I’ve just returned from TBEX (also known as the Travel Blog Exchange), which is a conference for travel bloggers, writers and new media content creators. This year, the conference was held not too far from home in Toronto, Ontario and, having read lots of good feedback on last year’s event, I decided to check it out.
So, I packed up a bag and headed to Hostelling International where I stayed in a six-bed, mixed dorm. It was the first time I’ve stay in a hostel and admittedly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Fortunately, I found myself sharing a room with four other bloggers from the conference; their skills and experience with blogging ranged from the casual “tweeter” to the lifestyle blogger earning a regular wage (that was comparable to that of any professional career) from travelling the world and blogging about his experiences. Admittedly, it may have been a more sheltered experience of hostelling, but I certainly felt at ease in the same living space as my interesting co-habitants.
The conference itself provided a lot of opportunities to listen to expert speakers on topics ranging from creative travel writing to measuring return on investment and working with travel destinations. Admittedly, I found some of the sessions more helpful than others, however, it was hard to determine whether that was in part due to choosing topics that I didn’t credit myself with knowing more about. Overall, I was impressed with the range of speakers and content covered over the two-day program.
It was pretty evident at the conference that everyone had their own way of approaching travel blogging. While some bloggers preached about research and analytics, others pushed the merits of authentic voice and the creative process. Rather than finding this confusing, however, I found it exciting to gain a better understanding of the full spectrum of travel blogging content already being successfully produced.
TBEX wasn’t just about professional development, however. There were also some great city tours and fantastic parties! As part of my trip, I took part in a tour of Toronto’s Distillery District by segway, thanks to Segway of Ontario, and ventured out to the Toronto Islands via a 20 man canoe on tour with the Harbourfront Canoe & Kayak Centre. Both of these tours were a ton of fun and you can check out my highlights video of my experiences outside of the “classroom”.
The launch party and Expedia night party also deserve a mention here. It was clear that a lot of effort went into the launch party and it was certainly a fantastic night. At least a dozen local wineries and breweries showed up, alongside numerous restaurants who had prepared special tapas-style dishes for attendees. A special appearance by Juno-Award winning singer, Serena Ryder, was a great surprise which really put a special touch on the evening.
I was impressed with the level of organization that went into the conference. Some of the seminars were fantastic with lots of actionable tips to implement into my own blog and I have come away with a few ideas of how to move forward. I’m also pleased to say I met some fantastic people who I hope to see again very soon on one adventure or another. Overall, a great event!