This past weekend, I took a leap out of my comfort zone and headed down to Atlanta, GA for the Haven Conference. If you are not familiar with Haven, it is a design and DIY blogging conference held every year. This was their 5th year…but the 1st year for me! If you’re a blogger, I hope my Haven conference recap will inspire you to attend the event in the future!
Haven Conference Recap:
For the past few years, I had been wanting to attend Haven but it never worked out with my schedule. This year, the timing seemed right and when my blogging friend, Sheila suggested that it might be fun to go, it was just the push I needed. So, I spontaneously ordered a ticket.
For a few weeks (or months) before, I obsessed about flying because I am such a big baby about flying without my kids. Apparently, all that worrying used up all my brain cells because with the conference less than a week away, I realized I hadn’t ordered my business cards! Needless to say, I ended up paying a huge shipping fee, which was fine because business cards ended up being very important at the Haven Conference! Though, I must have overestimated the importance of clothing because I jam-packed two suitcases with enough clothes to last me a month! As it turned out, I didn’t need even half of the things I brought!
On Thursday, I arrived at the Newark, NJ airport and immediately met some lovely New York/New Jersey bloggers – Kelly from Eclectically Vintage, Kandice from Just the Woods and then Lory from Designthusiasm. Since I don’t normally tell many people that I write a blog, it was strange introducing myself as Shelley from Calypso in the Country. We all chatted before the flight and then shared an Uber car to the hotel, the Hyatt in Buckhead.
Once we checked in, many of us mingled in the lounge area of the lobby. Such a surreal experience seeing so many familiar faces, yet meeting them in person for the first time!
From the second we arrived, I felt like we were going non-stop. In the beginning, I remembered to take a few pictures but as the weekend went on, I took fewer and fewer.
When I stopped in my room to unpack, I took this photo of my view…
And while unpacking, I found the sweetest note from my son in my suitcase. He encouraged me to “have a great time and learn many new things” which was the perfect thing to read as I arrived feeling a little nervous. Of course, it made me miss my boys even more…but it also made me happy that they were excited for me! When you’re a stay-at-home-mom, sometimes you lose your identity in that role. It’s important to remember you have other talents.
The first night, I met up with Sheila from Maison de Cinq for dinner. We had never met in person before but when we finally did, I felt like we were old friends. We had the best time at a local restaurant, Holeman and Finch where the menu was very eclectic featuring various fresh ingredients and seasonal offerings. A perfect choice for our first dinner…thanks for choosing that one, Sheila! Afterwards, the hotel lobby was crowded again with familiar faces all excited to start this year’s Haven adventure!
During the weekend, I was thrilled to meet bloggers who I have followed for years…Laura from Duke Manor Farm, Kris from Driven by Decor, Jenny from Evolution of Style, Yvonne from Stonegable, Jaime from So Much Better with Age, Diane from In My Own Style, Sarah from Thrifty Decor Chick… to name just a handful…Plus many others and some who I have recently started following due to the Haven conference! There were so many people at the conference that I sadly missed meeting a few I had wanted to run into. I guess there is always next year!
Friday began with a Newbie meeting for all of us who were first timers. For some reason, I already had lost most of my voice and was quite embarrassed meeting some bloggers for the first time. A few people looked at me like I just underwent some kind of throat surgery so I felt like I had to keep explaining that I was losing my voice.
In the opening ceremony, Rhoda from Southern Hospitality and her crew kicked off the start of the conference with some motivating words of advice.
Throughout the weekend, we immersed ourselves in as many sessions as we could. I loved the photography ones…
Anita from Cedar Hill Farmhouse taught us so many valuable tips. Not only did she provide expert advice, but when I ran into her later that day in the lobby, she took the time to get my feedback about her session. She was sincerely interested in my opinions which made me like her even more! It really showed me that those big bloggers are successful for a reason.
In the photo-styling session, we were dazzled by experts, Matthew Mead and Janet Coon from Shabbyfufu Blog…What a treat! Janet was such a pleasure to talk with and such a talent!
I loved watching Matthew work his magic – I could just live inside his stunning photos!
And we spent a significant amount of time learning about the business side of blogging. My head was spinning from the abundance of information!
This year, Haven offered mentor groups and I was lucky enough to be in Bre’s group. You might recognize her from her hugely successful blog, Rooms For Rent. Our group met several times during the weekend which gave us a chance to introduce ourselves, share some ideas and plan to continue our dialogue in the future. The mentor groups ended up being a valuable part of the experience and Bre’s shining personality made it easy for us to feel at ease from the very first meet up.
Throughout the days, we also had time between sessions to visit vendors and watch demonstrations.
I haven’t dabbled too much in furniture painting but I was so inspired by the Amy Howard display that I just might try something in the future! I’ll be sure to blog about it…
Another of my favorite vendors was Home Decorators Collection. They had furniture displays all over the hotel with so many inspiring ideas…
I loved these rustic pieces and simple artwork.
And I loved this nook with the tufted sofa and industrial shelves. It doesn’t hurt having a shiplap wall in the background! I mean, who doesn’t love shiplap these days?!
We had some free time to explore and drop off our business cards on this huge wood carved map of the US built by the talented, Jaime from That’s My Letter.
So exciting to see where people traveled from to attend the Haven Conference!
Don’t ask me why I am pointing to Kentucky because I live in New Jersey! I must have been very tired at that point!
And then there were the parties! Saturday we all headed over to the InterContinental Hotel across the street for the Saturday Soiree! Southern food, dancing and a few cocktails…just what we needed to unwind after all the information packed sessions.
These are the girls I hung out with most of the evening – Annie from All Things Big and Small, Sheila from Maison de Cinq and Lory from Designthusiasm and yes that’s me with the crooked head – I have no idea why I thought it was a good idea to pose like that…
I finally straightened my head up and stood normally like everyone else. I enjoyed talking with these girls so much. Not only are they fun and full of personality but all three of them are Seinfeld fans! I was definitely hanging out with the right group!
Sunday was a continuation of more sessions and mentor meetings. The day was wrapped up with an appearance from John and Sherry from Young House Love . They spoke during the closing ceremony giving us many laughs and inspiring words of wisdom. After a weekend of information overload on what we should be doing, their lighthearted approach to blogging (and life) was so refreshing.
I left feeling encouraged and ready to move forward with the blog. Sometimes it’s hard to remember why we are in this crazy blogging world but John and Sherry were perfect examples of why we need to stay authentic and original. Love these guys.
So, I managed to fly home without having a heart attack through the turbulence and I arrived in Newark, NJ with a sigh of relief. At that point, I couldn’t wait to arrive in baggage claim to find a car service driver holding up a sign with my name. Instead, I saw three smiling faces – my husband and two boys! It was the nicest surprise ever and I hugged them with tears in my eyes like I hadn’t seen them in months…which I guess made sense since I packed my suitcase to stay away that long…
And to top things off, they baked me this while I was away…
Those boys. A great reminder that no matter whether I am successful with my blog or any other career down the road, being a mom is the most rewarding job I could imagine!
Ahh, what an experience!
And here is a bit of advice for future Haven newbies:
- Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to every person you encounter. I tend to hold back a bit but realized that many of us were in the same situation. You just have to put yourself out there. It can be overwhelming and sometimes you are not sure if someone looks familiar. It is so worth it though, when you meet a blogger you have been following for years!
- Order those business cards early to avoid paying a huge shipping fee like I did. Every time you will meet someone, it’s pretty much expected to exchange business cards. Plus, this year everyone added their business cards to the big US map. Those cards were then put into a drawing for awesome prizes on the last day. I actually won a $500 worth of hardware from Liberty Hardware!
- Stalk the Haven conference website, Instagram and Facebook pages to figure out who else is going ahead of time. This way you can look for specific people you want to meet. This will also help you make plans ahead of time for the first night’s dinner. Every person I spoke to in the lounge when we arrived had plans for dinner already so I was glad Sheila and I made plans to meet up that evening. Otherwise I might have been tagging along with some group I just met or eating alone in my room!
- If you see someone wearing a “Newbie” tag, introduce yourself. The Haven conference can be overwhelming for us first timers and it’s always nice to feel welcome.
- You will learn some of the best blogging advice from just talking to other bloggers. We are all in this together so be open to new ideas.
- You really don’t need to over-pack for Haven. Like I said, I didn’t wear half the things I brought. You basically need some casual outfits for daytime and then some out to dinner clothes. For the big party night on Saturday, people dressed up in more cocktail party attire. It was helpful though, to bring an extra suitcase because the Haven sponsors gave away a ton of swag. I took most things out of their packages and stuffed them into my suitcases, although I am surprised I didn’t go over the luggage weight limit!
- You might want to mix in some creative sessions with the more technical ones. I focused more on the serious, technical side, thinking that I would learn how to really take my blog to the next level. I found myself feeling a bit overloaded with information and stressed out about what I should be doing. Luckily, I did take two photography classes which were inspiring and fun. Even if I stopped blogging today, those photography tips were so helpful for taking photos in general.
- Be ready to make some changes on your blog when you get home from Haven. And by changes, I mean – if you are still on Blogger like me, you probably want to start planning for the merge to WordPress. I am not thrilled about this at all but supposedly WordPress is the place to be so I foresee some serious work in my near future…ugh.
- Be ready to push yourself to learn as much as possible and to meet as many people as you can. The weekend goes fast and you want to get as much out of it as possible. You can always catch up on your sleep when you get home…
- If you are contemplating whether you are ready to go to Haven or not, just order that ticket and don’t look back. To quote Mark Twain, “Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.”