The Academy Awards of Haven Conference 2018

In the past 10 days, I’ve traveled on planes, ferries, and ridden 1600+ miles in our Toyota Avalon car.

airplane in the sky

I’ve experienced 3 different time zones, lived out of a suitcase, and hugged the necks of dozens of new friends.

Now, I’m home.

Reality awaits.

It’s been a whirlwind ~ both exhausting and exhilarating in equal parts.

This series of adventures began with a dream-come-true trip to the Haven Blogging Conference in Charleston, South Carolina.

Haven sign with women in front of it

Jen/ me/ Lauren/ Julie/ Sonya

I began blogging before the first Haven happened years ago, and have long dreamed of being able to attend. This year it finally happened.

The Marriott Hotel in Charleston (by the river!) welcomed hundreds of us home decor bloggers and enthusiasts for a 2 and a half day conference. I went with the goals of connecting with other bloggers, meeting brands who were looking for blog influencers, and learning new skills to help my blog business.

All those goals were met astoundingly!

Many of you have expressed your excitement for this opportunity and have cheered me on in the journey. I thought it might be fun to give you a recap of my experience in Academy Award style. You know, my own personal awards for the “best of” in every category. Here goes:

Highlights of the Haven Conference 2018

Most Practical Packing advice

Before I left, I watched conversations on Facebook pages and asked a ton of questions about what to pack. As a complete conference newbie, I wanted to make sure I had all the bases covered.

suitcase sitting on a seat in an airport

People were so helpful in sharing practical tips of what to pack and what to leave at home. Without fail, it was advised to pack an extra bag for all the free “swag” items you’ll receive. I was told that it would possibly fill an entire carry on bag. They weren’t kidding!

As someone who is accustomed to travelling with only a carry on bag, I chose to pack a soft duffel bag with a leather bottom at the bottom of my carry on suitcase. Then when I arrived, I took it out, filled it with goodies, and checked it for the way home.

It worked like a charm. I carefully selected items to bring home, and gave some swag away if I didn’t think I would use them. However, the collection I brought home is very exciting and I can’t wait to put the items to use.

I also used a large bag as my “purse” for the plane that doubled as a tote at the conference. I tucked in my notebook, ipad, glasses, & business cards and carried it with me wherever I went. It was big enough to add small items that were given at the booths by the brands, and from time to time, I’d head up to my room to unload the goodies to make room for more.

(If you want the details of the outfits I packed and wore, you can see them here.)

I opted to not take my big digital camera or my laptop, so all the pictures in this post are done just with my ipad…

**Update! Want to see the swag I brought home? Click here to watch the Facebook live video with all the details.

Best Scene Around

If you’re looking for site seeing advice for the Charleston area, I’m not your resource. I don’t doubt that it’s an incredibly gorgeous area with stunning scenery. But, I didn’t see much of it. Instead, I spent my time right at the hotel where the conference took place ~ the Charleston Marriott.

palm tree leaves against a blue sky

It. was. beautiful.

And air conditioned!;)

outdoor pool at the Charleston Marriot Hotel

The weather was very humid, and this sea breeze loving girl just couldn’t stay out in that smothering heat for long. We were also kept busy with the schedule of courses and events, and everything I really needed was right there at the hotel ~ including great coffee and a cute little restaurant.

I did, however, go to downtown Charleston for two dinner meals.  I was able to get a glimpse of the beautiful historical architecture of the city. It really was beautiful.

buildings in downtown Charleston, SC

The Most Delightful Roommates Ever

When I made the decision to go to Haven in January, one of my heart’s desires was to have a roommate. My reasoning was two-fold:

  1. I wanted to make a new friend.
  2. I wanted to save some money on the cost of the room.

God answered my heart’s desire in abundance. Not only did He provide one amazing roommate ~ He gave me 3!

picture of 4 women in front of greenery

Marissa/ Julie/ me/ Sonya

I met Julie  through a facebook post, and Sonya and Marissa through Julie. Months before the conference, we formed a Facebook group and messaged each other weekly (and sometimes daily!). I felt like I knew these ladies before we even met.

Meeting in person was the icing on the cake. We had so. much. fun! They have become dear friends and are absolutely the best encouragers in my blogging journey. I no longer feel alone.

Most Helpful Class I took

This category is a bit hard to narrow down, as I really enjoyed the classes I took. I took classes like:

  • Organizing your Blog Business,
  • SEO, and
  • Secrets to Awesome Video

But, the one that seemed to bring the most excitement and practical tips was How to Capture Gorgeous Interior Photos with your DSLR taught by Rachel from Maison de Pax. 

Her photography is jaw dropping beautiful and I just loved her teaching style. I can’t wait to try out the things I learned from her.

Most Inspiring Story

The moment that stirred my soul came at a most unexpected place ~ a make and take craft class!

3 women smiling

Amy Howard’s business and faith story blessed my heart and I can’t stop thinking about it…

Author with Amy Howard

Most Memorable Moments

Hands down, the people I met were by far the most memorable moments of the conference.

7 women sitting at an outdoor table with red checked tablecloth

Photo Credit: Haven

I was beyond thrilled to meet and talk in person with people whose blogs I’ve read for years.

collage of people with the author

Vintage Revivals / Thistlewood Farms/ The Handmade Home

It was a joy and delight to discover individuals that are not just amazing and talented online ~ they are also very kind and hospitable in person.

It is the conversations that are replaying in my mind these days. I think of the words of wisdom given by Yvonne from Stone Gable; the sweet dinner conversation with my blog mentor Jenny Melrose; the laughter with my roommates in the wee hours of the morning; and the kindness and generosity of the brand ambassadors that I talked with. I met and talked with so many people who are all at different stages in their blogging journey. I’m looking forward to keeping up with many new friends!

Most Memorable Quote

6 women smiling

On the first evening of the conference, Yvonne from Stone Gable (I’m perched on her lap in that picture above) gave us newbies some words of advice,

“Girls,” she said,

“You’re going to feel like you’re trying to drink from a fire hose at this conference. Just open your mouths and keep drinking…”

“…and when you think you’re too tired ~ just keep drinking!”

Oh, what a wise words those were…

I went. I drank. And, I’ve arrived home bursting with excitement for the possibilities and plans for the future.

For Further Information

Many of the friends that I met at the conference have also written recaps of their time at Haven. If you want to learn more about this event, you might like to check out their posts (and my face is in some of their pictures, too!;))


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  1. Great post Rita and it was an amazing experience. I am so grateful that we met and have created our tribe. You are such a blessing!!

  2. Great write up! It seems like Rachel’s photography class was the star class that everyone is raving about! I love all the pictures, and it was truly a pleasure to be your roommate and meet you in person. I am glad you got to have a little fun on your way home! Hugs.

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