Just over a week ago, I was a starry-eyed travel blogger on my way to my first TBEX, “the world’s largest gathering of travel bloggers, writers, and new media content creators”. When they said largest, I didn’t realize I’ll be one among 1,000+ travel bloggers, albiet the only one travelling from India! Among them were renowned bloggers, some of who have inspired my own journey. Then there were those who have recently found their blogging legs, like myself. And the newbies. It was a mix, that over the course of the weekend, gave me a whole new perspective on travel blogging.
Though that weekend in Toronto flashed by in a blur of pre-TBEX gatherings, parties and post-TBEX breakouts, I did get the chance to interact with several companies, and attend some thought-provoking sessions. Here’s a lowdown of what TBEX taught me:
One of the biggest blunders I’ve made in my two years of travel blogging, is naturally assuming that as a travel blogger in need of sponsorships and money, I never have the upper hand. I’ve let sponsors and publications dictate the terms, and as a fledgling travel writer, settled for whatever compensation they offered, sometimes nothing at all. TBEX came as a much-needed wake-up call. In her session, Amy Moore, who manages Everything Everywhere, said Pitch for money, and know when to walk away. I’ve taken those words to heart, and decided that if I don’t value my own work, no one else will. In the last one week, I’ve walked away from one campaign and two publications that wouldn’t pay.
No one size fits all.
Somewhere along the way, I had forgotten that I only had one chance to make a first impression. We’ve all heard about how we should understand our sponsor and tailor a pitch to offer the best value, but hearing Ryan Levitt of Housetrip talk about “how not to pitch” really got me thinking. He put forth interesting and practical ideas on how to research a travel company – for instance, searching for the kind of news stories and messaging brands are going out with, analyzing their website homepage to determine their target audience and primary markets, and being time-sensitive around key events. The point is to stand out from the clutter, and remember that no one size fits all brands, just like no one size fits all bloggers.
You can tell the top bloggers apart.
I tried not to be star-struck when I met Nellie of Wild Junket. Hers was one of the first travel blogs that I serendipitously stumbled upon (back in 2010), and that inspired me to take the plunge to leave the cubicle forever and embrace the road. But this isn’t about the stardom. By day two of TBEX, I began noticing that what set the top bloggers apart was their mindset. While most of us were talking about monetizing our blogs and scoring press trips, Nellie and the others had graduated to something higher. And I dare say, more noble. They were infecting everyone with their travel stories, and sending out a much needed reminder that the love of travel is the only reason anyone should get into travel blogging. Which brings me to my next point,
Some people do think of travel writing without “travel”.
And I mean people from the travel industry, including some established travel writers. I don’t agree with the opinions reflected in the “This Week in Travel” live podcast – that you don’t actually need to travel much to be a travel blogger, or that blogging is not about “you”, it’s about the destination. I think that if people wanted well-researched facts for travel planning, they would read Wikitravel or a guidebook. In my humble opinion, travel blogging is about “you” (the blogger), it is about personal experiences, it is about enabling armchair travel – and a blogger must travel to be able to show people the world through their lens.
Armchair travel is real.
I’ve always been one to believe in virtual travel – that if my words and pictures can paint images in your head, my travel experiences are your travel experiences. It did however, sound far-fetched, until Mike Sowden of Fevered Mutterings referred to a study that used MRI scans to determine that the emotions people experience while travelling are similar to those induced by a good piece of travel writing – indeed armchair travel is a real thing. Needless to say, that has re-instilled my faith in travel blogging and sharing live experiences; getting you to see the world through my lens is what I’ve aspired to from the start.
We really are the luckiest people in the world.
But you already know that, right?!
An inspiring keynote by Dave and Deb of The Planet D, one of my favorite travel blogs, reminded us of that in so many words. Sure, most of us make very little money, work really hard, are continuously asked for free content, and have borne more rejections than anyone should in a lifetime. Yet there’s one thing that makes it all worth it – We love what we do, and the world is just starting to notice. We own the future! *evil laugh*
What did you learn from TBEX? What are your thoughts on the lessons I learnt?
Ladies, enter my #WeGoSolo Contest to win a 2 nights stay for 2 at ANY hotel / hostel on Hostelbookers (worth EUR 150 / INR 11,000).
Note: I was invited to TBEX as one of 28 international bloggers hosted by the Canadian Tourism Commission for a cross-Canada train trip.