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I’m kind of a TBEX super-fan. The Travel Blog Exchange Conference is the one can’t miss event for me every year (and I’m the kind of girl who regularly misses Thanksgiving and Christmas). Mike and I met back at TBEX New York, and were engaged while out at TBEX Keystone, so the even holds an extra special place in my heart.
After the TBEX conference in Colorado, Mike and I immediately bought tickets to TBEX Girona. We hadn’t planned on going to Europe this fall and weren’t even sure we could afford the plane tickets, but we really wanted to be here. I’m so glad we made it, not just so Mike could have his very first Europe experience, but because from the start of the Blog House to our last day in Girona we had a fantastic time learning about Costa Brava, seeing old friends and making new connections.
So for those who are interested, here’s the rundown on how it went. For those not so interested? Here are some pretty pictures (and some ham):
I knew absolutely nothing about Girona going in, except that it was an hour outside of Barcelona and that they spoke Catalan instead of (really in addition to), Spanish. It turned out to be absolutely WOW. Such a pretty little city with colorful buildings, historic bridges and cute cafes. In the afternoons the streeets would be suffused with this brilliant golden light- what is it about Europe that gives places that unique glow? I’ve never seen it anywhere else.
I don’t usually review these things because to be perfectly honest: I don’t go to the conferences fro the sessions. I’ll go to a few of the really interesting ones, maybe take a few notes, but it’s not my main focus. That said, the highlights for me were a couple of the keynotes: mainly the opening by Peter Shankman, founder of HARO, and the closing keynote by one of my favorite bloggers, Chris Guillebeau (meeting Chris definitely made me a little starstruck).
My main focus of course, is networking, and in that respect things turned out awesomely. Although I didn’t think the speed dating was too well-run this time around, I did get to talk to a lot of sponsors and industry people. The awesomest surprise for me was how advanced the travel blog industry is in Europe compared to the US. People are working on really innovative projects with destinations. Companies here are actually open and enthusiastic to the idea of working with bloggers in a way that I haven’t seen in the US. This only further convinced Mike and I that are short term futures belong on that side of the Atlantic.
Starting with Keystone the new TBEX trend seems to be absolutely absurdly elaborate parties. In Keystone we sipped champagne on a cable car before eating food from local restaurants in a ski chalet. Similarly, in Girona our opening night party was in a castle, catered by the second best restaurant in the world. It’s kind of like an arms race of fine dining and scenery. This is not a complaint- it’s kind of surreal to go from drinking warm wine in a hostel common room to sipping wine in a castle.
The second evening’s party at an eco-hotel on the beach was also quite lovely. I can’t wait to see what’s planned for Toronto.
After Argentina I didn’t think I’d ever meet a country so into it’s red meat. Until Spain. Only this time it’s not juicy steaks, it’s miles and miles of mouth watering, thinly shaved jamon crudo. Not the kind you buy at the supermarket, but sliced directly off a hooved leg, right in front of you (not for the faint of heart-or vegetarians). It’s salty and buttery and just heavenly.
Nearly every snack, meal and party during the week I spent in Costa Brave featured generous portions of iberian ham. In fact, for a week straight my diet consisted almost entirely of ham, cheese and wine. That’s healthy right?
The Final Verdict
Overall I thought it was a really good event. It’s a much smaller conference than the US TBEX, 300 people versus over 1000, which meant that the scale was very different. I think that business-wise the US event is a better value, but I still really enjoyed this “vacation tbex,” and came away with a lot of useful information and contacts, and as always- renewed enthusiasm for blogging!