5 Ways to Meet Open-Hearted People — Part 1: Conferences
As I mentioned in yesterday’s introduction, in this series, I’m going to discuss 5 different ways you can learn more about “outside the box” relationships, and/or meet other people who are interested in the same things … and might even want to date you! To recap, the 5 ways I’ll discuss are:
1) Conferences — one-time, occasional, or periodic gatherings
2) Ongoing Local Meetings — discussion groups, potlucks, dinners, game nights and more
3) Primarily on-line discussion groups — e.g., Facebook groups, Yahoo! Groups, Google Groups, Meetup, e-mail lists
4) Dating and Social Sites — e.g., Polymatchmaker, OK Cupid, Ko-Tango
5) Crossover Interests — e.g., tantra, swinging, naturists, kink/BDSM
Meeting Open-Hearted People at Conferences
Conferences are a popular place to meet polyamorous, open, or otherwise open-hearted people. There are conferences in many parts of the world, and for many flavors and subgroups of the open-hearted culture. From Open-Cons in the UK and Spain, to hotel conferences in Atlanta and Philadelphia, to clothing-optional retreats in California and New York, the wide variety of conferences available offer the opportunity to connect with like-minded people at all times of the year, and in many parts of the world.
Conferences offer a number of positive benefits for meeting others, including:
1) A variety of classes, workshops and experiences, all under one umbrella. This allows the possibility to sample new activities without needing to commit to a long course, or conversely to get a solid overview in a relatively compact period of time.
2) The opportunity to meet many people from places other than your own home community. This is great if your own area is isolated or has a low population density of poly/open people — or if you’d prefer to learn in person but not in your own community (for privacy reasons, for instance.)
3) Time and space to make some deeper connections, beyond what one might get in a single evening.
4) Beautiful, interesting, and/or exotic locations, and an opportunity to learn something new while “on vacation.”
There are, of course, some downsides to meeting others at conferences as well:
1) When you do connect with someone who is not from your own area, maintaining that Long Distance Relationship can be frustrating … not to mention expensive! Long distances can also make it hard to introduce people met at conferences to existing networks (unless everyone in the network happens to be there, too … in which case it’s even more $$!)
2) Conferences and retreats typically require a significant outlay of money for tickets, hotel rooms, meals and transportation. Costs can range from under $100 for a weekend (if you happen to be local to a conference such as Atlanta Poly Weekend), to well over a thousand dollars (if you want to fly in from another state or country to something like Poly Palooza)
3) With so much to do and see, overwhelm can set in, especially for “poly introverts.” Remember to schedule “introvert breaks” and get plenty of sleep if that applies to you!
4) Another related issue is that “New Relationship Energy” aka “NRE” can develop quickly in the concentrated atmosphere of a conference… sometimes leading to emotional confusion and/or a temptation to make unwise choices based on not enough information. Try to remember that lack of sleep is mind-altering all by itself!
Con Rules: 6:2:1
That last “downside” reminds me of an important mnemonic for surviving “cons” (such as Science Fiction conventions, or polyamory conferences): 6:2:1. Always remember that in each 24 hour period you should get at least 6 hours of sleep, 2 meals, and 1 shower. Both you and everyone around you will be happier if you do. 🙂
How to choose?
So with all these options, how do you choose where to invest your time, energy, and money? To start with, you should choose whatever feels right to YOU. Part of the point of this way of life (in my not-so-humble-opinion!) is to do what calls to your heart, even if that’s not the obvious or usual thing to do. What do YOU want? Make sure to factor that in!
In choosing a conference, there is one important distinction worth noting, in my opinion, and that’s whether it’s a “Hotel Conference,” vs. a “Retreat.” Conferences held in a traditional hotel are almost always clothing-on conferences. Retreats, on the other hand, are sometimes “clothing-optional.” If you’re not comfortable with nudity — your own, or others’ — you might want to stick to the hotel-conferences to start with. They’re just as educational and a whole lot of fun!
Other things to consider in choosing a conference are price, location, transportation, keynote speakers, classes, overall themes, whether they’re child-friendly, and the presence or absence of evening parties, either included in the cost, or as “fringe” events. As with so many other things about loving “outside the box,” it will be worth your while to consider in advance what you might hope to get out of attending such an event. Are you looking for information? Fun, no-strings-attached experiences? New dating partners? Each of these goals will have an influence on which event/s you might want to try.
I’ve only sampled a few of the many possible conferences myself, but I will say I’ve particularly enjoyed the Loving More Retreats and Poly Living Conferences I’ve attended. And more recently, the Academic Conference on the Future of Monogamy and Non-Monogamy was especially fun and enlightening for those of us with a research or academic bent. There are lots more options, however, so figure out what YOU want, and then go for it!
So Where Are These Events Listed?
A couple of good round-ups of conference listings are:
1) Alan M’s list of Poly Conferences: http://polyevents.blogspot.com/
2) Poly Events All Over, which is a collection of Google Calendars: http://polyamoryevents.com/
Events are also commonly announced on various lists, and at local group meetings… which we’ll cover next week. 🙂
Hope this information has been helpful… and maybe I’ll see you at an upcoming conference!
May you always love boldly, safely, and well!
PS: Are you looking for some t-shirts to wear to an upcoming conference, or maybe a pin to wear, or a mug for your morning coffee? Check out the fun stuff over at my LoveOTB Zazzle store!
PPS: Do you want me to come present at your conference? I’d be happy to do it! Check out some of the things I’ve presented on, and let’s talk!
∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥
[© 2014 Dawn M. Davidson]