When John and I were invited to speak at Libertopia this year, I was extremely excited about the prospect of visiting California again. The last time I had been that far West was February of 2011 for the Freedom Law School Conference in Ontario, California. I happened to be pregnant at the time and I also happened to be selected for the body scanner when trying to board our flight home. To make a long story short, we had to take a train back to Texas and I have not flown since.
Since we knew we would need to drive, I thought a second Uncoinventional Bitcoin-only family road trip was in order. This would allow us to see what has changed in the Bitcoin travel space since our June bitcoin-only trip, while inspiring others to get out and spend their BTC!
With these situational factors in mind (spending bitcoin only, driving, and having children with us), I knew that I would have to approach this conference differently than most people attending the event.
While the Libertopia organizers got a great rate on the Town and Country hotel for attendees, it was not a rate that we could pay via bitcoin. This is because the hotel does not accept bitcoin directly, and the special block room rate was not available through hotel booking companies like CheapAir.
Our hotel hunt led us to the Ocean Beach Hotel. It was on the beach, a short walk to the dog beach, dog friendly, and cost less than the Town and Country hotel when booking through travel companies.
Usually I am very resistant to staying at a venue that is separated from the events we are speaking at. With two toddlers in tow, it is nice to be able to "escape" to a room for a nap, snack or family play time. The truth is, I have not had much fun attending conferences with the kids and I think it is because I try too hard to have one foot in both worlds - I want to participate in the conference, so I am there physically, but I am also a mom, so I am basically walking up and down the hallway outside the conference, chasing the kiddos while John works a booth.
This time, I was determined that it would be different. I decided to use the invitation to San Diego as an opportunity to expose my children to the beach and to fully embrace the role of mom when John and I were not presenting to Libertopia attendees. We also decided not to work a booth.
That was the best decision ever.
During Libertopia we spent our mornings at the beach, our afternoons at the conference and our evenings doing some bitcoin dining.
On Friday neither of us had a presentation. So we showed up to check in, mingle with like minded company, and check out the Town and Country Resort. It was a great place for a conference on so many levels.
The break out rooms were small and intimate and were connected to the main room through an open outdoor courtyard. This allowed attendees walking around to randomly peek in on break-out sessions and stay for a talk they may not have experienced otherwise. Many conferences put the break-out rooms so far away that a total lack of foot traffic creates a black hole of sorts.
The extensive outdoor walkways and driveways on the property allowed for great fun for our family as we zipped around on a scooter, a bike and sometimes a stroller. The whole place was basically one large flower garden, which gave a distinct feeling of tranquility, especially in contrast to typical indoor conference venues.
Bitcoin was a major theme of the conference. I was invited to speak on bitcoin-only travel. I gave tips on how to get there, stay there, eat there and play there. I also suggested four bitcoin-friendly cities as potential destinations for bitcoin-only travel: New York City, Austin, San Diego and Cleveland Heights.
My favorite bitcoin-travel services also happen to be some of our sponsors:
Gyft - Gyft allows you to use Bitcoin at hundreds of popular retailers through digital gift cards. Through Gyft, now you can buy groceries at Whole Foods, electronics at Best Buy, an even book hotel rooms.
Brawker - Purchase anything with bitcoin through a proxy on Brawker. You can also acquire bitcoin while respecting your privacy.
Other bitcoin speakers included M.K. Lords, Davi Barker, Angela Keaton, and Drew Phillips. They discussed how bitcoin can be used as a force for good and M.K. Lords discussed how bitcoin is changing the way the world views activists.
Another recurring theme at the conference was the idea of small groups, working together with other small groups to create a voluntary society. My husband John referred to these groups as Freedom Cells, and Bob Podolski and Clyde Cleveland referred to these groups as Octalogs.
The idea is simple: you form a cadre of tight knit friends and you work together on self-improvement, life skills, preparedness, etc... Your small group links up with other small groups and eventually you have enough people to opt out of the system entirely.
John's full speech audio on Freedom Cells, and the creative uses of the bitcon blockchain to fulfill the vision of Freedom Cells is here.
We also hosted a screening of Sovereign Living, a documentary style reality show about our family's attempts to get off all centralized lives. It is produced by The Center for Natural Living which has the vision of a voluntary and natural world. The episodes will soon be available on WatchMyBit.com, the first ever micro-bitcoin payment video service.
Now that bitcoin has become a mainstream meme in our society, I think it is important for events featuring bitcoin lectures, panels and talks to prioritize the payment method when selecting an event venue. I would suggest working with the venue to ensure those who travel on bitcoin have access to any deals you work out on price.
I would also suggest that all conferences include children in some way. So many people who want to change the world leave their family behind to attend these events. To truly change the world we need to make sure our children have access to the information, skills, knowledge and relationships that we did not have access to until most of us became adults.
My final suggestion is to put the vendor area outside of the main stage area. I understand the sentiment of having everyone together, but it is much easier for vendors to have conversations with people if the booths are not in the middle of a conference room where people are trying to listen. This will be an important factor when more children are worked into the mix.
Overall, Libertopia was one of the better conferences I have ever attended. I look forward to a return in 2015!