I'm sure I won't be the only one writing a wrap-up post from the travel blogger conference held in Vancouver this past weekend. But, regardless if this is the first or fifteenth post on this topic you've seen, I'm going to write it anyway to share with you what I learned at TBEX 2011.
No, I didn't learn all the secrets or find out how to make millions from my blog. In fact, many will probably argue that the conference itself could have been much better. But I'll leave the scathing reviews to others. For me, it was all about the people I met and the inspiration I took away from meeting them.
But what did I learn?
It's Not All About You
A recurring theme in some of the sessions I attended over the weekend revolved around the idea that travel blogging isn't all about the blogger. Yes, travel blogs can be incredibly personal, and most are written in the first-person about first-hand experiences. And, if we're being honest, most travel bloggers have a bit of an ego and assume that everyone loves to read about what time they woke up, what they had for breakfast, and the fact that they can't remember why they aren't wearing any pants.
But you know what? It's not always about you.
If there was one major point I took away from TBEX this weekend, it's that we as bloggers have to consider our readers a lot more. We have already experienced the places we're writing about — but many of them haven't. Good travel writing will make them feel like they've been there, too.
Some good quotes on this topic:
- “Your piece is not about your trip; it's about your reader's trip.”
- “Use yourself as a window into a place, but don't make it ALL about you.”
- “Your reader is your companion.”
- Talking about non-narrative travel writing: “It's still about storytelling, but it's not all about you.”
Some Solid Advice
I could go on and on about all the advice being thrown at us bloggers this weekend. Instead, I'm just going to share with you random snippets, quotes and things I jotted down in my notebook:
- On length: “Stop when you stop being interesting.”
- Create content that advertisers want to be associated with, but don't pander to them.
- “Top 10 the shit out of your website.” (This one I know could lead to a lot of debate.)
- Bring something new to the table, otherwise you're just wasting your time.
- What is narrative travel writing? A crafted evocation of a journey. A sequence of anecdotes, scenes and encounters that illustrate a point and illuminate a place or culture.
- Tell YOUR story; look for things that define a place for YOU.
- Ask yourself, “What have I learned? How did I learn it?”
- Don't make it a summary/diary entry.
- Avoid complete negativity.
- Avoid artificial ingredients — don't write about the accordion music and smell of fresh-baked bread in Paris if there wasn't any.
- Read your stories out loud.
- Think like a 3-year-old — find new ways of experiencing and describing things.
- Try not to sound too wide-eyed.
- Have an opinion.
- If you wouldn't say it to someone in conversation, don't write it.
- Do the opposite of what people might expect.
- Use negative headlines to get readers' attention.
- Never write something bad and use the excuse “It's just a blog.”
Quotes to Think About
Here are a few quotes I really liked:
- “Sometimes travel bestows the most unexpected gifts.” — @don_george
- “Really interesting people make really interesting stories.”
- “Good travel spawns good narrative.” — @WheresAndrew
The Best TBEX Metaphors
And, of course, who could forget those golden metaphors used over the weekend…
- “There's no sell-by date on (a story). It still could be good — you just have to smell it.” — @nerdseyeview
- “Your story is like a puppy. Don't squeeze your puppy to death. Let it run around a little.” — @WheresAndrew
- “People are like piss.” — @rediontravel
- Travel bloggers are, in general, a friendly, chatty bunch. They also can drink like sailors.
- Vancouver is a nice city (with really enthusiastic hockey fans), and I regret not having more time to explore it.
- TBEX isn't really about the conference — it's about the people. And the after-parties. And the after-after parties. And, sometimes, the after-after-after parties.
- Poutine is actually kind of delicious. Like a heart attack in a bowl.
- We bloggers have a hard time unplugging. The TBEX wifi network barely worked as a result.
- If you're going to do a presentation, make it more awesome by adding doodles and artwork that you made in Microsoft Paint.
- A new word was born over the weekend: “Jourblist” — someone who is both journalist and blogger.
I had a really great time at TBEX 2011, and I'm looking forward to TBEX 2012 in Keystone, Colorado! Who else is already registered?
Were you at TBEX this year? What sorts of things did YOU take away from it?
Sadly, I was not able to make it to all the sessions, including Gary Arndt's “State of the Blogging Union” address (I had to catch a train). Therefore, I'm sure there are plenty of great quotes that I missed. If you have anything to add, please share it in the comments!