I’ve never actually asked someone what they envision when I tell them I’m going to “World Domination Summit,” but I’m guessing they probably don’t imagine a group of enthusiastic high-fiving, travel hacking, non-profit-starting, record-setting folks who also happen to like dancing, laughing, and making a positive impact on the world.
So what exactly is World Domination Summit?
World Domination Summit is a gathering of people who are trying to answer the question, “How do we live a remarkable life in a conventional world?” And the values that bring us together are community, service, and adventure.
How do we live a remarkable life in a conventional world?
There are two days of main stage sessions, which are basically inspirational talks on a variety of topics. This year Ryan Holiday spoke about stoicism. Geraldine De Ruiter talked about online abuse, specifically of women and people of color. Marsha Shandur assured us that no one has their isht together. Cassie De Pecol described some of the highlights of her record-breaking journey as the fastest woman to visit every country in the world.
There are Academies, where you can spend a morning or afternoon diving into a topic. (This year I attended Stephanie Zito‘s “Passport to Freedom” to get a crash course in travel hacking and unconventional ways to see the world.)
There are attendee-led meetups, where you can gather with other like-minded people to chat about life as a digital nomad, how to build a website, or fostering authentic connections (to name just a small sample).
Oh, and there are parties that involve everything from hot air balloons and making it snow in the midst of Portland summer to botanically bedecked drag queens.
Hopefully by now you have a much more vivid idea of what WDS is all about. Here are a few of my favorite moments from this year’s event.
Yep, goat yoga is a thing. And it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like: You do yoga while surrounded by goats. About a dozen of us headed to Big Heart Farm to frolic with baby goats (well, the goats did the frolicking—we stuck to yoga).
I can’t say that it was a meditative or transformative experience, but it was a lot of fun. Baby goats are hilarious to watch, and there’s something to be said for not taking yourself too seriously. Doing yoga in a field while trying not to have your mat eaten by a goat pretty much does the trick.
DJ Prashant is a WDS fixture. He leads Bollywood-themed flashmobs, he hides in the audience in disguise from time to time for comedic effect, and he brings the beats to almost every WDS party. But this year was a little different. Rather than entertaining us from behind the DJ booth, Prashant came onto the main stage to tell us his story.
But before I get to that, I have to mention his dramatic entrance.
The beats are pumping. The crowd is cheering. The lasers are flashing. Dancers take the stage, riling up the crowd even more with their perfectly synchronized Bollywood moves. And suddenly, from the ceiling, in a move that can only be described as badass, Prashant descends. The crowd goes wild.
But it wasn’t all loud music and gimmicky entrances—once the crowd calmed down, Prashant offered humble thanks for being asked to speak. And then proceeded to share his story, of nearly failing out of engineering school and bouncing back to become the top student. Of earning a place to do graduate studies in the US but realizing that his heart wasn’t in it. And of discovering his love for music and dance, which led to his transformation into the DJ Prashant that most of us see onstage now.
I loved this talk—and not just because I’m a sucker for catchy music and dance routines. It was a great reminder that people are multi-layered and complex, and that the public persona we think we know is only one teensy part of the picture. Yeah, and making an entrance by dropping from the ceiling is a pretty rockstar move, too.
Wayfinding Academy graduates
Three years ago, one of the core team members of WDS, Michelle Jones, got up on stage to announce she was retiring from WDS because she had a dream she wanted to pursue. After seeing firsthand how the current college system was failing students, she decided to do something about it by creating a new type of school, one where students have the ability to explore different careers, gain work experience, and go on adventures in order to truly prepare them for their lives after graduation.
At that stage, Michelle launched a crowdfunding campaign to help make this school, which she was calling Wayfinding Academy, into a reality. Spoiler alert: the campaign was successful! Wayfinding Academy is real and you can learn all about it here.
And this year, we got to meet a few members of Wayfinding Academy’s first graduating class. They came on stage to share some of their stories and experiences so far as well as some of their hopes for life after graduation.
For me, this was one of the most moving moments throughout the entire WDS experience. One graduate, Austin, came on stage and said, “We literally wouldn’t be here as the people we are without you and without this community.”
I felt so honored that I’d been there when Michelle made the initial announcement, that I’d contributed to the crowdfunding, and that now I was able to see people whose lives had been impacted by it.
Service project: Creating care packages for refugees
One of the things that I love about WDS is the focus on service. There are always opportunities to give back to the community in some way, and this year the project that really spoke to me was getting involved with Refugee Care Collective to create care packages for refugee families who recently arrived in Portland.
We put together boxes with bedding sets and personalized notes to let these families know that they’re welcome and we’re happy to have them as neighbors.
Here we are enthusiastically writing our personalized notes.
And here we are celebrating after loading everything up onto the truck so it could be delivered to the families.
It’s been a tense and sad time recently, with devastating news of children being separated from their parents at borders and being detained in inhumane conditions. So it felt really good to spend some time on a project that will have a clear and positive impact on people. I’m so glad WDS partnered with Refugee Care Collective on this awesome project.
A classic 1919 post office with marble floors, skylights, and lots of lavish details is now by day the campus for PNCA, but the night of the WDS closing party it was transformed into a botanical wonderland.
There were psychedelic projections on the walls, performers adorned with small but impressive plant and flower-themed costumes, and plenty of interactive areas where you could grab a snack directly off a tree, take a photo in front of a floral backdrop, or reach into a mysterious plant wall to find a lucky surprise.
It was the perfect end to a truly remarkable WDS.
If all this sounds like a blast to you, why not come along for the ride next year? This year, WDS founder Chris Guillebeau announced that WDS will only continue on in its current incarnation for another two years. I hope to see you there in 2019 (and 2020)!
Photos courtesy of Armosa Studios.