Girl Power: BlogHer vs Sleep Away Camp

Girl Power Weekends: Blogger vs Camper

I had two weeks of back to back girl power weekends which is strange for me because I hardly ever go away by myself. Both events were new to me. Both were 3 days. Both were overnight trips. Both were in the vicinity of New York. What were they and how did they compare?

BlogHer is the largest mommy blogger conference in the United States with 5000 attendees and 130+ brands.

Mother/Daughter weekend in the Berkshires at a YMCA sleep away camp whose fanatic following spanning several generations can only be described as cult-like.

How did they stack up? You'd be surprised!

1. Best Food. You'd think that BlogHer with hundreds of mommy food bloggers would bust out great food for their 3 day event which included all meals. NOT SO. All the bloggers I polled agreed: the food was terrible.

I heard that they step up the food for visiting weekend at Sleep Away Camp for the moms and the food was delicious. Organic berries, sausage and Belgian waffles for breakfast is just one example of menu items that were both organic and locally sourced.

WINNER: Sleep Away Camp!

2. Most Educational. BlogHer had some pretty qualified speakers for their wide array of sessions. Catherine McCord for Vlogging. Lynette Young for Google + (1,5 million followers in 1 year!). Christine Inge for Advanced SEO. There were more but my notes were poor. The only downside. Getting into the sessions you wanted. Points docked to BlogHer for poor space management. Popular sessions were assigned the smallest rooms and many of us locked out were bitter!

Sleep away camp meant that I had to follow my daughter around her typical day and do her activities. We put up a tent, paddled a canoe, shot arrows, and played games. The purple bruise on my arm, you ask? Bow burn from the string ricocheting off my arm. I did get 5 arrows into the target but no bullseye.


Quilted Northern ads at Blogher, BlogHer, no toilet paper3. Best Bathroom Facilities. A wash-house for 80 girls is not ideal. Double the number for moms visiting and it starts to get ugly. However, despite having only about a dozen toilets for about 400 women and girls, there was always toilet paper in the bathroom stalls. The down side was waiting for sinks and showers.

How ironic that BlogHer had the women's bathroom plastered with ads for Quilted Northern toilet paper on the floors and mirrors only to run out of toilet paper by 4:00 on Saturday. And not to be a stickler for details, but STOCKING the public bathrooms with Quilted Northern would have been a nice touch.

WINNER: No one. They both stunk.

4. Best Accommodations. At sleep away camp, my family got a chuckle that I would have to pitch and sleep in a tent. They didn't realize that it would also rain torentially. We were even called back from sailing due to a tornado scare. We borrowed a 6 man tent which took us 3 tries to successfully install it, but success! We stayed dry all weekend. It was actually fun to sleep in a tent with my daughter and we slept surprisingly soundly.

At BlogHer, I shared a room with Capability:Mom at the Hilton. I wish we could control the temperature in the room as the air conditioning was blasting. We cracked a window at night  to get some fresh air and moderate the temperature, but I felt badly about wasting energy.

WINNER: BlogHer. Let's face it. A bed is always preferential to sleeping on the ground.

5. Inclusiveness. A sleep away camp, there is something called Open Circle. The idea is that there is always room at the circle for everyone. This spirit of inclusiveness is the underpinning for a camp experience where you can be yourself and not be afraid of rejection. There is also a lot of sharing of feelings. In one Cabin Chat, all the moms and daughters sat around a dark cabin lit by a single candle pondering "What is the Best Thing About Being A Woman/Girl?" The girls shrieked in embarrassment when one mother ruminated on the positives of of her monthly cycle. Yeah. Lots of sharing.

BlogHer is a very different experience. I felt like I was having an alternate experience from most of the other bloggers by my lack of private event invites. There are conference wide events throughout the weekend but it starts to feel like this is where you go when you don't have a better invite. This is not to say that the BlogHer events weren't fabulous; listening to Katie Couric at lunch was a highlight for me, but the spirit of exclusivity made the conference bifurcate into haves and have-nots.

WINNER: Sleep away camp. I drank the Kool-Aide. It was hot for gods' sake and it was refreshing.

6. Price. These weekends don't come cheap. Both places offered scholarships to those who couldn't otherwise afford to go which was nice. Still, I felt a little uncomfortable at the Newbie BlogHer breakfast when they outed a mommy blogger who saved for three years in order to attend. I'm happy for her but I wasn't sure if she appreciated an entire roomful of bloggers now cognizant of her personal finances. That's TMI, right?

Sleep away camp also had an uncomfortable experience at Chapel, a non religious service. However, like church, they passed around pledge cards and pencils and I had to walk past smiling counselors holding baskets to collect cards and pencils as I filed out. I went to my college's 25th reunion a few months ago, and I did not feel pressured at all to donate the entire week of festivities. The "development" aspect of the weekend was unexpected and a little strange.

WINNER: I'm not sure. I live in New England. We don't like to talk about money with strangers.

BlogHer bus7. Best Experience. Both weekends challenged me in different ways. My daughter kept quoting their buzz phrase P.A.C.E. to me which stands for a Positive Attitude Changes Everything whenever I got snarky about wanting to shower. I appreciated her New Age-y cult like philosophies which coincide with what my career coach tells me. But this weekend was about mother/daughter bonding time and I relished every second with my daughter seeing camp from her eyes. I always love those experiences where the child is the adult.

The best part of BlogHer was meeting bloggers. No longer was talking about blogging socially annoying. I'd always have to apologize if I had to speak in Geek Talk to a blogger elsewhere. "Excuse us, but for 5 minutes I have to ask her something geeky." The Boston Parents Bloggers showed up in force and I was able to meet many of them on the bus ride up (thank you McDonalds!). I met other wonderful bloggers the entire weekend who were helpful, gracious and extremely friendly. I wish there was more time to just meet and chat with bloggers.

WINNER: Both were priceless.

If there are no coincidences, I wonder what it means to go to two back-to-back weekends of girl power weekends? What is the cosmic meaning of this? I'm still pondering!


PragmaticMom: Educations Matters. I blog, tweet, and pin excessively about children's and YA books. When I cover education and parenting, KidLit slips in too. 

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