Confession: There is a part of me that’s always a little reluctant to tell new people I meet about this site. I’m proud of what I do, but I get a little tired of the confused look on people’s faces when they try to figure out what exactly I mean by “travel blogger.”
The cute kiwi boys in my hostel dorm room gave me that look this weekend, although I barely cared because I was so excited to be in New York for the Travel Blog Exchange Conference (TBEX). This is an almost week long event where 250 travel bloggers from practically every corner of the earth converge to network, socialize and talk shop.
I LOVE meeting travel bloggers in person. It’s become a kind of hobby for me. It’s fun to compare notes on travel and blogging of course, but there is also a constant question in the back of my head, mainly who ARE these people? I know who I am and my motivations for the life I’m trying to cobble together, but what about the literally hundreds of others tending their own corners of the web?
So here is what I discovered this weekend about what travel bloggers are REALLY like:
Travel bloggers are an attractive bunch. Over and over I was shocked by how young and vibrant everyone looked, no matter what his or her physical age. We’re talking serious, Dorian Gray type supernatural youth here. From my under-age looking compatriots to the bloggers old enough to be my parents (or grand-parents) it would appear no skin cream on earth can match the glow of a joyful, well-lived life.
Many of us at the conference had been chatting online for months, if not years, so the meeting had a weird first date meets high school reunion vibe. People greeted each other for the first time like long lost friends with hugs and joyful shrieks. Almost without exception people were just thrilled to meet and be with one another.
I’m actually amazed my liver survived the abuses of last weekend without packing up and quitting. When you combine a bunch of people who love adventure with the city that never sleeps and unlimited free drinks, things get kind of crazy. Parties ran dangerously late every single night as bloggers young and old socialized, bought each other shots, and even took on the mechanical bull (not yours truly though).
On Friday night I was invited to mingle with the organizers of Meet Plan Go, a really neat new event that aims to educate people about the benefits of career breaks. You will be hearing more about this in the future because I am actually speaking at the DC event, just a week before I leave for Japan. Travel bloggers know that they are kind of odd birds, but that doesn’t stop them from wanting to encourage travel as an accessible and appealing option for all kinds of people.
Only a handful of the participants were able to make a living as independent bloggers. A few more were employed for travel organizations. The majority of the people at the conference seemed to be dedicated hobbyists. No matter how they were making a living though, these were some hard working peeps, willing to put in countless hours of work for a mostly intangible pay off. It would appear that really nobody is getting rich blogging, at least not about travel. That’s okay though, because this is an industry about more than just money.
As the sessions progressed it was apparent to me that travel blogging can satisfy a lot of different skill sets. Some people are really motivated by the business challenges of the industry; others are more interested in the technical aspect, or design. There were people who love photography, storytellers with video cameras, podcasters and more. Personally, my passion is the writing and storytelling itself, something I feel even more excited about after this conference.
So people were very different in age, skill set and level of establishment, but the one thread that wound through absolutely everything that happened at TBEX was a complete devotion to adventure and exploration. The pure joy and excitement that comes from being around other people who share your love is something that’s going to motivate me for quite awhile.
It’s hard to believe that I’ve been working at this for almost a year now. The people I’ve come in contact with via this little blog have been one of the greatest rewards by far. I’m not going to devolve into a sap fest, I will just say that I’ve seen the face of travel blogging, and I’m pretty happy to wear that label as my own.