Five Things I Never Knew Until TBEX Europe 2012 In Costa Brava

Cava

Girona Costa Brava WallTravel Bloggers, I can’t stress more about the need to attend conferences and interact with your peers.  You’d be amazed at how much more respect you receive once you’ve met someone in person whom you’ve communicated with online.  I did see/overhear a few people saying “Oh wow, I’ve “talked” with you online for almost two years, its so nice to meet you in person.”  Also, we got to meet the local host from the Tourist Board as well as PR professionals representing their clients whom we want to contact to further our goals.  TBEX Europe 2012 in Costa Brava provided such an outlet for this.

After over 16 years in the airline business, I know a few things about travel, well I thought I did until I experienced TBEX Europe 2012 in Costa Brava.  I thought I’d share them with you in an effort to whet your appetite and entice you to try to attend more conferences to bone up on your skills in the travel sphere. Here are a five things, in no particular order, I never knew until TBEX 2012 Europe 2012 in Cost Brava:

  1. TBEX sign in Girona Costa BravaWill Peach – I had no idea whom he was until I met him at the Equity Girona Hostel before TBEX officially started.  This hostel was home to a number of us during TBEX and if you ever head to Girona, I recommend staying there as its reasonably priced and centrally located.  They don’t have a laundry facility though, so ensure that you sort that out if you need to do some washing if staying there for long term.  The folks at the desk will help you find a place to wash though.But I digress from Will.  Apparently, it seemed that I was in the minority though of not knowing who is Mr. Peach, oops…  He’s a witty, very skinny, interestingly dressed young man with an apparently foul mouth.  No foul mouth at dinner that night though, but his TBEX Wrap up says it all; which was well written by the way.  This is expected though since that was the topic of his TBEX talk.  Which I missed, but he did tell us at dinner not to go :).One thing about TBEX though is that it appears the talks were not recorded, which is sad as there were many good sessions up against each other and I had to choose; sorry Will. I promise that the next time you speak and we are in the same building, I’ll come listen as long as I’m not speaking at the same time though as not sure my audience would appreciate that.
  2. One of Girona's Bridges in Costa BravaPastry of Girona Costa BravaGirona, Costa Brava – I had no idea where this place was, so that made it all the more intriguing to get there and explore it. Of course I had to log the airport (GRO) since I “collect” airports; don’t worry I give them back :-).  As it turns out, my Orthodontist is the only person I knew who had been to Girona; we always have a “travel session” before my appointments, and she was very excited to tell me about her visit.  Of course, she had a fantastic time on her trip.  I mean, what’s not to like about Girona?  The city is full of treasures and wonderful food.  I don’t think I’ve had that much pastry in a long time.  And sadly, I’m not a fan of cured ham, but you cannot go anywhere without seeing it some place.One thing you immediately see when you visit Girona is the colors of the  houses along the river that runs through the city.  You could just sit there all day and just watch it from one of the balconies overlooking the river.
  3. Andorra CenterShuttle to AndorraKerwin in Andorra at Bus StationAndorra – Its on the list of countries for me to visit in my quest to visit all the countries in the world at some point during my existence, but never contemplated when I’d visit it.  For the record, there is no Master Plan as to when to visit which countries, I just let life take its course and lead me to the next one naturally.  In the case of Andorra, I was so close, I had to and so I did.  Usually, I prefer to fly into the country so I could log the airport as well and if that country has an airline, I log that too if possible.  With Andorra, I struck out on both counts; you see it has no commercial airports is landlocked and has no airline of its own.  But, it was only a 3.5 hour bus ride away from Girona; what luck!The folks from our host, the Costa Brava Tourism Board, thought I was crazy and still think I am for just heading up there and back with a one hour layover (we were delayed about 30 minutes).  In fact, the lady at the bus station in Andorra thought I was nuts too when I showed her my return ticket after walking straight off the inbound bus from Girona.  But that’s my signature, I usually go in and out quickly the first time and then do a second visit spending more time; this is changing a bit though it seems.  I reckon you can drive through Andorra in less than an hour and be in France before you know it.  A very beautiful city though nestled in the Pyrenees Valley. Go visit.
  4. Narrow Street in Jewish Quarter in Girona Costa BravaThe Jewish Quarter of Girona – I had no idea at all that this existed until I had the walking tour of the city by Gloria, our distinguished tour guide.  She knows her stuff like no other.  She took us up and down the tiny streets pointing out things I would have missed had I done it all myself.  During the tour, we all wished we had more time to take more pictures.  A quaint part of this walk though is the Arabian Bath.  Girona continued to surprise me and teach me new things every step of the way.  Not only was I fascinated by the Arabian Bath, but by the spiral staircase at the entrance.  If you visited, I hope you did not miss it as its easy to do so since the Bath is so impressive.
  5. Mayors of the Bay of RosesBay of the Roses View From AfarBay of Roses FoodThe Bay of The Roses – Now you may not have known that this Bay was just given the distinguished honor of being the Best Bay of the Mediterranean by UNESCO.  So it was our surprise and delight when we boarded a catamaran and met the four mayors of the region to celebrate their award.  We wined, well Cavaed, ate anchovies and apples from the region as well as got interviewed and had great conversations with the locals celebrating this major event.  Thank you Costa Brava.I’ll tell you that I’m not a fan of anchovies, so it was a little awkward when I sat with one of the anchovy producers of the region to talk fish.  He’s a well mannered, quiet man who’s family has been in the business for a few generations.  I did not tell him I did not like anchovies for fear of insulting my host.  He must have noticed my demeanor as he persuaded me to try it and I did.  WOW!  It’s not like the anchovy in the U.S. at all.  He explained that its prepared differently.  By the end of the boat ride across the bay from the cities of Roses to L’Escala, I’d eaten too much of it served with tomatoes bread, that I needed lots of water.  How delicious.
  6. Now I could go on and on, but I said five and I think by now you get the point I’m trying to make; get out there, mingle and learn.
What did you not know until you made it to Girona? I hope you will make it to TBEX Toronto and expand your horizon and get your brand out there.  See you in Toronto.

Additional information about Costa Brava

The Importance Of Getting Out There And Meeting New People

Porto sunset with bloggers

Porto sunset with BloggersI recently attended Travel Bloggers Unite conference in Porto, Portugal.  The conference was well worth attending and the contacts and experiences I had were outstanding.  I can’t stress the importance of getting out there, meeting people and introducing your brand as well as sharing and learning from your peers plus building new experiences.

If you want to see what went on during the conference go to twitter and search for the has tag “#tbupor”.  But I’d like to share my own experiences in an effort to stimulate your interest in attending conferences and networking.

I arrived at TBU a day early just so I can go to the pre-arranged meet up at a local bar (La Boheme) in the city. This was great as I knew very few people who were attending the event.  Meeting folks pre-conference is recommended as it makes the conference itself go by quicker.  It was great to finally meet Keith Jenkins from Velvet Escape as we interact over on the facebook Group, Global Bloggers Network, but never met face-to-face.  I also met a number of other new travel bloggers and got to understand and interact with them a little more.

Porto-Palacio DabolsaThe next day, we had early morning tours setup with the Portugal Tourism Board; these were sensational as we all got an opportunity to experience Porto from a local Guide’s perspective. I went on a tour of the old Porto Stock Exchange as well as parts of  downtown Porto including the bookstore that J.K. Rowlins used at some point during her writing of the Harry Potter book series.

The Stock Exchange is magnificent, especially the Arabian room.  There was a bit of a commotion over photos, since photos were not allowed; but as we were with the local media, Publico, who were filming and interviewing us, it all went well in the end.

Traffic from Publicio's web site to Travelblogger101.comOur story made the local paper the next day, so that gave some of us additional publicity.  As it turns out my site Cruisinaltitude.com as well as this site, travelblogger101.com has increased traffic from Portugal as a result.  If you go to Porto, ensure that you see the Stock Exchange and see the Arabian Room; I’m pretty sure you’ve never seen anything like that before.  Its also the room where the Euro Treaty was signed.

That night, we were the guest once more of the Portugal Tourism Board for a welcome party at a local place called  the Pousada do Porto Freixo Palace Hotel.  Wine, food and music were all provide, plus we had a chance to meet other travel bloggers as well as members of the Tourism Board.  Plus, we did not just walk there, we took a sunset boat cruise down the Douro River to the venue.

The next day was the first full Conference Day where we got to listen to our peers educate us on different aspects of the business.  I think everyone came away with some task from these sessions.  Our day started with a keynote talk from Deb & Dave from Planet D talking to us about our Passions and how to use them as the basis for our businesses.  I had a great talk with them after about their passion and their life and business.

The folks from World Travel Market were also on hand encouraging us to attend their conference.  I’ll also do the same again as its an excellent conference to meet the Tourism Boards from almost 200 countries worldwide all in one place.  WTM is also treating us as journalists so we get full access to the event.  Chek out more details at WTMLondon.com.

One of my best takeaways is that I went to a talk about 10 SEO Tips by Scott McLay and learned that the plugin I use on all my sites was not exactly as friendly as I was led to believe.  So Scott helped me to get rid of it and installed one from Yoast, the WordPress for SEO from Yoast.  I’ll now update the other sites to suit.  Scott also answered a few other questions that I had as well. He’s just a simply brilliant guy especially in the SEO world.

I attended a WordPress Advanced Talk and met Chris Richardson who runs RTWLabs.com.  Chris has a lot of knowledge and will take care of your site while you go away and blog for what I think is a nominal monthly fee.  His task is to take the worries out of the tech.  I loved his talk as I have a few things to implement as a result.  Check out his site and tell him I recommended him.  He is also a fellow traveler blogger known as The Aussie Nomad.

The afternoon of the second Conference Day was an Unconference.  if you don’t know, an “Unconference” is where the attendees write down topics they’d like to present and then other attendees sign up.  I’ve never been to a conference where this never turned out well and TBU was no exception.  I learned what a “jogger” is (U.K. term for a journalist) from Sarah Lee from LiveShareTravel.com, who is a jogger herself and also a blogger; Craig Martin from Indie Travel Podcast talked about Affiliate programs and Rachelle Lucas from TheTravelBite.com told us all about video editing using iMovie which spawned into learning Animoto.  A great afternoon of learning.

Kash and Kerwin at Gallery HostelThe night was capped off by a meetup organized by the guy with the most energy from the Conference Kash from BudgetTraveller.org; he blogs about luxury hostels, yes, there is such a term :-).  Of course we met up at a luxury hostel, the Gallery Hostel in the center of Porto.  We had a great meal sponsored by the hostel which included chicken, beef, rice and of course wine.  Afterall, we are in Porto.  A great end to the main part of the conference.

TBU Porto Destinology Travel Bloggy AwardsThe Bloggy Awards was the event that capped off Saturday night.  The event was held on the banks of the Duoro River at the Communications Museum, transformed into a dinner venue just for us.  This was the perfect place to see the Porto sunset.  Here I took the opportunity to add my entry to Mario’s Web site SomeoneOnceToldMe.com.  This site let’s you submit a picture of you and something that someone once told you. I was thrilled to make my entry.

Helena, Kerwin and Felipe at TBUPerhaps the best part of the event was visiting the Douro Valley with a local tour guide.  This event was organized by the Portugal Tourism Board and lasted two days and was basically, eating, drinking and experience nature and the vineyards and restaurants of the Douro Valley.  The tourism team of Filipe, Rui and Helena just did an incredible job of organization the local Visit Portugal events, so thanks to everyone once more.

Main House in a Vineyard in the Duoro ValleyGroup Photo on a boat in the Douro ValleyWe were a small group of 16 people who were randomly thrown together as we had to pick our tours beforehand.  I was delighted to meet everyone and get to understand why they blog, what they blog about and learn some tips and also share my knowledge as well.  The group was varied in sex, age ethnicity and experiences so it all worked well.

So the bottom-line is that you should be seeking out these conferences and attend the ones that suit your budget.  The next Travel Bloggers Unite Conference is not yet scheduled, but hope on over to the Web site and the details will be posted soon.

TBU Porto  Business CardsNow, my work begins, here’s the stack of cards from the event.  Here’s a list of some travel bloggers blogs whom I met, please support them by checking out the blogs:

 

What was your take on the event? Please leave a comment below if you attended.

Are You Attending World Travel Market 2012 in London This Year?

WTM - ExhibitorsA big part of becoming a Travel Blogger is networking and when you think you’ve done networking, network some more.  The World Travel Market being held in London, England at the Excel Center from 5-8 November, 2012 is an excellent place to do this.

I first went to WTM last year (2011) on a suggestion from Gary Arndt from Everything-Everywhere.com whom I’d met at BlogWorld in Los Angeles and he was also heading there.  I went online and looked up the details, contacted my friend who lives in London and got it all worked out.  Prior to that I had no idea it all existed.

WTM 2011 was one of the better conferences I’ve ever attended.  The networking was intense (more about that later) and it had really good sessions albeit in somewhat small rooms so the lines were pretty long to get in.  Also, you had to stalk out your space as the interest in some of the sessions was insane.  But all with good reason as this conference  delivers.  And guess what its free!  Just fill out a detailed registration form and you are in.  Here is a list of the travel blogger-related sessions you don’t want to miss this year.  I’m an airline geek, so I’ll try to attend some of the airline sessions hoping they won’t conflict wit the travel blogger sessions.  The full list of event can be seen here.

It also has exhibits from countries all over the world.  Its sheer craziness.  I certainly did not even have time to visit all the exhibitors, but I sure tried.

In addition toWTM - Janice Waugh from Solotravelerblog.com all this, there are parties after the daily activities where you can mingle and meet other travel bloggers and influencers.  It was great to meet people whom I’d only read about online and just also met for the very first time.  It was there that I met Nomadic Matt, Janice from Solo Traveler and Travel Bloggers Unite’s Oliver.

There was also a number of other parties where we all got a chance to hang out with each other and got to know bloggers a bit more.  It was all a lot of fun and totally worth it.

One of my fond memories of the event though is the scavenger hunt that was put on by Travel Trails.  This was a special event and I really enjoyed it.  I got special mention as I did the hunt without a smartphone to guide me and still finished it.  The pot of gold was at a bar in the ShoreWTM - Travel Panelditch area where you got to meet and mingle with other travel bloggers.  I made many contacts there which I have to this day.

If you don’t have a friend to stay with, you will need a place to stay.  Here are some Affiliates for you to choose from; two (9flats.com and Enjoy Bed and Breakfast) of them I met last year at WTM:

In case you need one you may use these links.

  1. 9flats.com finds places in locals homes (met at WTM 2011)
  2. Airbnb.com finds places in local homes
  3. hotels.com – finds all kinds of accommodations worldwide
  4. Enjoy Bed and Breakfast – finds bed and breakfasts worldwide (met at WTM; not an affiliate link).

Register Today.

16 Things To Do As A Travel Blogger Now That TBEX ’12 Is Over

Welcome to TBEX12

Sunset at 11, 444' in Keystone, COMy fellow travel blogger, now that TBEX’12 (Keystone, CO from June 15-17, 2012) is over its no time to sit on your laurels.  Its time to act on what you’ve learnt.  Its the hardest thing to step back and reflect then take action.  I’ll have future content here that will help you get over the hurdles.  Just ask.

As the conference is fresh in your mind, here are 16 things to do almost immediately if not sooner:

  1. A beer at the Kickapoo Tavern in Keystone, COReward yourself.  You’ve done more than most travel bloggers will ever do, and that is, attend a conference.  Most people are very scared to do that, so congrats.
  2. Relax for a few hours after you get home.  Take a little time to reflect on the conference, the people you’ve met, the event and to get used to lower altitudes unless you are from the Colorado area :-).  Don’t take too long as you have a lot of fun stuff ahead of you to do.  Read on.
  3. Sign up for the next TBEX.  If you’ve not already done so, you should now.  The learning and networking process always continues and TBEX is one of the places to meet your peers and industry professionals and learn about the travel industry.  Did you see that amazing video after Christopher Baker‘s speech? By the way, if you missed Chris’ speech, you missed out listening to/meeting a premier traveler.  This was my first time hearing about Chris, but I was inspired by what he has accomplished and will use some of his takeaways as I continue my travels.  But I digress.  The next TBEX will be in Costa Brava, Girona Spain.  Think Mediterranean sea, green hills and valleys and amazing food.  Sign up here.
  4. Send a Thank You note to the Sponsors.  TBEX had some awesome sponsors who helped to make the event successful.  Have you looked in your goody bag? There are some awesome stuff in there.  Drop them a quick e-mail.  You can see all the sponsors here.
  5. Send a Thank you note to the folks at TBEX.  The team worked very hard to bring you this conference and its a thankless job. If you’ve not had a chance as yet, do so now with a simple e-mail.  You can find their contact details here.
  6. TBEX business cardsFollowup with the contacts you made.  This is uber important and oftentimes omitted.  Too often, we attend conferences and do not even acknowledge the people’s cards we’ve collected during the conference.  This is a very time consuming process, but worth every minute of it.  Follow them on twitter, Friend them on facebook, “Like” their fan page on facebook, call them, text them, drop an e-mail, mention something you spoke about when you met, etc.  Offer your talents to them if needed.  Networking is a very big part of TBEX and this is the part that most people neglect.  Don’t be that person.  Thanks to some last minute networking at the Kickapootavern on Sunday night, I met some really cool guys from The Savvy Stews who are current users of my site for airline employees.  Followup now!
  7. Morgan from the Canadian Tourism CommissionFollowup with the folks you met at the Speed Dating sessions.  So, funny story, I had three pre-set sessions; the first one I went to the wrong vendor sat down after waiting 8 minutes into the session, then was told I don’t have an appointment (they were right :-(). The second one went well and the third one I showed up 20 minutes early only to be booted after that person showed up and then told that I was early, so come back in a few minutes.  No harm done, it went fine.  I hope your sessions went better than mine did :-).  Thank them for their time regardless of the outcomes of your talks.  Each vendor took their time to connect with you, the least you can say is thank you in a follow up e-mail.  Nurture that relationship.  If you do nothing else from this list, do this one.  The vendors will appreciate it.  In a few month’s time drop them another note to see how things are. Don’t be a pest though.
  8. Keystone, CO slopeSay Thank You to the host city’s CVB.  Keystone, CO, the city of Denver and the state of Colorado, pulled out all the stops to make our event a success.  So reach out to them and say thank you.  During the conference, I took time out to stop and chat with some of them, to say thank you and just chat.  You can find a list of things about the Keystone area here, plus on the right hand side are links to Kesytone Resorts, Vail Resorts, Visit Denver.  I was lucky to take the gondola up to the 11,444′ event with folks from Visit Denver; they were fresh off the Rallies and was very excited to meet everyone.  Here’s a crazy blurred pic (gondola was rocking) we took on the way up.
  9. Thank the speakers of the sessions you attended.  I sat trough a number of sessions and learned a tremendous amount.  I know you did too, so send a note of thanks to those speakers.  Your note should mention the session topic, if you found it interesting or not and if you will take any steps due to what was said.  Don’t be afraid to rebut something they said if you don’t believe in it.  But have some kind of suggestion rather than just a “I did not like…”.  Trust me, they will appreciate it.  You can find a list of the speakers and their contact details here.  It is also good to follow them on twitter and if you made contact at the event and made good rapport, ask for a friend request on facebook.  Continue to read their online postings and blogs as I’m sure you can certainly learn from them.TBEX Speakers
  10. Write a blog post about some aspect of your experience at TBEX.  Where should I start?  There’s so much that happened.  I met my wonderful roommates, partied at 11,444′, met some great people, listened to great speakers, I could go on and on.  Share this knowledge with other travel bloggers and travelers via a blog post.  Here’s a post that Lille (new contact met face to face at TBEX12) did and one from Maria whom I did not get a chance to meet at the Conference; but if you attended you would realize that try as you may, you won’t meet everyone.
  11. Look over your notes and create a plan of action.  Some people are conference goers.  THey just love to attend conferences, but then after the conference is over, the bag they received and the notes they wrote are out away never to be seen again.  This is waste of your time and money.  So look over your notes and create an action plan based on the notes you took.
  12. Execute that plan of action.  So you’ve done the step above and you now have a plan.  The next thing to do is to make that plan a reality.  Don’t overwhelm yourself, get some easy wins.  Maybe its that you get your own domain name instead of being hosted on Blogspot/Blogger.  Or purchase your the domain name for your name.    Or even just go visit the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau in your town.  Take the next step and execute the plan.
  13. Tbex Travel bloggers at Expedia ShindigStart a Mastermind with the people you’ve met that complements you.  It is always great to have like-minded people get together and discuss their goals.  No matter how good you are, you cannot do it all by yourself.  A Mastermind is a group of people who get together at a pre-set time to discuss how each other is doing and how they can help each other to get to the next level.  You don’t have to get together in person, you can use e-mail, Skype, a conference call, a webinar, etc.  Remember, the goal is to help each other get to the next level.
  14. Read and contribute by commenting as appropriate on the blogs of your fellow travel bloggers.  This simple task is a wonderful way to help get the word/message of your fellow bloggers.  Don’t forget to refer your friends and families to their articles as you see appropriate.
  15. Look in your local community and see how you can implement some of what you’ve learnt.  Maybe its writing an article for a local paper, or volunteering for an organization where your skills can be utilized, or holding a session at a public library.  Some bloggers says that they can’t get their name out there, start in your own local community.  This goes a far way.
  16. Last, but by no means the least, follow the #TBEX hash tag on twitter.  This will help you to see what people are saying, follow them if they interest you and retweet or reply as appropriate.

I hope this list have helped you to get the most out of TBEX ’12.  What else will you do now that TBEX US ’12 is over?  Please leave a comment below, “Like” this post and share with your friends if you found the information useful.

Also, check out this link to sign up to be advised when the site officially launches.