A year later, here we are. The biggest WordCamp in the Americas was taking place, this time, East Coast, specifically at the Gaylord National Convention Center, in Maryland.
What we had was hands down, the biggest US WordCamp as far as attendees were concerned, which is amazing considering that since WordCamp US in Saint Louis, we had a pandemic (how can we forget that one), and last year, to play it safe, only 750 people were allowed to attend.
This year, WordCamp US had a whopping 2000 attendees, which makes it a record.
Getting to the Venue
The venue is located on the shores of the Potomac River, which is a major river in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. It is downriver of Washington DC and across Alexandria in Virginia.
The overall region is plain beautiful. Getting there for me was a flight from San Jose to Panama, and then on to Washington Dulles Airport which is very, very far away from the city center (Washington DC).
I spent a day looking at the United State’s capital city. It is a place like no other. The city was built to impress with its monuments and memorials all across the city. The National Mall is simply amazing.
As the days progressed, people were coming in because, in addition to the US WordCamp, we also had the WordPress Community Summit which was like a ‘WordCamp’ for WordPress Contributors from across the WordPress Open Source Project.
The summit was held two days before the WordCamp took place.
I had a chance to see Aurooba and had dinner with her, whom I hadn’t seen since WordCamp US in 2019. It had been a Long time, but nevertheless, it was a great feeling to reunite after so long.
Before the speaker party, we had to set up the booth. Ericka and I have done many WordCamps, and it’s safe to say that we can do this with our eyes closed.
The sponsor area was quite good; its downside was that it was too far away from where the talks were.
To no surprise, the party was held where the venue was. The venue was simply majestic in its size and space.
It had a beautiful atrium that overlooks the Potomac River and thus, the sunset was to die for.
So the party was held there, which was more like a gathering as there was just food. I said hello to my fellow WordCamp friends. It was great to see some of them again, some whom I had seen at WordCamp Europe, whilst others I had seen in last years WordCamp US.
After leaving the party, I bumped into Eleonora Anzini, whom I initially met at WordCamp Europe 2022. We instantly clicked and have been friends ever since, despite having an Ocean that separates us.
I was so happy to see her as this was her first WordCamp outside of Europe and her first-ever visit to the US. So we met, and next thing I know, I bumped into Ruth, who I had seen…. Pretty much everywhere.
At that point, we headed to a bar, had a few drinks, and spoke a lot about stuff which of course included WordPress.
We started the WordCamp with lots of intensity, lots of people, lots of swag, and lots of questions. Good vibes. Ericka and I handled everything and everybody.
It was quite funny, as I reflected that the more you do something, the more you are able to do it synchronized and efficiently.
With Ericka, I don’t know how many WordCamps we have done together, but it has been quite a few. Needless to say, the crowds, the pressure, the questions, everything runs smoother the more you do them.
We decided we would alternate talks while seeing friends here and there. For my talk of the day, I saw Aurooba!
Her talk was a lightning one called, “Building a thoughtful block editing experience,” which was about things you should and shouldn’t do when it comes to building your own blocks.
Aurooba was fantastic, despite the fact that she said she was nervous! She did great, her talk was fast and I wish it had more information, for sure. But alas, it went well.
Then I stayed for another one that caught my eye: “Rising from Rejection: How WordPress Helped Me Reenter Society Again” which was given by a new guy in the WordCamp world, called Justin Kopepasah.
His talk called for attendance because of the struggles ex-convicts face to re-integrate into society. This is something that I think is too bad since people do time in order to be rehabilitated yet society marginalizes them, making it impossible for them to get jobs.
The talk was quite nice, as the speaker became a developer, started to work remotely, and in a way, it was WordPress as a software that gave him a second chance.
And just like that, day one was over! We went to a few parties and had a great time. The most notable was the pride party, which was awesome stuff!
Day two was underway, and as is usually the case with WordCamps, crowds were smaller but that didn’t stop anyone from having fun.
Eleonora swung by and wanted to know who made the beautiful George Washington Wapuu. Turns out I did know who made it, so I was looking for Joe. He was all over the place as he was an organizer.
I got a hold of him, and the great guy that he is, he was able to speak to Eleonora, as she was quite fond of the Wapuu. She is a fellow designer who has shaped WordCamp Europe over the years as far as design was concerned.
I was so happy to get them both going.
After a quick lunch, we knew the Camp was coming to an end. I had a chance to view one more talk, which was Antonio Sejas’ talk called: “WordPress Playground, Present and Future Applications,” which was about an innovative tool that lets you run WordPress directly in your web browser, within Visual Studio Code, or as a standalone local environment.
It was quite the talk and I enjoy seeing revolutionary discussions like this, which help us shape the tools we use for development.
I didn’t attend Mark Mullenweg’s closing remarks because quite frankly, meh! So I went to the hotel and got ready for the after Party and of course, the after-after party.
The afterparty was held at the National Museum of Natural History, which is a natural history museum administered by the Smithsonian Institution, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
The party was ok, I guess?
I do tend to note that parties in WordCamps in the US aren’t as intense or as crazy as parties in WordCamps both in Latin America and Europe. So the party was mellow, with no alcohol, and it was more like a gathering.
I stayed there for a bit, started to say farewell to some of my dear friends, and went with Eleonora to have some drinks. We walked, alongside another Marco (from Hostinger I believe) and Freddy Korpershoek, who I ironically had once bought a course from at Udemy. I didn’t know he was a WordCamp guy!
We went to this bar called Vue Rooftop which was right on the side of the White House in DC. Unfortunately for us, one of the guys we were with could not enter, as the Secret Service (you read that right) disallowed people with backpacks on a rooftop overlooking the White House.
He wasn’t allowed to enter with the bag, plus he was unwilling to leave it downstairs with security.
We had a few beers, and a few messages here and there as Ruth Kalinka was on the way. We had a new destination: a Karaoke bar called Wok and Roll, right in Chinatown.
So, Eleonora and I decided to wait for Ruth, but she didn’t come alone. She came with Antonio Sejas (the speaker) and Kat Zarabanda. Long story short, we had ourselves a nice crew to go.
We went and walked a lot to get to Chinatown, and once there, we found a few WordCamp Asia organizers!! The place was quite interesting, as well as what we sang! ????
We sang for hours until they kicked us out, and after that, I escorted Eleonora to her hotel before going to my own.
And just like that, my adventure at WordCamp US 2023 was over. It was great to see fellow friends, was great to help people interested in expanding their services via our hosting, and overall, I felt that this year, compared to last, was significantly better.
Each WordCamp feels different, even if they are the same. This has been my 4th US WordCamp and I have to say it has been amongst the best of them. The city, the venue, the people, the laughs, and even the hard goodbyes are what make this experience so unique.
Until next year!