If you were at TBEX or following along on Twitter you might have noticed a lot of tweets with the hashtag #bloghouse (and if you’re not on twitter you probably have no idea what that means). The Blog House was an exciting new project that Mike and I were able to be involved in that involved mentoring a select group of new bloggers while enjoying a fabulous villa in Besalu, Spain.
Now I love villas, and I kind of love teaching, but I really, really loved being involved in this project. I’m a huge beleiver in community, and in the travel blogger community in particular. It’s what kept me going for over three years and what inspires me every day. So I really believe in the importance of mentoring. So much gets lost and overlooked in a massive conference environment, but this scenario let me get to truly know some new people and to really dig deep in discussing the art of travel blogging.
So yes, I was supposed to be the teacher, but I learned a lot too. Here’s a partial list:
Costa Brava is Acutely Beautiful
Yes, it’s so pretty it literally hurts me. I’d never been to this corner of Spain before but I was awestruck by Girona (more on that later this week) and the tiny Medeval town of Besalu where we sequestered ourselves for two nights. The town looked like something out of a storybook: narrow cobblestone walkways, ancient stone buildings and a bridge to outdo all bridges.
Then, there was a villa. Now I wouldn’t call myself a villa connoisseur but I’m certainly developing a taste for them. The Casa- Marcial was lent to us by the charming folks at charming villas and had 12 bedrooms, giant common rooms for blog chats, a swimming pool and the remains of medevial church on the grounds. I think it’s popular for weddings, but we made great use of the space for both working and partying.
How to Make Paella
Well, I’m not totally sure I could recreate this masterpiece, but I still got to watch the care that goes into creating one. Our first night in the Blog House we had a private chef come in to show us foodies and food photographers how to create a traditional spanish meal. The results were creamy shrimp, stuffed squid and this vast paella, which took about an hour to bubble and cook up crisp.
How to Use Lightroom 4
I know I was supposed to be the teacher but I got totally sucked in to hearing Michael Hodson talk about how he edits photos, something I am pretty half-assed at. I was also fascinated to hear Kate McCulley’s presentation on how to work with sponsors. And everyone wanted to here Michael Tieso (that’s MY Mike!) speak on wordpress optimization.
I think that one of the key things that made the Blog House work so well is that the 5 organizing mentors all have vastly different blog strategies, talents and abilities. I’m a strong believe that there is no one way to travel blog, so I think it’s really great for newbie bloggers to experience a bunch of different opinions and make up their own mind.
I Can’t Drink Like I Used To
It’s no secret that travel bloggers party hard. Seeing as we were in Spain, we consumed copious amounts of red wine each night. Late into the evening we had long conversations and a few dance parties. The second night we brought in a boatload of PR people who only made the situation messier.
But guys, I just can’t drink bottles and bottle of red wine. Not anymore. It just makes me dizzy and messy and I end up with red splotches all down my white t-shirt (true, sad story). I got to be the old lady this week, going to bed at the early hour of 3am while everyone else partied til dawn.
The Next Generation of Travel Bloggers has Crazy Talent
Travel blogging has an industry is growing exponentially. With little barrier to entry and such enticing rewards, more and more people are staking out a space on the internet and aiming for the stars. That’s great, but it also means competition is getting stiffer and sometimes it can be heard to separate the good from the bad.
We found some really great gems for our house. Really bright and inspired bloggers who were enthusiastic about learning about the industry and improving their websites. Really nice people too! Exactly the kind of people I want as my coworkers in this ever changing internet cube farm I work in. By the end of TBEX I really had the warm fuzzies for everyone involved.
A special thanks to very first blog house participants! Be sure to check out their awesome blogs:
- Victoria from Bridges and Balloons
- Liz from Young Adventuress
- Flora from Flora The Explorer
- Jennifer from Jdomb’s Travels
- Naomi from Anywhere But Home
- Emma from Emma’s Travel Tales
- Cole from Four Jandals
- Ed from The Polar Route
- Bret and Erin from Our Tasty Travels & No Checked Bags
I Still Have a Lot to Learn
Just like the newbie bloggers I mentioned, this site is still a work in progress. The three days we spent in Besalu really drove home how much I still have to learn and improve on in my own blog (and certainly in my writing). It’s what keeps me coming back to these conferences and what keeps me humble- that I’m so very lucky to have an audience at all, and I need to always work hard to keep and serve my readers.
All in all the event was a definite success, and something we are going to strive to do again in the near future. After my liver recovers.