Note: Lazy readers can scroll down for the TLDR. I promise I won’t judge. 

Friend: “Oh! You’ll be in Portland in July? You should go to WDS!”

Me: “Ok… what’s WDS?”

Friend: “Well I’m not exactly sure, but everyone raves about it.”

A quick Google search told me the acronym stood for World Domination Summit. “Well that’s quite a name,” I thought. But even after reading founder Chris Guillebeau‘s upbeat posts describing how excited he was for 2014’s installment of the conference, I still had no clue what it was really about.

So, of course, I turned to Twitter and the #WDS hashtag. I asked people who had attended previous WDS events what they liked about the summit. Would they go back? What specifically did they get out of it?

“It’s just amazing.”

“So incredible.”

“Worth every penny.”

World Domination Summit

It seemed that getting a straight answer out of a WDS attendee was like trying to catch smoke with your hands. Still solidly skeptical, I decided not to drop $500 on an unknown entity. I would simply crash the after parties! That is… until I saw someone on Twitter was trying to sell a ticket for $150. Now THAT was worth the risk! So I jumped. And now here I am a few months later to tell you about the fall.

World Domination Summit

I don’t really believe in fate, but it sure felt like the universe was doing me a favor by granting me that discounted ticket, because it was AWESOME.

That’s right. I’ve become one of the WDS people!

My partner Nick is more than a little concerned about my sudden wide-eyed cheeriness, the sheer amount of to-do lists I’ve created, and my newly-discovered affinity for capes.

Photo courtesy of Armosa Studios

You had to be there. (Photo courtesy of Armosa Studios)

“Don’t worry,” I tell him, “you’ll understand when you come next year.”

Yes, I already bought two tickets for the 2015 event. Which I admit is a little nuts for a nomad who usually has no idea what she’s doing three months in advance, let alone twelve.

The question you’re probably asking right now is why? What made me love it so much? Who is this conference even for? What will I get out of it? WHAT THE HELL IS THIS WDS THING ALL ABOUT?!

I hear you, person screaming at your laptop! And I will do my best to explain to you what no one could explain to me: what exactly is World Domination Summit?

It’s a gathering of thousands of people – entrepreneurs, travelers, writers, activists, and artists – in one place to exchange cool ideas. Basically everyone comes and says what they’re working towards, and everyone else helps them achieve it in some small way. 

That’s really the best description I can come up with.

And yes, there is a lot of positivity, over-enthusiastic smiles and high-fives as you walk in the door. Also: lots of yoga. (Which was totally optional. I skipped it in favor of sleep.)

In short, it’s a total playground for extroverts like myself. But don’t worry, introverts! Your needs are taken care of, too! I snuck into the “introvert recovery room” to snap a picture of people recuperating from all the upbeat interaction in their hammocks and sleep masks:

World Domination Summit

Fun for all personality types!

As I said, while World Domination Summit is an impressive name, it gives you no clue as to what the conference is actually about. And I think that’s the genius of it. Someone told me that in 2013, Chris Guillebeau, the internet-famous blogger and creator of WDS, was asked if he’d ever consider changing the name to something more… understandable. He flatly refused. “That’s the name.”

What’s interesting about the name is that it means the people who attend are a self-selecting group of adventurers. The only people who would go to a conference that they understand very little about are people who are willing to take a leap of faith. To jump and trust that they’ll figure something out on the way down. To just DO.

As one of my favorite speakers of the weekend, Elise Blaha Cripe, said during her keynote: “If we waited until we knew what we were doing, we’d never do anything at all.”

World Domination Summit Elise Blaha

This theme was echoed by many of the speakers. Some of the talks did tend to overlap, but that’s ok. For me, the speakers are only about 15% of what the conference was about.

Don’t get me wrong, most of them were amazing! And I teared up at their stories way more often than I expected. But those on stage are simply there to set the scene and frame the open, breaking-down-barriers, not-afraid-to-fail mindset for the weekend. Where the real WDS magic happens is with the other attendees.

Every single person I met had a story to tell, a bit of invaluable advice to pass on, or some inspiration to offer. People gave advice they could easily have charged $200/hour for, on topics ranging from getting a book editor to how to shoot quality video for your blog. They offered help and, most impressively, they asked for it. One of the speakers encouraged us to say our goal out loud. And say it LOUDLY. Tell everyone you meet. So that’s what people did. Not only to make it more real for themselves, but because, when they did, the offers of help and genuinely great advice just poured in.

I witnessed people find partners for new business ventures, get brilliant tips on how to write their first Kindle book, and furiously scribble down lists of all the software recommendations they received.

I personally received tons of tips on how to create a new course on becoming a digital nomad, from people’s opinions on Udemy to actual content ideas. One of those spontaneous conversations even led to a new business idea. So today I’m thrilled to announce that in the coming year, I’ll not only be attempting to launch an online course for aspiring nomads, but I’ll also be creating a series of city guides specifically for us location-independent entrepreneurs! All because I stated my goals out loud.

Like I said, the crowd here is a pretty amazing group of people.

Can you just give me the TLDR, please?

Yes! Here’s what WDS is:

1. Three thousand people in the same spot, all with a story to tell and a goal. Whether it’s launching a new start-up, or trying to be a digital nomad. Everyone is working toward something.

2. Great speakers with inspiring stories to tell of their own failures and successes in life and business.

3. Dozens of meetups with like-minded people on topics as varied as writing a book, keeping up your fitness, learning a new language, or monetizing a blog. (This was hands-down the best part for me!)

4. Parties every night. Lots of dancing. Lots of food trucks!

5. To-do lists. You will come away with a big one.

I hope this gives all of you would-be attendees a clearer idea of what WDS is about. If not, well, just ask me stuff in the comments! Or take a leap of faith and buy a ticket, trusting that something awesome will happen if you come to Portland next year.

See you in 2015!


Just a few of my fave Instagrams from #WDS2014:

  • Kristen Hicks

    Nice description! You did a better job getting it all into one sentence than I could have.

    • Kit Whelan

      Thanks Kristin! It took a few drafts, that’s for sure ;)

  • periwinkleyears

    Nice summary! I like your description of something for everyone and different activities appealing to different types. I had to get out my urban dictionary though – I didn’t know what TLDR meant. I wrote a very long post too – so now I’ll understand when someone describes it as TLDR! ~ @angie_seattle

    • Kit Whelan

      Thank you! It was difficult to condense it all into a TLDR, but I tried ;)

  • Pingback: How the World Domination Summit Changed My Life. No, Really. | The World Is My Jester

  • Robb Hillman

    It’s fun seeing these posts to see who some of the 2900 people I didn’t meet were there! I’ve been following your blog for a while now, wish I’d run into you. I’m still on the fence about 2015 only because we don’t know where we will be by then, but if we can work it out, I’d love to go back. What an amazing journey. I just needed more opportunities for meetups! :-)

    • Kit Whelan

      Thanks Robb! Wish we could’ve met up! I definitely agree about even more meetups, they were the best bit!

  • Kerri Kirshner

    Kit, a girl from WDS is visiting me here in Seattle. She’s one that is taking a year off to go around the country and help people. Anyway, last night at dinner we were *trying* to explain WDS to her, with no avail. She couldn’t wrap her head around it. To me, it was simply amazing!! Cannot wait until next year.

    • Kit Whelan

      Haha, I know what you mean! It’s SO difficult to explain to people who weren’t there. :)

  • Pingback: What Are People REALLY Saying About WDS 2014? : The Art of Non-Conformity

  • Pingback: An Ode to the World Domination Summit | Intrepid Freelancer

  • Pingback: A Beautiful 10 Mile Run in Portland - Kapitalust

  • Xander

    This sounds Awesome.