conservatory in the western hemisphere. You can even get married there.

Admission is $6 for students and $8 for adults.

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People have also realized it’s an awesome first date spot.

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Canada U.S.A.

Across North America, Day 13: The Road to Calgary

This would be our final day of high-tailing it across the large centre of the continent. We woke up early and made a beeline for the border.

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Here’s the great thing about the high elevation of White Sulphur Springs:

We put the van in neutral as we left town and coasted for 20.7 km down the mountain.

On a side note: We’ve decided we need to make some friends in the centre of the continent.

On both the American and Canadian sides, our choice of friends to see over the couple days to cross from approximately mid-Ontario/Minnesota to Saskatchewan/Montana was non-existent.

People of the central continent, let me befriend you!

We crossed over into Coutts, AB at the Sweetgrass border crossing. The town just north of the border is exactly what I romanticized the Albertan countryside to look like.

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We continued over into Calgary where Rob’s cousin lives. There was a small mishap where we drove into a Calgary suburb to get some Tim Horton’s, but then realized we were in Stephen Harper’s district and got out of there as quickly as possible.

Being back in Canadian territory where our currency wasn’t entirely useless felt good.

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Once making it to Rob’s cousin’s house in the suburbs, we spent the rest of the day doing laundry and responding to work emails that had piled up, and of course Rob wanted to catch up with his relatives so it was a pretty low-key day in all.

We ate some pizza, drank mojitos, and prepared for the next leg of the journey we had been waiting for: The Canadian Rockies.

Day 13 Costs:

  • Gas in Dutton, MT: $40.05 USD

Total: $40.05 USD (cheapest day yet!)

U.S.A.

Across North America, Day 12: Prairie Dogs and Painted Canyons

First of all, I’d like to apologize for the radio silence!

No, we didn’t get eaten by prairie dogs.

I was having trouble balancing posting each day with enjoying the adventure at hand, wo I decided instead to wait until I got back to Halifax to finish posting (and here I am!).

This way, I spent more time on the trip having adventures, and less on the internet. A wise choice, I like to think.

Now, where were we?

Ah, yes.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park!

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We woke up like this.

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Driving in the night and setting up in the dark, we had no idea what our morning surroundings would look like. Turns out, they were pretty cool.

Waking up here feels kind of like waking up on an alien planet. Huge, barren sloughs of land lift up around you, and the climate is arid.

They call these ‘the badlands’ (ohhhh, scary name). But Theodore Roosevelt National Park is made up of three geologically separate areas of badlands near the western town of Medora in North Dakota.

North_America_Day_12_Mel_Hattie-2We’re becoming pretty proficient with the little butane-powered cookstove that we’ve been using on this trip, at least to the point where scrambled eggs and beef-flavoured ramen noodles are no struggle.

I put myself on bison watch after we struck camp. Driving out of the park, I spotted one wee, tiny bison on a hill I knew it was a bison and not a rock because it flicked its tail and lifted its head.

Score. One bison.

We were headed to the nearby Painted Canyon, but were stalled by a gathering of Prairie Dogs on the way which we had to stop and document.

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Prairie dogs are so much smaller than I thought! They’re about the size of guinea pigs and move fast.

I was able to get pretty close by sitting on the ground and slowly scootching my butt closer to them. #prophotographertips

Our next stop in this part of the land was the Painted Canyon.

There was a cool interpretation center here where you can read all about Theodore Roosevelt and his history with the park. He’s known as one of America’s big nature-friendly presidents. On the wall of the interpretation center, there’s this quote:

“I never would have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota.” – Theodore Roosevelt

 

The Painted Canyon was really lovely, but there’s nothing much to do except stare at it. It’s not really accessible for walking about, but you wouldn’t really want to anyway. The packed earth makes it reflect heat like a mirror. I was sweating just standing there looking at it.

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Yes, I as extremely toasted here. And this is with VIGOROUS sunscreen application. You just can’t win.

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There were lots of trucks in the parking lot. Coffee was available and I got the impression that this was kind of a way station.

Gawks made, we headed onward to the Lewis and Clark National Forest.

Shortly before arriving at our campsite we pulled into the small town of White Sulphur Springs (Population: 970) and spot a large sign outside the Truck Stop Café that says “PIE FIXES EVERYTHING”. For roaming internet children like myself, their super-fast is also a blessing in the middle of an internet dessert.

The owner of the TSC is a big-armed guy who laughs easily, makes a great BLT, and (as you may have guessed) is very serious about his pies.

We obviously can’t leave without trying some. We choose apple. “You want me to heat that pie up so that ice cream drips down the side?” he says as he clears our plates.

Ummm. Yes? Yes.

When the pie comes, it is so good that Rob uses two forks to finish it.
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The atmosphere is star-spangled. In the washroom, fabric sunflowers sit in an old German milk jug with WILKOMMEN painted across it. There’s a framed photo of some babies sitting amid various flowers on the wall. Yeah, it’s kitschy, but I like this place.

I felt so at home that I walked out with their mug after I finished my tea, then had to run back in and return it.

This is the kind of town the cashier at the grocery store says “Thanks for stopping by.” Really charming; really American.

The free campsite we headed to was the Richardson Campground  – about twenty minutes from town and off the highway. It was beside a river in the middle of nowhere and there was already firewood at the site.

It even came with a cow. How nice of the National Park Service to provide dinner for us.

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Kidding.

I made an awesome campfire, and we started to make a later dinner, all the while noticing the sky was growing more and more ominous.

Then the sky said, “Nope,” and it started to downpour.

Thanks sky.

We had no tarp, and the weather app told us to expect thundershowers all night, so we decided to flee back to White Sulphur Springs to splurge on a motel for the night. We could have stayed in the van, but both of us were feeling tired and having daydreams about real beds and showers.

Everything from the campsite got thrown haphazardly into the back of the van and we retreated. You win this time, nature.

Our motel had two double beds inside the room. Rob and I locked eyes, “I love you, but I’m taking a whole bed for myself.”

Ah. true love.

I’m not going to mention the motel here because it was a little bit sketchy. Let’s just say we’ll be watching one of our credit cards very closely. On the plus side, the toilet paper dispensers looked like bears, so it couldn’t be that bad… right?

Most places in the area had TripAdvisor reviews. I’d recommend checking them out (like we didn’t) before deciding on a place there.

We also finished our first American time-lapse, up to North Dakota!

Day 12 Costs:

  • Nat’l Park Fee: $20.00
  • Gas in Glendive, MT: $44.09
  • McDonald’s Coffee and Pop: $3.59
  • Groceries in White Sulphur Springs: $13.43
  • Lunch: $13.18
  • Motel: $74.90
  • Gas in White Sulphur Springs: $32.86

Total: $202.05

U.S.A.

Across North America, Day 11: Sunflowers and Sunsets

We knew the middle states would be long. Today was about 12 hours of driving.

Did you know that some gas stations have tiny TVs set into their pump screens, so you’re forced to listen to broadcast while you pump gas. “Thanks for making us America’s No. 1 Network at the Pump!” is something a cheery gas pump LCD newscaster actually said to me.  At the rate that corporations keep colonizing every spare moment in our days, I’m surprised they haven’t come up with printed ads on the back of toilet paper (yet).

One thing you notice on these long driving days is the varying gas prices in the states. In Wisconsin we paid $2.599/gallon; in Minnesota we paid $2.549/gallon; in North Dakota we paid $2.949/gallon. Small things, but when you’re driving steady for hours on end through agricultural flatland, things like this seem to take on an added significance.

Today had the added esteem of being the day we arrived in FARGO!

Fargo being one of Rob’s favourite movies, we were excited to see the town. We spotted our first Bison!

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It turns out it was Pride Week in Fargo, and they had pride flags lining every major street, and sweet words of encouragement written in chalk all over the sidewalk. We had lunch at a swanky place called Ho Do (mostly pulled in by the chalk Batman advert) and at the bottom of your bill you could choose to donate to the local pride organization the same way you’d add a tip at the end.

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[white_box]If you want to read about a sad but real story from the town of Fargo that involves the movie “Fargo” and a Japanese businesswoman (Takako Konishi), then read the linked Wikipedia entries and watch the documentary “This Is A True Story”, and the movie “Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter“. [/white_box]

Once we left Fargo, we drove pretty much straight west until we hit the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Literally. One straight line heading west into the Badlands. Bison territory.

Driving through the sunset we passed dozens of sunflower fields in North Dakota, stopping at one to take photos.

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Across the sky were strewn pink, purple, blue and gold clouds, like giant pieces of cotton candy, sugar stuff pulled across the sky, like some giant had just pulled off a section of the sweet stuff.

It was dark when we reached Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We couldn’t see anything but stars when we arrived in the park and had to set up in the dark to avoid mosquitoes and moths flying into the van. We were so tired we just flopped onto the mattress in the back instead of setting up the tent.

In a way, it was kind of nice driving into the park in the dark, because it meant we would have a beautiful surprise when we woke up.

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Day 11 Costs:

  • McDonald’s Lunch and coffee for 2 (wifi!): $15.03 USD
  • Gas in Hinckley, MN: $42.19 USD
  • Subway Sandwich: $4.82 USD
  • Supper for two at Ho Do in Fargo: $23.65
  • Tea at Starbucks: $2.75 USD
  • Gas in Jamestown, North Dakota: $48.82 USD
  • Camping at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, 1 Night: $14.00USD

Total: $151.26 USD

U.S.A.

Across North America, Day 10: Thunderstorms in Milwaukee

Here is a sample of some of the roadsigns between Indiana Dunes National Park and Milwaukee, Wisconsin:

[white_box]”You can loose weight. Call NOW for your free bariatric surgery consultation”, “When you die you will meet God, Call 1-888-TRUTH”, “ADULT SUPERSTORE NEXT EXIT!”, Personal Injury Lawyer, Personal Injury Lawyer, Personal Injury Lawyer, “$10 Tuesdays at Polecats”, “Just Because I’m Not Born, Doesn’t Mean I’m Not a Person”, MARS CHEESE CASTLE, Pornography Destroys Love, “Got GOD?”[/white_box]

I couldn’t make this stuff up; I’m from Nova Scotia and am more used to seeing things like, “Lobster Dinner at Exit 5”.  If the people here are as crazy as the roadside ads then they are hiding it very well, because Rob and I had an awesome day in Milwaukee which included meeting lots of nice and not (observably) crazy people.

Getting to the mid-west was fun. I had been there for the first time a couple months ago at Bloghouse and was excited to show Rob around. Milwaukee is a super cool place.

Milwaukee Public Market

Numero uno. We got in around 11am and wanted to grab some food before heading over to the art museum to watch the wings flap (you’ll see what I mean in a second) at 12pm.

Last time I was here I tried Thainamite, which was great (they have deep fried sushi). This time, I opted for the Salmon, Bacon and Spinach sandwich from the St. Paul Fish Company. It was the thing everyone talked about eating the last time I was in town. It took them about 10 minutes to make (I think because the lunch rush hadn’t really started yet, and it was a Monday), but it was worth the wait.

Look at this.

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That spinach is sautéed. They don’t fuck around.

Rob’s clam chowder was also really good (I am the girlfriend that eats all your food).  I also had a cappuccino from Anodyne‘s booth in the market. Highly recommend; not only am I a tea snob, but I like good coffee to. These guys are up to par.

Milwaukee Art Museum

The last time I was in town I never got to see the famous ‘wings’ on the building flap, although I did take lots of pictures, where you can see the wings  are open. The ‘wings’ are an architectural feature, giant sunscreens that can open and close. They open when the museum opens, flap at noon, and closewhen the museum closes. We planned to be there to see the noon flap.

We entered the museum and made our way up to the second level via the exterior stairs and bridge that lead over to Juneau Park for the best view of the museum.

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When we got up to the park, it was about 11:50am, but we noticed the wings were already down. ”Hmm. Did we miss it?”

The skies to the north were dark.

Very dark.

“Maybe this is just the first part of the flap, they close them… then open them?”

From far away, we started to hear the sound, like dried beans being poured down a sieve.

When the wall of rain and thunder hit us, we realized why they had closed the flaps early. The rain hit so hard and sudden, that when I moved a second later there was a dry shadow of my body on the concrete where we were standing.

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We ran to a nearby shelter with another guy caught in the rain. After a few minutes of waiting, we decided to make a run for the museum.

Honestly, we could have just walked; we were supersaturated with water when we made it inside that it wouldn’t have been possible to be any wetter.

Here’s where Milwaukee’s niceness shines through! One of the museum staff came up to us and said he saw us running in, and that he’d be right back with some towels we could use to dry ourselves off with. He suggested we could warm up with a tea at the indoor café. Great idea!

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Soaked at the Café Calatrava.

We dried off, got us some internet, and then decided to buy tickets to the Modern Rebels special exhibit at the museum. It was being advertised the last time I was in town but hadn’t opened yet.

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Modern Rebels showcases artists who broke the mold. Van Gogh to Pollock is the show’s subtitle; it begins with the pre-WWI French school and follows the subsequent movement of the art capital from France to New York as the war broke out.

Intriguingly, we noticed with the sample of works presented in this exhibition, that the canvasses became substantially larger once the artists move to NYC. American upsizing?

It was chilling to see Jackson Pollock’s ‘Convergence’ up close (as seen in the photo above), but the painting that struck me the most was actually Femme retroussant sa chemise (Woman Lifting Her Chemise) by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

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[white_box]A fixture in the bustling Paris nightlife scene, Toulouse-Lautrec painted what he and his friends experienced. And for a time, he lived in brothels. The artist befriended the women who worked there, such as the prostitute here, pictured dutifully lifting her garment, and often portrayed them as human beings rather than as sexual objects: “I have tried to do what is true and not ideal.”[/white_box]

I’m intrigued by this idea of T-L being kind of like an early fine-art journalist, using his brush to capture reality. Like a photojournalist today would get to know their subjects before shooting them, T-L did the same of his subjects.

People might argue, ‘But it can’t be reality, because it’s a painting. Photography is truthful because it captures reality exactly as it is in front of you.‘ This is one of the arguments that held people’s imagination when photography was first invented.

The thing is: camera angles can change a story and there are a million ways to fool a viewer. To this day ethical debate rages on about this in the journalism community. And of course it all centers around our idea of ‘what is reality?’ and ‘What is truth?’.  Even without Photoshop, there is a huge spectrum of what you can do with a camera.  All you have to do to confirm that is look at some of Salvador Dali’s photography work.

After seeing this, I think modern photojournalists could benefit from reviewing more fine art journalism of the past. I know I plan to.

Most of the works used in this exhibit came from the Albright-Knox Contemporary Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York. If you can’t make it out to Milwaukee, maybe Buffalo is an easier visit.

Art brain satisfied and thunderstorms cleared, we headed back on the road and enjoyed the appropriately painterly clouds as we headed away from Milwaukee and on to our next camp site.

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Day Lake Campground in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest

A word of advice: bring cash!

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A lot of National Parks require self-registration. This means showing up without a reservation and leaving cash in envelopes in cute little locked boxes and then driving onto your site, without talking to any actual people.  The same sometime goes for firewood.

There was almost no one at this park. We saw one neighbour, and heard a bike at one point, but that was it. All that could be heard besides that were loon calls and the creak and shriek of the water pump when one of us went to fill our canteens.

As a city person it can be a bit eerie, even hair-raising to be out in the middle of nowhere.  I encourage you to try it.

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My office, feat. laptop and wood axe.

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Here we have a great lowbrow-highbrow combination. Campfire beans with matcha Kit Kats for dessert. Mmmm.

Despite feeling like there was no one around, there was a charming gas station/general store and bar about a ten minute drive out of the park. We stopped to use the ATM at the bar, and admired the “No concealed firearms” sign.

Day 10 Costs:

  • US Highway Tolls around Chicago: $3.30 USD
  • Milwaukee Public Market Parking: .25c USD (already money in the meter; sweet!)
  • Cappuccino from Anondyne: $3 USD
  • Salmon, Bacon, Spinach Sandwich from St. Paul’s: $13.75 USD
  • Cookie, Chips and Juice at MAM: $5.57 USD
  • Coffee and Tea at MAM: $4.00 USD
  • 2 Adult MAM “Modern Rebels” Exhibit Tickets: $28.00 USD
  • MAM Parking: $7.00 USD
  • Gas outside of Oshkosh: $43.19 USD
  • Two Drinks, Two Snacks, Gas Station: $6.45 USD
  • Groceries at Family Dollar, Park Falls, WI: $13.45 USD
  • Firewood: $5.00 USD
  • Clam Lake Campsite, 1 Night: $14.00 USD

Total: $147.01

U.S.A.

My First World Domination Summit (a.k.a. The Time I Helped Break a Guinness World Record)

I never thought I’d go down in history for eating waffles in Portland, Oregon.

I should have known better.

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To back up, a couple weeks ago I attended World Domination Summit (“WDS”), a yearly gathering which aims to host attendees who care about community, service and adventure.

This was the Summit’s fifth year, and over 3,000 people were involved between attendees, volunteers, and Portland locals who joined in for some of the events.

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WDS was started by Chris Guillebeau (gill-a-bow, I had to constantly remember not to use the french pronunciation), a young internet entrepreneur who you may know from his blog, The Art of Non-Conformity, or one of his manifestos: 279 Days to Overnight Success, or A Brief Guide to World Domination.

To sum it up, WDS is a weekend conference for people trying to live an unconventional life in a conventional world, as the tagline goes. I have to say, it was pretty unconventional. The speakers ran the gamut, from holistic OB/GYN M.D. Lissa Rankin, to CD Baby Founder Derek Sivers.

A common thread (other than their inspirational and entrepreneurial talks) was that they were all prolific, self-made entrepreneurs with very strong internet presences.

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One thing I took away from this is that WDS and Portland in general is a very tight community. I was a first-time attendee, and a lot of the people present at the conference had been before, and a decent amount had even been all five years.

Previous attendees I met were quick to tell me how much I was going to love WDS. I love that people are so passionate about it, but at times could tend more towards waxing nostalgic about previous WDS years than living in the moment.

Speaking of meeting people, my biggest recommendation for future attendees is to:

Attend the Academies and Meetups

While the mainstage and keynote speakers and the people you meet in line at “The Schnitz” are great, I found more people who shared common goals at the Academies, and it was easier to get to know people.

There are just so many people who come to WDS. There are fortune tellers who make their income online, guys who bike around the world for a living, social activist graffiti artists, corporate types, non-corporate types, people from all over the world, people from Portland, etc.  A lot of them are kind of tech-savvy hippies, but not exclusively. It’s a super interesting, very large crowd to try and parse through. It can be overwhelming.

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Academies are smaller (40-300ish people). I went to the Location Rebel (Hosted by Sean Ogle) and Language Lab (Hosted by Benny Lewis and Scott Young). I particularly liked the practical part of the language lab where we broke off into groups of the languages we were trying to learn, and I got to practice my bad mandarin for a few minutes.

太好了!

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Meetups are even smaller, with some of them having less than twenty people each. Even better for getting to know people. One of my favourite meetups was Women in Travel-themed at the Swine Moonshine and Whiskey Bar.

All meetups were listed and could be R.S.V.P.’d to using WDS’ proprietary scheduling app for iOS and Android. It made it very easy to find out what was going on, and where.

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Academies Started on Thursday; I arrived on Wednesday and spent a lot of time walking to and from locations in the city, and it was hot, hot, hot!  By the time the after-party rolled around on Sunday evening I was feeling mentally, physically and socially burnt out.

I started looking forward to some nice focused time on the road, driving from Portland, OR to San Francisco, CA, for the next leg of my journey. This didn’t stop me from going out to the after-party, or making a last-minute stop at Voodoo Doughnut though.

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Breaking the Guinness World Record

What an unforgettable way to start the week; breaking the Guinness World Record for the Largest Breakfast in Bed. We couldn’t just eat breakfast as we arrived in Pioneer Square; we had to wait until 600 of us were in bed together and then eat in sync for five minutes in order to qualify, beating the record previously set by Shanghai in 2014 (388 people).

During our wait in the line for breakfast, we were treated to Rose City Coffee, Kind Bars, and endless donuts from Voodoo Doughnut. The main ‘course’ was a veggie breakfast burrito from Elephants Deli and a yogurt and granola parfait from KIND snacks. There were no complaints here. All were in good spirits for the event.

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The event was dubbed ‘Worldwide Waffles’, but in lieu of Belgian-style waffles, to meet the needs of 600+ breakfasters, stroopwafels were used.

They’re a Dutch brown sugar cookie with caramel-like syrup on the insides, and the Dutch girl in me jumped for joy. I love stroopwafels.

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Tying in with their theme of service, all the blankets and beds that were bought for the event were donated to local organizations that support families in need.

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Overall, WDS gave me a great intro to Portland’s culture, and a great weekend full of advice and new relationships and ideas for my own career that I’ll be ruminating on in weeks to come.  There were a lot of really amazing people both on stage and in the audience, and I think they’ve got something really special happening there.

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In fact, I would love to see something similar start in my hometown of Halifax. Just an idea for the cookie jar.

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Would I go again?

Because of my location (I’m in Halifax on Canada’s East Coast) I doubt I’ll be going again next year simply because of the cost. However, my experience was very positive and I could definitely see myself going again in future years, likely worked into another road trip or leg of a larger journey. It’s an entrepreneur Disneyland.

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Next year instead of 3,000 tickets, they’re limiting it to 1,000. Shrinking the size of the conference sounds like a great idea to me, as I think it would mean running into the same people more often, and allowing for more intimate discussions and relationships.

Tickets aren’t for sale yet, but check out their website to catch the first wave. They always go fast, so I recommend subscribing to their newsletter to keep on top of it.