Together as curators over the last decade and more, TEDxCalgary co-founder Rahim Sajan and myself have had the very special priviledge of meeting an amazing array of what I'd like to call "companion idea travellers".
Many of those have been speakers at our events, and we can now count more than 150 such "idea travellers" among our speaker alumni. Many, many more were our event participants: we never refer to them as "attendees", as everyone is expected to participate actively in contributing to the ideas of the event itself. Regardless of how we met them, we both consider it an immense gift to have been able to share time with companion travellers who are equally curious about the world around them and willing to share their insights with us on the journey through life.
Just this morning, I was able to reconnect with three of those travellers, the speakers who were on our stage together at 2019's ENGAGE: Intentionally event (meet them and watch their talks here): Nicole Hartley Bradford, Kris Kelly-Frere, and Garret C. Smith.
Looking back, that salon was intended to be the launch event in our year-long anniversary theme of ENGAGE: with Ideas, something that was quickly and decisively cut short when COVID arrived in early 2020, deferring our planned ENGAGE: Deeply main event by some two years. We ultimately held a successful virtual event, ENGAGE: Connected in November 2020 (more amazing speakers, whom you can see here), and several other smaller virtual events as COVID lingered among us and constrained in-person gatherings.
In the intervening months since that first salon, Kris, Nicole, Garret and myself had each had gone our separate ways in life, diverging on our individual pathways but with a common shared bond of having been part of a special moment in time. At the same time, I think it safe to say that we each missed the energy of that shared moment when we had come together with 75+ participants at the original Central Memorial Library around what I have come to think of as the "campfire of ideas", which we can join and rejoin at will with companion travellers when the opportunity presents itself. To her great credit, Nicole reached out about a week ago to reconvene us, and it was with gratitude that all of us jumped into the Zoom call arranged by Kris, including Garret joining us from a special gathering place for his family on traditional Blackfoot lands.
If you're reading this and follow TED and/or TEDx, you'll know the feeling when you meet a companion idea traveller. You're at home in the moment, knowing that you've connected with the type of people who will understand your inate curiosity. Some feel at home in a stadium with tens of thousands of other music lovers swaying to the rhythm and the beat, while ideas travellers (I think) feel most at home when they can be in the presence of others who are willing to suspend the pressures of time and be in the moment of exploring an idea for however long is available.
As curator for this year's event, I'm excited that these companion travellers may be able to join us either in-person or virtually at ENGAGE: Deeply on October 15th, and continue the conversation we started more than two years ago. Hopefully, a number of speakers from our past events also will be able to join us, along with a whole new group of travellers experiencing an event for the first time. To me, that is the true purpose of what we do at TEDxCalgary through our events... the speakers start the conversation through their powerful ideas, but it is up to all of us as idea travellers to carry their stories forward into the other moments we're having around the various campfires we encounter on our individual journies.
(Jonathan Perkins is a co-founder, current curator, and CEO of TEDxCalgary)