Thanks in part to jet lag and the fact that I have a 10 a.m. deadline to submit a book review and a ton of other things to catch up on before returning to work on tomorrow, I am up way too early for a Sunday (4:30 a.m. – ugh) — or any day for that matter. And, while I should really get to that book review, I am taking a few moments to capture some thoughts from my trip across the pond. I have been remiss lately in capturing any thoughts — travel or otherwise — here, but this trip has inspired me to alleviate that. So, here we go.
The primary purpose of my UK travels was for the International Network of Streetpapers Conference (INSP) annual conference. For those who don’t know (which is probably most due to the lack of posts mentioned previously), I joined the board of directors of the Denver Voice last year. I had been seeking a new organization in which to become involved and feed my love of serving on nonprofit boards and the mission and work of street papers has been an interest of mine since I wrote a paper in grad school about StreetWise, a Chicago-based street magazine. All of these factors plus the instant connection and respect I felt for those working and volunteering with the Voice made the decision to join the board an easy one.
So, nearly a year and a lot of learning about street papers and governing a nonprofit later (turns out I had A LOT to learn about both), I found myself volunteering to attend the INSP conference in Glasgow, Scotland, with the Voice’s editor. Despite my extensive domestic travels, I really haven’t spent much time outside of the US except a few trips to Costa Rica, Mexico and Canada, so I was eager to expand my horizons and add a UK stamp to my passport.
We arrived a few days early (and to rain, which would be the theme for the week) to allow time for exploring outside of the conference, which included a day-trip via train to Edinburgh and shopping, drinking, eating and hanging with the locals in Glasgow, which I’ll cover in another blog post (teaser: all of these were AMAZING).
After catching up on sleep and crossing some of the aforementioned activities off our list, we attended the first event of the conference, which was a networking attended by members of the Glasgow City Council and held at the breathtakingly beautiful City Chambers. After spending those first few hours of the conference (and a few post-conference pints) with other conference attendees, I quickly realized this was going to be an amazing week with equally-amazing people.
The first full-day of conference events kicked off with a jarring wakeup call via the hotel’s fire alarm. After trudging down 12 flights of stairs in my PJs and cursing the individual responsible for this event, I gathered outside with the other hotel guests — both conference non-conference folks — and was grateful that this morning was also the first without rain. As a bit of blue sky peeked out from the grey clouds, I looked around at my surroundings and found myself feeling extremely grateful to be right where I was at that moment, despite being there in my sleepwear.
That feeling of gratitude continued and strengthened as the week progressed and I attended sessions and spent time with and got to know these amazing individuals from all over the globe who commit their lives to the cause of homelessness. The feeling of gratitude was joined promptly with one of humbleness as I learned more about the street papers of the world and the individuals involved in these inspiring programs.
I employed Twitter to capture my conference thoughts and photos and a many of my tweets and photos were chosen for the conference wrap-up via Storify, so I’ll prompt you to check out the links above to view more instead of repeating here. You can also read about the conference and the inspiring individuals and organizations involved in the street paper movement on the INSP blog. And, if you’re in Denver, be sure to purchase a copy of the Voice next month to read more about the conference through via our editor, Sarah Harvey, and support our local vendors.
Although my time in Scotland and the INSP conference have come to an end, the experience has been a life-changing one for me. I think this may be the real reason I woke up so early — to get a jump-start on many of the goals I have set as a result of the last week, both personal and Denver Voice related. It’s only 7 a.m. and I’ve already crossed off one — return to a daily writing practice. Not bad for a Sunday. Now, time to brew another pot of coffee and get back to that book review.
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