What I Learned from Attending a Travel Blogger Conference

What I Learned from Attending a Travel Blogger Conference

“Did you just say that you’re sleeping on the beach?”

“Not tonight,” I replied, and as soon as that smirk of pleasant surprise emerged, I knew this was someone I’d want to talk with more.

We were getting off at the Hilton, where mostly everyone on the bus was staying that night. I had just hopped on to get a ride closer to my old neighbor’s place, on the beach, where I was taking advantage of being a former local and crashing with a friend.

I walked inside with the group just to see where it may lead, and ended up hanging out on the back patio sipping cocktails and talking drop-shipping, storytelling and taking virtual walking tours of Italy until well past midnight.

This was the beginning of my favorite night at TBEX, a travel blogger conference, recently hosted in my hometown/area of Fort Lauderdale, FL.

It was a four-day event filled with tours, keynotes, sessions, brand partners, and most importantly, hours of opportunity to finally connect in person with the blogosphere!

After a year of blogging + diving headfirst back into the travel space, it was so rewarding to meet in person those who I talk to online regularly, and to get an inside look at the industry as a whole outside of San Francisco and my own exposures.

Most of this is on the technical side, but here are my 5 major takeaways:

1- Fresh Perspective = Inspiration

Whenever I come back to south Florida, it’s no secret that my inspiration struggle is real. I have loads of family and old friends in town, so it’s tough to carve out time for simply “exploring” (or anything at all that’s not family or friends for that matter), which usually leads to a pretty quick drop in productivity.

I mean, how many times can you really look at the same set of palm trees and iguanas and get excited about it?!

Seeing firsthand a group of 200+ travel lovers looking wide-eyed at the sunny place I grew up was a nice reminder that all you ever really need is a fresh perspective.

2- How to Ride a Segway 

Hey! I can hear that laughter over there! Pardon me a moment while I add “Mall Cop Extraordinaire” to the list of things I totally thought I would never do but actually enjoyed.

Not going to lie, I solely joined this group of Pre-Bex Tours (options to experience the city before the conference began) to be that obnoxious local on a segway — because, duh — but it was surprisingly awesome.

The Segway Fort Lauderdale tour starts at Riverfront (used to office here in a former life!), rides swiftly alongside the river and then out and about through residential neighborhoods close-by. It was an unexpectedly exciting way to take in all the sights, sounds and smells of the neighborhood in a new way.

I may have just found a new favorite way to explore neighborhoods!

3- Just. Do. Video. 

GAH. I know I need to do it. I know I like to watch it. I know you guys like to watch it. But I’m really just learning how to get out from behind the lens for the first time in my life and that’s been super challenging and now I have to figure out how to do it in motion too?! So terrifying. But so necessary.

Videos to come, guys. Hold me to it. Practicing daily over on Snapchat: crntlyexploring. o.O

4- I Still Don’t Have a “Niche,” and I Don’t Want One.

Maybe to be expected, the question I got most at this conference about blogging was “so what is your niche,” to which I probably responded differently based on who I was talking to.

Which honestly, explains it all. I’m a multi-faceted little butterfly who prides myself on being able to find at least one level of connection with mostly anyone. Siloism is part of why the corporate world bored me to pieces and I started a blog called “currently exploring” — um, hello.

Millennial travel? Sure. Luxury travel? You betchya. Survival skills in the mountains? Oh yes. Transformational experiences? Loads of ’em. Solo female? 100%, but being on the road solo is never really solo, so is that even an accurate description? Eco-Travel and Voluntourism? Can’t wait to get into it. Best places to catch a WI-FI signal for digital nomads? Posts in queue.

As a former marketing director, I understand wholeheartedly how important it is to have a clear definition. As a human being in an exploratory phase of life and earth working on my passion project, I just don’t.

I’m blogging about all of the things, guys. Because all of the things are what inspire me. Can’t we make a niche for that?!

5- More Storytelling!

Before I was groomed for PR writing, or cut my teeth (and word count) in corporate sales, I loved writing for creative release. Before I was trained in SEO and KCI’s and inverted pyramids and ending every email with a question mark, I used to fill journals and notebooks and LiveJournal accounts and MacBook sticky notes with stories and tales and thoughts and words and imagination.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized how far I’d been trained against my natural flow, and even in that realization, the need to produce content that produces results consistently overpowers my desire to sit and write a story for the sake of writing a story.

I began this post with my introduction to Don George, author of (among other things) Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing.

Simply crossing paths with him was enough shake in the boots to take some focus off of the “Top 10 Things to Do in: Enter Greatest City Ever Here,” but the highlight of the entire conference for me came two evenings later in his closing keynote.

After sharing two beautifully embellished stories of a transformational sunset and moment being the only outsider a village man in a foreign land would likely ever meet in his life, Don George closed with this, to writers:

“Say to a place: Here I am; do with me what you will.

You can only penetrate and absorb experience as deeply as you open yourself to it.

You can only describe a place as deeply and as richly as you have experienced it.”

Was that an endorsement for my current on-a-whim, plan-free lifestyle!? Credentialing that going in with a pre-defined story angle may not always be the best way to approach a destination?! Motive that travel stories should be deep and rich and not just tactical?!

YASSSS.

It’s true that the pressures I feel to produce content in a certain direction are self-imposed, because there are no rules in the wild west of the blog world, but it’s also true that that there are trends in what works and what doesn’t, and storytelling doesn’t generally make the top of that list.

Individualism + storytelling seemed to be the main themes of TBEX this year, and to Don George and the conference organizers I say: thanks for the fresh perspective!

atlantic-coast-kayak atlantic-coast-kayak atlantic-coast-kayak segway-tour-fort-lauderdale segway-tour-fort-lauderdale segway-tour-fort-lauderdale sweet-nectar-fort-lauderdale sunset-fort-lauderdale tbex-fll

Experiences featured: Kayaking Richardson State Park w/ Atlantic Coast Kayak | Segway Tour by Segway Fort Lauderdale | Afternoon Break at Sweet Nectar on Las Olas (new fave by Kristin — seriously adorable).

Special thanks to the Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB and TBEX for coordinating these fun events around FLL outside of the conference schedule!

Looking for some fresh perspective of your own? Check out some of these beautiful people who were there, too:

Amanda @ Unresting Sea | JD @ EarthXplorer | Carolann + Macrae @ One Modern Couple (Go #ZipkickBloggers!) | Cassie @ Ever in Transit | Stephanie @ The Way to Wander | April @ April Go Lightly | Gary @ Everything Everywhere | Dan @ The New Travel Blog | Jana + Thom @ Tau Spotting

That’s a wrap! Off to Mexico!

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