RVSX: Short one rider.

Change of plans: A couple of hours ago, I stepped off the plane that brought me back home to Chicago, a full three days early.

Exactly when I decided to leave, I’m not sure. But I do know that I had a South by Southwest day pass on Sunday and scarcely knew what to do with it. I waited in line for a few T-shirts, stared blankly at a few exhibitors’ booth literature on the trade show floor, and wandered aimlessly through a few lounges packed with people.

I flipped through the “pocket guide” of panels, sessions and workshops in a blogger lounge sponsored by Samsung, where I snacked on free popcorn while a Streamy Award–winning vlogger (!!!!) yammered on about god-knows-what up on the stage.

I ran into a friend from Chicago, and we made our way to a meetup for freelancers at an office just off the beaten path. We drank Miller High Life and ate Doritos, and I handed out more cards in that hour than I did the entire rest of my time there.

I may have decided I’d had enough as I walked down Sixth Street and saw an impromptu dance battle between girls in neon leotards and guys with three-foot-wide hot pink mustaches around their necks. (Keep Austin Weird.) I think they were working for a brand but can’t be sure.

I couldn’t quite shake the feeling, from the beginning, that I didn’t have a reason for being there, and the feeling only got stronger on the day I actually had access.

IMG_3853The real reason

But if I’m being honest? Mostly: I missed my cats. I missed my boyfriend. I missed my privacy and personal space. I missed working.

And the thought of spending another day downtown with throngs of brilliant, driven strangers — thinking about work but unable to focus on it, all the while wondering what the coming months will have in store for me — then packing up our campsite 45 minutes from the city and getting back on the RV, which now smells like six men who drink constantly and shower far less, for another three days of driving…

Dear. God. No.

So as I sat on the floor of the only panel I attended (“How NOT to Suck at Presenting Your Work,” which was standing-room-only and could only have been more elementary if we had been finger painting), I fought the spotty wireless signal, cashed in my credit card points and booked a flight home.

RobThe end

And after dinner with a college friend beyond the borders (and madness) of the conference, I returned to camp, where the rest of the crew had just wrapped filming a segment with a CNN crew.

Absentmindedly munching on birthday cake Oreos, I watched Rob, a loveable social media guy who’s also a sideshow performer, ease a steel spike and a meat thermometer up his nose, then snap his bottom lip in a tiny mousetrap with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle drawn on the back.

I watched the crew roar with laughter at jokes I only halfway got, feeling more isolated knowing I was the one who had created the distance there, choosing sleep over partying and often earbuds over conversation during our journey down.

After most of the rest of the crew left for a night of parties downtown, there was a shouting match between the British guy and me — we both sort of knew we’d eventually come to blows. I cried.

I packed my things, leaving most of what I brought on the RV, stuffing only what I absolutely needed in the Vera Bradley zipper duffel I knew would fit in an overhead bin, and finally fell asleep. The rest of the crew got home around 3:30 a.m.; I didn’t wake up.

Paige at YahooWould I…again?

Would I go back to South by Southwest? Maybe. (If I went, would I plan it a lot better? Absolutely.)

Would I do it in an RV? Hell no.

Will I remember this trip — and the people I traveled with — for a long time to come?

Yes I will.


Back in Chicago now, I’ll try to make up for lost — well, not lost exactly — time and do the writing I couldn’t find the focus to finish, get back on the Weight Watchers wagon I fell off when I boarded the RV, and flip through the business cards I collected in Austin to start, y’know, looking for the ROI of my SXSW experience.

If I don’t get a dollar of business from anyone I met, though, I know I can see this as a learning experience — even if everything I learned was just about myself. Some good. Some bad. 


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6 Responses to “RVSX: Short one rider.”

  1. Kelly M. Rivard Says:

    Sometimes those self-focused learning experiences are what we need most. I know in the last two or three years, I’ve learned more about myself, my limits, my capabilities, and my needs, than I ever did in any years prior. I mean, it doesn’t help that I’m like…”that age”. You know the one, where you figure out “who you are” as a grown-up.

    Whatever. That’s all clichéd. That “age” never really stops.

    While I die inside a little with envy anytime a friend or colleague goes to SXSW, I’m with you on this one. Sometimes, we don’t get what we expect out of our big plans.

    Enjoy being home. 🙂 Say hi to that beautiful city for me!

  2. Antonia Spicer Snearly Says:

    Ahhh….You know that cartoon that is going around on facebook that says something along the lines of “I may be 40 but I feel like I’m 25…until I’m around a bunch of 20-somethings and then I’m all like, no way I’m 40.” Well, I know you aren’t 40…but even at 30, you start to realize that muddy camping in the middle of a corn field to see back to back Dave Matthews concerts really isn’t as enticing as it was when you were 18…oh, wait…that was me. Hotel and dinner please. 🙂 Funny how your views change as you mature…and it’s like you don’t even know they are changing into you are put into that situation. I TOTALLY felt your uncomfortableness in this post…I’ve been there many times. Glad it was a good experience…but that’s what counts in the end. 🙂

  3. expatmum Says:

    Funny – I went to a ma-hoo-sive Blogger’s conference a few years ago and felt exactly the same. No one could understand why, and you have voiced it. (Toni)

  4. Meg Duggan Says:

    I’m sorry it sucked Paige. I’m a big believer in getting oneself out of a bad situation. If you are feeling like its not the place, make yourself a new place. Thats your power and never forget you have it. Never ever stay where you feel uncomfortable or get the hinks. Welcome home sweet pea, and good for you!

  5. Mitch Byrne Says:

    Welcome back to reality.

  6. genxatmidlife.com Says:

    The world needs more honesty like this. Thanks for bringing it.

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