Traveling to BlogHer '13 Was a Journey I Needed to Make

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Traveling to BlogHer '13 Was a Journey

I sat down in the cab taking me away from the Chicago Sheraton and the BlogHer '13 Conference, and I wanted to cry. Those tears that are a crazy mixture of sadness, exhaustion, emotional overload, happiness, and even gratitude. The tears that come after an intense, overwhelming, and amazing experience. When you are tired and inspired all at once.

But I’m not a crier. And my anxiety medication generally makes it hard for me to cry, which is usually a good thing, but on Saturday evening, in that cab leaving the conference, I wanted to cry. And being in that I-want-to-cry-but-the-tears-won’t-come state for several hours put this left-brain gal in a strangely emotional state that prompted some intense reflection.

And I knew I needed to write about it, for, at the risk of treading into hyperbole, traveling to Chicago for BlogHer ’13 was truly the best thing I have done for myself in years.


Travel is physical movement, exploration of new parts of the world. It moves you outward and away from your known universe.

A journey is emotional, perhaps spiritual, an exploration of new part of your identity, your soul. It moves you inward … yet still possibly away from your known universe.

Travel introduces you to new people and places.

A journey introduces you, or reintroduces you, to yourself.

Travel is planned. We have an itinerary, packing lists, reservations.

But a journey can catch you off-guard.

And I was caught a bit off-guard by BlogHer.


Prior to attending BlogHer, I learned all I could: I read all the posts about the parties, the swag, and the carefully-planned outfits coordinated with matching shoes, jewelry, and purse. I learned how many business cards I would need, and packed multiple device chargers, snacks, and note-taking supplies. I mapped out my schedule and prepared to learn about publishing, SEO, and social media.

And then I traveled to Chicago.

But BlogHer was a journey.

I travel a lot. I lead trips to Europe every summer for my high school students. I have traveled many times with my children. I’ve traveled to various states to attend teaching conferences. Prior to having children, my husband and I visited Paris, Rome, Tuscany, and other amazing destinations.

But in all these travels, I sojourned with others. My children. My husband. My parents. My colleagues. I travelled as a mother, wife, daughter, teacher. Who I would hang out with, eat my meals with, talk with… was already known.

This time, I traveled by myself.

It was scary at first: Who will I talk to? Will I look totally awkward if I sit down at a table by myself? How will I find people to eat dinner with? Will I look lonely and desperate if I text or tweet people I just met and ask to hang out with them? I “knew” many of the people who would be attending the conference, but only online, not IRL. Insecurities I thought I’d left behind in junior high swirled inside me on my flight to Chicago.

I knew that even my twenty-year-old self -- the one who would sometimes sit in her college dorm room crying on a Saturday night, too insecure to reach out to friends, convinced they were doing something fun and, if they had wanted her there, they would have invited her == would have been terrified to make this trip. Too scared to step into the arena, take the risk of rejection, and go out and make her own fun.

I realized at BlogHer how much I have grown since then. When, on my first night in Chicago, I couldn’t find the people I had arranged to meet, the me-from-college would have run right back to her hotel room, pouted, and gone to bed.

But instead I sat in the hotel lobby, secretly grateful for my iPhone which has now made it completely acceptable to be alone in public, for we can convince people that we really do have friends that we are actively texting and tweeting.

And then I met some amazing women, we had great conversations about blogging and motherhood, moved on to the party, where I met up with my new friends… and I stayed up until 12:30 the morning! By choice!

I finally met, in real life, my online blogger friends, and it was amazing to fall into conversation and friendship as if we had been girlfriends for years.

I had traveled to Chicago expecting to learn how to write, meet some new friends, and maybe discover some cool new plug-ins for my blog.

But I realized I had also journeyed inward.

I spent three days talking about motherhood, but I wasn’t “mom.” I talked about teaching, but I wasn’t “Ms. Rudell.”

I was a writer. A friend. I was me. Purely me. The “me” that’s left when I strip away those aspects of my identity that are so wrapped up in what I do every day: parent, teach, support, advise.

I reconnected with my Self. By physically removing myself from my home, my husband, my children, and my day-job, I found the space where I could focus on me. The me that IS, not the me that DOES.

I remembered a trip I took 5 years ago, my first time traveling away from my daughter in the 21 months since she had been born. I didn’t start with an easy, one-night-away trip; I flew across the Atlantic to spend 10 days touring Europe with my students. For the first two days and nights, I didn’t sleep. At all. I was up all night wracked by intense anxiety and panic attacks. I finally slept on the third night, after bumming some Dramamine off one of my students. On day three of my sleep-deprived, anxiety-ridden haze, I distinctly remember crying out, “I don’t know who I am anymore!”

Separated from my home, my husband, and my daughter, I had lost all sense of myself. They had become my tethers, and I became unmoored traveling away from them.

Traveling by myself to BlogHer, five years later (and properly treated and medicated for anxiety), I discovered how much I have changed. I am much more comfortable in my own skin. I am more assertive. I am still an introvert, but I am much more out-going and comfortable in a crowd. This time, away from all my previous moorings, I still felt grounded. Embraced by friends. Empowered by new passions. Inspired by new ideas. Traveling alone allowed me to briefly journey to the core of my identity, and discover that she’s still there.

I sat in the cab taking me to O’Hare Airport on Sunday evening thinking about my voice, my identity. I am not “just” Abby and Liam’s mommy, or Todd’s wife. I am a blogger. I am a writer. I have a unique story. There is still a part of me that is just for me.My friends. My blog. My voice. My spirit, my “breath, put into the world with vigor and courage.”*

I am so amazed by all the inspiring, intelligent, funny, and brave women I met who are also putting their breath into the world, with great vigor and impressive courage. All weekend, my favorite quote from Margaret Mead echoed in my head:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has."

Blog on, ladies.

Traveling to BlogHer '13 Was a Journey


{*=From the Latin meaning of spirit, as written by Peter L. Benson.}

Sarah Rudell Beach

Left Brain Buddha






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