Over the years I’ve attended many conferences and workshops, mainly for work. Rarely do I attend for personal interests, but when I do, I use the conferences to prove to myself that whatever I’m doing or trying will work. When LaShon and I talked about starting this blog, we both thought attending a travel conference would be a great opportunity to learn about the business of travel blogging from people who are doing it.
We’ve shied away from doing a travel blog because we look nothing like the images we’ve seen of young, carefree, unencumbered travel bloggers. We have kids. And jobs. And a mortgage. We can’t just go when we feel like it, for as long as we like. Our lives aren’t set up like that. But, now that our countdown clock is ticking and our youngest child will head to college soon (#NoGapYear), we decided to revisit travel blogging.
In doing our research, we found a travel conference called TravelCon, being held in Austin. The name says it all. The workshops/sessions ran the gamut from setting up your WordPress blog to how to work with brands. Matthew Kepnes of Nomadic Matt, who has been in the industry for more than a decade, organized the conference.
We decided I would go since my schedule allows me the flexibility to take a week off better than LaShon’s, plus our daughter was still in school. I registered for the conference and the discount traveler in me went to work. I used some of my Delta SkyMiles to get a ticket for $11.20 and 16,000 miles. The conference hotel was a Marriott property so I used my Marriott points for one night and paid the conference price for the other two nights. Since LaShon couldn’t attend the conference in person, we bought the virtual pass, which consists of videos of the sessions for her to review. With the cost of the conference out of the way I could concentrate on what I needed to learn at the conference.
Austin is a great town so it was a perfect spot for this conference. The first night they had a pre-conference party at a local saloon. It was about 2 miles from the hotel. I thought about taking an Uber or Lyft, but Austin has electric scooters all over the city so I grabbed one and scooted over to the bar. It was my first time riding one and it was fun, but my six foot, two hundred eighty-pound frame had me literally “kicking it” old school going up hills. I made it, no problem, and met a bunch of people who came to the conference, like me. Remember the image I had of travel bloggers all being young and carefree? Well that night I met travel bloggers who were different in every way. I met young bloggers and not-so-young bloggers, singles and couples, gay and straight, all races and sizes. It was a come-as-you-are-and-do-you crowd.
The conference started the next morning so I left early to rest and get my mind right. I needed it because I learned so much that I thought my head would explode. The speakers were as diverse as the attendees. The atmosphere was one of caring and sharing. Information flowed freely and I had as many answers to as many questions I could ask. I met and talked to all of the bloggers I knew and the ones I didn’t someone was always willing to make an introduction. More than 600 people attended the conference and everyone had their own niche, which was cool. There’s a saying in the industry about finding your tribe and I definitely found mine!
The second and third days did not disappoint. More information and more fellow travel bloggers to meet. By the end of the last day, I was exhausted but in a good way. With all that information, I had a moment of what do I do first? How do I get LaShon to be as excited as I am? How do I make this work? But after a scooter ride around the city to clear my mind, I remembered a constant theme that ran through the whole conference: Just do the fucking work! If this is the life you want… just do the fucking work to get it. So here I am, 2 weeks later, with my mind ready and my head down doing the fucking work.