On Monday, I went by a Coinstar machine to convert all the loose change I accumulated over almost a month in the US; I think I got something around $13 in total. I returned my rental camera and then went to Slappy Cakes for an informal post-XOXO pancake lunch with about two dozen people, including the Andys. It was fun, and I got a hug from Andy McMillan which meant a lot for me.
And then, XOXO, the festival was over. Until who knows when; the Andys later announced they were taking at least the following year off, and then, who knows. Even before that, they would never commit to another year immediately, but this time we knew there wouldn't be one in 2017.
(Of course, now we know that XOXO returned in 2018, after which they explicitly promised it would come back in 2019. But back then, there was a sense of uncertainty.)
I feel fortunate that I got to go to XOXO in 2016. It definitely altered the course of my life, and the community became a huge part of my online — and sometimes offline — social life. I know I'm not alone in that.
I truly enjoyed my time there, even though I felt this strong emotional numbness/exhaustion, but that's (mostly) not XOXO's fault. It was a byproduct of all the travel weeks before, how I traveled, and how I feel like I failed to set limits when I should have. I've learned a lot about myself on this trip.
XOXO 2016 marked an end of an era for me. About a week after the festival, the thought that I want to leave Sweden and move to Hungary finally made its way from my subconscious into my conscious thoughts. I made the move at the end of the year; it was hard but ultimately worth it.
The festival took place at an interesting time in American politics; just months before the 2016 elections, back when Donald Trump was definitely A Thing but no-one expected him to win.
I credit the festival, the friends I made there and my subsequent presence on the Slack (and all the new people I followed on Twitter) for making me move politically further left and opening my eyes to certain privileges I have. There are a lot of things I still wrestle with; the biggest thing would be the fact that it's an extremely US-centric place. I'm not American and I don't live there (as much as I want to be), so I see and experience a lot of things through a different lens.
I got an idea or two for pet projects after the festival that I never followed through. Still, attending gives you this unique boost in creativity that I value. Someone at XOXO said that when inspiration hits, you have to grab it and run with it. That is something I should do more often, but come to think of it — it's something I already do more often.
I've made a quite a few friends there, and then some on the Slack afterwards; in 2018 I came back with a mental list of people I wanted to meet, having only talked online.
I've said it in the beginning but it needs to be said again: XOXO sets an incredibly high bar to conferences and festivals with their attention to every single detail and their willingness to listen to community feedback. Once you've been to an XOXO, you're spoiled forever, and you'll be hard-pressed to find something else that measures up.
Thank you again, Andy, Andy, Rachel and all the volunteers. You've created something extraordinary.