Networking: My Word for TBEX Toronto 2013. How Did You Do?

Toronto Tram

Union Station ClockAt the end of May, I was excited to head to Toronto, ON Canada for TBEX 2013 in North America. As it turns out, I was among about 1,200-1,300 travel bloggers to descend on the city; perfect for networking. Here is a recap of my adventures:

I made my way to Toronto from New York City, NY on Tuesday night after an all day .com)/via Rail train ride through upstate NY and southern Canada. After looking at many places to stay, I had pre-booked a room in the dorms at the University of Toronto’s New College Campus conveniently located on the edge of downtown. This place is open for rentals from May 4 to August 4 when most of the students are away. It’s cheap at 35 CAD/night for a single room and 29 CAD for a shared double with shared washrooms with individual shower and bath units. No, I did not take a bath there. Plus there is a common room (kitchen included) as well as a washer and dryer (1 CAD each).

Travel Bloggers Biking in Toronto IslandOver the next few days, I had managed to snag a tour of the Ontario Wine Country near Niagara Falls as well as a craft beer tour, a photo walk, a bike tour of Toronto Island and a tour on the 501 Tram down Queen St. All courtesy of Tourism Toronto, so thank you. These tours allowed me to get a good flavor or was it flavour of Toronto’s offerings so I can share with my audience and be intelligent when they ask about Toronto/Ontario.

I ensured I attended all the parties, well most of them anyways; even the Travel Massive one where myself along with a few others drank beer at a local pub while we waited to get in as we had not RSVPed. It was well worth it as I got a chance to meet more bloggers and industry professionals while trading stories over a glass of something.

You see TBEX is all about networking; at least for me anyways. You have to sharpen up those skills, say hello to everyone, be polite and respectful and network. Work on that handshake and 30 second answer to “What do you blog about?” Give, give and give some more. And if your friend is speaking, try your best to support them although sometimes this may be really tough.

TBEX 2013 Toronto brought networking to a new height – Click To Tweet

It was great to meet many people from all over the world who blog about all kinds of topics. I challenged everyone I met to tell me why they blogged and what they wanted out of the conference. Most people had an idea, but some did not as it was their first time, so they knew not what to expect. But it was great to hear them try to come up with something though :-).

It was equally great, well somewhat more so to meet “old” friends. Some I had just seen a few weeks ago on the other side of the Atlantic at TBU Rotterdam and others whom it had been a while. So TBEX is like a class reunion of sorts at times.

Sessions

Bed in U of T New CollegeBy the time I got home to my dorm room on Friday night, my birthday, I knew I’d be late for the keynote on Saturday morning; I was not drunk or anything like that, but I was tired. By now, I’d been going nonstop since Wednesday a.m. Travel Blogging is hard work, but fun rewards, so, its totally worth it.

It was 9:26a when I arrived at The Metro Toronto Conference Centre so I just went straight to the exhibits and chatted with the exhibitors that interested me and some of the new ones I’d not seen before. It was great, as I got to spend about 0:45 minutes almost uninterrupted with the folks from google talking about the Flight Explorer as well as the hotel application and where they see themselves in the travel vertical. They have great plans, but are really looking for the masses. This disturbed me as I’m concerned about using some of the tools they acquired from ITA; but we will see what happens.

Prawns at St. Lawrence MarketBy the time I was done, it was about 12:30p and lunch time. Since it was Saturday and I wanted to see the St. Lawrence Market in action (a local recommendation), I ditched the complimentary lunch (sorry TBEX) and headed there. I’m so glad I did as it was special; future post coming.

It was not until 2:30p that I returned to the Convention Centre, just in time for the Dave & Deb Show where they did a recap of the travel blogging business so far, thus providing us with vigor to continue on. Thanks guys for the inspiration. It’s always great to hear you both speak.

I skipped the Speed Dating as I did not sign up and I hate just having a few minutes to talk to people about what they are up to and how I can help them get their word out. This is why I took the morning to make acquaintances. Of course it meant missing the sessions, but it was a worthwhile sacrifice. A TBEX Tip is to always say hello to everyone you meet at the parties, in the hallways and/or sit next to at a presentation. You never know who you are interacting with so be professional and cordial. I’ve met great people that way; its the art of networking.

Non-Working Clock at Centre IslandLater that night, Expedia threw their big shindig on Centre Island providing us with food, drinks and yet another opportunity to network which I did. They also launched their Expedia View Finder opportunity where they are working with several bloggers to bring different perspective in travel; congrats to all. I spent a good time with Stefan from Rapid Travel Chai and his wife, Tess getting to know them a bit more, then hopped around meeting others. A Fun night! Oh, I had forgotten to download my pictures before coming over, so I was out of room to take additional pictures. Hence I had to delete some old ones and only took a few pictures. I had all my batteries charged though; oh well. I did get a picture of the non-working clock on Centre Island though.

Luke in Morph Suit Partying
Luke in Morph Suit Partying

At TBEX, there’s always another party and tonight (june 1) did not disappoint as I think it was Matador had a party at a local Club. With directions in hand and following a bunch of people off we went. More networking, but mostly partying. One blogger, Luke I believe (he was completely covered and I did not recognized his voice) even showed up in a morph suit, to the delight of the ladies with whom we were hanging out.

On Sunday, I was late again, but I did catch the tail end of Erik Lindbergh’s (yup, related to the one and only Charles Lindbergh the trans-Atlantic flyer) talk about electric aviation. The aviation geek in me peaked, so I was excited about it. Sadly, Erik disappeared behind the curtains after his speech and thus I was unable to find him later to say hello. I’m following him on twitter though, so I’ve acknowledged liking his talk.

I did attend a session by Ian Cleary about social media tools to increase your reach and then hopped around the next set of sessions, picking and choosing as I went. I thoroughly enjoyed Ian’s talk and did record it. So will work it out with Ian when/where to post it as its pretty long, but very informative. There was a talk by Matador that I wanted to attend, but was told by a guy at the door that it was now being held at a bar around the corner. Thinking it was a prank, I did not go; but apparently it was true. Not sure what happened there. Anyone know?

I networked with some new bloggers during lunch, then attended another afternoon session held by Katja Presnal (@skimbaco) about instagram. I’d not heard of her before but wanted to learn more about the topic. I enjoyed her presentation and so did others as they were busy on their electronic devices during her presentation. She also wrote the book

After that I listened to Gary Arndt and the folks from This Week in Travel before heading out.

Poutine at Lou DawgsOf course there was a final meet up at a place called Lou Dawg’s. The poor guy there had brought his computer so he could chill, not expecting about forty travel bloggers to descend on the place. He soon sent for backup after I told him what he was in for. Another great networking and just getting to know people and finding out what they are all about it. The next morning I had the 501 Tour so no rest for the weary at all. No worries, such is the life of a Travel Blogger.

So if it sounds like I had way too much fun at TBEX, it’s ’cause I did. Now I have a ton of cards to go through and re-connect with people. If I met you, you’ll more than likely get an email soon or a tweet or some acknowledgement of our meeting. Following up after TBEX with the folks you met is very important, so ensure you do that.

Toronto Bridge on Queen StreetThat was my TBEX, how was yours? Dublin anyone?

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How To Stay Connected When You Are Away From Home

Welcome to TorontoIf you are in Toronto, ON Canada, for the TBEX Convention, then this post has immediate meaning, if not, it will the next time you visit Canada. Here’s why.

One of the first things I do when I visit a country is figure out how am I going to stay connected with the world. Sure there is complimentary or paid WiFi, but what happens when I’m out touring a vineyard or taking a bus tour, etc.? I need connectivity. So with that in mind, I get a local SIM card for my phone for each country I travel. There are other options that will be addressed in a  future post, but for now, this works. Here are the options for Canada.

As soon as I got off the train at Union Station, I headed to the Toronto Eaton Centre after consulting with the Concierge at The Fairmont just across the street form the station. He had advised that there are several offerings there for a SIM card.

I did a quick rendezvous since I only had about 45 minutes. The winner is Telus as they have 1GB for 30 CAD, plus the price of the SIM card (10) and taxes. Total cost: 45.20 CAD. They were even nice enough to activate it for me; yay! A close second is fido, who offers 35 CAD for 500MB. They both had options for voice and texting, but I did not buy that option. I can go to any place that sells top ups if need be.

I forward my phone to my Skype number, so I just need Internet connectivity and I’m sorted.

Now, this is one of the most expensive local SIMs I’ve ever bought, but its the best option here in Toronto and its cheaper than the $10/MB that T-Mobile will charge to my U.S. phone.

Enjoy Canada Happy BirthdayI was equally pumped when I looked at my bill and saw this image (she had verbally mentioned my pre-happy birthday (May 31) as I had to give her my license to sign up). I thanked both Claire and Khadeen and went on my merry way. maximum customer service! Love it.

How are your communicating in Toronto, ON Canada? Please leave a comment below.

PS: Use an ATM to get cash instead of a currency exchange as even with the ATM fee, you will get a better exchange rate.

New To Travel Blogging? Then check out my FREE Travel Blogging 101 Course.

Does It Make Sense To Attend A Tech Conference If I’m A Travel Blogger?

CE Week

CE WeekIf you can get to New York at the end of June 2013, I’d like to recommend a conference for you to attend. It’s a Technology Conference so you’ll perhaps ask why is a travel blogger attending a Technology conference?

Well, travel and technology go hand in hand. You could meet the marketing team for a product you use or like and review an item for your readers. That’s what I did in this column, from someone I met at MacWorld. You can find more details about CE Week here. It runs from 24 June – 28 June 2013.

The conference is CE Week and you can sign up for FREE as Media here.

CES/NMX (formerly BlogWorld) Review: How I Got $778.27 Worth Of Merchandise For FREE

bellagioatnightnmxlasvegasnv

Goodies from CES and NMX 2013As a travel blogger it is necessary for you to get your name out there. One of the best ways to do this is to visit conferences. These conferences do not always have to be travel-related ones. I’ve been visiting BlogWorld and CES (formerly Comdex) for a few years. So when I had the opportunity to visit NMX, the New Media Exchange formerly BlogWorld (January 6-8, 2013) CES and the Consumer Electronics Show (formerly COMDEX) in Las Vegas this past week (January 8-11, 2013) I jumped at it.

At both conferences, I had the opportunity to expand my horizon about other areas of blogging, meet new bloggers, meet face-to-face with the PR folks from different companies that are related to my niche and also enjoyed Vegas with new and old friends.  It was also a great opportunity to see/meet people whom you follow online.  There was even a travel blogger meetup put on by the TBEX arm of NMX during the NMX Conference. I even saw Danny DeVito who was at the CNET booth being interviewed.  last year LL Cool J was at that booth another year Anthony Edwards from the TV series “ER.”

For admission to CES, I entered as a member of the Press by filling out the Press application; for NMX, I went as a Content Supplier and did the early registration at the discounted price.  You can also attend as Media/Press as well.  For NMX go here and for CES, take a look at this link for the CES Media/Press requirements. This is the piece that’s most important to you as a travel blogger:

Online publications must also provide a monthly traffic report from an external demographic tool, like Google Analytics, verifying the site or blog gets 1,000 or more unique monthly visitors (UMVs). The Web publication must be a previously established, independent site that is regularly updated with original and current news-related content. YouTube sites, Twitter pages, personal blogs, forums, user groups and communities will not be considered for media registration.

The Wine Cellar Wine Tasting at the Rio for NMX 2013 in Las Vegas, NVSo after walking the floors, visiting the booths, attending the sessions, networking, attending parties; the wine tasting party sponsored by readz.com, a tablet publishing platform, was one of my favorites, here’s the cool stuff that I physically took away (a basketball will arrive in the mail as I could not carry it with me).  These items will serve as giveaways to my readers on my different blogs as appropriate.  Some of the items I do have to evaluate as a part of the deal for receiving them:

  • From CES – A backpack; you can’t buy these so its priceless, I’ll perhaps give it away as being a nomad, I have nowhere to store it.  It served its purpose to bring the goodies to where I’m currently staying though. Oh and as Press, I got lunch each day, free WiFi in the Press Room as well as computers, if I needed them and I was able to interact with other journalist from around the world.  Another item you cannot buy.
  • From the Ford BoothSony MDR-V55 DJ Style Stereo Swivel Headphones with Reversible Earcups and Easy Portable Flexibility – White ($77.83). I went to the Ford booth as I wanted to talk to someone about a partnership and one of the marketing folks there told me about a contest; take a photo of yourself with any of the cards and add the hash tag #FordCES to it, tweet it and then show it to the folks there and if you are the first three you get a headset. So I did et voila, the Sony MDR-V55.  Here’s my tweet.
  • MTX Audio Morphsuit Dancers wear demonstrate the company's products (iX1 and iX2) at CES 2013 in Las Vegas, NVFrom MTX Audio – The iX2, a HiFi Quad Speaker Noise Isolation Headphones ($69.99). These are not yet available to the public.  I wanted to get the headsets, the iX1 ($179.00), but they had no more available, so I settled for the earbuds.  A review is eminent, but from what I heard from the headsets at the show, I’m already satisfied. This is how they promoted it at CES; it worked, I talked to their Marketing guy and got onboard with the product.
  • From Endgadget – A t-shirt obtained by participating in a tweet a code giveaway which unlocked a vending machine with the t-shirt ($15.00).
  • From Wiley & SonsCocoon GRID-IT! Organizer Case (CPG7BK) ($14.99). Wiley & Sons was giving these away at their booth at NMX, just for showing up, so I snagged two of them.  It’s an organizer for your bag so your stuff don’t go all over the place.
  • From Wiley & Sons – Two copies of two chapters (2 & 19) of their Video Marketing For Dummies book ($16.49 for the complete book).  While there I had a chance to meet Marsha Collier who writes for Wiley & Sons; I had Tech edited one of her books a few years back so it was extra special to finally meet her. I also got a chance to talk with Wiley & Sons about how they select topics and authors for their books.  They have a acquisitions department that combs the web for experts for the topics they develop; then they contact them to see if they are interested in writing the book. So keep blogging about your passion.  I got to talk to one of their representatives first hand about my talents.
  • From Dry Case – The DryCASE Water-Proof Case for iPhone, iPod, Smartphones, and More (DC-13) ($39.99); a vacuum sealed case for your portable electronic device that’s not as large as an iPhone Mini. I came across these young guys while walking the floor.  They were keen on demoing their product.  I asked if I could get an evaluation copy; the sales guy was kind of hemming and hawing, but the Marketing guy stepped up gave me an evaluation copy.  I tried it at the booth and it works as advertised; I was still able to use my phone, even took a picture and tweeted it. I think I messed up the twitter handle though; darn spell checker.
  • GoPro Crowd at CES 2013 in Las Vegas, NVFrom GoPro – A t-shirt (caught it as they were throwing it out) and face-to-face time with a member of their PR Team; also will receive a $100 off coupon for the latest GoPro HD HERO3: Black Edition product.  I currently have the original Hero, which I will keep to do multi-camera shoots.  GoPro is pretty open to travel bloggers, so drop me a note and I’ll give you the details of the PR contact.  When you contact them, give them a little time to respond as they are a bit overwhelmed with the public’s response. GoPro gave away three of their cameras as well as a bag of all their products; the crowd was wild and for good reason; the irony, my GoPro batteries were dead so I could not record it.
  • From Lexus – A mobile phone support; this is a little device so you can place your phone on it at an angle so you can watch a video or maybe film your next video
  • From Lexus – a Lexus branded DOT for your phone. Works best on Apple devices; so a cool item for Apple device owners.
  • Lexus at CES 2013 in Las Vegas, NVFrom Lexus – a Lexus monogrammed cigarette lighter to USB converter; I’ve wanted one of these for a while as most cars I rent (I don’t own a car), do not have one of these. I was actually going to purchase one myself.  I had to say to the Lexus agent, “How did you know I wanted one of these?”  He laughed.
  • The PR contact for Toyota and Lexus – this will help me to find sponsors for the road part of my journey.
  • From SurDoc – Four $100 gift cards ($400) – SurDoc is offering a 1 year unlimited cloud storage offer which expires at the end of February 2013.  Then its like $20/year after that for three years.  What a deal.
  • WordPress Booth NMX Las Vegas, NVFrom WordPress – An Incipio ultra thin iPhone 4/4S case case with the WordPress logo on the back. I don’t even have an iPhone, but they were giving these out at their booth at NMX and it will serve as a great gift for my readership. It’s always good to stop by the WordPress booths at these conferences, as the geniuses at the Happiness Bar are there with one purpose in mind; to help you with your WordPress issues. Guess what, its totally FREE.

Now all this merchandise although FREE, as you know and I’ve said above it is necessary to review them on my different properties (www.cruisinaltitude.com, www.passrider.com, www.upgradeyourtrips.com, www.cookingwithkerwin.com and of course this site) as appropriate.

So once reviewed, I will give them away to my readership as prizes or use them for my own; more than likely the headset :-).

The message here is to get out there, look for other conferences other than travel conferences and find things that will appeal to your readers as you visit the conferences.  What are you waiting for go do it!

Are there any other non-travel conferences you would recommend?  Please share by leaving a comment below.  Also, please share this post with your fellow travel bloggers.

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

Get Your Virtual Pass for ProBlogger’s Event in Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne, Australia seen from the Eureka Tower

Problogger Event 2012 Darren Rowse is a well known blogger from the very popular site ProBlogger.net.  I’ve met Darren in person at BlogWorld and he knows his stuff.  From 12 October to 13 October (Melbourne time), he is holding an event in Melbourne, Australia.  Sadly, the physical tickets are currently sold out, but he is offering a virtual ticket. You can find out more about how to attend this virtual blogging event from my affiliate link.  Hurry as the prices go up after 9 October, 2012.

From Darren’s site, the virtual pass delivers the following benefits:

  • Hear about techniques that successful bloggers have used to grow their blog’s readership
  • Learn about blog profitability
  • Be inspired to create content that engages current readers and draws in new ones
  • Up to date blogging approaches and trends
  • The ability to introduce yourself online to the bloggers in attendance.

Get Your Ticket Today.

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.

Have You Ever Attended A WordCamp Conference?

Wordcamp Edinburgh Castle with Olympic Rings

I’m currently at WordCamp UK in Edinburgh, Scotland, so its appropriate to write about why its important to attend your local WordCamps or one either close to you or in a city you are visiting.Entrance to WordCamp Edinburgh, Scotland

I’ve been going to WordCamps for a few years now, showing up in Boston, MA; San Francisco, CA and Victoria, BC Canada plus a local WordPress meetup in Portland, OR.

So how does one get started?  Start your WordCamp search at the Wordcamp Central Web site.  This is where all the Camps that are being held worldwide are listed.  The destinations are as diverse as the Australia, South Africa, Sweden and the U.S. plus more.  So perhaps you can incorporate a WordCamp in your next trip.

At the current Conference I am attending in Edinburgh, Scotland I’ve met some very passionate people who helped me out.  As it turns out my Hosting Company had turned off my Website (too much traffic they say and I’m on a shared offering) and the local UK folks at the Camp were able to help me make the site load faster and now more efficient.  Totally WordCamp Edinburgh's  Happiness Barunexpected at the Happiness Bar.  I’ve also made some great contacts who knows where to get travel advice if they ever need it and now I’ve got some WordPress resources as well.

They also had a session that deconstructed your Web site (Site Doctors); so they basically look at your site and tell you what they think you can adjust to improve it.  Very, very useful as everyone can learn from this one.

I also got a chance to take Megabus.com’s uncomfortable overnight bus from London Victoria Coach Station to Edinburgh, spend a 26 GBP night in a local Hostel, the Caledonian Backpackers [affiliate link], see one of my favorite cities again, check out two local pubs with the WordCamp Delegates (fun, fun, fun) and spend a night with a friendMega bus to Edinburgh from London of mine who is a local.  The sessions were also quite good and very diverse.  There was a conflict with two of the better sessions I attended; one on creating a magazine online and another about awesome WordPress Plugins.  So you get an idea of how cool this conference was; You can get a flavor of it all by going to the hashtag #wcuk on twitter.

All this directly related to attending a WordCamp.  Put one on your next trip calendar.  Off to the Standing Order for drinks with my new WordPress friends in the U.K.

Have you ever attended a WordCamp? If so, please let us know what you thought of it?  Or maybe you plan on attending one coming up.

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