This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to attend TBEX, a meet-up of travel bloggers organized by Travel Blog Exchange and, in particular, Kim Mance of Galavanting. For those of you who attended and may have met me, I was under the guise of Italofile, my blog about Italy travel (@italofileblog on Twitter), and also as USA Tourism Board (@usatourismboard), an unofficial guide to USA travel that I’ve been playing around with over the last year (to little success *sigh*).
At any rate, the TBEX conference was incredibly useful for knowledge gathering, networking, and enjoying a few Gin and Tonics on a lovely, if sticky, June evening in New York City. Here’s a list of what I learned, some professional, as well as personal, revelations. I’d love to hear what you learned, too, so leave a comment below.
Things I Learned At TBEX
1. Travel bloggers and travel writers are the same. We have (or should have) editorial calendars, self-imposed deadlines, and an inherent drive to learn more about the world around us.
2. My travel writing heroes are real and they are fabulous. Pictured are Jim Benning, Mike Barish, David Farley, and Robert Reid. Not pictured, but also in my pantheon are Johnny Jet, Spud Hilton, Chris Gray Faust, Sean Keener, and many many others.
3. Your own travel photos are better than photos you’ve “borrowed” from Flickr, according to Gary Arndt of Everything Everywhere. (See horribly grainy photo in link #2 – but, hey, it’s mine!)
4. Travel writers like to drink.
5. Some travel writers like to drink $300 glasses of scotch. Don’t do that if you’re on a press trip and liquor is comped. Bad form.
6. If you go on a press trip or get PR stuff in the mail and you’re going to write about it, disclose it. Every time.
7. Both PR people and travel writers should do research on each other to make sure that their relationships make sense.
8. If you want to increase your SEO, make sure you add titles, alt tags, and descriptions to your posts and especially any photos or videos that you use because the latter have less of the “market share” on search engines.
9. Knew this, but it was reiterated at TBEX: Google’s Adwords Keywords is invaluable for SEO.
10. You can SEO your site to death, but if the content is no good no one is going to care. Write for humans, damnit!
11. It’s not enough to have a laptop and an iPhone. Travel bloggers use all kinds of cool tools like the Quick Pod handheld tripod for shooting video or taking photos of yourself, the wireless mini battery extender for iPhone, and Pano, an app for taking outstanding photos on the iPhone (as long as the light is right).
12. My next computer should be a Mac or an iPad. Really jealous of the three TBEXers who won the iPad drawings from TripAdvisor.com.
13. The people who work at TripAdvisor.com are pretty nice and know how to throw an awesome happy hour (see #4).
15. If I could write about travel the way Mike Barish casually talks about travel, I’d be eternally grateful to the universe and perhaps much wealthier than I am today. But then….
16. Overheard at TBEX: “Travel writers have been starving artists for an eternity. Travel blogging’s not going to change that. Much.” Or…something like that.
17. I’m not the only travel blogger with kids. LOTS of mommy travel bloggers were at TBEX including Ciao Bambino and Luxury Travel Mom. The work that these ladies do is amazing and makes me realize that I need to stop bitching about having no time to write. (That said, ladies, are your kids in school, have a nanny, etc.? Or are you parenting and writing at the same time, all the time?)
18. Having a son with autism also should not hamper my ability to be a kick ass travel writer, as evidenced, once again, by TBEX organizer and galavanter Kim Mance.
19. Two days to attend TBEX was both too much and too little time to spend away from my kids.
21. Journey Woman, aka Evelyn Hannon, is a pioneer of women’s travel, having started in 1982. And don’t ask her to change her website: it’s comfortable, like your grandmother’s house.
22. Finding your niche is important. More important is sticking with it, getting better with each post.
23. If you’ve excelled at your niche, create and sell an e-book about it, a la Nomadic Matt. It’s a way to monetize your blog without having to fill it with ads.
24. Invest in your blog by, for example, purchasing a theme. (Something I learned from Nomadic Matt’s eBook How to Make Money with Your Travel Blog. (See…#23 works!)
25. The extremely prolific travel writer Zach Everson doesn’t seem to have a geographic specialty, rather his niche is humor, a trait that works for a ton of markets. To wit, this tweet on ethical blogging and this one about shooting travel video and this tweet on traveling within the U.S. Was cracking up the whole time. Wish I had such a gift.
26. Speaking of gifts, An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church’s Strangest Relic in Italy’s Oddest Town by David Farley comes out in paperback on July 6, 2010. Who doesn’t want to read about the search to find Jesus’s foreskin? Yeah, thought so.
27. Pam Mendel, of Nerd’s Eye View, is incredibly funny (knew that, TBEX cemented it) and quite the activist for travel writers. I love the way she used her guest spot on a conference panel to demand Free WiFi in hotels. It really is just as important as the lighting and indoor plumbing.
28. Try to keep the emotion out of travel writing. Look at your work objectively and don’t beat yourself up thinking that every one else but you has got it figured out. As Sean Keener so nicely put it in this tweet:
It’s not about keeping up. It’s about finding your voice and your “why”
Thanks everyone for a great weekend! I sincerely hope I can make it out to Vancouver for TBEX 2011.