9 Tips for Travel Bloggers with a Day Job

 

Today’s guest post is from Chris Christensen, speaker, blogger and podcaster.  He’ll be speaking on podcasting at TBEX Europe, but in his guest post today he talks about being a busy guy who also has a full time day job.  How does he balance it all and still keep his content fresh and engaging?  Even when he’s not traveling?  Here’s his story.

wall clockThe recent post on TBEX “4 Tips to Keeping A Travel Blog Going While Traveling” is not my problem. I have had a popular travel blog and podcast (Amateur Traveler) for over 7 years, but except for one 8 month break, I have had a full time job that entire time. What traveling I do, as well as what blogging and podcasting, has had to fit into nights, weekends and 3-4 weeks of vacation. For many bloggers, the end of their year long career break is the death of their travel blog, but that does not have to be the case. But, neither can your blog be unchanged.

Think like a Travel Editor

Make friends with a travel editor like Spud Hilton if you can and you will find that most of the time they are doing a normal commute to an office. I am not talking about the travel journalist who hasn’t been to his hometown since the Carter administration, but the guy who gets out the travel section every week or the travel magazine every month. How do they do it?

1) It’s not about your trip

One of the things that Spud will remind you about traditional travel writing is that the story is not about your trip but about the trip that the reader might take. So while the fun part about being a travel blogger or writer is the actual travel, any time you can provide a valuable service for the future traveler you can build a readership (or in my case a listening audience).  After starting the Amateur Traveler podcast I quickly learned that I was going to run out of travel stories since I was traveling about 4 weeks a year and publishing an episode about 48 weeks a year. The solution for me was interviews. Sometimes travel writers get on the phone and talk to someone about a destination. Of course the quality of your content can only be as good as the quality of your sources.

2) It does not always have to be your voice

The most popular style of travel blog is a single author blog. The closest analogy in traditional journalism would be a columnist. You always get the same style and sense of humor. You always know what you are going to get. But clearly, that is not the only model. Magazines and newspapers have for years been using multiple authors, some regular authors, and freelancers. They then use editors to maintain a consistent style or consistent quality standards. Purists will say that this is not a blog. Let them. But remember that there are dangers in this path. Getting other people to offer to give you “free” or affordable content is not so difficult as you might think. At Amateur Traveler I am probably pitched a dozen or two dozen articles a week. Most of these are crap. Some of these are crap that someone would actually pay me to put up on the site. Think like a travel editor. Don’t lose long term readers for short term gain. It is still your site. If you don’t like the article, don’t publish it.

Think Like a Road Warrior

Not all day jobs tie you to a desk. My last job as a Director of Engineering at TripAdvisor had a 2700 mile commute. It was not easy to get hired to manage a group remotely, but once I was, remote in San Jose looks pretty much like remote in Long Beach. My wife had a training class in Southern California and I tagged along. I still had to put in a full day’s work but in the evenings I was enjoying the nightlife and taking pictures for my blog. If your job is on an automobile assembly line they will probably not let you take work home, but if you are knowledge worker you might be able to negotiate some flexibility. My manager is working remotely next week from Maui.

If you travel for work, can you write about business travel? Can you leverage business travel to create content. You may have noticed more content from Boston on the Amateur Traveler over the last 2 years. TripAdvisor was paying for me to travel to Boston one week a month. Sometimes I was able to get out of the office in the evenings or stay an extra weekend. This gave me a great chance to explore a second home base.

Think Like a Hoarder

When you travel constantly you can write about what you saw today. When you travel less often save up and spread out your content. There is a shelf life for your content but most destinations don’t change so much in a year or two that you have to write all your posts now. But, you do have to either keep good notes or write your articles and schedule them. Think about an editorial calendar. When can you get the most leverage for your articles?

Think Like a Collaborator

So you don’t travel every week, but maybe if you created a site with 2 or 3 other reliable partners you could more easily create a steady stream of content. The dangers here are what you do with your spoils when things work well. How will you split up any revenue or opportunities. How will you deal with problems when things go poorly. Will there be a minimum number of posts that each person has to write? If things don’t work out, how will you dissolve your partnership? Who gets the URL? Decide those things in advance as much as possible.

Think Like a Teacher

You don’t have to take pictures of the Eiffel Tower every day to write about how people can take better pictures of the Eiffel Tower. You don’t need to pack your bag every day to teach a novice how to pack better. What skills have you picked up from travel that you could teach? Do you know how to book travel? Do you know how to learn a language? Do you know how to get a visa or renew a passport? All of these skills can be turned into useful articles, videos or podcasts.

Think Like a Local

Do you live someplace where people either do want to travel or should want to travel? Your local tourism board might be looking for someone just like you to help spread the word about your home town or about destinations that you can reach on a weekend excursion. I happen to live near San Francisco. You better bet that you can find pictures, walking tours, shopping advice and other information about the city by the bay on my site.

Think Like a Professional

Make a plan. Go through the categories in this article and come up with 3 blog post ideas for each. Then come up with your own categories. What did I miss?

Author bio: Chris Christensen is the host of the Amateur Traveler, a popular online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations. It includes a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog. By day he works at PayNearMe.com where they create products to help people without credit or debit cards pay for things. Chris was formerly the Director of Engineering for TripAdvisor’s New Initiatives group, the EVP Engineering at LiveWorld which runs online communities like those for eBay, HBO, and American Express, and a Software Manager at Apple, Momenta (pen computing) and HP. 

Photo credit:  SXC

Competing with Astronauts

 

Do you think you have an interesting travel adventure to tell?  A story that’s sure to captivate your readers all around the world?  Today’s guest post from speaker Pam Mandel tells you why your adventure isn’t all that special.  And tells you what you can do about it.

 

blue moon

We go places. We write some things down. We think that our experience matters, that what we write matters. I wanted to write about this idea. About this vanity and how we have to make people care with our writing, we can’t just assume they care by default. But I set the idea aside, because I was feeling snarky. I try to do this when I’m feeling snarky, so I turned off the computer and went to dinner with my husband.

Then, I was distracted by Neil Armstrong.

We had walked home from the neighborhood fish and chip shop. I shot some pictures in the golden hour light with my phone and turned around to see a nearly full moon in the pale blue sky. “I wonder if he’s there,” I said to my husband, “now that he doesn’t need his body to travel anymore.” “There’s a memorial for him on the date of the blue moon, the 30th, I think,” the husband answered. A blue moon is when there are two full moons in one month. It’s a rare occurrence, hence the phrase “Once in a blue moon.”

Once in a blue moon, a man will get into a tiny tin can strapped to a rocket and go barreling through space. He will stand on a dusty rock and look back at the earth, a tiny blue marble from his vantage point. And then, he will return home again. I forgot about being snarky and thought about Neil Armstrong instead.

His travels blow my mind. All these years after the fact, after the romance of space travel has faded and gloriously revived with the landing of the Mars Rover, it blows my freaking mind. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, for the love of god, and I think it was a big deal that I went trekking in Ladakh? What is the matter with me?

I am surprised at how sad I feel at Neil Armstrong’s death. I think he is the greatest traveler for my lifetime. What modern traveler can surpass Neil Armstrong? Imagine what he must have felt — the first person to step foot on the moon, knowing, unequivocally, that not one single human had been there before. Imagine turning around and seeing your footprints behind you on the surface of a previously untouched ball of rock. Armstrong’s steps, those first indentations, one foot, then the other, on a place unknown…the bottom of his boots hitting that same pale silvery globe hanging in the late summer sky. Oh.

The responsibility of being that first person is almost too much to bear. You must take it all in; you must look, hard, twice, three times, and remember everything. You must think about the awkward climb down the ladder and the puff of dust released into the atmosphere when your boots, one, and then the other, hit the ground. You must not only embrace this moment of discovery, the moment when you turn and look across the horizon back to the black sky from whence you arrived, but you must hold on to the idea of “This is what it feels like. This is what it feels like to be here, right now.”

According to the International Antarctic Association of Tour Operators, in the 2010-2011 season, 33,824 tourists visited Antarctica. Some of them blogged about it; some of them will be at TBEX. Now, the world is such that you can now be in a place with multiple bloggers who have traveled to Antarctica! And you could be heading to the seventh continent yourself — it’s only a question of expense now, not logistics. But it is not enough to have gone to Antarctica. You must be your own Earnest Shackleton, another great traveler, and take your crew there and back again. To demand the attention of an easily distracted readership, one that is choosing between your post and a photo of a kitten with a clever caption, you have to find the story and write it until your readers are there with you.

Shackleton was filled with awe. Between the dull factoids about his ship and his crew, his journal, South, is full of poetry. “I seemed to vow to myself that some day I would go to the region of ice and snow and go on and on till I came to one of the poles of the earth, the end of the axis upon which this great round ball turns.” What a story he tells; I shook my head at every twist and turn. And Armstrong, he went to the moon! “It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” These great travelers picked their words and told their stories and made us care, so completely, about their adventures.

As modern day travelers, travelers with our own mini media empires, we like to delude ourselves that we are important, that we are seeing these places differently than the thousands of others who have been there before us. My Paris. My Honolulu. My Bangkok. But we are not Neil Armstrong, our trips are exceptional only to those who know us and care. Angkor Wat is full of tourists who look just like our neighbors. Our shadows cast the same shapes on to the deserts of Jordan. The penguins are bored with our presence as we tumble out of zodiacs on to Antarctica’s rocky ice. We go places. We write some things down. We think that our experience matters, that what we write matters.

But it doesn’t matter, our presence is not enough. We’re not Shackleton or Armstrong, so we need to work a lot harder to make our readers care. I’ve made any number of people mad at me by suggesting they take a writing class, as though this was an insult. What they often ignore is that I follow that remark with the statement that taking a writing class — a basic composition class, not a travel writing class — is the single most effective thing I have done for my career. Great adventurers during the golden age of exploration did not have to rely on their prose to gain attention, the fact that they had encountered an elephant or found Livingstone was enough. We don’t have that luxury. Someone has been there before us, our adventures are in reruns. We have a joke at my house. I’ll say something like, “I’m going on safari, I’m going to see lions,” and my husband will say, “That’s cool, but I’ve seen that on TV.”

Before I left my house for that walk, that snark reducing walk,  I had written these words: I don’t care about your trip. I’m happy for you and I’m glad you’re blogging about it, writing is good for your brain and your mom (or cousin or college roomie) will be glad when you check in alive from the riotous streets of Cairo or after that week you spent in the South African bush. Bully for you. But if you want me to pay attention, really pay attention, you’re going to have to learn to write, to really write. It is all you have. It is all we have.

Don’t believe me? Look at the sky and consider the competition.

Author bio:  Pam Mandel writes Nerd’s Eye View, a blog that’s mostly about travel.  She’s presenting How to Tell a Creative Story at TBEX Girona with Will Peach.

Photo credit:  Josué Cedeño via wikimedia commons

Don’t Miss These Photo-worthy Spots in Costa Brava

 

Today’s guest post is from Kirsten Alana, one of the speakers for this month’s TBEX Europe.  Kirsten, who has been a speaker at previous TBEX events, will be co-presenting on a session titled “How to Effectively Use Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+” focusing on Instagram, her area of expertise.

Kirsten’s guest post is not just about photographing the beauty of Costa Brava – but about using Instagram to do so. All of the photos featured in this piece are from Kirsten’s Instagram feed.

©KirstenAlana

If you’re attending TBEX in Girona, the chances are you have some desire to explore Spain beyond the walls of the conference center! I’m a TBEX panelist discussing photography so my interest generally lies in what looks good on camera. What a shocker, right?!

Since I’ve been to Costa Brava before, I wanted to share with you a few of the spots that I believe are too beautiful to miss. Hopefully, this list will help you plan your trip or just inspire you as to how beautiful a region it is.

Barcelona – The Works of Gaudí

You’re probably arriving to Spain via this city. Usually, I’m the first to tell people they should steer clear of cliches. However, the designs of Antoni Gaudí are definitely an exception worth making. From la Sagrada Familia to Park Güell to Casa Milà, make sure you reserve time to photograph his work before you move on from Barcelona.

 

©KirstenAlana

©KirstenAlana

Lloret de Mar – Jardins de Santa Clotilde

This formal garden which sits high above the Mediterranean is overflowing with photo-worthy corners and jaw-dropping vistas. Of course, the turquoise sea that is the backdrop to the gardens certainly doesn’t lessen its magnetism.

©KirstenAlana

©KirstenAlana

Palamós – Rent a Boat

The Mediterranean coast around Palamós is filled with little coves and beaches which are best accessed by boat. Get out on the water and enjoy how the deep blue of the sea in this area accents the gray cliffs, verdant nature and bright white homes. From sunrise to sunset there will be no shortage of moments to memorialize on “film”.

©KirstenAlana

©KirstenAlana

Palafrugell – El Far Hotel & Restaurant

The food at this cliff top hotel is just fantastic but it’s the view that I will always remember. The building that both restaurant and hotel are housed in seems to exist on the very edge of the world. Your eye moves from the whitewashed building’s surface to the deep blue of the ocean without a break in between and there’s some kind of serenity found there. Whether you stay at the hotel or just stop by for a meal and a few photographs, don’t miss this spot. There’s also an old chapel and Roman ruins on the property, in case the pot needs even more sweetening.

©KirstenAlana

Girona – Pont de Ferro

Designed by Gustave Eiffel, the red bridge of Girona is a well known landmark in the city. It makes for a pretty backdrop, it serves well as a standalone subject and it is painted a color that never fails to pop a little life into color photographs, particularly on blue sky days.

©KirstenAlana

Also of note in Girona is the Lioness statue. Ask someone to photograph you while kissing its bottom, rumor has it you will then be destined to return to Costa Brava! I can’t make you any promises but I tried it and then I was asked to return…

courtesy of CostaBravaPirineu on Instagram

[stextbox id=”info” caption=”Kirsten Asks:”]Have you been to Costa Brava before? Do you have favorite places I didn’t list? I’d love to know about them since I haven’t yet been everywhere there is to explore. And if I can help you with any tips or tricks relating to photography, please don’t hesitate to approach me during the conference. I look forward to meeting you in Girona![/stextbox]

Author bio:  Kirsten Alana is a professional photographer, writer, teacher and social media consultant. She has worked with brands like AOL, Expedia and Beck’s Beer; co-hosted #ExpChat, #TNI and #FriFotos on twitter; as well as been on-air talent for commercials and travel shows on networks like CNN and AMC. She enjoys teaching photography and talking about its important role in our increasingly social society at conferences all over the world.

How People Can Bring Your Blog Posts to Life

 

Today we have a guest post from Michael Turtle, one of our speakers for TBEX Europe.  Michael has a journalism background, and will be joining with fellow journalist Chris Gray Faust, in a session titled Travel Writing 101:  Writing the Creative Service Piece.

Here’s what Michael has to say about why you should incorporate interviews and interviewing techniques into your travel writing.

Emilia_Romagna

“Today I went to see the pyramids. I’d always wanted to visit them, ever since I first saw a picture of them as a child. They were much bigger than I expected and it was a really great experience.”

Ok, pretty boring, right? But sadly this is how too many travel stories online sound. As a writer, it’s much easier to say what’s on the top of your mind, rather than consider what a reader wants to hear. Making the extra effort to write engaging content will be better for your blog in the long run, though.

Often it helps to think like a journalist. Not in the sense of where you’re going to get a beer after your story is filed (although that’s not necessarily a bad thing) but about the elements and structure that will best illustrate the point you’re trying to make.

We’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves, though (not a good thing to do as a writer) because one of the most important things to work out first is what your point is. In the journalism game, this is called your angle or your hook and basically it’s a matter of answering the question “what will interest someone enough to read this story?”  Once you know that, the hardest part is done. During my years writing stories for television and radio stations, the easiest assignments were always the ones where I knew what I wanted to say.

It’s then a matter of collecting the elements of your story and putting them together in a compelling way. I just want to talk about one of those elements now – interviews. This will be one of the main focuses of the session I’m co-presenting with Chris Gray Faust at TBEX in Girona, Spain, in September.

Look at it this way: the world as we know it is made up of people. It’s their creations, their interactions, their opinions, and their traditions which are such an important part of the fabric of society. And it’s from people that the best stories of humankind have been told. Can you think of a good novel that had no people and was just about a landscape or a building? No… didn’t think so.

New_OrleansSo injecting some characters into your stories is a really straightforward way to bring them to life. While you’re travelling you could do quick and easy interviews with people you meet along the way – or you could arrange some more formal ones in advance or once you’re at a location. It doesn’t really matter how you do it, as long as it helps you with your angle.

I’m not going to go into the best techniques for interviews right now (because it would be really embarrassing if you didn’t come to my session because you thought you’d learnt enough) except to say that it’s actually quite easy once you know the basics. The key is tailoring your interviewing style to the situation. In my former job (back when I actually had an income) I would interview a movie star one day, homeless drug addicts the next, and the Prime Minister the next. As you’d expect, each required a slightly different approach… but also had plenty of common elements.

The best thing about interviews is that the quotes you get from people are quite malleable – if you’ve done well with the chat then you can use them in any type of story to achieve a wide range of effects. Not that I want to force you read my own site (heaven knows that travel bloggers NEVER want to do that), I thought it would be helpful if I pointed to a couple of examples.

  • If you get a great interview with a really interesting character, often that’s enough for a story in itself. Readers are fascinated with the lives of other people – especially if they come from a foreign culture or have led a unique lifestyle. That’s just what I found when I interviewed the world’s oldest backpacker.
  • Often you can leave the best storytelling to the characters in your post by choosing good quotes from their interviews. They usually know the topic better than you so it’s a nice idea to let them explain the information and you can fill in the context and the details needed to link everything together. As you’ll see in this story about the destruction of Paraguay’s forests, it can also add a personal touch to a potentially dry issue.
  • Sometimes you’ll do interviews with representatives of organisations or with individuals who are central to your story. But a useful technique to create a sense of place is to get quotes from people on the streets who can speak for a whole community – or give you a range of differing views on one topic. This story about the state of the Greek economic crisis used tourism workers to paint a picture of the effects on the industry.

ParaguayAs I mentioned, there are a few elements you can use to spice up the writing on your blog. Why not just start with one, though. Perhaps try putting some interviews into some future posts and see how your regular readers respond. Remember: it’s all about people, not you.

Author bio: Michael Turtle used to spend his days as a journalist interviewing people and telling their stories on Australian radio and television. Now he’s travelling the globe indefinitely, sharing the things he finds on his blog Time Travel Turtle.

Photo credits:  Courtesy of the author

TBEX Europe Speaker: Will Peach

 

In the fun and excitement of TBEX 12 in Keystone we heard rumblings of someone trash talking us.  We heard this travel bloggers had made a list of 5 things he’d rather be doing than be at TBEX.  We heard he was blasting travel bloggers, poking fun at people he thought were getting too big for their britches, and saying that he’d rather be traveling than sitting in a conference room.  It seemed like travel bloggers were afraid to mention him to us – hey, we are not that thin skinned.  If you don’t like what we’re doing we want to hear why.  It’s how we change, and grow, and continue to provide a quality conference to travel bloggers and the travel industry.

So who was this smack-talking travel blogger?  We had to find out.  Turns out it’s the Gonzo Traveler, Will Peach.  We read his post about TBEX and started clicking through to read more.  We weren’t offended – how can you be offended by someone who says, “I’m poor and have no friends”  and “I’d rather be at a conference than read what I have to say” – we laughed and were entertained by his original writing, strong voice, and edgy irreverent nature.  We decided we needed to get this guy to be a speaker at the next TBEX.

And we did.

It turns out that Will has writing cred behind his edgy persona.  And we like that.  So we paired him up with an equally strong writing voice, albeit of a different nature, Pam Mandel.  The two of them are creating a workshop designed to help travel bloggers tell a better travel story.  Regardless of your voice, style, or travel blogging niche, we think How to Tell a Creative Travel Story will help you create better work.

And hey – let’s talk to Will after the conference and see if he still “has no friends.”

Photo credit:  Provided by Will Peach

What a Difference a Year Makes: 5 Reasons I’m Going Back to TBEX

There are probably as many reasons to go to TBEX as there are people going.

Today’s Guest Post from speaker Tracey Friley explains that what she expected from TBEX and what she got out of TBEX are two different things.  Different in the very best way possible!

—-

Tracey Friley
Tracey with a new TBEX friend

TBEX was the first travel blogging conference I ever attended. In fact, it was just last year in June 2011 in lovely – and I do mean lovely – Vancouver, Canada. Touted as the biggest travel blogging conference in the world, I thought it would be (1) cool to hang out in Vancouver; and (2) cool smart to go to a conference I’d never been to. A lifelong traveler, I had just a few months prior won a national travel writing award and wasn’t sure how or if I wanted to formally fit travel into my brand and onto my blog. So off to Vancouver I went…with no strategy in mind and with no idea of what to expect.

Funny how one little conference can change your life. Read > Never in a Million Years.

So here we are just about one year later and I feel like this is an anniversary of sorts; TBEX is coming up again…and this time with new owners. Boy oh boy. What a difference a year makes. Not only did my global awareness initiative for pre-teen girls receive full funding from Expedia as a result of being in the right place at the right time (TBEX11), but I’m speaking more, my visibility has increased, and yes, so have the opportunities. And you can’t beat that with a stick.

Needless to say, I’m a TBEX advocate and plan to go again this year…and let me tell you why:

  1. Because of the opportunities. I should reiterate that I did not go to TBEX with a plan or strategy last year and there are loads of folks that will tell you that isn’t the best way to take on a conference. (For the record, however, I always have a plan for my business that I’m able to regurgitate on cue.) But my personal truth is that any small successes I’ve had have occurred because there was an opportunity that presented itself and I acted on it authentically. I didn’t push or insinuate myself in any situations. I just sat back and waited for the right opportunity to show up…and boy did it ever. And because with each passing year TBEX gets better, it only makes sense that the opportunities will get better as well.
  2. Because of the tips. Face it; you don’t need anyone to tell you how to blog, but you might need some tips to take your blog/business to that next level everyone says we should aim for. With more than 35 speakers at TBEX this year, surely you’ll glean something you can take home and use. You know what I mean: That one nugget of wisdom that changes your entire view about your brand that you can’t wait to get home to implement. I just love it when that happens.
  3. Because of the people. There is something to be said for spending time with like-minded people; people with wanderlust and tons of travel stories to share and destinations to dream about. And while I showed up solo last year (my typical MO) and some random dude told me I should change my brand name to something other than OneBrownGirl *snort*, I met some really nice people that I’m still in touch with today.
  4. Because of the location. I have participated in my fair share of seasonal outdoor activities and sports, but I have never been to Keystone, Colorado and I’m looking forward to checking out this part of America’s Great Outdoors. There’s even a super cool road rally that will take attendees from Denver to Keystone that will highlight many local points of interest. Of course, you can make this adventure anything you want it to be. I’ve decided to go to at least one of the pre-trip Denver activities at the Denver Art Museum – Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective, and will spend the week prior to TBEX in Denver at The Brown Palace Hotel and Spa (they’re hosting The Denver Passport Party), and look forward to the spa treatments getting to know the city better as well. *Grin*
  5. Because travel dreams can come true. Sitting back and not showing up is not an option if you want your travel dreams realized…no matter what they might be. And while there are no guarantees that you’ll end up with the Golden Ticket, you’ve got to be in it to win it. IMHO: If I were you, I would take my chances.

Look. In my view, TBEX is the place to be this June. Whether you go to forge relationships with PR firms, with other bloggers, or directly with brands; or whether you are there to learn about the host cities or get specific tips and feedback from speakers, I can’t think of another place in the US that focuses on the travel blogging community in this way.

I’m going. Are you?

TBEX Changed My Life: A 21st Century Love Story

Everyone loves a good love story, and when it involves travel it’s even better.  This guest post from Stephanie Yoder explains why.  And how.

TBEX2010Keystone in June will be my third time at TBEX. I’m becoming quite the veteran. I’m sure it will be an awesome event, as it was last year in Vancouver, but the truth is that neither of them could ever live up to my favorite TBEX. That’s because my first year, in New York, is when I met Michael.

They always say meeting the right guy will happen when you least suspect it, but in my case it was more like “it will happen when you’ve already definitely decided it’s not going to, not for few years at least, stop bugging me everybody.” I was planning to quit my job and travel around Asia, my travel blog was picking up in popularity and boys were absolutely the last thing on my mind.

In true blogger fashion, it all started on Twitter. While procrastinating one day I started chatting about travel budgets with some guy who had a blog called Art of Backpacking. After some playful back and forth banter (Twitter flirting? Is that a thing?) he sent me a Facebook friend request. “Wow, that guy is actually pretty cute,” I commented to a friend before promptly putting it out of my mind.

This was a couple of weeks before TBEX 2010 in New York City. It was to be my first major professional event and I was extremely intimidated at the idea of being around so many people that I felt connected to yet had never actually met. In a few darker moments of doubt I considered not going, but by the time I arrived and was sipping cocktails at the Thursday night PRE-BEX event I was glad I’d braved it. Everyone was so nice and so friendly.

That evening, at an Irish bar in Midtown, I finally met the cute boy from Twitter. He was tall with a mess of curly hair and really cute glasses (I have a weakness for glasses). He greeted me with a huge smile and a hug. Then he bought me a beer. And that was that. By the end of the weekend we were inseparable.

The stars weren’t perfectly aligned:  He was headed to China to teach English for a year, and I had my own travel plans but it didn’t seem to matter. I just wanted to be close to this guy. The very next weekend he came down to DC to see me. Shortly after that I changed my flight itinerary to pay him a visit in Xi’an.

UruguayThat was two years ago. Two years of traipsing around China, Thailand, Colombia and more with my new favorite travel companion. We’ve been white water rafting in Ecuador, wine tasting in Argentina and eaten our way through Vietnam. We share a love of exploring new places, meeting new people and the endless possibilities that travel brings. And eating, we both really, really love eating.

Sometimes I joke that I’m only dating Michael for the tech support, but in truth dating another travel blogger has all kinds of awesome perks. He helps me when my site goes down and I proofread his articles. We both understand the crucial importance of free wifi and that all food must be photographed before eating. We look at new sights with two different perspectives and our work often overlaps in fun ways. We inspire each other.

I will admit that sometimes it feels a bit nerdy to tell people that we met “at a travel blogger convention.” Everyone loves it though, and as a result TBEX will always hold a special place in our hearts. We’ve both made so many great friends and connections via the conference and learned so many things.

Through TBEX we haven’t just found each other, we’ve found a true support community.

Plus, it makes it hard to forget our anniversary!

Photos courtesy of the author

Stephanie Yoder is a girl who can’t sit still! She writes about Generation Y Travel on her website Twenty-Something Travel and tweets @20sTravel. She is speaking at TBEX Keystone.