I’ll be back to more travel and shopping posts next week, but I wanted to take a moment to address not only what on earth possessed me to start this blog, but also what it’s like to dive headfirst into the world of travel blogging by attending the TBEX Dublin conference– and let you know about some of my favorite travel bloggers that I met at TBEX.
Back in May, I traded in my nightly ballet classes for evenings on the sofa after a dance-related mishap. Instead of pirouetting with the city’s wannabe ballerinas and cross-training broadway dancers, I had my foot hoisted in a plastic boot on the sofa for months.
While everyone else enjoyed the summer, I dug deep into the recesses of Netflix. After I finished off all the foreign drama series, the next logical step was refreshing my French with Rosetta Stone. When I tired of that, I had no alternative plan and ended up spending way too many hours browsing cute cat pictures on Reddit. I knew it was time to make a change.
Enter a New York Times profile on Chip Conley— Chip has worked hard and lived well, and despite all his other successes, still felt driven to pursue his passion for festivals in his own niche blog, Fest300. I clicked over to his blog and got lost in Chip’s world of community and festivals. My first thought was, how can I go to all these festivals? And then remembering that I’d never even thought about a festival before reading Chip’s blog, my next thought was how can I learn to write like that?
I had dipped my toe into writing before with a Sunday feature piece for the New York Post. But it was just too hard to write on a deadline and file legal briefs at the same time, so I let future writing opportunities slide to concentrate on other things– like paying off my law school loans. This time nothing was standing in my way–it was time to say goodbye to cat memes and hello to HTML.
I figured there was no point in doing something if you aren’t going to do it well, so I signed up right away for the TBEX travel blogger conference in Dublin to learn what this blogging business was about. Then it was announced that my inspiration for blogging– Chip Conley– was the keynote speaker.
I don’t really believe in fate, except when it works to confirm the wisdom of choices I’ve already made.
Which means that I can definitively say that it was fate that led me to the TBEX conference.
So now that fate has led me to the world’s leading travel blogger conference and home again, I can share my top nine things I learned as a first-time TBEX attendee.
Quick Content Guide
- 1. Not your average boring conference–travel bloggers are friendly, chatty and fun.
- 2. Social media is not just for tweens and C-list celebrities.
- 3. Take advantage of the photography workshops. Then go practice in the host city.
- 4. You can sleep when you’re dead. Or at least back home.
- 5. Bring your own painkiller of choice.
- 6. Sit with someone completely new at lunch.
- 7. Don’t forget the locals.
- 8. Map the locations of all the kebab shops in advance.
- Thanks for sharing your fries Rob. Nick loves his doner kebab. 9. Enjoy the craic, it’s the best part of the conference.
1. Not your average boring conference–travel bloggers are friendly, chatty and fun.
If you’ve been to a conference before in another industry, you may have some ideas about what they are like. Long speeches, awkward pauses and stilted conversations that involve nodding politely while listening to someone describe their kid’s superstar status on the local soccer team.
So I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from a travel blogger conference, as I didn’t know a single person who blogs. Who are travel bloggers anyway? Would I be the unwelcome newcomer, treated as a dilettante by a clique-y old guard of already successful bloggers?
Not at all– I learned pretty quickly that travel bloggers are among the most welcoming and curious people you’ll meet. It doesn’t matter what kind of blogger someone is or how long they’ve been at it– at their core, travel bloggers are people who love to travel and love to write. So it’s pretty much impossible not to have a lot in common with any given blogger. With all the great conversations waiting for you, the only question is how do you fit it all in?
2. Social media is not just for tweens and C-list celebrities.
Pre-blog, my social media use was limited to a few half-hearted facebook status updates. Post-blog, my google research told me that I’d better get with the program. I hurriedly slapped up profiles for twitter, pinterest and instagram. My initial attempts at social media were a complete failure. Tweets sunk into a black hole, unacknowledged. My instagram followers included more users who wanted to help me “make money now” than people who actually cared about my photos.
“Linking” baffled me. How do I find other bloggers to link to so I could give my readers more resources beyond my shopping niche? How to find bloggers who wanted to contribute their shopping finds to my site?
TBEX speaker Ian Cleary’s phenomenal session on using social media had all the answers– his list of helpful websites never came up in my exhaustive google searches. I can’t wait to try out triberr and some of the other sites Ian recommends.
3. Take advantage of the photography workshops. Then go practice in the host city.
When do you get the chance to walk around a photogenic city with professional photographers? At TBEX, I knew I selected the right workshop to improve my very beginner photography skills when I met Laurence and Daniel. They answered all my questions and then some, and gave me some great tips to get started.
I don’t really have anything to say here, other than repeating #1, and adding that Dublin is a really fun town.
See #4 above. Chances are the quaint guest house you’ve selected for your accommodation is not well stocked. I managed to use my rudimentary Polish to score some ibuprofen from one of the maids, but next time I’ll bring my own supply.
6. Sit with someone completely new at lunch.
Time to get over your fear of where to sit in the cafeteria and pick a table where you know absolutely no one. I did this and lucked out by sitting next to Lance and Laura of Travel Addicts. Lance and Laura were fresh off their stay from Navigate Media Group’s BlogHouse, a complete blogger workshop offered by some of the most successful bloggers out there. So I not only heard about Travel Addicts’ great blog aimed at travel for busy professionals, but I also got the lowdown on what they learned at the BlogHouse. Now I can’t wait to apply to BlogHouse at the next go around.
7. Don’t forget the locals.
In Dublin, I met so many shop owners who welcomed me in and patiently let me photograph all their fabulous stuff while I fiddled with my camera’s manual settings (tungsten or fluorescent?), trying to remember all the great tips from the photography workshop. The sweet owners of Bow in Powerscourt centre (and creators behind many of the shop’s goods) were my favorites– stay tuned for a full post coming soon.
Of course, my conversations with Dublin locals weren’t all highbrow discussions about the superiority of Donegal tweed…
These local bon vivants photobombed me in front of the Shelbourne hotel and then insisted on a “proper” photo. Here you are lads.
Late night at the kebab shop (see #8 below) these fun-loving locals were kind enough to contribute a souvenir idea to my site (baseball cap with built-in bottle opener– tat…or genius?) and pose for a photo.
8. Map the locations of all the kebab shops in advance.
TBEX conferences and parties will ply you with an endless stream of food– oysters, local cheeses, Guinness stew– I could go on and on. It would make sense to take advantage of all these incredible goodies as they serve them.
But there are way more pressing matters at hand, see #1 and #4, above. Inevitably, you may miss some meals and end up at a late night kebab shop. As I learned from Nick of NicksTravelBug, it’s best to map these out in advance so you know where you’re going.
9. Enjoy the craic, it’s the best part of the conference.
Before TBEX, I only read a few travel blogs and didn’t really know how to cull through all the random sites out there to find the good ones. Fortunately, I met so many great people whose blogs are just as fun to read as they are to chat with. I am following these blogs and recommend you do too:
Emma of the Backpacking Spirit series
Fabulous Brit Emma is not what you’d expect a stereotypical backpacker to be like. Chic, savvy and game for anything, Emma could just as easily fit in at the Four Seasons as the hostel. Fortunately for us, she is an expert in her world of backpacking and her down-to-earth tips make the journey seem like a fun adventure. Reading Emma’s blog is like hearing advice from your best friend, and I love her motto that if you obey all the rules, then you will miss all the fun. Read Emma’s blogs here: backpacking-spirit.com; backpackingspiritblog.com; backpacking-spirit-women.com.
Naomi of anywhere but home
The effervescent Naomi is the kind of cool, popular (but sweet) girl everyone wants to be around, which is why her blog is much-loved. Naomi effortlessly added new people into the fold at TBEX, and makes you feel like you’ve been friends forever. Follow her journeys (complete with spectacular photography) for some serious travel inspiration. I didn’t realize until I got home that Naomi’s blog was one of the few I had already bookmarked from before TBEX.
Nick of NicksTravelBug
Warm and welcoming Nick was practically the TBEX mayor– friend to everyone and always in the know, and generous with his insider knowledge. Just stand in his vicinity long enough and you’ll meet a good portion of like-minded bloggers coming over to chat. Nick’s blog feels like that too– you are just part of Nick’s extended family of worldwide friends, getting the insider tips from the guy who knows everyone. What I love about Nick’s blog is that his purpose for budgeting is not for the sake of pinching pennies, but to leave room for all those spontaneous moments. Nick’s motto is that the less you spend on each trip, the more trips you can afford to take. Who wouldn’t agree with that?
Rob of Stop Having a Boring Life
Stop having a boring life is a pretty risky thing to name your blog. Anyone can say it, it’s quite another thing to live it. I had no doubts about the authenticity of the title when I met charismatic Rob. I know it’s clichéd to say someone is really living in the moment, but Rob seems to do just that, with no agenda. In this world of blandness, Rob’s straightforward (and refreshingly opinionated) writing style set him apart from other similar bloggers. A must follow!
Nikki of Backpacker Southeast Asia
I was so sad that I only discovered Nikki on the last night. Don’t let the lovely English rose exterior fool you– Nikki is a keen observer with a sardonic wit who will keep you entertained. Her blog is just as fun to read, without forsaking the hard information and details you need to plan a trip.
Stephen of Walks of Italy
Why didn’t I know about Stephen’s site before my trip to Italy? Stephen is the genius behind this site that gives you the lowdown on hidden gems and the unvarnished advice that’s so hard to find these days–and of course walking tours from entertaining experts that you’ll want to take. I’ll be recommending this site to all my friends planning Italy trips.
Turner of Around the world in 80 jobs
If you’ve ever wondered about the ethics of bloggers you need to hear Turner’s unbelievable story–a large corporation unapologetically came and swiped Turner’s business name out from under him. But instead of extracting a large legal settlement out of the company, Turner chose to forgo legal battles and focused on elevating the level of discourse, only asking that the corporation “make it right” by, among other things, donating $50,000 to SaveElephant.org. And spoiler alert– they did it. If that’s not reason enough to support Turner, just start reading his blog– instead of writing about aimless wanderings, Turner writes about working at real jobs around the world– with the sort of rakish charm that will have you hooked.
Erik at around the globe
You would never guess the unassuming Erik is behind Netherland’s largest and best travel website. You may have to hit google translate to read it, but it’s worth it for the great writing and unique perspective of Erik’s site.
Jesse at Global Yodel
There is no better place to ogle stunning photography on destinations, cultures, people and products around the world from the perspective of locals.
I also had a great time meeting these fun bloggers who I’ll also be following– Duncan at Urban Travel Blog, Jen at the Roaming Bean, Jon at travel album and Val at ChoosingFigs, among many, many others.