It’s fitting that the TBEX10 world travel blogger conference occurred in New York City on the same weekend as the NYC Gay Pride march. If you are a blogger and are passionate about it, to reveal this to others has a distinct air of “Coming out.”
When you reveal your big secret for the first time, how will the listener react?
Will they judge you? Will they try to dig up information they could deem incriminating? Will they accuse you of making a foolish “life choice”?
Is it even possible for people outside this realm you care so much about to understand why you pour so much of your time and passion into it?
So just as a newly “Out” boy from Kansas grins a smile of pure joy upon marching in New York’s Pride Parade for the first time, the giant TBEX10 Travel Blogger conference made me feel free, understood, and exhilarated.
Sing it everyone: “Community is important!”
For three days this weekend during TBEX10, hundreds of us from the travel blogging community listened to educational panels by day, and socialized like superstars by night.
There were panels on Upping your Writing Game, Ethics, Search Engine Optimization, Pornographically Good Travel Photos, and more… But in the end that wasn’t the point. The point was the PEOPLE. Here’s why:
1. TBEX10 was actually a poignant family reunion.
“There’s not a word yet… for old friends you’ve just met,” sings curvy-nosed Gonzo in the best song of “The Muppet Movie.” (Click the link to listen… you won’t regret it.)
Oh readers: At this moment you should feel your screen heating up from the emotion of the words coming next.
For the nine months I was journeying around the world, my only stable home (to which I returned faithfully each night) was the online universe. In my darkest moments and on my sunniest days, the inhabitants of this online home were THERE for me, unfailingly.
These “strangers” provided comforting notes, cheery congrats, hilarious mood-lifters, and insightful analysis multiple times a day, every day, via Twitter and the comments section of my blog. And yet, except for two exceptions, I had never met ANY of these dear friends in person. Madness!
Imagine, therefore, with a pure and open mind, the emotion behind the hugs we squeezed tight around each other this weekend! Imagine the catching up we had to do, and the laughter and the loving gazes! My heart swells to remember it.
These travel bloggers are GOOD people: smart, accomplished, kind, funny, and fun, and I am honored to have them as friends, now in the flesh as well as on screen. We’ve gone through a lot together!
2. There were BIG SHOTS at the conference…. and they were accessible, fun, and NICE.
Every field has its stars who make you pant and nearly swoon to be near, given how much they’ve accomplished.
For the travel blog world, these celebrities include Kim Mance, Johnny Jet, The Lost Girls, Gary Arndt, Pam Mandel, Nomadic Matt, David Farley, Spud Hilton, Robert Reid, Donald George, and more. But get this: we were able to hobnob with every single one of them! The incredibly famous Johnny Jet was so nice he even got me a TV interview (more on this soon!).
And these travel blog world celebrities are only going to get bigger in the outside world. The day after the TBEX10 conference, Gary Arndt’s site, Everything-Everywhere, was named one of the 25 Best Blogs of 2010 by Time Magazine!
I’m proud to know these inspirational folks. They work hard, and deserve all the accolades they get.
3. We were finally able to explore and express a major part of ourselves that has been unrealized for too long.
A year ago I didn’t really even know what a blog was. I was a teacher who spent her free time grading homework, hanging out with friends, and playing Mafia Wars on Facebook. It was all normal, perfectly fine, and not especially glamorous.
Flash forward to this weekend. For the first time in maybe ever, I felt almost like a celebrity, swirling through a glittering, sexy celebrity world! I really did. This is what the sweet power of the internet, and of Entrepreneurship in general, affords us: the opportunity to reinvent ourselves, and to crate a luscious new world to inhabit. YUM.
4. This weekend, we crafted a vision for the future so thrilling the adrenaline is still making it hard to sleep!
Let’s get a little more of our Muppet friend Gonzo’s song (seriously click that link and listen): “Sun rises, night falls… sometimes the sky calls.”
This is a reference to when Gonzo accidentally got lifted skyward by a helium balloon, but I quote it here to emphasize: whether we admit it or not, we all have aspirations to rise up and be wild successes in life. And this weekend, so many smart, ambitious, hard-working, visionary folks were together that it was a veritable orgy of networking and brainstorming… in the best possible way.
There will be more details on our schemes soon, but let’s just say for now that our current plans for September 14th’s “Meet, Plan, Go,” event are AWESOME. Stay tuned!
So maybe you’ll understand the sincerity and passion behind this, and maybe you won’t, but I haven’t been in this good a mood in a long time. And this excitement and thrill about the future is in a large part because of what TBEX10 helped me realize:
First, leaving behind my job to fly out of America for nine months last year was a GOOD decision.
Second, staring a blog eleven months ago has opened more doors to good friends, new skills, exciting opportunities, and growing happiness than I ever imagined possible.
Third: I love our travel blogger community and am so very happy that we have each other, no matter where in the world we may be.
Thanks, TBEX10, for an unbelievably fantastic weekend!!!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 4.2 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!