Where do I start...?
As soon as the WeCamp website was launched and the tickets were available I was sold, I quite literally took out my savings and bought the ticket. There was no way I was going to miss being stuck on an island with other PHP enthusiasts. What surprised me the most was how they had kept it a secret from me since I co-organize PHPAmersfoort with the guys from Ingewikkeld, well done!
My days before the week were filled with me trying to explain my friends and family why I would go to an island nobody ever heard of and do what I do every day. Luckily those days were soon over and I took a journey (with delays, damn trains!) towards Biddinghuizen where I arrived nearly in time for the boat trip to the island. I remember being surprised by the multiple nationalities on the boat, I never knew WeCamp 2014 had reached that far out. The boat trip was about 10 minutes and as we were arriving we could see Jelrik standing there with a big smirk on his face. It reminded me of those TV programs where you do these assignments and have elimination rounds, luckily all he did was welcome us to the island and gave us a sweet WeCamp bag (because we really needed another bag...). Next thing we know we're working our way through what seemed an endless jungle. Turns out we mostly went in circles and it was all for nothing.
The island had several big tipi's in which we would be sleeping and working. We had our introduction in the biggest tipi, after that we were assigned coaches. I didn't have a preference at all but was pleasantly surprised to see that Stephan was my coach. I was teamed up with Richard and Alan, two amazing guys who share the same drive and passion as myself (this was the case for everyone on the island). Our first challenge was coming up with an idea. Richard already came up with the idea of an open source meetup.com clone before WeCamp so after trying to think of some other ideas we decided to take on this idea and dub it Meetspire (Meetup + Inspire). In hindsight, this concept may not have been very challenging but it were the tools we chose, the methods we applied and the discussions we had that taught us the most. During our planning phase we started expanding our idea, setting milestones for every day and picking our tools. We ended up using Zend Framework 2, Doctrine 2 and Codeception. I was familiar with the first two but Codeception was new to me. I have always been interested in acceptance testing but I never knew it could be as simple as Codeception in conjunction with PhpBrowser.
The most important thing I found was having like-minded people who I could throw all my questions at and we could have interesting discussions which led to (partial) clarity which was something that I lacked at my previous job. This is exactly the reason why I enjoy attending conferences and meetups, the fact that you get to share knowledge and have discussions is worth a lot to me. Being at WeCamp I had all the time in the world to do these things which made WeCamp so much more valuable to me. Also, having someone like Stephan available to talk to really helps. It was great hearing an opinion from someone who has a lot of experience and has observed you all this time, and it's even better to hear him say good things about you. Talking to him made me realize what kind of changes I would have to make to advance in my career, which is what I'm currently working on.
Besides working on the project we also enjoyed many activities, some of those being: BBQ, sailing, a pirate-themed game for teambuilding and (an attempt at) throwing lit up frisbees. I'm a pretty boring kind of guy who sits inside all the time, yet somehow I really enjoyed being in that environment for a change. It led to me getting out of my shell a bit more and becoming someone who was more likely to attend these activities rather than "playing it safe".
At the end of the week we got to show off our project. We were up, right after a group which left me quite intimidated, but that didn't stop us! We showed off our project and we nailed our presentation. This was mostly due to our awesome hand-drawn slides and our coach who did a great job at holding them. When you've been working very hard on a project for a week you sometimes forget about the big picture. Giving that presentation I was surprisingly proud, even though our application was simple, I was proud of what we had achieved. Not just what was visible to the others, but what we had learned from it and the discussions that it had caused. After all the presentations were done there was a closing speech from the whole crew. It is at that point that you realize what WeCamp has meant to you, but also what it has meant to the others. Being on that island and being together like that creates an interesting bond, something I can't quite put my finger on.
The last thing I remember was sitting in the train on my way home and feeling overwhelmed with WeCamp as a whole, I had never expected for it to leave such a deep impression on me. I have been wanting to write this post for a while now but I didn't know how to until now. The aftermath is a new job and a fresh look on how to go forward.
I was also the lucky guy to win the PHPNW14 ticket + hotel room, which I would like to thank Stefan and Magma Digital for!
To all those who attended WeCamp14, thank you! It was a pleasure sharing that small piece of ground with you and I hope to see you again soon! I've already heard rumors on WeCamp15, to which I can only say one thing: SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!
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