I had forgotten how much of a sensory overload the French Quarter can be.
Everything about New Orleans' oldest neighborhood screams excess – colorful walls punctuated with ornately decorated ironwork balconies, orders of fluffy beignets with heaping piles of powdered sugar, the ability to drink in the streets, massive po' boy sandwiches overflowing with fried shrimp, and constant boisterous music.
A neighborhood known for such decadence seemed to juxtapose rather nicely with the personal finance blogger conference known as FinCon. But as it turns out, the personal finance crowd knows how throw down, and my nights partying in New Orleans rivaled even the wildest entertainment industry shindigs I've seen.
I'd be lying if I didn't admit to feeling a bit intimidated when I arrived at the Marriott on Thursday afternoon. I immediately began recognizing the faces of many of the bloggers from our community checking in and casually hanging around the lobby.
A part of me felt safe knowing that my identity had been carefully hidden over the past eight months, and no one would recognize my face.
Once I had finished the week's remaining work, I was ready to hit one of FinCon's first welcome parties. I nervously sipped my first free drink of the weekend and made small talk with several of the other attendees. The collective awkwardness was immediately diminished by the laid back vibe and I was relieved to realize that I had entered an ego-free zone.
Just when the party seemed to be winding down, a brass band burst through the main doors, tossing beads throughout the room and ceremoniously led us down the street to our next destination – Ignite FinCon.
Unfortunately, my spot along the back wall of the bar made it difficult to hear some badass and inspiring five minute presentations, but before I knew it I was on Bourbon Street unsuccessfully avoiding those pesky test tube cleavage shots. Luckily, Frenchman Street was only a short cab ride away and a late-night lobby hang provided the perfect night cap.
It was a strong beginning to a conference that had barely started. My phone flashed 2:30 AM, tauntingly, before I attempted to sleep. I optimistically set my alarm for 7:30 AM, enough time to make the first event.
I learned a long time ago that it's impossible to do everything at a conference and since FinCon offers a free virtual pass with videos of all events to attendees, I barely felt guilty for sleeping through both Friday and Saturday morning's keynote speakers.
Highlight: Mike and Lauren's Not REALLY Retired presentation and discussion. It was interesting to think about how perceptions of financial independence and retirement have changed and it was exciting to be present for comments from attendees like Jim Collins, Mr. Money Mustache, and Joe Udo.
These are some of the bloggers who initially inspired me to pursue my journey to financial independence and start writing, so hearing their opinions in this intimate setting was a real treat.
Highlight: An impromptu discussion with Mike Delgato during the mentor sessions. He had a lot of great advice for me to grow my brand, expand my presence in the personal finance world, and tie all of my experience together.
He invited me to participate in this week's Experian #CreditChat, How to Throw a Fun Dinner Party on a Budget. I'll be sharing some frugal and creative tips from my event planning background.
So, I'm beginning the process of connecting my two identities. Totally weird, right?
Here I go…
Hi, my real name is Kate.
This is a selfie I took backstage at the Palace Theatre in Albany, NY.
Surprise! I'm not a dude.
*breathes a massive sigh of relief*
Although I consider the value of my FinCon experience to be immeasurable, I'm damn proud of my low expenses on this trip.
How'd I do it?
My boyfriend covered the cost of our transportation to / from each airport. I covered the cost of our flights and hotel through a combination of Southwest Rapid Rewards points, my Southwest Companion Pass, and Barclay credit card points (see right column for savings). FinCon covered the cost of four meals (plus snacks!) and several drinks.
Also, XY Planning Network chose me as their $200 Amazon gift card recipient for signing up for their newsletter. Thanks, guys!
In closing, I can't emphasize enough how amazing of an experience I had at FinCon. I'm feeling completely reinvigorated by creative ideas, new friends, and a renewed commitment to myself, Cashville Skyline, and my new career.
Pull up a chair, pour yourself a glass of whiskey, and stick around of the next phase of this journey.