Last spring I took a leave of absence from my job to take an extended trip to reconnect with myself and visit my mom in Thailand. After spending time with my family I headed to Cambodia and the Philippines.

I have been traveling for a few years and I’ve always kept a travel journal but I only shared it with family and close friends. During the latter part of this last trip, I started thinking about turning that travel journal into something more perhaps travel blogging.  I read A LOT of travel blogs. But I wasn’t sure if entering into the world of blogging was a viable option.

I wanted to weave my passions for art, culture and travel together with the strong desire to explore our deeper connections to another. That’s when I came across TBEX in my research.

TBEX or the Travels Blogger Exchange hosts a few conferences around the world. It bills itself as the “largest conference and networking event for travel bloggers, online travel journalists, new media content creators, travel brands and industry professionals.”

I was initially hestitant about attending. I just had an idea for a blog but no real plan, not even a name for it. Was TBEX was right for me? I reached out to them to inquire.

Our attendees range from very new bloggers to veterans, which makes it an excellent event for connecting and learning. You’ll meet so many fellow bloggers to connect with and who will help you find your footing and voice in the travel realm.

My worries were set aside, I bought my conference pass and started planning my first trip to Ireland. This had the additional and and timely effect of getting me to focus on my ideas for my new blog.

Ghost tour in Killarney, Ireland

The first group of TBEXers I met. Photo by Kerry Coaches

Highlights from attending my first TBEX conference as a newbie blogger.

The conference was held in early October in the small town of Killarney, Ireland that attracted about 600 bloggers from around the world.

It is a two-day conference with a keynote speaker begining each day. The first keynote was Gary Arndt from Everything and Everywhere. Gary Arndt is an award-winnging travel blogger and photographer who talked about authority and “showing up.” He spoke about quality versus quantity. This would be a common theme throughout the conference.  Gary reminded us to build authority through quality rather than focusing soley on numbers. Quality will bring the elusive numbers that so many bloggers are after.

As for new bloggers, Gary said something that really resonated with me:

Be a successful amateur before trying to be a professional.

Breakout Sessions

TBEX includes two full-days of breakout sessions that cover a variety of topics from SEO, social media, drone photography, monetization, sustainability, and plenty of other useful topics.

Updating and refreshing my understanding of good narrative writing and learning how to videos were my goals. I also wanted to start off on the right footing around building my website as a business. I stuck to sessions that helped me reach my immediate goals: ideas and concepts that I could build on immediately.

One of my favorite sessions was Mickela Mallozzi’s session on Pursuing Your Passon to Build a Business. 

Mickela is the creator of the multiple Emmy® Award-winning TV series, Bare Feet with Mickela Mallozzi. Her program can be seen on public television stations across the US.

Prior to attending TBEX , I did a lot of research on how to start a travel blog. I found some useful information, but I found a lot of confusing and misleading information. What was missing was the reality of creating and maintaining a blog. I came across post after post that read “5 easy steps to…” or “Starting a travel blog is easy, I’ll show you how…”

The blogosphere can set high expectations for newbies. Mickela’s session was genuine and real. She explained in great detail how she started and everything it took to turn her passion into a successful business. Blogging was going to be hard work, that I knew. But I also needed to hear from someone that I would be excited then frustrated; I’d want to pull my hair out, but then find great joy in living my passion and purpose.

Takeaway #1: Know Your Goals
Understand your goals for your blog and for attending TBEX. Align the sessions with your goals.

Takeaway #2: Be strategic.
The conference planners could help new bloggers as well as seasoned ones by indicating a level expertise for each session. I heard a lot of grumbling about how a session was too basic or too far above one’s understanding.

TBEX Events

Day in Cork, Ireland

Tour of Ballymaloe House near Cork, Ireland

There’s plenty to do before and after the actual conference.

TBEX and Failte Ireland, the hosting organization arranged many different opportunities to explore Killarny, Kerry County and other cities in Ireland through their Pre/Post tours, Welcoming Night event, and a Kilarney Day experience.

Killarney National Park

Killarney National Park

Pre/Post TBEX Events
The tours are included in the cost of the conference and was a great way to see other parts of Ireland. Tours included hiking, nature, culinary, art, and heritage tours throughout Ireland. This is great perk for attending.

Welcome Night Event

I arrived to Killarney on Monday, two days before the conference. Killarney welcomed us with a fun self-guided evening to explore the city. This was a perfect introduction to Killarney. Many of the shops and pubs were open providing some good discounts.  This was also the first opportunity to meet some of the many new friends I’d make over the course of the week.

The next day was another one filled with fun activities. I went on a walking tour through the Killarney National Park, learned how to make a proper Irish coffee, and got my feet tripped up learning the art of Irish dancing.

Takeaway #3: Sign up early
Now that I have attended my first TBEX, I will sign up early for the next one. This saves you money on the conference cost but also you get a better chance in attending a Pre/Post TBEX event of your choice.

Takeaway #4: Get in town early
Arrive a few days early to take advantage of all the different opportunties to explore, connect, and have fun. These experiences also make for great future blog post ideas.

EVENING EVENTS

Who doesn’t love a good party. From the opening night party, evening pub socials, and closing night parties, opportunties are everywhere to connect with other bloggers and also meet representatives from many of travel brands that attend.  In Killarney, the social events had us all dancing to the sounds of Irish music, sometimes late into the night.

NEW FRIENDSHIPS

New Friends TBEX Ireland

New Friends through TBEX Ireland

Beyond learning about travel blogging and exploring the host ciry, TBEX is about making some wonderful connections. Everyone that I met was incredibly friendly and very helpful to a newbie like myself. Many of the people I met helped me work out ideas and concepts for this blog.

Plus it was just incredible fun. This was a great chance to be around like-minded people who have been through it or who are going through the same journey as I am. To connect with bloggers from around the world and to develop some great new friends was the best takeaway from TBEX.

Takeaway #5: Discovering Your Tribe

Wherever I am, I know there is a great group of people supporting me along my path that I can also support. I’m looking forward to seeing many of the new friends I met at the next conference but also seeing them out there in this incredible world as we continue to share our stories of travel.

Takeaway #6: The world is a big place and there is quite enough room for more voices in travel blogging.

I have been to many other types of conferences in the past. TBEX is great experience for new travel bloggers and for the amount of actvities that are included in the cost, the small investment is worth attending. Attending TBEX as a new travel blogger was a great way to hone in on my niche.

I am learning more every day about the exciting world of travel blogging and as I begin to carve my voice alongside the chorus of wonderful and insightful travel blogs TBEX will be part of that journey.

See You at the Next TBEX

Corning Museum of Glass

Corning Museum of Glass

The next TBEX conference in North America is going to be in the Finger Lakes at the Corning Museum of Glass.  This is really exciting as I live north and a couple hours drive to Corning.

I’m looking forward to meeting up again with fellow TBEXers to welcome you all to my home state of New York.

Over the next year and leading up to the conference, I will be visitng the region and providing some some ideas and tips for visiting the Finger Lakes. If you want to learn more, I invite you to connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, or through my Newsletter.