Last May, when Bell and I discovered that the world’s largest travel blog conference was coming a mere 12 minute walk from our apartment, the decision to attend was a no brainer. But as the days grew nearer and the thought of attending my first travel conference approached, the jitters firmly settled in. Bell was busy with her day job so it was up to me to represent what we’ve created here. What would I say? Would I blow it? Like many people facing uncertainties, I imagined finding myself in a complete disaster.
I usually like to consider myself a “conference crasher,” and yes I am a huge fan of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. Bell works in research and I’ve accompanied her to many conferences, with the sole purpose of soaking in the sights and partying like it’s 2099. Crab cakes anyone? But this time I was the one registered, and with something of an agenda in mind.
The very start of my conference could not have began any….worse. After picking up my badge and TBEX grab bag, I went to use the bathroom. Upon trying to exit the stall I found that the wooden door was jammed. Was it still locked? Nope. I then grabbed the top of the door and tried prying it open, several times. Still no luck. Then I tried grabbing the bottom of the door…and I was still stuck. Now I was starting to panic. Would I need to be rescued from the bathroom??
In retrospect, at that point, maybe I should have tweeted- “Great start to the conference #TBEX. Stuck in toilet @Double Tree. Someone please come in and let me out!” Luckily my phone, or yelling at fellow conference goers who I could hear meandering around the bathroom was not necessary, as I was finally able to pry the door open, while only almost falling in the toilet itself. Certainly, a couple guys must have wondered why a hand was frantically grabbing over and under the door. Was Larry Craig in attendance?
I immediately became my own human app… Bumblr. Fortunately, things turned around and it was an amazing experience of learning, socializing and one of my favorite things… partying with free drinks and delicious food. Short of a funeral home convention, conferences are awesome. And heck, maybe I should attend a coffin sales conference before knocking it. After all, a wake can be a great party too.
Many sessions were very informative, but my personal favorite was by Kash Bhattacharya, writer of the successful blog, Budget Traveller. It was the last session of the conference and I was beyond hungover. My attention span wasn’t much greater than a cat playing with yarn. I walked in with 1 foot out the door and after listening for 2 minutes, I removed the strap from my man pursue and settled into my seat. Kash’s tips on monetizing budget travel were the perfect balance of useful information and great humour. But one of the best things I learned in that session was how to get the passion back into your blog when you start seeing a little success and finding yourself uncertain how to move forward on the business side. You will inevitably lose some passion for awhile but you just have to plug through, and ultimately you can regain it later.
After the conference ended, and more drinks were had, I ironically bumped into Kash where it all began… in the bathroom. Another fellow attendee was showering Kash with praise and 4 pints in I followed suit, telling him exactly what I just wrote in the previous paragraph. It was the first time I’ve ever hugged a man in the bathroom. I think.
And that situation summarizes what TBEX was. It was an awesome gathering of people with similar interests and aspirations, and I discovered that big companies are in fact, not represented by alien blog eating monsters. Quite the contrary, for the most part. I could harp on about things I learned about programming, SEO (that’s search engine optimization for non-dweebs), expanding readership and incorporating good usage of video on your blog, among other things, but that would mean looking in my notes. Ultimately, the conference was about people, and we were both very lucky to make some great new friends. So a huge thanks everyone, we can’t wait for the next TBEX!
I’ll wrap this up with my new life mantra:
1) Try to always try
2) Be nice to tourists
3) Try not to get cut off from alcohol on an airplane…mid flight.