10 favourite TBEX 12 moments

Rocky Mountains in Colorado, location for TBEX 12

Rocky Mountains in Colorado, location for TBEX 12

TBEX: Travel blogging conference hits new highs

In my ongoing quest to be a better travel blogger, I attended the annual travel bloggers conference, TBEX, that took place over the weekend of June 14-16 at Keystone Resort in Colorado, about an hour outside of Denver — and about 10,000 feet above sea level! My altitude adjustment problem and introverted personality type made it a challenging and tiring conference — but also educational, exciting and rewarding. These are some of my favourite moments.

10. The Rockies. It was my first time in the American Rockies, and though I’m not sure they are quite as rugged as those found in Canada, they were nevertheless a spectacular setting for a get-together.
(Unfortunately, though, I had a lot of trouble with the high altitude and felt short of breath, dizzy and tired the whole weekend.)

Tammy Burns, Spud Hilton, me at Expedia party, TBEX 12

Tammy Burns, Spud Hilton, me at Expedia party, TBEX 12

9. Listening to Deb tell it like it is. When Deb Corbeil of ThePlanetD told the audience in the Working with Brands seminar to “approach brands with proposals when you feel confident!” I nearly started clapping. This is a very important message and I’m so glad Deb said it. There is no magic number of followers, nor set rules or guidelines; no cookie-cutter approach nor specific goal or target to becoming a successful travel blogger. There isn’t even one, definitive definition of “successful” (you should have your own!). Deb made the journey personal, and humanized it, when she made that statement. Follow your own bliss. Do it when you’re ready. Right on. Thanks Deb.

8. Keynote by Rand Fishkin, founder of SEOmoz, who basically told the audience to BE YOURSELF. This is exactly what my mother told me, but to hear it from an SEO expert was really something. Rand’s advice was to:

  1. build something that you love
  2. make it unique and
  3. make it memorable

He had the best slide of the weekend, which he showed when he started talking about SEO tactics. Note: Do NOT stuff your posts with keywords.

travel blogging conference and SEO tactics

7. Talking to to keynote speaker C.C. Chapman about INSPIRATION after his speech about “content rules.” He said during the speech that content should educate or inform readers. I got up to ask a question, but they closed the Q&A period before I had a chance to ask in public, so I asked C.C. my question right afterwards: “What about inspiration,” I said. “Shouldn’t content also be inspirational?” I wish I had a picture or video of his beaming face, as he enthusiastically said, “Of course!”

6. Meeting travel bloggers and others I have only met online before, and there are too many to name, but I will single out Amy Moore, MJ Manzanares, Michelle Duffy of WanderMom, Beth Blair and Jen Miner of The Vacation Gals, Spencer Spellman, The Traveling Philosopher; Natalie Bahadur; the No Vacation Required guys; J.D. Andrews, EarthXplorer; Matt Gibson; David Stern of Hartmann Luggage, Vivek Wagle of airbnb, tech wizard Michael Tieso of Art of Backpacking, Dave Dean, Tim Leffel of Perceptive Travel, Andy Murdock of Lonely Planet, my soul mate Wil Klass of SpotCoolStuff, Kylie Robertson of Australia’s Outback, Laura Pitlik of Room Key, Katie Hammel (finally!) of Viator, among others.

The highlight for me was meeting Dan and Audrey of Uncornered Market. I have long felt a strong admiration and affinity for their blog and their values, especially around cultural respect — and they were just as nice and just as erudite in real life as I hoped.

5. Decoding the chocolate tacos. The opening night was a great party. The TBEX organizers, Keystone / Vail and Colorado pulled out all the stops. The chocolate dessert tent alone was the stuff of dreams. Oh my. Along with great food, a great mountain-top setting and rooms filled with fascinating, warm and wonderful people, the best thing about it was the message it imparted: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I think it was at that fabulous party that I realized I was watching travel blogging arrive. Companies, organizations and the travel industry in general is now starting to take notice, and starting to value the work we do. And I saw all of this in a plate of chocolate tacos. When they make you chocolate tacos, it means they care!

travel blogging conference in Keystone Colorado

4. The seminar on travel writing by Spud Hilton and Stephanie Yoder. A good story is the basis of good travel writing and blogging, so to me this was the most important seminar on the conference agenda. Here’s my report: Top 10 travel writing tips.

3. The John O’Nolan experience. I loved John’s presentation on designing for humans. It’s always great when someone stands up in front of a room and recognizes that humans are emotional, irrational and driven by psychological factors that are often beyond our control or understanding. Especially when it is someone like John, who has more than a little geekiness in his soul. John’s background is design: he was a designer for WordPress; he has designed sites for many major brands; and he is also the founder of Travelllll.com, a site that’s all about travel blogging and has lots of great tips and adivce. His TBEX presentation was fun, entertaining and thought-provoking. Here are a few of his main points:

  • Deliver happiness! If your readers don’t feel happiness, they won’t remember you.
  • Being average is much worse than being bad or good.
  • If people complain or criticize, this is good! It means they care. Talk to them. Angry people are profitable.
  • Your blog site should: load fast, have a specific tone and feel to it, have a purpose, be easy to use and navigate.
  • Decide on an end goal for your readers, and “funnel” them through your site to your end goal.

John O'Nolan, editor of Travelllll.com, travel blogging conference~

2. The Expedia party and especially

1) their support of Passports with Purpose (PwP) and

2) their new “Find Yours” campaign.

This campaign message, about finding purpose in travel, speaks directly to me and what this blog is all about! If you read this blog, you know My Story, and how travelling in India saved my life. My Expedia slogan is Find Your Second Chance (see my home-made poster below).

Good on you Expedia, for supporting travel blogging, creating a campaign that has heart and soul and helping Beth, Michelle, Pam and Debbie of PwP achieve their worthwhile, charitable goals. I have supported PwP for several years, and watched it grow, and it’s going to really be something to see it now!

This is my home-made version of the Expedia "find yours" campaign

1. Looking my dreams in the face. I have been dreaming of being a full-time writer almost all my life; and a full-time travel writer and blogger for about six years, since I started travelling in India in late 2005, and blogging about my trip on Travelblog.org. With this conference, I finally feel travel blogging is becoming a viable profession. And that I just might be able to make my “breathe dream go” dreams come true after all. Second chance indeed.

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19 Responses to 10 favourite TBEX 12 moments

  1. Arun June 25, 2012 at 11:46 pm #

    Enjoyed reading this update..

    You don’t sound introverted at all in your blog.. 🙂

    • Seri January 27, 2013 at 11:09 am #

      I would have to agree, as you took the words right out of my mouth. I think this looks like a wonderful event to attend. Working as a freelancer doesn’t always provide much in the way of feedback or additional motivation. Although, I must say that I would have attended just for the chocolate tacos!

  2. C.C. Chapman June 26, 2012 at 6:45 am #

    What a great roundup of a great weekend.

    I’m still so happy that you came around after the keynote so we could talk a bit and every time you talk about going on an inspirational trip together you make me smile so I hope somehow that works out.

    Keep chasing your dreams and doing what you do!

  3. Mariellen June 26, 2012 at 9:24 am #

    Hi Arun, Well, I’m what I call a social introvert — love people, love to socialize, but it wears me out and I have to recharge alone. I didn’t include on this list the hours I spent sitting alone in the spa facilities (steam room, sauna, whirlpool and swimming pool) recovering!

  4. Mariellen June 26, 2012 at 9:26 am #

    Thanks CC, it was awesome meeting you. I hope it’s just the first of many meetings … and I do like that idea of creating an inspirational trip … so important to spread positive energy.

  5. Kent @ NVR June 26, 2012 at 10:12 am #

    Three cheers for #6! Great to chat and laugh with you too. Hopefully we’ll have more time next time 🙂

    And, yes, aren’t the Rockies spectacular.

  6. Michael June 26, 2012 at 10:17 am #

    It was great to finally meet you as well!
    TBEX did a great job this year. I started eating the chocolate before I realized there was more food inside the building. Oops.
    I’m really excited about TBEX Spain. See you there?
    Safe travels!
    Michael

  7. Mariellen June 26, 2012 at 10:59 am #

    Kent, I was so 🙁 when you were leaving the party just as I was arriving!

  8. Mariellen June 26, 2012 at 11:00 am #

    Hahaha, Michael, I did the same thing! And I don’t regret it. Only wish I ate more. And filled my purse with it 🙂

    Thanks for all your shuttle bus advice about website building, really appreciate it!

  9. Dave June 26, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

    Awww thanks Mariellen … was fantastic to meet you too! I had such a good time at TBEX – so much better than expected, in all honesty – and as always it was all about the people. 🙂

  10. Mariellen June 27, 2012 at 10:25 am #

    Dave, yes just wish there was more time — and more oxygen — to get to really know people. I was so over tired the whole weekend. But it was great.

  11. Carl June 30, 2012 at 2:45 am #

    That was one fun-packed weekend huh!! Thanks a lot for sharing your experience 🙂 By the way you don’t sound like an at all.

  12. Tous and travels July 2, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

    Really beautiful travel journey. I like it …

  13. Tammy Burns July 3, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    Great Top 10 list, Mariellen. You summed up the overall TBEX experience perfectly – good people, good parties, good conversation and, best of all, heaps of inspiration. I’m so happy I went this year, and I owe my decision to attend to your kind and supportive nudging.

    This is such a lovely post I’ll even overlook the embarrassing photo of me, you and Spud! (Kidding – that photo cracks me up every time I see it.) 🙂

  14. Beth Blair July 3, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

    Mariellen, it was great fun meeting you in person and actually getting to hang out with you for more than just a minute. I hope our paths cross again soon.

    Great post!

  15. Mariellen July 3, 2012 at 6:14 pm #

    Thanks Tammy, I love that photo, too, especially given that it was taken while we having such a great kindred-spirit chat about the importance of quality writing.

    Thanks Beth, I should have mentioned your Mom, too. So cool that your Mom was there!!!

  16. Deb July 4, 2012 at 5:05 pm #

    Thanks for the mention Mariellen. That means a lot to me. Dave is usually the quotable one on this team:)
    I love your “Find Your Second Chance” Expedia really has a special campaign going on.
    TBEX was fantastic and I am so glad that we had the chance to hang out a lot this time around. I always feel pulled in so many directions that I never feel that I get enough time with anyone. But this time we did! We’ll hopefully make it to the next travel massive at the end of the month.

  17. Mariellen July 5, 2012 at 7:00 am #

    Your comment, and the passion with which you said it, deserves recognition Deb! You gave everyone in the audience permission to find their OWN way. It was a wonderful, warm and very humanistic gift. You (and Dave!) are awesome.

  18. Jeremy Branham July 7, 2012 at 12:55 am #

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I love the personal aspect of your recap. It wasn’t just what was said or done there but how it touched you and your personal moments. I think there was a lot of good that came out of the weekend. I know being there has challenged me to rethink my site, my direction, and even who I am.

    I enjoyed reading such a personal response with a great recap of the weekend.
    Jeremy Branham recently posted..Early 2012 Fall, Winter, and Thanksgiving airfare sale this summerMy Profile

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