Why I’m Going to TBEX

by Brenna Holeman
With Other Travel Bloggers in Toronto (last year)
As many people involved in the travel blogging world may know, TBEX North America is kicking off this week in Toronto. Standing for Travel Blog Exchange, TBEX is, according to their website, “the largest gathering of travel bloggers, writers, and new media content creators”. There will be some incredible speakers this weekend, as well as over 1000 attendees. This year, I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time: I was heading to Toronto anyway, and I’d always wanted to attend a travel blogging/writing conference. I may as well attend the biggest, right?
But here’s where I have to be completely honest: I’ve done absolutely nothing in preparation for the conference. Perhaps this is unwise, but I a) don’t really know what I’m supposed to do anyway and b) don’t want to prepare a media kit or press package or whatever else I’ve read about online. Why? Because I’m not primarily going to TBEX to talk to companies. I’m going to TBEX to talk to you.
I’ve had a bit of inner turmoil over the past couple of years with regards to advertising and sponsored trips. I get a few emails a day inviting me to collaborate with companies, to post advertisements, or asking to write a sponsored article on this blog. And, with all due respect to the people who email, it just isn’t my thing. I didn’t create this blog to make money. I didn’t create this blog to get free trips. I didn’t create this blog for any reason other than I simply wanted a place to write about my travels and post some of the photos I take. It’s become a major part of my life, yes, and in the nearly 600 entries I’ve written and in the thousands of photos I’ve posted, I’ve found what I want to do with my life (or at least what I want to do for the next two years).
In the future (and the future may very well be this weekend at the conference), if I encounter a company or an individual that I’d really love to work with, I may decide to change how I’ve done things in the past. So far, though, the way I travel is much like the way I manage this blog: I jump all over the place, I do what I want, and I do it (almost exclusively) by myself. I’ve long maintained that if absolutely nobody read this blog, I would still write it exactly the same way I do now, advice articles and all. I like writing. I like taking photos. It boggles my mind that other people enjoy reading what I write and looking at the photos I’ve taken, but it is such an amazing bonus that I’ve had the chance to interact with so many cool people because of this website (including the lovely Oneika from Oneika the Traveller and Kisha from Chronicled, in the photo above). Whether we’ve met in person or simply connected online, it’s been so wonderful to have expanded my social network and had such an outpouring of support from all over the world.
So that goes back to why I’m attending TBEX this weekend, starting with a few activities on Friday (and Talk and Rock Toronto by MatadorU on Wednesday, if anyone else is going). I’m going because I want to make friends and chat with like-minded individuals about our favourite thing: travelling. It will be a great opportunity to meet other travel bloggers and to glean some writing tips from professionals. While I do have business cards, I don’t have a plan of attack or a pitch to present. I do, however, have a very open mind. So if you see me this weekend, please say hello. And if your pitch includes sharing a pint and swapping travel tales at one of the nighttime events, well then, that’s a pitch I definitely won’t turn down.
What about you? Are you going to TBEX? Why or why not?
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Spencer May 28, 2013 - 12:31 am

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Spencer May 28, 2013 - 12:41 am

Shucks. I’m so close to this! How have I never heard of it before. Hmmm. Might be able to make Saturday. Quizas I will see you there. Or perhaps I will just go to the one in Ireland!

This Battered Suitcase May 28, 2013 - 3:11 am

I think I might go to the one in Dublin, too!

Spencer June 3, 2013 - 1:09 am

I already have a buddy interested in the Dublin one. I cant wait! How was the one in Toronto?

This Battered Suitcase June 3, 2013 - 9:47 pm

I will write a post about it soon! In summary, though, it was awesome.

Nells May 28, 2013 - 1:30 am

It is still awesome though that you recognized throughout the travel blogging for doing what you love. This should be seen as a reward as you have delighted us with you colourful posts.

This Battered Suitcase May 28, 2013 - 3:11 am

Thank you so much! What a nice comment!

Colleen Brynn May 28, 2013 - 2:12 am

Why not? I will be in Europe!

This Battered Suitcase May 28, 2013 - 3:12 am

Have a great time in Europe!

Audrey Bergner May 28, 2013 - 5:25 am

I’d like to attend TBEX one day, it’s just that like you, I’ve never been around N America at the right time. However, I am pretty excited to be attending my first travel blogging and tourism conference in Bangkok next month. 😉 Have fun in TO!

This Battered Suitcase May 28, 2013 - 3:36 pm

Yes – this is the first year I’ve actually been in North America when it’s happening! I’m also hoping to attend in Dublin in October. The conference in Bangkok should be great!

Jay May 28, 2013 - 6:31 am

The entire section about making money via the blog spoke right to me. I’ve been getting so many offers lately which has led me to re-evaluate my position on the subject but something just isn’t sitting right with me and I’ve yet to receive a proposition that really fits me & my blog.

Enjoy TBEX and cheers to making connections over some great Canadian beers!

This Battered Suitcase May 28, 2013 - 3:38 pm

Totally – so many of the emails I get don’t fit with my blog AT ALL. Like, did you even glance at it?

Megan May 28, 2013 - 7:15 am

im pretty sure you and i are two of a kind here. id go to a conference if it came to oslo, but that is about it.

i get those offers daily too and it is just not for me. i kind of tried working with tourism boards for a while last year and realized very quickly that was not what i wanted to do with my blog, or the way i travel. i travel at my pace, to my destinations, doing the things i want to do. and im perfectly content with it.

cheers to someone else out there who blogs for the same reasons 🙂

enjoy tbex!

This Battered Suitcase May 28, 2013 - 3:39 pm

I’ve never tried to work with a tourism board, so I can’t say if it would be a good fit for me or not! I agree with you about the way you travel, though, I feel the same way.

Adina Marguerite Pease May 28, 2013 - 4:05 pm

I very much appreciate and relate to so much of what you’ve said here Brenna – and it’s also why I keep coming back to read about your adventures. I’ve attended a number of other blogging related conferences, but never a travel specific one – so I’d love to go to one to ‘find my people’. I wish I could be attending TBEX Toronto, but I’ve got a wedding to attend in Boston this week.

I’m crossing my fingers I’ll find a way to get myself to Dublin – I’ll probably be entering any kind of contest I can find to get myself there!

This Battered Suitcase May 29, 2013 - 3:49 pm

Thank you so much, Adina! I’m happy that you can relate to what I’ve written here. I will be sure to write about my experiences at TBEX this weekend – I hope you can make it to Dublin!

Ruth Dear May 28, 2013 - 9:23 pm

I love reading about all your adventures, and I really respect that you haven’t succumbed to writing about places just because a company have paid for you to go and experience it. I read a couple of other blogs who do sponsored trips, and although I still enjoy reading about their adventures, I do wonder if they would have visited the places they write about had they not got their trip for free. Maybe I’m too skeptical (and of course a little jealous) but I always think if I were writing about a trip I’d taken, all expenses paid, would I really write anything too negative about it? Kudos to those who’ve been successful enough to fund their travel lifestyle through they blog nevertheless!

I hope you enjoy the conference, and if the invitation to share a pint extends to when you’re back in London, I’m always available for that! 🙂

This Battered Suitcase May 29, 2013 - 3:50 pm

Yes, kudos indeed! I’m still not sure how I feel about sponsored trips, but, as I said in the post, if the right company came along I would certainly consider it.

I’ll be back in London in August so we should definitely connect!

Agness Walewinder May 29, 2013 - 6:13 am

I would love to attend it as well, but I got stuck in China and there is no way I can make it. Maybe next year. Have fun and I can’t wait to hear how you like it!

This Battered Suitcase May 29, 2013 - 3:49 pm

Thank you Agness! I hope you can make it next year, too!

Naomi May 29, 2013 - 6:19 am

Girl I feel you on this. At the last TBEX I felt like a lot of us first-time attendees were questioning how much we wanted to get into the business side of blogging, but I still think it’s perfectly fine for a blog to stay a creative outlet instead of constantly trying to monetise on it. If a blogger and sponsor can work out a partnership that both are excited about, then that’s awesome – but I still think it’s nice to focus on the creative side of sharing our stories and pictures, without the ‘cheap flights to Turkey’ hyperlinks everywhere 😉

Have fun at TBEX!! So wish I could go. You’ll love it 🙂

This Battered Suitcase May 29, 2013 - 3:51 pm

Yes, totally agree with what you’ve said here! I wish that you would be at TBEX too, it would be great to have a partner in crime. I’ll definitely let you know how it goes!

jamieleamiller May 29, 2013 - 8:39 pm

I just came across your blog a couple weeks ago after becoming interested in travel blogging and wanting to incorporate some travel features on my own site. I LOVE IT! I literally think an entire 48 hours of my life was devoted to reading tons of your past entries and I have been coming back for more almost daily since! You have an incredible voice and a very real outlook that is humorous and refreshing. Keep doing what you do girl, I love living vicariously through your adventures!

This Battered Suitcase May 30, 2013 - 5:37 pm

Wow, what an amazing comment! That really made my day, thank you so much for writing. I hope you will continue to keep reading – people like you inspire me to keep on travelling! Thanks again.

Rick Calvert May 29, 2013 - 10:22 pm

Thank you for spreading the word about TBEX with this post and your tweets Brenna. I am really glad you are joining us and would love to hear what you learn and think of the event after all the dust settles.

The beautiful thing about new media is that you can run your blog, podcast or video content however you like. You are the publisher, the editor and the writer. There is no one right way to do things.

If you don’t care about making money then don’t let anyone tell you that you should. There is nothing wrong with it, If you prefer to never work with sponsors or tourist boards.

By that same token as long as you are conducing yourself ethically and disclosing to your readers whenever you are getting paid for something, there isn’t anything wrong with that either.

TBEX was built for anyone who is passionate and serious about creating and sharing great travel content online.

Rick Calvert

This Battered Suitcase May 30, 2013 - 5:42 pm

Hi Rick, thank you very much for taking the time to read my thoughts on TBEX. I’m so excited to be a part of the conference and I can’t wait to talk to like-minded individuals. I agree with you completely regarding your statements on new media; thank you for reiterating that “there is no one right way to do things”.

As I said, I’m incredibly excited for all of the upcoming events and speakers. I’ll be sure to write more about my experience at TBEX! Thanks again for writing.


Rick Calvert June 3, 2013 - 4:13 am

Can’t wait to hear what you think of your experience when the dust settles Brenna.

This Battered Suitcase June 3, 2013 - 9:47 pm

Thank you, Rick, I will definitely write about it! In short, though, I had an amazing time and feel that I learned a lot from the conference. I made some great new contacts and some great new friends, and I’m strongly considering attending in Dublin.

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