I'm in Bath, UK, staying overnight on my way to the Social Age Safari in Bristol. I'm both excited and nervous--I'm eager to experience something very new in the way of conferences, but I'm also just enough of an introvert that the prospect of entering a large room full of strangers is daunting. In the spirit of working out loud, I've revealed this emotional dichotomy on the Safari's Slack group. I'm hoping that will force me out of the corner and into the fray sooner rather than later. I've been to conferences where I stayed at the fringes almost the whole time and never really participated, and I lost out on the opportunity to grow my personal learning network and increase my visibility. I don't want this one be added to that list.
Alongside the excitement of a new experience and new people is the comfort of the familiar, both in London on Sunday and in Bath today and tomorrow. I saw a friend on Sunday--we met up in Russell Square (my favorite place in London) and went to the British Museum (another favorite place). Before we met I also took the tube to yet another favorite place, All Hallows-by-the-Tower, just to walk around and take a few pictures. The doors weren't open yet so I couldn't go in (more's the pity), but it was so nice to see a familiar and beloved place, followed by a visit with a familiar and beloved person in another familiar and beloved place.
We all need to have places where we are comfortable. We all need people with whom we talk or be quiet and be ourselves without fear of speaking or acting 'wrong.' It's good for the mind and body to have peaceful and relaxing experiences. We also need new experiences, and to meet new people, to keep us fresh and alive and learning.
I have already had a few new experiences on this trip, and not all good (not necessarily all bad, just not good). I learned that staying in a dormitory in a hostel in the UK is very different from staying in a dorm in a US hostel. And for me, it wasn't a good different. It made me change my next hostel reservation from dorm to private. As always, I'm learning and adapting.
I also went to Oxford for the first time, probably with a lot of completely unreasonable expectations. I ran up against reality fairly quickly, and as a result changed my plans to shorten my visit there and lengthen my stay in Bath--just by about a half-day, but a change to the plan, nevertheless, and one I'm not regretting. It's like coming home in a way, because I've been here three times now and there are places I will always visit because I am familiar with them and am fond of them. I know my way around, and while I'm staying in a different part of town and learning another section of the city to add to my mental map, I'm still in Bath and can find my way around fairly easily.
My visit to Bristol will also be a mix of new and familiar--I'm staying with a dear friend and my conference will be a in a part of town with which I am mildly familiar from a previous visit. The conference will throw me out of my comfort zone socially, but it will also stimulate my creativity and allow me to develop ideas and formulate new ones. It will goad me to become a better thinker, sharer and writer. I intend to come out of the experience with a new perspective on who and what I want to be moving forward. I believe it will help shape my career, my personal goals, and my social experiences for some time to come.
So here's to the familiar and comfortable, and to new and challenging experiences! More to come, so stand by...