An Incredible Weekend at the World Domination Summit

In my recent update post, I talked about the conferences I had this summer and how nervous I was to make a foray into public speaking. Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit just wrapped up and throughout the weekend I’ve had a running narrative in my head of ways to try and convey the specialness of the conference. The last few days have been a blur of jumbled thoughts and smiles, with all of the adrenaline from speaking still swirling under the surface. But the most memorable part of the weekend wasn’t the milestone of speaking in public for the first time, it was the energy wrought from a roomful of passionate, thirsty people on the cusp of change.

Chris Guillebeau World Domination SummitChris Guillebeau giving opening remarks at his first ever WDS.

I finally had a chance to meet Kelly Newsome at WDS, and she said something that really resonated: that sometimes we meet people and it feels like we crossed paths in the middle of a conversation. If there is one way to summarize the weekend of new friendships and the rush of energy emanating from one small museum, that would be it.

Hundreds of attendees of varied ages, professions and backgrounds and it felt both comfortable and inspiring to spend time with each and every one of them. Of course, this is a testament to the kind of people-gathering Chris is capable of. The depth of his messages (inspire, not motivate, learn from everyone you meet) meant that despite the disparate otherness of each person in attendance, we were all linked by a common thread: we wanted to be ourselves, even if that meant being different from what was expected of us. I anticipated a lot more in your face-ness, more bravado -“Quit your job and be free!” or “Do awesome things just like me!” at WDS.

But that wasn’t the case. The weekend, the people and the overarching themes were inclusive, not exclusive. From the keynotes, “Be yourself, do what you are passionate about, effect positive change. Dare to dream.” And from the many workshops, a detailed and useful content map for doing so, whatever those dreams may be.

Oh, and also? There was Bollywood dancing. Of the interactive sort.

Bollywood at WDS!An unexpected (but terrific) beginning to the afternoon session on Saturday.

WDS bollywood dancing500 people doing Bollywood dancing at a conference? Why not!

As the room was practicing their shimmies and shakes from Bollywood, I backed away behind the main stage to look out at the audience. My speech was right after the dancing session and I was far too nervous to partake in the dancing. Instead, I looked out at this sea of joyous people completely, unabashedly enthused about their new dance moves and thought “this is the best audience I could have asked for first a first speech.” And it was true. The night before at the kickoff party, people asked if I was nervous (yes) and if had spoken before (n0) and seeing the trepidation on my face each offered up the most genuine hug imaginable. I really felt like people were rooting for me, and the incredible energy and generosity of spirit in each of the people I met made getting up there easier.

Jodi Ettenberg World Domination SummitMe talking to WDS about following my passion for travel.

I should mention that I’ve never been terribly good with touchy-feely stuff. I did a yoga intensive for the first time in Thailand back in 2009, and ended up calling it a day when someone told me that coconuts fell from trees because of the Power of Attraction (I responded that I thought it had something to do with gravity but that didn’t go over very well). While I loved the feeling of stretching my muscles out to their breaking point and the focus yoga gave me, I’m too sceptical to deal with mindmelding coconut tricks. I say this because this post is all about touchy feely – but I mean every word.

In every way my expectations were exceeded. I was so thankful to have the opportunity to share my story with WDS attendees, but I didn’t expect to be so connected to everyone and so humbled by each and every story I heard. That’s not to say I was preemptively flippant about those in attendance, but rather that I focused on writing the speech and not freaking out that the intensity of the weekend took me by surprise. The smiling duo from Mondo Beyondo, Pamela Slim’s obvious inner strength, Leo Babauta‘s sincere and smile-filled keynote, Karen Walrond‘s incredible photos and stories – each of these speeches and more set in motion a great bevy of ideas and ‘what ifs’ and enthusiasm. And each of the subsequent conversations with attendees and speakers and workshop leaders just intensified the desire to really plan big, something I’ve been scared of doing because planning big also brings the potential to fail big.

This maelstrom of thoughts was, of course, the point of WDS. And it’s not just me who feels this way. Following the #WDS hashtag on Twitter will yield an outpouring of gratitude and greetings and planning. I’ve never attended a conference that generated such creativity and attentiveness and it blew me away.

Pamela Slim, Jonathan Fields, Danielle Laporte and Jodi Ettenberg at WDSJonathan Fields, Pamela Slim, Danielle Laporte and me at the closing Q&A.

Now that the weekend is over, what comes next? For starters, I’ve put together a packing, budgeting and tips for long-term travel page, chock full of resources for all of you interested in long-term travel but unsure of where to start. I was also wondering if any other WDS-ers would be interested in social media platform for WDS meetups and dreamups for the coming year? I think many of the attendees will be heading back in 2012, but it would be great fun to try and keep ourselves in touch and updated in the interim. What if Nicky and Chris made a version of that supports meetups or a messaging board? Could be fun!

And on my end, a lot of thinking. Big thinking. The kind of thinking that only comes after a whirlwind of a weekend filled with fascinating people who have a strong desire to live in technicolor.

Thanks to everyone who came up and gave me those hugs I so desperately needed before I spoke, and a huge thanks to Shannon, James, Paddy, Allen and Gary for all the feedback on my speech (and calming words).


(Photo credit for the above pictures (except the first, blurry one – that’s mine) go to the talented Wes and Tera from Armosa Studios who photographed WDS).

48 thoughts on “An Incredible Weekend at the World Domination Summit”

  1. Mikell Beechinor

    Jodi, your session was equal parts inspiring and hilarious. You are a public speaking natural. I appreciate all of the prep work that you did and the resources that you generated to share post-conference. I left your breakout session feeling extremely lifted and grateful. Thank you.

  2. You stole the show from my perspective. A great story from a great storyteller. Thanks for taking the time to chat afterwards.

    I too was expecting more bravado, but the openness of all of the speakers was truly amazing.

    I wonder about the psychology of choosing the photo that blurs out your face ;)

    1. Thanks Matt. I actually chose the photo because it captures what I was feeling – it was all kind of a blur up there. Great to chat and thanks for letting me crash your row during Jon’s speech. :)

  3. Hi Jodi–

    I agree with Matt…you were so captivating and I was mesmerized by your tales and breathtaking photo montage.

    I feel so inspired to release my inner intrepid.

    Thanks for accepting those dares;).

  4. Jodi,

    This is my favorite post-conference write up so far. There were times when I had “issues” with the touchy-feely stuff as well, and you perfectly conveyed the overall feeling of being there surrounded by such epic people.

    I responded via Twitter (@AllofUsRev) about creating a and meetup opportunity. Keep me posted and let me know if you need any help organizing that. Hopefully we can figure something out to keep all of us inspired and held accountable.

    Thanks again for your inspiration this weekend. I think I enjoyed refusing shots at the bar with you Saturday night most of all (thanks, Mark)! : )

    Talk soon,


    1. Ha, that was a great evening, I agree. I defer to Chris about whether he wants to organize something via or not but either way I would love a way to harness all this great energy as the year goes on. I’m glad you enjoyed the writeup. It’s definitely not in character with my usual scepticism but it was exactly how I felt :) Speak soon!

  5. I recall the WDS idea from last year. You passed it onto me via Twitter and almost seemed unsure/confused why you were asked to be a speaker. I was never confused, had read your tales of bravery, moments of humbleness or periods of hilarity for several months prior to WDS. Guess what that means is I always thought you were a sound choice to speak on living your dreams in technicolor (appropriate word). While at times I stumble or brook uncertainty, you seem to emanate a strength that isn’t easy to duplicate.

    Keep forging ahead, there is a wide world of Jodi left to discover!

    1. Thank you for the kind words Jeannie. I was surprised to be speaking but very thankful for the opportunity, and as you see above that thankfulness has never dissipated. And now I never have to say “it’s my first time speaking in public” again :) Looking forward to seeing you this weekend in your hometown!

  6. Bummed I couldn’t see your class act. Thrilled that so many did, and loved it.

    But you’re up there, talking about the things you believe about most strongly, and I know from talking to you and watching that video that when you’re doing that, you’re truly compellin. So I fully believe you rocked it up there.

    (Also, “bummed”, “rocked”. I’m English, we never used phrases like this. New Worlders, you have ruined me).

    1. Oh Sowden, you can’t pretend you don’t love these New World phrases we’ve gifted you – I know that you secretly love them. It’s true, I went up there and told stories and explained how I loved the chaos of Asia and all the crazy little things that make each day exciting. And I’m really glad that my enthusiasm came across the way I wanted it to – not as a “you must do what I did” order, but merely offering another path for those who are looking to change direction.

      1. I even dropped the “g” off “compelling”. Another sign I’m ruined as an Englishman.

        From what I’ve read from your good self and elsewhere, it was an event where people showed and didn’t tell. There’s so much power in that approach that I marvel that so many people ignore it. Inspiration is an internal reaction, not an external transaction.

  7. I might as well be the first wish I was there commenter then. Well done on your first public speech, Jodi. It’s been great reading all the positive feedback from your talk, and it doesn’t surprise me one bit. You freaking rock!

    Hat tip to Chris as well for pulling off a such a great event. I crossed paths with Chris last year at a non conformists meetup in Bangkok (I love how he names events). I cut my Laos trip short a few days just to be there. I planned to pick Chris’ brains apart that night, instead he picked mine apart. Remarkable guy.

  8. Conferences are AMAZING when they touch your soul. I attend a conference every year (for family law professionals), and last year’s conference made me feel just like you have described here. It was incredible. Sadly, because of being in New Zealand this year, I had to miss it, but I made sure to follow it on facebook, and I have bugged everyone I know who was there to tell me all about it. The inspiration you can gain from sharing the energy of others who are just as enthusiastic as you might be “touchy-feely,” but it is also real. Thank you for sharing this, and I am so glad you enjoyed yourself and had a good experience with your first public speech. That makes all the difference for subsequent ones!

  9. Am loving reading all of the post-WDS writing … as a new reader of YOU, looking forward to what post-WDS life looks like for you! Life in techni-color — love that!

  10. Jodi – your stories were breathtaking and you were completely authentic and charming. So glad to have met you.

    – Allan Bacon

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  12. Jeremy Branham

    Thanks for sharing this Jodi. Very inspiring weekend and it’s great to have conferences like this. We need those moments to not only inspire but to encourage and hit those touchy-feely areas of our lives that help us connect with ourselves and others. I am sure it was great for you to feel so encouraged by others for the speech you gave as well as the other personal stories and connections you had.

    It was rather obvious by the photo that your speech touched people. You can tell from the light in the photo that you were anointed when you spoke! :)

    1. Yes, it’s true. The strobe light shooting out of my head totally blinded the audience and they were able to forget whatever I said and just focus on the brightness. :) It was a great weekend and as you said, all about connection with others. I’m looking forward to hearing what each of the people I met gets up to in the coming year.

  13. I’m so glad that people conveyed to you how great your speech was. The humor, passion, and storytelling of it held my attention the whole time. If that was your first talk, I see many more in your future. :)

    I’m in the thinking mode this week too. So many thoughts for where my life could go from here. I feel as though I’m standing at the Arc de Triomphe with roads headed in all directions like the spokes on a bike. I just need to choose where to go first.

    1. I’ve been getting many of the “what’s next?” emails these last few days, and I keep saying I need to digest this weekend and the conference coming up in Vancouver first, and THEN I’ll figure it out. As we talked about briefly in person, there’s no wrong answer, just a longer route to get where you want to go. Lovely roundup post from you, too.

  14. Hey Jodi,

    Like many others who were in the room, I was blown away by your speech, and the openness and honesty that you brought to the conference. Many times during the weekend, I found myself thinking how challenging it would be to get up and speak to a crowd like that, but it’s great to hear that the energy and enthusiasm of the room actually helped you to feel more comfortable.

    Your idea about a post WDS social platform of some sort is brilliant, and I would be happy to help organize/promote it if Chris, Nicky and Mike are up for it. I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that it is something that would get used quite a bit, and help us all in our pursuits of positive changes around the world.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story here. I’m still digesting mine and formulating my follow-up post. I’ve started writing it twice now and had to step away to ‘be with’ the experience a little longer before putting it into words.

    Big smiles from the guy in the front row,

    Brandon :)

    1. The smiling guy in the front row!

      Even though I didn’t know you, having you in the front row with that big, comforting smile was a great thing – made it easier to continue and speak with the tacit encouragement you were giving me. I’m glad you enjoyed the talk and look forward to reading your thoughts from the weekend too.

  15. Hi Jodi. Super nice meeting you and talking for a brief bit at WDS! Thought you did an amazing job! You’re definitely a natural at public speaking. Cool that you’re wanting to dive deeper into the photography side, though I think you get some fantastic shots with your little Canon PowerShot. Looking forward to reading/seeing more from your travels. Continued success!

    Oh, and I second the notion of those wanting to continue the WDS conversation, post-coference.

    1. Thanks Greg. Lovely to chat photography, though I wish we had more time to do so. I’m happy with the S90 – it’s been terrific – but I would love a bit more depth of field for portraiture. Was thinking of the micro 4/3ds; wish Canon had one with exchangeable lenses. Safe trip home!

  16. What a truly amazing experience. The line: “sometimes we meet people and it feels like we crossed paths in the middle of a conversation” sums up the power of connections and represents a springboard for creative growth and true flourishing. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  17. Thank you so much for the enthusiastic, thorough wrap-up. WDS *does* seem so amazing & life changing for many. And congrats on what sounds like a successful talk!

    1. Thanks Kara! It’s been a lot of fun to read through everyone’s conference wrap-ups. The takeaways are so positive across the board, which is terrific. See you at TBEX!

  18. Really really hate I couldn’t make this event. I think I would glean a lot from it, just in how I feel like a lot that is behind this movement is what has motivated me in the last year. Becoming self-employed, traveling for 9 months, moving to a new place 2,500 miles away. It’s all been about following passions and doing what makes me come alive and I seen strands of that running throughout the tweets, blog posts, and comments about the event. Great write-up Jodi and sounds like it was a great talk!

    1. Thanks Spencer. I read your roundup post for your last year and thought it echoed a lot of what we heard at the conference. It was a great event and hope to see you there next year!

  19. You were amazing. (I told you that in a breathless rush on the street, fitting for women who travel, n’est-ce pas?)

    Truly you were a highlight of the conference. Your photos and your story and your true grit in eyelashes were a real inspiration for all.

    Keep on keepin’ on; I look forward to more and to spreading the word about your nomadism.

    1. Thank you Cynthia. It was great to meet you, and thank you so much for coming up to me on the street and giving me a big hug. Hope our paths cross again soon!

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  23. Sounds like an interesting conference. I’m glad your speech went well, but I never doubted for a moment that it wouldn’t be everything you hoped it would be.

  24. You’re totally true to yourself reaching out and embracing firsts, dearie. I’m so glad that you enjoyed it – like Jeannie said, I knew you’d be fantastic. So happy for you Jodes & excited to see where life takes you next!

  25. Looking forward to the video clips even more now!

    Glad your speech went well and from all the tweets it certainly sounded like an inspiring conference to attend.

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