The REAL value of TBEX, for me

I wasn’t going to do a post-TBEX wrap-up because, well, I actually didn’t do much of anything. I only made it to one of the keynote speakers. But then I read Pam Mandel’s post about how she barely attended any talks, and I grew some big balls. Honesty. She has it.

I had full intention of making the most of talks this year, even though only a handful really sparked my interest. I tried to make it to Mike Sowden’s talk on tormenting your reader, because he’s one of my favourite writers, but I couldn’t even get inside the room. He’s THAT popular. (If you met him, you’d know why.) I missed Lola’s Storytelling Through Photography talk because I had another meeting, and I missed Ross Borden’s speech due to the schedule change. There were other amazing people I wanted to connect with (Annemarie Dooling, Jodi Ettenberg…), but most of the other talks – content strategy, monetization, etc. – made me throw up in my mouth.

Reuniting with the Matador Network team at the most epic after party of ALL TIME

Like Pam points out in her write-up, I’m more interested in the travel writing side of blogging. How to capture place. How to tell a good story. How to hook your readers. I feel like since the first TBEX I attended in 2010 in New York City, the conference has taken a drastic turn towards being entirely corporate. And isn’t that exactly what we bloggers are running from? I showed up on the opening night wearing a neon green YOLO Jamaica shirt and multi-coloured yoga pants, only to realize it was a pretty classy affair. If some of you bloggers out there can afford fancy suits, I’d like to know what you’re doing.

BUT, let’s get this straight. I still had one of the greatest weekends of my life.

Hanging with vlogging superstars Mike Corey and Nadine Sykora

Here’s why: people. Bloggers. Goddamn, you are all an amazingly talented, dedicated, passionate group of individuals. Reuniting with my Matador team and bloggers I’ve known for years now has reignited that flame for travel blogging, not to mention all the fresh new faces I became friends with in such a short amount of time. I’m broke as shit and completely exhausted after travelling straight through these past few months, but I’m HAPPY and liberated.

New friend! Erica from Trump Hotels and I hit it off. The demonic birds in the background are edited in, I swear.

You’ve all inspired me so much. The networking and socializing I did over the past few days did more for my spirit than any talk could. And yes, some of that networking included passing a 26-er of whiskey around a circle in someone’s backyard at 4 AM in the morning while strumming guitars and mandolins. And yes, some of that inspiration was due to an epic storytelling session in a hotel conference room that involved a group of bloggers drawing images with coloured chalk on pieces of paper. But we rocked it. We ROCKED it.

A very serious hotel conference discussion

I valued the arranged meetings with industry as well, even if my heart hurt after Maui rejected my invitation and I discovered others had dozens of meetings. But after chatting with DMOs and other travel industry folk, I realized that we bloggers got somethin’ going on. We’re all still trying to figure it out, but we’re getting there. We’re valuable. We’re influential…and if you bring Klout score into this I will literally clout you over the head.

With Matt Stabile from The Expeditioner

And the feedback! Man. I had so many people tell me how much they enjoyed my Ireland coverage. SO many. Mariellen literally took the time out of her busy night to sit down with me and tell me how inspired she was. I was ecstatic to hear this coming from such a talented blogger. Hearing that sort of feedback filled my soul.

The epic Matador Network after after party, with Luke Armstrong and Jenn Smith Nelson

The downside of TBEX? I’m feeling a particular sense of heartbreak now over the fact that these events are so fleeting. How is it that we’re all so tied together by the wonders of travel, and yet we only ever see each other once a year? How weird it is to know someone without knowing them, and to then have them disappear out of your life. I need TBEX rehab.

Another downside: the huge number of attendees meant I didn't get to spend as much time with other awesome people, like travel blogging BFF Cailin O'Neil.

Shooting flaming arrows as punishment for broken bottles of rum

You’re all beautiful.

Thanks to Canada Keep Exploring for hosting me on the Cross-Canada Blogger Train to TBEX!

  • Stephanie

    It was great to see you (although not for nearly long enough)! I get so overwhelmed at TBEX b/c there are so many people I want to sit down and talk with but then I’m constantly distracted by all the other people wandering around. Hopefully we’ll cross paths again somewhere soon!

  • Daniel

    I like you. And relate to your sentiments on the “industry”.

  • Karin Erica

    It was great to meet you Candice, I agree with much of what you said. I attended some of the sessions on content and brand strategy, and found them really helpful, but steered clear of the ones on ROI and monetization. At this point I feel like most bloggers know there are ways to monetize their blogs and a lot of that info can be found online. I’d love it if bloggers could be more upfront about how they make money (or how they pay for fancy suits), I work full time and still can’t afford to travel much, but I know a lot of bloggers who say they make their money from blogging, but really they’re freelancing or selling affiliate links or ebooks. Come clean people! Aside from that, this was my first TBEX and I thought it was incredibly well run, I met amazing people, enjoyed the free booze and parties, and got to meet some brands and tourism boards (although not many as I was also shot down as my stats are probably ‘not good enough’ compared to others – another point that they should focus on the quality of the content not on my klout score comes to mind!)

    Cheers! Karin

  • Lukespartacus

    Amen!

  • Caroline Eubanks

    Someone said something in one of the FB groups about TBEX and it was this: “what about the travel?” There is SOOO much emphasis now on sponsored, monetization, bullshit that it takes away from what I love talking about, which is the places we’ve been. I think Jodi/Annemarie’s, Mike’s and Katja’s Instagram talk were all worthwhile but not sure what else I got that I didn’t learn in 2010. But you’re right, for me I may not get all that much PR partnerships out of the weekend, but I did to catch up with crazy folks like yourself and others.

  • http://www.belizeadventure.ca/ Lorenzo Gonzalez

    Sign me up for TBEX rehab!

  • Steve Whitty

    As somebody who will never attend TBEX conference it has been interesting to read the various posts. From what I saw two days is a short time to take everything in. Also the point of a conference is to meet up with other bloggers in a social situation. I also agree with you Candice that I thought the reason people started to blog was to escape the corporate world. Is TBEX becoming to corporate?

  • Steve Whitty

    As somebody who will never attend TBEX conference it has been interesting to read the various posts. From what I saw two days is a short time to take everything in. Also the point of a conference is to meet up with other bloggers in a social situation. I also agree with you Candice that I thought the reason people started to blog was to escape the corporate world. Is TBEX becoming to corporate?

  • Steve Whitty

    As somebody who will never attend TBEX conference it has been interesting to read the various posts. From what I saw two days is a short time to take everything in. Also the point of a conference is to meet up with other bloggers in a social situation. I also agree with you Candice that I thought the reason people started to blog was to escape the corporate world. Is TBEX becoming to corporate?

  • Rob

    ” I feel like since the first TBEX I attended in 2010 in New York City,
    the conference has taken a drastic turn towards being entirely
    corporate. And isn’t that exactly what we bloggers are running from?”

    Amen, independence or bust.

    P.S: Disgus makes it hard to comment for those of us who like independence. ;)

  • http://www.candicedoestheworld.com/ Candice Walsh

    It was a pretty hectic few days, yep! I think a lot of bloggers felt the same way…at least the veterans who have attended the conference for a few years now. Maybe we’re just resistant to change.

  • http://www.candicedoestheworld.com/ Candice Walsh

    DOWN WITH CORPORATIONS!

    And dammit, these comment boxes ruin my life.

  • http://www.candicedoestheworld.com/ Candice Walsh

    I’ve been watching Bridezilla and eating ice-cream since I got home. #rehab

  • http://www.candicedoestheworld.com/ Candice Walsh

    Namaste!

  • http://www.candicedoestheworld.com/ Candice Walsh

    Awesome to meet you too, wish I had seen more of you and Kieron! Yeah, I think people in our field need to diversity our income streams. Even Nomadic Matt doesn’t make money from JUST blogging. I wish I had that entrepreneurial spirit.

  • http://www.candicedoestheworld.com/ Candice Walsh

    I missed Jodi’s and Annemarie’s talk and I totally regret it. I love the idea of community being more important than stats, because I totally agree. Fuck the numbers, they don’t promise good content…just good SEO and biz smartness. I also might not know what I’m talking about.

  • http://www.candicedoestheworld.com/ Candice Walsh

    I like YOU! I’m glad people relate. I was afraid I was just too bitter.

  • http://www.candicedoestheworld.com/ Candice Walsh

    Ditto! Did not see nearly enough of you! Totally overwhelmed. Took me 20 minutes to reach the food table once because I kept getting stopped by people. Gosh, I’m so popular. Jk. But anyway, the beauty of our industry…we’ll meet again at the most unexpected times!

  • http://gigigriffis.com/ Gigi Griffis

    Oh. This made me a little sad. I don’t know what the TBEX speaker said about it, but content strategy is largely about making website experiences better for users and, by extension, better for the business. It’s not about making things more markety or corporate (in fact, most of the time we’re dialing people back from that).

  • Jackie D

    This was my first TBEX and I enjoyed it for the most part, but I agree that there wasn’t nearly enough emphasis on the writing or the traveling aspect of TRAVEL WRITING itself, which is a shame. I have a huge girl crush on Pam Mandel and went up to say hello to her after her panel, and I would love to see someone like her or you giving a talk that’s completely devoted to blogging and traveling for the sake of it, instead of blogging or traveling to get free things and make a lot of money.

  • http://www.travelerahoy.com/ Alouise

    I totally missed meeting you at TBEX, but it sounds like you had a good, if not exhausting, time. I know that’s how I felt after. I only went to a couple sessions, but my big regret after TBEX was over was not getting to know more people. It’s nice to be around a community at TBEX where I can say, “I’m heading to….” and the first response isn’t, “that’s crazy/dangerous/expensive/so far away…etc.” like I might hear back home. The conference is good, but it’s always the people that make it great.

  • http://www.travelerahoy.com/ Alouise

    I totally missed meeting you at TBEX, but it sounds like you had a good, if not exhausting, time. I know that’s how I felt after. I only went to a couple sessions, but my big regret after TBEX was over was not getting to know more people. It’s nice to be around a community at TBEX where I can say, “I’m heading to….” and the first response isn’t, “that’s crazy/dangerous/expensive/so far away…etc.” like I might hear back home. The conference is good, but it’s always the people that make it great.

  • Mike Sowden

    My first TBEX, so I have nothing to compare it with, plus I was a speaker. I’m totally compromised. But actually? I saw some good stuff going on. And I avoided the things that I knew would make me feel oh-god-everyone-stop-with-the-selling-before-I-build-a-time-machine-and-go-back-and-erase-you-all. And that worked nicely.

    It was a delight to meet you at last. YOU = FUNNY.

  • http://www.candicedoestheworld.com/ Candice Walsh

    I totally agree, but I didn’t get that feeling from this conference. More like it was a money making thing.

  • http://www.candicedoestheworld.com/ Candice Walsh

    I’m at the Travel Media Association of Canada conference now where there IS that emphasis on the actual writing/travel part…thankfully. Let’s hope they bring it at next year’s

  • http://www.candicedoestheworld.com/ Candice Walsh

    Seriously, SO MANY people! Argh! No way to fit everyone in :(

  • http://www.candicedoestheworld.com/ Candice Walsh

    Bahaha I love the moment we met. I think it was one of my favourite meetings for the whole trip…THE favourite, perhaps. LET’S DO THAT AGAIN

  • Jon

    Hey guys,

    It’s Jon, the stand-up comic (comedyhostel.com).

    I get how everyone just wants to talk about travel, writing, eating, and drinking (who doesn’t?), but at some point, it isn’t sustainable if you’re not able to pay bills – even the ones you may not think you have.

    Sure, if blogging isn’t what you want to do for the rest of your life, what’s being said makes sense. But if it IS, isn’t it awesome that to be given tools & knowledge to separate YOUR great content from the all the other great content so that it generates a stream of revenue in ADDITION to freebies/perks? There’s just LOADS of writing talent out there (1100 bloggers in one spot!! AHHHHH!!!!).

    Getting paid to travel and write about it doesn’t sound very “corporate” to me – it sounds like the best possible life situation! No one’s just going to pay us to create art that doesn’t get found, read, or heard. Otherwise you’re just painting or sculpting in your basement.

    I’m a little older, so while money isn’t everything to be, making SOME money which can help me sustain what I love to do is definitely important. I’m a refugee from the REAL corporate world (like, as corporate as it GETS!!!). If TBEX is considered “corporate”, consider your lives and careers so far to be a blessing – because the only thing “corporate” about TBEX was the fact that businesses are interested in your talent and willing to reward you for it. Perks and freebies are nice, but as Lou Mongello who ran the podcasting session said “you can’t feed your kids plane tickets and free stuff”. And no one just dumps a big pile of money out of the blue one day when you decide to have kids. And trust me – you cross a point where staying in hostels with drunken idiots and couchsurfing isn’t really ideal.

    Sure, I get the whole notion that a community’s changing, that it’s “not what it used to be” – but that’s everything in life. It all changes. We don’t stay young forever. I’m witnessing that these last few years!

    Bottom line is you’re all in a position where there’s definitely a bit of a game to be played if you want to continue to do this & make it sustainable – and that’s AMAZING!!!! Beats selling data cleansing software to widget manufacturers. That’s the same for telling jokes about travel, being in a band, or cooking food for a living.

    Just my two cents!

  • http://www.candicedoestheworld.com/ Candice Walsh

    Sure, we know how blessed we are, otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it! But we literary types and writerly geeks care just as much about the craft of writing as we do about travel, and I felt a severe shortage on that end. Got more out of it at the TMAC conference this week, but I’d love to see more workshops, etc at next year’s.