From humble beginnings, travel blogging in Toronto is now exploding!
With just days to go before the Travel Bloggers Exchange (TBEX) rolls into Toronto, I wrote this post all about how I started Breathedreamgo, co-founded the Toronto Travel Massive and watched travel blogging grow, evolve and now, with TBEX coming, explode!
It was the summer of 09, the summer of change. This was when it was becoming clear to me that my future as a freelance writer, and my dreams of becoming a travel writer, were in jeopardy. Magazines were shrinking, newspapers closing, writer’s fees dropping, contracts becoming untenable.
I went to the annual Canadian authors and publisher’s conference, MagNet, in June 2009 with hope in my heart. However, the atmosphere was gloomy, turning to downright nasty at the end of the second day when a newspaper editor said they would were no longer paying writers for the essay that appears daily on the back page. Everyone else was still getting paid, from the editor to the printer, to the illustrator to the delivery person. Everyone but the writer.
That was it. The final nail. I cried myself to sleep that night, feeling like I was watching my dreams die. The next morning, I dragged myself into the shower, though I didn’t want to return to the conference. Somehow the water revived me, and I suddenly thought, “screw it, I’ll do it myself. I’ll start my OWN online publication!”
It seemed clear to me that one of the only ways for a writer to make it in this day and age would be to make a name for themselves online; to become their own brand; to stake out an area of expertise. That was my first epiphany.
One epiphany led to another
And then the name Breathe Dream Go just dropped into my mind. I honestly didn’t think of it, it just landed there, like manna from heaven, and I turned it over, realizing it was perfect. I jumped out of the shower and, naked and wet, went straight to my computer to Google it. It was completely unique. Nothing turned up.
Before I was dry, I had bought the domain and secured the name on every platform I could think of. And then over the course of that summer I worked hard to bring my vision to fruition. One of the first people I contacted was Evelyn “Journeywoman” Hannon, who graciously gave me an afternoon of her time to talk about possibilities for a travel site. And in August 2009, I put out a call for a travel tweet-up, which I think was a first for Toronto (see top photo).
We met at the Red Tea Box on Queen St. W. on a sunny afternoon: Evelyn “Journeywoman” Hannon, Janice “SoloTraveler” Waugh, Nora “HoboNora” Dunn and me (see top photo). All afternoon the tea flowed and so did the talk. I felt hope return, and excitement about this brave new world of travel blogging. On August 23, 2009, I launched Breathedreamgo.com.
Over the next few months, I called a few more travel tweetups, and then the following summer, had the biggest turnout ever. In July 2010, about 15 people gathered on a summer patio, on King St. W. Some people I knew, like Dave and Deb of ThePlanetD and Lucy Izon of Canada Cool; and some were new to me, like Wandering Carol Perehudoff and Jeannie Mark of NomadicChick.
I was introducing everyone, and Alicia Taggio was to my left. Alicia had just returned from Australia where she went to a Travel Tribe meetup. Seconds after telling the group that, we both said, at the exact same moment, “We should start a Travel Tribe here!” And we did.
The first Toronto Travel Tribe was held in August 2010, on the Crocodile Rock patio, to coincide with G Adventures Wednesday night “hump day” get together. Even more people came out to this one, including “the Katies” from Intrepid Travel, Lauren and Todd of Globetrooper, Mike Corey, Marcello of Wandering Trader and Nomadic Matt Kepnes, who was in town to meet with G Adventures.
After that rockin’ launch, we really started to roll. There has always been so much excitement, momentum and support behind us, that all the hard work we put into creating regular meetups seemed easy. Over time, we settled on having a meetup the last Thursday of every month, and we constantly tried to get different companies involved and find different venues. We also sometimes offered learning opportunities, such as a workshop on making videos. And we created a Facebook page and a website.
The idea was always to bring people who worked in online together in real time — but we always wanted to ensure there was a little something extra to keep people interested and engaged. And we have always been motivated by advocating for travel bloggers and encouraging partnerships between the travel industry and bloggers.
Meanwhile, the original Travel Tribe founder, Ian Cumming of Australia, was actively growing “the Tribe,” and new chapters were opening in New York, San Francisco, London and other cities around the globe. After about a year of growth, though, we had to change the name for legal reasons, and so Travel Massive — and Toronto Travel Massive — was born.
At about the time of our second anniversary, Alicia and I realized we needed help. We had always worked really well together, very naturally — people would be surprised to discover, I think, how little we actually discuss things. We always agree on just about everything, and we each bring different skills and a different generational perspective to the table. But we were overstretched, and I was getting ready to leave for India for many months. Thank goodness Cristina “The Travolution” joined us in September 2012. She is awesome!
Now we are approaching our third anniversary, and there are more than 30 chapters of Travel Massive around the globe. In fact, last fall I co-founded the Delhi Travel Massive.
So, you can imagine how excited we were when we found out that TBEX was coming to Toronto. I jumped on the registration site the moment it was announced — I saw it on Twitter — and bought the very first ticket sold. Which is kinda poetic.
We’re also extremely excited about hosting the official “pre-BEX” party on Thursday night, May 30, at the Irish Embassy — a great big pub on Yonge St., housed in Toronto’s first bank building, from 7 pm to closing.
It has been my privilege to be part of the digital travel revolution here in Toronto for the past three years, as it’s grown from tea for four people to a huge conference of over 1,000. It’s been a great ride … and it feels like it’s only just beginning …
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