Highlights from WooTrip 2013

WooThemes has a tradition of getting the whole team together for an annual WooTrip. Past years trips have been skiing in the Alps, visiting London, England, and visiting WooHQ in CapeTown, South Africa. This year WooTrip 2013 was planned to bookend WordCamp Europe 2013 in Leiden, Netherlands.

When it was decided six months ago that this year’s WooTrip would be to WordCamp Europe I was very excited because I love traveling to Europe and I would finally get to meet all of my coworkers in person.  It had been seven years since I’d been to Europe and I’d never been to the Netherlands before.

Leiden Netherlands
Leiden, Netherlands

Leiden, Netherlands

We stayed the week in the city of Leiden in South Holland. It’s a university town that is very pedestrian friendly with picturesque buildings and canals. Our hotel was a block away from the main train station which was a very convenient location.

The Siege of Leiden festival was so much fun!

We arrived during the 3 October Festival which commemorates the Siege of Leiden during the Eighty Years’ War. We couldn’t have chosen a better time to show up! Growing up in San Antonio I’m used to city-wide festivals, but this festival was truly extraordinary. The entire city center was dotted with amusement rides, food and beer booths, and live music stages. It was an electric atmosphere to welcome us to the Netherlands!

Friday night we walked around town and the best part was dancing on a gigantic metal barge that was set on a canal in front of a stage that was

Since I packed light I had to do some laundry on Sunday. It was a bit of a hike to the nearest laundromat that was open on Sundays, but I didn’t mind because Leiden is fun to explore by foot. It was a brisk morning and was fun seeing more families out in the streets. There were also several people boating in the canals in kayaks and small motor boats.

Leiden Netherlands

The Dutch love their bikes and one thing you notice is how everyone rides a bike. Young, old, male, female, they are all on bikes. It was amusing to see what people would do on their bikes:

  • Eat
  • Text
  • Talk on the phone
  • Hold hands with someone riding a bike next to them
Amsterdam Central Train Station
Amsterdam Central Train Station

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Friday a group of us took a 30 min train ride into Amsterdam. I hadn’t done very much research of what to do in Amsterdam so a small group of us hopped on a tour boat. We took an hour long trip through the harbor and canals. The boat tour was good for general highlights and to get familiar with the layout of the city. We got to see iconic architecture, house boats, and several landmarks.

After the tour and some lunch Dwayne and I got separated from the group and spent some time wandering/exploring the city. We found ourselves walking through Dam Square, passing by the Anne Frank House (line was too long to enter), following several canals, then making our way back to the central train station.

A few hours wasn’t nearly enough time in Amsterdam and I can’t wait for a return visit!

WordCamp Europe

I’ll write more about the highlights of WordCamp Europe tomorrow, but it was great to be able to attend the camp with the WooThemes team.

Woo Team
Woo Team + 1

Meeting the team

The best thing about WooTrip 2013 was getting together with the entire WooThemes crew. They are a bunch of super talented and fun people. The team is diverse as we are 30 people spread across 7 countries and 3 (sometimes 4) continents and have WordPress as a common bond.  I had met the US based ninjas at WordCamp Atlanta, but this would be the first time meeting the team based in Europe and Africa.

The team first assembled at a cafe in Schiphol Airport. It was fun playing the “Who looks like their avatar?” game while we waited for everyone to arrive and found a place to buy a SIM card. At first it was surprising how many of us there were and It was difficult to move around as one group.  Through the trip we split out into smaller groups for meals and activities and it was easier to relate to folks.  I really enjoyed asking the non-US ninjas about where they live.  In the back of my mind I’ve got a plan to do a “Woo World Tour” and visit all of the countries where a ninja lives!

Over the next several days we talked life, sports, WordPress, and business. Knowing someone only from Skype chats and Google Hangouts doesn’t match getting to know them over a meal or traveling with them. For a remote team meetups are vital for building connectivity and trust and both were built on this trip.