I’m in Shropshire for the first of two summer holidays camping with my wife.
I’ve been camping for longer than I care to remember. As a young boy with my parents, as a youth with scouts and as a young man when courting. In fact half our honeymoon was spent camping and we indoctrinated the children from an early age. Most of the last 20 years I’ve been under canvas at least once a year.
I’ve got used to life on a campsite. The opportunity to slow the pace of life, enjoy the sunshine (at least occasionally) and revisit simpler pleasures: reading a book, playing cards or even singing ridiculous songs around a campfire. It’s a familiar comfort zone, and I’m very much at ease in it.
It was only in January this year, however, that I started #camping, going to my first unconference (UKGovCamp15); where the participants set the agenda and the day starts with folk pitching their ideas for sessions. I’d attended many staged and staid, commercially run, conferences with hundreds of people who always looked like they’d rather be somewhere else. This was different.
Buzzing with energy and stacks of enthusiastic (mainly younger) folk, most of whom had given up a Saturday to be there, this was not what I was used to. It was a little bewildering at first and not in my comfort zone at all. But when the pitching queue started to run thin before the slots were filled I screwed up courage and got on my feet. Suddenly I had a slot, a subject and a room. Fortunately when the time came around I also had some people who wanted to listen and join in the discussion.
Over the day I got to hear lots of interesting people talk with passion about what they were doing and what they wanted to achieve. Coders, communicators and civil servants; united by a common interest in making Government better, all joining in with real conversations. Great fun.
Since then I’ve been to Open Data Camp UK and also Beyond the Smart City (not a #camp, but it felt like a close cousin). I’m looking forward to more in the autumn (maybe LocalGov Camp) and I can see it becoming a habit with plenty more to try next year.
I’ve enjoyed #camping. But now I’m ready for a break from work and the digital scene.
Time to put up the tent.