I’m writing this as I munch on a freshly prepared Greek salad, a dish I will most likely be eating repeatedly for the next few weeks. Greece is on my brain, and in my heart. I just spent the last week in this wonderful country and the warmth and hospitality of the Greek people went far beyond my expectations. What also exceeded my expectations was the valuable knowledge I gained from attending TBEX Europe 2014 in Athens.
For those of you who don’t have a clue what I’m talking about, TBEX (Travel Blog Exchange) is the world’s largest gathering of travel bloggers, photographers, and travel industry professionals involved in PR, marketing, and social media. All of us are brought together to learn the business of travel – attending presentations given by other experienced bloggers and travel companies on topics such as monetizing photography, branding yourself, proper use of social media such as Twitter, and how to properly communicate your ideas to travel industry brands and media companies. It’s all about networking here and bloggers are given the chance to sit down one-on-one with travel companies to learn what those companies need from bloggers to make their business a success, as well as how working with that company can benefit the blogger.
But the most important item I want to stress is how much I learned from other bloggers, my peers. I have been blogging for a while now, but have been doing so essentially in a bubble. TBEX revealed to me how many people there are out there who are just like me, trying to express their experiences in a meaningful way and hopefully (this is the goal!) make a living from it. This was eye-opening for me.
I met many dynamic people from all over the globe, all with amazing ideas and aspirations. They all deserve a shout-out, so here it goes, in no particular order:
- TravelMedia.ie – One of the sponsors for TBEX Europe, this PR company is based in Dublin and consists of the dream team Michael Collins, Niamh Waters, Michelle Ryan, and Ruth Aravena. Michael was one of the speakers at the event, giving a very informative talk on how travel bloggers can better get their message out there. These folks were some of the first people I met at TBEX and graciously invited me to tour around Athens with them that first day – which was so much better than wandering around by myself! We viewed the Acropolis, tried local cuisine and the local liquor, Ouzo, and explored central Athens. I also learned that the girls can belt out a tune on the subway at 2 am, but that’s for another story 🙂
- Unravel Travel TV – Leslie Graham, producer and director, was also one of the first people I met as I was picking up my TBEX badge on Day 1. He works closely with TravelMedia.ie – shooting video for their events, interviews, etc. He toured the city with us that first day as well. I never saw him without his camera and I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone with more energy! He is a fun guy, also based in Dublin, and I’m looking forward to watching his videos of the TBEX Athens event.
- Venturists – Sean and Jen Boyle are a couple who sold everything to see the world – living in a different city every month. I actually met them a few weeks ago in Madrid, thanks to a connection through Twitter, and was excited to find out that they were going to be at TBEX in Athens as well. They have only been traveling full-time since the beginning of this year, but have already been to South America, Europe, and Asia. It was great to reconnect with them at TBEX and I hope our paths will cross again soon.
- Go To Travel Guides – Mason Ifejika and his wife, Natalie, are based in London and are in the process of developing some sharp travel apps. The first one to go live is a Rio de Janeiro app and it is available now for Apple and Android. I downloaded it myself and it is very well done – focusing on attractions, restaurants, and nightlife and enhanced with beautiful imagery. They have many more cities in the works and I really hope their apps take off. So if you are planning to travel in the near future, check out their site – they might have a travel app that will work for you. They are a really nice, interesting couple and I hope to keep in touch with them.
- Escape Artist – Edmond Lee, aka Curly Head Ed, is the sales director for Escape Artist, a site dedicated to living life, and living it well, as an expat. Ed and his significant other, Tiffany Perry, are full of personality. And since Tiffany is from my hometown – Houston, Texas – there was definitely some Texas bonding going on at the TBEX opening party. Another great couple that I hope to keep in touch with.
- Vacation Counts and Sidewalk Safari – This married duo, Scott and Jennifer Petoff, are American expats living in Dublin. Jennifer is the writer for Sidewalk Safari, which documents their travels from all parts of the globe – North America to Australia and everything in between. Scott uses his blog, Vacation Counts, to advise you on how to travel smarter, such as money-saving tips and achieving a better work-life balance. These two blogs complement each other, highlighting all the great places to travel to and showing you how to make it happen. I am happy they live in Dublin as well – yay for new friends!
- Wanderlust Marriage – Founded by Alex Kallimanis and his wife, Bell – who randomly met in a hostel in Belgium – this blog chronicles their adventures in Europe, Southeast Asia, and the USA. I randomly met Alex at the lunch table at TBEX and enjoyed chatting with him. Their blog also discusses ways to save money and tips on expat living.
- Jay Way Travel – Charles Neville, a Brit living in Prague for many years, is the marketing manager for this agency that specializes in travel to Central and Eastern Europe. If you want a hassle-free vacation, where every minute detail is taken care of and you don’t have to lift a finger, this would be the way to go.
- The Gap Year Guru – The writers behind this colorful blog are Irish-born Jessica Glynn and her Brazilian significant other, Arua Tupinambas. The blog chronicles their experiences in Europe and Brazil. They are also involved with Passports With Purpose, an annual fundraiser the encourages bloggers to generate donations through their own blog by giving out a prize to a randomly selected reader. All donations go to a charitable cause and a different charity is nominated each year. I love this idea and will be participating!
- Travobabble – Josh Moody-Arndt is the man behind this blog and I love the clean and simple look of it, as well as the name. This blog is just in its infancy and I am looking forward to reading what Josh has to say. Plus, he is a super sweet guy and I would have liked to have chatted with him more.
- Travpacker – Created by Zaid Mahomedy from South Africa, this site highlights Zaid’s adventures in places as far away as Antarctica. He’s certainly an active traveller – he’s done a fair amount of rock climbing around the world as well. He wore a polo shirt with his blog logo printed on it – nice touch, Zaid!
- The Whole World is a Playground – Elaine McArdle and her husband, David Murray, have a fun blog packed with stories of their travels, including hotel reviews, UNESCO sites, restaurants – all accompanied with great photography. They are also runners and dedicate many posts to the races they have participated in. It’s obvious this couple knows how to make the world their playground.
- Passion For Greece – Founded by Elena Sergeeva, a Russian who has lived in Greece for the past 22 years, this site is simply beautiful with fantastic photography. It’s a social travel platform that allows travellers to share their stories of Greece and inspire others to come visit. I met Elena at the TBEX Opening Party and she showed several of us around the city until late into the night, taking us to get the best kebabs and showing us an amazing view of the Acropolis from a rooftop bar. Thanks to her, there were quite a few of us who had a rough time making it to the 9 am keynote talk the next morning, but it was worth it!
- Where Kelly Goes – Kelly Convey earned the title “Expedia Pioneer” and for an entire year will blog for Expedia, documenting her travels around the UK – usually with her handsome bulldog, Nelson, by her side. She gets to decide where she goes and I am looking forward to following her travels, getting some ideas on where to explore myself. Her bubbly personality is infectious and I can certainly see why Expedia wants to work with her.
The TBEX Europe 2014 conference made me realize how much work I have ahead of me! But I am excited to get to it, taking what I’ve learned and put it to practice. There is a whole community out there – a community that is passionate about exploring as much of this world as possible, a community with a desire to express to others that travel is for everyone. I am happy to be a part of that.