Just for context: TBEX is the Travelblog Exchange — a conference dedicated to travelblogging. The conference took place in brutally hot and humid Manhattan last weekend and pulled together about 300 people from all over the planet. I spoke on a panel about PR and bloggers and I shared reading the community keynote — eight travel stories — with the excellent and funny Mike Barish (in the powder blue tux). Here are a few disorganized thoughts about the experience.
Ego: Let me get this bit of self aggrandizing out of the way first. It is truly an amazing thing to experience this: You introduce yourself to a room — “My name is Pam Mandel and I write a blog called Nerd’s Eye View” — and the room bursts into applause. I can not express how overwhelmed with gratitude I was at that moment. And I truly hope that you, fellow blogger, get to have that experience yourself one day. I’m still swooning a little. Moving on…
Noise: It’s no big secret that crowds make me uncomfortable. I don’t like loud rooms full of shouting people and a lot of TBEX was in a loud room full of shouting people. It was simply not possible to interact in an effective way during most of the conference free time. I’m also kind of dorky in a crowd so if you introduced yourself to me and I said something like, “OH! It’s nice to meet you!” and then floated away in a distracted manner, well, I’m sorry. Please, forgive me and promise me that when you come through Seattle (on your way to Vancouver, perhaps?) you will look me up. I adore meeting other travelbloggers, I love hearing about what you’re doing, and finding out what you know that I don’t, but I just can’t work a room. Email me, okay? I was chatting with Mike Yessis at the Australia lunch and he joked that I needed a private room with a sign up sheet for visits. He’s not far off, though I am no princess, no social snob. I just like to be able to converse in a space where I can hear you.
Stage Fright: I am now officially shutting the hell up about my stage fright issues. I was completely unworried during my panel, and while I was a little nervous at the beginning of the community keynote reading, about five minutes in I was just fine. If I stumbled on your words, I’m truly sorry. It wasn’t so much nerves as it was dehydration, the New York heat had baked me dry. For all of this, I own a big thanks to two things. The first, the remarkable Sheila Scarborough who seemed to think I’d be a good partner for a panel at SxSW last year and, yes, that’s right, the ukulele . Get one.
Storytelling: As for that reading, it was truly an honor to read your stories. Mike and I struggled over the selection process tremendously and while I’ve read the criticism (too long, wrong time of day, certain travelers not represented) I hope that, if nothing else, you were inspired by the amazing writing our fellow bloggers are doing.
Community: I still perceive myself as the bookish one in the corner, but it’s getting kind of crowded over here. When 300 people spring for a summer weekend in NYC, you can’t pretend you’re alone, not for a minute. Sure, you can divide the room in to mellow West coast types and East coasters in fancy shoes, or you could draw a line between the backpackers and the traveling moms or the how to crowd versus the narrative crowd (though being part of the puny narrative crowd, I think the how to folks will crush us). You could do that, but why would you? I have learned so much from the not-me bloggers in our community, and we seem to be free from the kind of competition that prevents us from sharing our skills in order to get ahead. I love that about travelbloggers. I like to think it’s an extension of our love for travel, we’re happy to help out a fellow wanderer in this new territory.
Face Time: I’m continually thrilled to find out that if I like you online, you’re about 900 times better in 3D. And it’s got nothing to do with you sharing my travel style, priorities, agenda. I like the traveling moms so much, even though I’m blissfully without kids. I haven’t really hauled a backpack since, oooo, I’m not saying, but those just-starting-out gap year folks are busting with infectious enthusiasm. While I’m most at home with the egg-headed word lovers, I’ve got a lot of respect for those who have put their minds to the business end of the stick. If I’ve taken a shine to who you are on the web, regardless of your pigeon hole, I want to hang out with you in person.You never disappoint me. Never. I love that about you.
Edges: Sure, I can sit in a hall and listen to people talk at me. If it’s entertaining and/or compelling, it’s time well spent, but it’s not, in itself, what makes me drag myself across the country. I keep showing up at these things because of the fairy dust around the edges. Quality time with Kelly Goodman and Lauren Braden in our Village digs. Crossing Manhattan with Spud Hilton and Mike Barish. Having a drink in that mostly empty bar with Kelly and Debbie Dubrow and Don George and Wendy Perrin. That quiet lunch with Corey Taratuta. Sitting on the floor with Eileen Smith and Dan Noll and Audrey Scott. Wandering around Soho with Ali Lemer. This is what I like, better than anything, about having so many great people in one place at one time: the opportunity to get to know you better on a small scale.
Inspiration: I overheard the remark “I’m really inspired to do [fill in the blank] now!” come out of all kinds of people, from people who are just starting out to the old school journalists who took time to find out what we upstarts are all about. “I need to learn more about [fill in the blank]!” “I want to work with you on [crazy mad project].” Ad infinitum. I’ve got a few new ideas myself, they’re rolling around in my brain like a marble I found in the garden, some of them collaborative, some of them solo, all of them inspired by something at TBEX.
Vancouver! I’m giddy about the selection of Vancouver for next year’s TBEX for a bunch of reasons. It’s just up the road, I don’t have to fly to get there. I love Vancouver, it’s a great place to travel. It’s close enough that you might consider showing up here in Seattle prior to or after your trip to Van-City, so there’s a good chance I’ll get to hang out with you — you’ll be in my backyard, almost. I can’t wait for the chance to hang out with you again. You’ll let me know when you’re getting into town, right? Right. Of course you will.