This is a series of posts about my life as a travel blogger and how Dream Travel Magazine has grown into the successful blog it is today. Be sure to read Part I – The beginning of the site and Part II – the travel conference that changed my life and I will continue now with Part III, my very first FAM trip.
A few weeks before the TBEX conference I was setting up speed dating sessions with anyone that wanted to see me. I received a lovely note from Ontario’s Central Counties Tourism – the tourism board of the region in which I lived (whom I’ve never heard of – blush). After a few emails to set up a time to meet during TBEX I was invited to join a post TBEX 2-day FAM tour of Central Counties.
OK, blogger fail – I didn’t even know what a FAM trip was. So for those of you that are new to blogging in travel (and I know you are out there and love your emails), a FAM trip or Press trip is a familiarization trip set up by a tourism board or brand to invite writers to visit many attractions in the region. Many travel bloggers aspire to get a FAM trip under their belt, because it is an all expense paid tour of a region.
My Travel Blogging Life – Part III
Being a naive, had no idea people would host me on trips – including food, hotel stays etc. The idea floored me and I was shocked when invitations started coming in. I think many tourism boards trusted me, even though I was a very small blogger because I wasn’t asking for things and was just grateful for the opportunity to explore their regions and then promote them through social media and blog posts on my site.
You see, there are several types of travel blogger, the ones that are just looking for free travel wherever they can get it and the ones like me, that want to make a career out of travel writing, through good promotion and writing.
For my first FAM, the bus picked us up in downtown Toronto, the day after TBEX. The team at Central Counties took us on a 2-day adventure – which included hiking, eating, playing with Lego, riding coasters and zip-lining – and more eating.
For a complete round-up of my adventure with the press trip you can read this post: From Ontario With Love a Tour of Central Counties. Our last adventure on the FAM trip was supposed to be zip-lining but we quickly realized this was more like a boot camp in the trees.
I was very overweight during this trip and getting strapped into a safety harness was a very scary moment for me. I did not have faith that it would hold me and I wanted to experience the entire trip – so even though I was terrified of heights, I got up in the tree platform and tried to get through the “easy” first leg of this military exercise.
I’m not great with heights. I literally get paralyzed and can’t move when trying to force myself to walk on the glass floor at the CN Tower, so hanging on wires while navigating moving logs in the trees was not a great moment for me. In fact I was starting to realize there was not way I was going to be able to complete this course. A very humbling and humiliating moment at the same time.
The crew at the site however, didn’t flinch and immediately jumped into action. Apparently this happened all the time and they had a procedure for getting people down – “The High Angle Rescue.” Yup I was strapped with more wires and told to just lean back and drop off the small platform I was standing on.
A leap of faith, facing my fears – whatever you want to call it – it was an out of the box moment that completely changed my course in life. I may not have realized it 100% at that moment – but I did realize one thing for sure. I was about halfway down the tree – mid rescue – when I stopped choking back tears and started smiling and begging people to take my picture. I realized in that moment I had a story that no other blogger on the trip had. That my friends is called a “writer’s genius moment!” That was the moment I realized this is what I’m meant to be doing. Like the TBEX conference as I walked around in this “happy bubble” smiling like a goof for the entire week – I was in this happy euphoric state as I was walking down the tree.
In the weeks after the conference and after the FAM trip all I thought about was my blog. I’d sit at work all day and count down the seconds until I could go home. I got home, went through business cards, followed all the people I met at the conference. I wrote tonnes of posts, started being more consistent with social media and applying all the things I learned in the conference including redesigning the site into a magnificent responsive online magazine.
There was still one thing that bugged me and haunted me regardless of all the changes and improvements to my blog and my writing. I had to be rescued from that tree and I didn’t want to be that blogger that couldn’t do things on a press trip. I didn’t want anyone to look at a picture of me and say – she can’t go on this trip it will be too hard for her because of her weight.
My whole life I struggled with my weight and I finally reached my breaking point. I wanted to understand why I was sick all the time, why I couldn’t lose the weight. The IBS diagnosis was not enough – I wanted to be healthy, I wanted to do more things like hanging in trees on FAM trips.
So I went to a doctor who specialized in stomach issues and weight loss and he said to me – here is a list of food you can eat, if it is not on the list I did not forget to put it on there, trust me anything not on the list you are deathly allergic to – until I tell you otherwise.
It was the worst and hardest diet I had ever been on in my life. I hated my life in the first few weeks. There was no sugar (not even natural sugar), no fruit, no grains, no processed food of any kind. Even my vegetables were limited! I was on a strict diet of veggies and protein. But in a few weeks I started to feel better. There was no IBS anymore. Slowly each week he gave me another list to add to the first list. I jumped for joy getting to eat green peppers or tomatoes.
Each month he sent me for blood tests and I started to see not only that I was losing weight, but that my cholesterol issues disappeared, that I had more energy, that I wasn’t feeling sick and tired all the time.
While I took care of my health I dove into my blog and my writing. I grabbed my favourite girlfriends and made them go on road trips around Ontario with me. With my wonky GPS that was always “recalculating” we went out and got lost and discovered the cutest little towns together.
Then it happened again! I got a series of emails that made all the work pay off … yup you guessed it I will talk about in the next part of the series!
Do you have any questions for me? It’s the reader’s emails that started this My Travel Blogging Life Series – so if you have a question, don’t be shy let me know in the comments below or hit the contact us button above!