It was lovely getting some extended in person time with them, after nearly a year of video and phone chats.
We then meandered over to the Pima County Fairgrounds on Friday – the first official early entry day for the 55th Escapees Escapade Rally.
Let’s preface this by saying we’re not much of rally people at all.
Large crowds, big gatherings and lots of people approaching us is intimidating enough to us introverts. It’s not that we don’t love meeting and interacting with people, it just drains us pretty darn quickly.
But with a role to be filled, I’m much better at being able to endure it. Heck, some might even confuse us for extroverts when finding us in such an environment. But afterwards, we’ll be completely drained and need some serious re-charge time.
We were quite excited to be rolling in to this particular Escapade, and our nerves were completely on edge.
Would Xscapers be well received? Would we rock our RV Rally presenting debut? Would we be able to handle being ‘on’ the entire event with little break?
We were attending as staff this year, not just as ourselves – so the pressure was on to be smiling and helpful all the time.
Early Arrival Ramp Up
In true Escapee’s fashion, we were immediately welcomed and made to feel at home amongst supportive family.
Our staff mates were fabulous at finding us a great parking spot backing up against a big grassy and protected field for Kiki to get some outside time during our brief stops back at the bus.
It was only a water and electric site, but after months of boondocking, that was close enough to the full hook-up spot they had originally held for us.
Friday was the big staff meeting and welcome dinner, and the highlight for me was getting invited to sit with Escapee’s co-founder Kay Peterson and the rest of the Carr family.
We knew the Escapees were excited to have us at the event, but this really brought it home for us – Xscapers was a big deal (and it was still mostly a secret!).
We used Saturday as a down day to finalize our presentations, get some errands run (including stocking up at Trader Joes with some healthier quick meals, we knew we’d have little time for cooking) and just trying to calm our nerves.
Launching big stuff always puts butterflies in our stomachs.
Sunday we helped our friends Chris & Jim of the Geeks on Tour with their iPhone & iPad beginner’s class – which now seems like a tradition at any event we co-attend. Always fun to team up with these two!
Opening Day – And The Big Reveal
And then it was the big moment… the opening ceremonies for Escapade – where Travis & Mel would take the stage and announce Xscapers. We had our own bundle of nerves, but for these guys – they had everything riding on it. So much preparation had gone into this moment, and they would be speaking to people who had known Travis since he was a wee little guy.
They nervously took the stage and explained the concept. It’s a big concept to try to convey in a few words, and brought forth so many emotions of the full circle nature of where Escapees got its root with his grandparents.
The crowd overall seemed receptive, if not a touch confused. Kay got up on stage next, and gave it her blessing… and then brought the house down in laughter. We had heard stories of what a spitfire she is.. but wow, stories just do not live up to the sheer joy this woman lives from. What an inspiration!
After the opening ceremonies, we put out a last minute RVillage get-together for an Xscapers announcement after-party at our bus. We didn’t expect many to make it on such short notice, but at the very least we wanted to share a toast with the team. Our baby was launched, and the burden of the secret was off our shoulders.
To our surprise, we had quite the party! It was clear, Xscapers was well received and the message reached far and wide to Xscapers in the audience. We may have partied a bit longer into the night than intended, but it was so needed to blow off a bunch of steam after planning this thing for so long.
But the late night partying meant Monday would be extra tough.
We opened up the brand new Xscapers booth next to the Escapees RV Club booth, and it started a long day of a lot of enthusiastic folks stopping by to get more information on Xscapers.
There was of course confusion over exactly what it is, so we all honed in on how to best explain it. We had long time Escapees signing their kids and grandkids up, and there was overall a LOT of enthusiasm for the new energy in the club.
The Escapees also invited us to sell the fresh-off-the-presses The Mobile Internet Handbook at the booth, which was an unexpected gift to us. It gave us extra incentive to stay near the booth (hmm, maybe that was their plan?) – and gave folks a place to find us at. It was surreal to be constantly asked to autograph the book and take photos with fans.
Speaking of mobile Internet – we actually ended up sharing our connection with hundreds of others after the WiFi in the main hall went down (cellular was almost impossible in the metal walled buildings!). For some info on how we managed to do that, check out our Escapade Internet post over at the RV Mobile Internet Resource Center.
Monday and Tuesday were both long days of being booth babes, and we ended the days with sore voices. Early nights were had.. us younger Xscapers have much to learn about balancing late night shenanigans and productive early days.
Wednesday – Seminar Day!
Wednesday was our big day – three back-to-back presentations to give. All three were topics picked to be some of the first Xscapers focused content, and given Wednesday was ‘free day pass’ day, attendance was predicted to be high.
Our first presentation was in the wee early hours of the morning at 10am, and on ‘The High Tech Nomad,’ a topic that was a bit more general audience focused. The house was packed, and we were wide awake and ready. We even brought out some of our reserved stock of SmartPower Energy Drink, our favorite elixir that is now long discontinued (we bought a pallet of it a few years ago.. we’re now down to our last few cans.)
We had extra challenges of the presentation room being in the main hall with a lot of background noise, and the next door crafting area doing lathe demonstrations making quite a racket. But we overcame and went with it.
The presentation was an overview of a lot of mobile technology – from alternative energy ideas (such as our Solar and Lithium Battery series), mobile internet connectivity and a lot of the mobile tech toys we enjoy (everything we talked about can also be found on our RV Gear page).
The reception was overwhelming, and the feedback told us we had nailed it. So many rushed up to ask questions afterwards, but the tech team reminded us we had to book it to another speaking room for our second presentation.
Next up was on ‘Beyond Working – Income on the Road’ – which basically follows the outline of our Income on the Road article here on the blog. This one was slightly less attended, but that was expected given the content was specifically geared towards Xscapers and less a general audience. But it went great as well.
We had a couple hours before our third presentation on ‘Social Media to Enhance a Mobile Lifestyle’ to recharge.
This topic was a bit of a new one for us to attempt – explaining things like Twitter, Facebook, Blogging, Instagram, RVillage, Review Sites and more. Sure, we’ve covered them individually in the past (such as our Finding Your RVing Peers recent live broadcast) and use them regularly in our own life… but it was fun to push ourselves into making it a cohesive topic covering both social networking for friendships & family, and in business use.
Overall, it seemed to go well and a lot of folks came away understanding things like Hashtags and tagging better.
The First Xscapers Social
After three presentations, there was no rest for the weary. The very first Xscapers Social was planned that afternoon, and we were co-hosts with Travis & Mel. We had to keep our energy up just a bit longer before we could wither away.
The attendance was huge after all the buzz generated during the week, and it was super impressive to have so many want to be part of this.
We gave a short presentation on Xscapers, did a lot of socializing and captured some great photos (many thanks to Bruce Fay for his endless patience in getting us all!).
Friends came in specifically for the event, and it was a joy to see them. We just wish we had more energy and time for everyone!
These technomads were officially tuckered out after days of being on. I’m honestly quite impressed with how well we did all week long with few breaks or opportunities for recharging.
We credit the entire Escapees family with helping keep us pumped up, inspired and flowing with appreciation. Thank you to each and every one of you who came up to say thanks, share a hug and give us a little extra push to keep on. We also loved seeing Mobile Internet Aficionado stickers and T-shirts being worn, what a joy!
All and all, the 55th Annual Escapade was fantastic – our hats off to all the organizers who made it happen. We know this stuff isn’t easy and takes a tremendous amount of hard dedicated and exhausting work, but you made it seem flawless.
We’re seriously tempted to start planning to attend the next one in Vermont in July 2016 (Molly, don’t sign us up quite yet!)
Our next big destination is Austin, TX where we’ll be attending the debut of The Wireless Generation on April 2, an indie documentary we were interviewed for a few years ago. If you’re in the area,
snag some tickets and come join us the screening is now SOLD OUT!
We’ve had a few requests to meet up while we’re in the area too, so we’ll likely try to plan some sort of gathering, perhaps even a pre-screening happy hour.
We currently only have plans to be in the area until April 10, and my mom is coming in town for most of that – so the majority of our time will be focused on family.
We’ll be spending the next couple weeks meandering that way – trying to balance re-charging, catching up a lot of stuff that fell behind in the past couple weeks in the Escapade chaos, continued roll-out of Xscapers and making some miles & new adventures.
After Austin.. we still have no firm plans. A few ideas are formulating however.