The Travel Blog Exchange (TBEX) hit Toronto last week with the conference’s largest number of travel bloggers, writers and new media content creators in attendance to date. I was one of them and it was my first time. Despite TBEX being the largest conference of its kind I had no idea what it was until approximately three months ago.
Some background info on me:
I came into the blogging game sometime in 2008 writing for a muay thai website. In 2009 I sold most of what I owned, caught a flight to Bangkok to train and continued writing about muay thai. My internet diet consisted of a handful of hours a week at Thai net cafes to let family and friends know I was sane and secure and to send off pieces for publication. I was training muay thai fulltime and wasn’t thinking of much else until I started this blog in 2011. This was around the time that I began to have regular net access. Not long beforehand, I got a handle on what a Tweet was; I’m still not a fan.
My mode of travel has been a liquid mix of catching the basics of a destination and following my intuition which generally leads me into the unknown. Everyone’s going where? Oh, nice to meet you all, please excuse me while I quietly make my way to investigate this black hole…I didn’t realize there was a subculture of travelers melding honesty, creativity and informative narrative until I believe, in late 2012, possibly early 2013. Previously the idea of spending time on a travel blog was about as enticing as eating newsprint.
This all lends to why I caught a plane to Toronto to attend TBEX and my subsequent perceptions of the event.
What I Was Looking For
- An understanding of the current travel blogging landscape.
- Learn more about travel blogging as a business.
- How to work with destinations and brands.
- Meet other content creators.
- Have a good time.
What I Found
- All of the above.
Keynotes + Seminars Attended
- Opening Keynote – Trey Ratcliff
- Brands, Bloggers & Dollars – Ted Murphy
- Creative Pitching For Experienced Travel Bloggers – Amy Moore, Ryan Levitt
- Where’s My ROI? Campaigns & Strategies In Digital Marketing – Stephen Oddo
- Beyond Blogging: Building A Publishing Empire – Tim Leffel
- Podcasting: Turning Your Passion Into A Full Time Business – Lou Mongello
- Social Media Tours: How To Have A Conversation With 30 Million People – Kat Reese, David DiGregorio
- Closing Session: This Week In Travel Live – Chris Christensen, Gary Arndt, Jennifer Leo, with Spud Hilton
I found most of the sessions I attended worthwhile. There were a couple that missed the mark in my opinion as they concentrated on generalities and didn’t delve into deliverables. They were at best summaries suited to people outside the industry. There was a particular discussion that made me question if it was put together last-minute aka enroute to the event. That being said, I left TBEX with more information than I had going into it, some of it incredibly valuable. And that’s a big positive.
- Pre-TBEX Party – Hosted by Toronto Travel Massive
- Travel Mix & Rock – Hosted by MatadorU, Hostelling International, G Adventures, San Juan Marriott, Diamond PR, Matador Network
- TBEX Opening Night – Hosted by Toronto Tourism
- Night With The Stars Viewing Party – Hosted by Expedia and Travel Alberta
Gold stars for everyone. The events were well organized, facilitated meeting others in the industry and they were a great time.
- Aboriginal Toronto
Not the tour I anticipated from the description on the TBEX site, however the guide was honest about complications and still delivered.
The major complication that arose relating to TBEX came on my end – I didn’t get remotely enough sleep. By the time I arrived at the conference on Saturday morning I had had possibly a total of 11.5 hours of sleep over three nights. By the time I slid into my Speed Dating appointments aka meetings with brands and destinations that afternoon I was burned out and weird. I sat down in my last meeting, apologized for my demeanour and handed the rep my media kit; I didn’t have much left in me. Not the pitch I was preparing for but at the time I felt being somewhat coherent was a victory of sorts. I had battled falling sleep on the Aboriginal Toronto tour bus the day before. How did this happen?
My evening flight to Toronto was cancelled then rescheduled to an early 7 am take-off. Then delayed. I was also staying an hour transit ride from the conference venue. Lastly, I had prepared to pick up my printed media kits in Toronto and that didn’t pan out so well. The associated stress triggered insomnia and the rest is barely remembered history. If you were at TBEX, perhaps you noticed me melting out of one of the big black minimalist chairs. While others were networking and taking photos, I was spacing out and thinking, I can do this. I think. Hello?
Not having an iPhone put me at a slight disadvantage as well. I didn’t realize how plugged into the TBEX community everyone was via Twitter in realtime. There were meetups that I wasn’t aware of until after the fact as a result. I also wasn’t able to enter specific contests announced during the conference and at events.
Would I Recommend TBEX?
Definitely. I’d also recommend others venturing to their first TBEX to prepare well, sleep soundly and maintain a sense of humour should any complications arise. Have fun. TBEX is a great venue to learn more about the travel blogging industry and to meet others with similar passions in a laid back and open environment. I learned as much from conversations with fellow content creators as I did from the seminars attended.