So in Part I of My Travel Blogging Life I ended off talking about how I searched “Travel Blogging Conference” in Google and how that search changed my life. At the time I had no idea what I would find but I saw “TBEX – the Future of Travel Media” and immediately clicked on the link.
My travel blogging life
What I discovered was that this Travel Blogging conference was being held in Toronto in June of 2013 and the early bird rate was like $76 bucks. So took out my credit card and signed up – even though I had no idea what I was signing up for. It just seemed like fate – I needed a travel network, I searched for a conference and there it was in 6 months right here in Ontario!
In the months leading up to the conference I started getting absorbed into the TBEX community. I signed up for the Google+ Community, I started getting likes in Twitter and to be completely honest, I realized I was doing everything wrong. I had not branded Dream Travel Magazine with all the social media channels. I had one name for my twitter handle, a different one for Google+ and I realized this was a huge problem.
Taking Dream Travel Magazine to the Next Level
I redesigned the website and created a unified set of social media channels all @dreamtravelmag so I would be easy to find. They all had the same imagery and messaging and finally I was starting to look like a professional travel blog.
I focused on Twitter the most as this was the social media outlet I was using the least and thankfully I did, because after following other bloggers and figuring out how to engage with them, I started to learn a lot more about the travel blogging life!
First TBEX was more than just a two-day conference there were press trips and tours set up for us on the days leading up to the event. There was also a travel blogging community right here in Toronto called Travel Massive that had a big party the night before TBEX. I signed up for events and continued tweeting away.
I read articles on how to prepare for TBEX and realized I needed business cards and a media kit. I googled media kits and figured out what information to put in them – especially as a newbie with like no social followers and no traffic to my site. I printed them off and went online at the TBEX porthole and decided to try and get meetings. I sent emails to potential sponsors, brands, tourism boards requesting they meet with me. I felt like there was no way they would waste their time meeting a newbie like me – but I was wrong. I had like 10 meetings with tourism brands during the speed dating events and I also met many more just wandering through the open marketplace throughout the weekend.
A few weeks before the conference I was tweeting away one day and got a notification from the Trump Tower in Toronto! We had a funny little back and forth about how the last time I visited Toronto the Trump Tower was a parking lot and then I got a notification asking me to attend a bloggers lunch at TBEX! OMG!
The moment I arrived in Toronto I noticed a very important thing. Travel Bloggers come in many shapes and sizes. Some are young, some are middle aged, some are older and they all write stories about their travels the same as me! It was then that I decided to stop hiding behind my computer and to start posting pictures of myself experiencing the pre-tbex excursions.
I let myself believe that you had to look a certain way in order to be successful especially as a blogger and that was so wrong. TBEX taught me that I wasn’t alone and very quickly I started to realize – yes I needed to learn a lot about the business of blogging, but I had a great blog and it was very well received by many sponsors at the conference.
Seeing the Blog Dream Come to Life
On the Friday before the conference started I found myself at Trump Hotel in Toronto for a special blogger lunch. Like the complete newbie I was, I had no idea that I was sitting in a room with the elite of travel bloggers. At my table Johnny Jet, The Planet D and a number of other very large and very successful bloggers. For a while I sat there quietly in shock thinking – OMG they are going to realize they made a huge mistake and send me out of here. But they never did!
I attended events, seminars, press trips and walked the marketplace at TBEX and the entire time I had this enormous smile on face! I never felt more alive or excited as I did during that 5 day conference.
I made friends, had meetings, gave out business cards and wrote pages and pages of notes. During one of the sessions my blog was part of a live critique and I learned in that session that there were a number of issues but that overall my blog was really good. The site was organized and needed some tweaking but, very positively reviewed. I couldn’t wait to get home and get to work on my blog.
The conference ended, I had a purse full of business cards and mind full of dreams! However, before I could go home, I had one more order of business – my very first FAM trip and a moment that would literally change my entire life forever! — to be continued in Part III.