Ok, now onto Brandcation! (PS - This post will be LONG. VERY long. Kudos to you in advance if you read the whole thing. If you don't, at least check out the pictures, they are pretty!)
I've been looking forward to this event for a few months. It was a blogger conference that I paid to go to. I bought everything up front and started looking for sponsors. Luckily, Pampers provided me with a stipend that paid for the event which I was incredibly grateful for. I took a red eye flight that left at 1 am and hoped that I would get some sleep. No such luck. I sat next to a nice, chatty girl holding an 8 month old baby and we ended up talking for most of the flight. I finally couldn't keep my eyes open any longer and slept the last 45 minutes of the flight. I had a 2 hour layover in Atlanta where I tried to doze but it's kind of impossible in an airport. I slept from Atlanta to Pensacola, all 45 minutes of the flight. Needless to say, I was a bit out of it when I arrived in Pensacola. One of the other bloggers who is local picked a few of us up at the airport. It's amazing and interesting at the same time to finally meet other women face to face who you've known online for years. Some of these women I've been connected to online for over 3 years and this was our first time meeting. It's amazing how easy it is to click with a lot of them too! There were 32 of us total. We drove down to where we were staying and between being so incredibly tired and it raining, I didn't get much of the effect driving into Pensacola Beach. Once we did get there, we checked into the condos and the rain had stopped. The view was absolutely beautiful.
Once all of the other bloggers arrived, we started our blogger Olympics. We were split into teams by the condos that we were staying in. There were 8 per condo. My team was in white and we were the SEO's. (Search Engine Optimization, a blogger familiar term. ;) ) We first went on a picture scavenger hunt. Next we went down to the beach to do other relays and activities. We had a sandcastle building contest, swimming relays and a hula hooping contest. I actually held my own in the hula hooping contest and came in 3rd. Our team overall came in 1st place!
Friday night we ate at a local Burger Place called Surf Burger, took pictures down by a dock and had our swag party. In the blogger world, swag is essentially comped stuff. Product that is donated by sponsors and such. It was really fun to see all of the companies that support Brandcation and I was excited to hand out some Pampers swag myself!
Saturday we headed to Adventures Unlimited that was about an hour from Pensacola in Milton. There we would be ziplining and tubing 4 miles down the river. Ziplining was so much fun. We did 7 different lines, and although I'll admit that I had a little bit of anxiety over the heights, it was an amazing experience!
After ziplining, we had lunch and waited for all of the groups to finish. We were all ready to dip our toes in the river as it was hot and HUMID. I am so not used to humidity and it was weird having my skin sticky all of the time and my hair frizzy. We took a bus up to where we were supposed to start and got in. Not 2 minutes later, one of the girls ripped off her entire big toenail. OUCH. The river was pretty shallow at parts with tons of tree stumps and rocks. The first hour we were just trying to get around stuff. After a couple of hours, I think we were all ready to get out. Some of the girls got really sick too. We were on the river for 4 hours. I'll admit that I was ready to get out when it was all said and done - 4 hours is a bit much. Another girl actually broke one of her toes down the river too.
Saturday night we ate down by the pool and met the local astronomy group to do some star gazing. They had a bunch of telescopes set up and that was the night of the Super Moon. Pretty cool, right?
Sunday we went on a dolphin cruise. This was so much fun. It was a beautiful day and we saw lots of dolphins, even a teeny tiny baby dolphin!
After the cruise, we all had lunch and some of the bloggers headed out. There were some of us staying until Monday, me being one of them. Airfare was a lot cheaper on Monday so that's why I stayed. A few of us decided to go parasailing. I'm SO glad that I did. It was so incredibly beautiful and peaceful. It's times like that that you marvel in God's creations and think about how incredible it all is. I went parasailing with 2 other girls and while up in the air we saw a LOT of Sting Rays. Towards the end, they dipped our feet in the water and I was just praying we wouldn't be over the Sting Rays. We weren't, lol.
Monday I was the last one to fly out. I hung out by the pool at the hotel for about 3 hours and did some blogging and just enjoyed the gulf. I would love to take the family back to the gulf, it was so pretty there! If you are thinking of vacationing in Florida, I would definitely recommend Pensacola Beach.
As a blogger, I've learned that in order to become successful I have to network...and network...and network some more. It's awesome to be able to cultivate these relationships I have with other bloggers online and to get to know them on a better level. There were also some things I learned that I should and shouldn't be doing with my blog and I learned more about myself. I'll be attending one other blogger conference this year, and that is Blogher in NYC in August. My sister Avry will be joining me for that conference and I am so excited to go with her!