One of those Facebook ‘memories’ reminded me that today is the anniversary of heading off to my one and only visit to SXSW (long after it had jumped the shark) in 2015 and it came hot on the heels of a reminder of my trip to Miami for FOWA conference back in 2008. I paid for both of these trips myself (though my ticket was free as I spoke at SXSW) and I got to wondering how many international conferences had I attended in-lieu of ‘normal’ holidays?!
The answer is I have combined professional conferences with vacation time a dozen times since 2008! Five times I paid for the entire trip and conference. Twice I just tagged on some vacation time to work sponsored trips and for the rest there was some kind of mix of funding (usually work picking up the ticket and the accommodation immediately related to the event but me paying for flights, transfers and any additional nights.)
The conferences and locations were –>
FOWA 2008 (Miami) – 100% personally funded.
Mozilla Drumbeat 2010 (Barcelona) – 100% personally funded.
Government Summit on Open Source 2012 (DC) – MRC funded trip.
Open Knowledge Festival 2012 (Helsinki) – 100% personally funded.
Open Knowledge Festival 2014 (Berlin) – ONS funded.
SXSWi 2015 (Austin) – 100% personally funded (ticket was free as I spoke).
Personal Democracy Forum 2017 (New York) – mySociety funded ticket. I paid for trip.
All Tech is Human 2018 (New York) – 100% personally funded.
Practical Democracy 2018 (Wellington, NZ) – Delib funded as I spoke at event.
GOVIS 2018 (Wellington, NZ) – Delib funded trip. I paid for ticket.
Code for America Summit 2019 (Oakland) – Notbinary part-funded.
OneTeamGov Global 2019 (Vancouver Island, Canada) – Notbinary part-funded.
I suspect this is a little bit weird but I have to say I wouldn’t change a thing. I learned loads at these events, met some cool people and gave a bit of a purpose to my trips. Those occasions where I funded them totally myself were also stress-free with no pressure to report back or demonstrate value for money.
I’m not sure I’ll ever be too keen on attending in person conferences again – not at scale anyway – so it might be that the Code for America Summit will be my last busman’s holiday – if so that wouldn’t be a bad one to go out on.