Sign up for TBEX Cancun Tours & Excursions


It’s been in the works for awhile now, and today we are excited to announce the first group of PRE-BEX Cancun trips and excursions are available for sign up. These trips are available to all TBEX attendees – both bloggers and industry attendees – on a first come, first served basis.

There are 342 spots for sign ups so far, ranging from evening trips to Xoximilco Cancun to all day trips to Xcaret and Explor, to a tour of Xenotes, to animal and acquarium experiences.

And we’re not done yet!

As we were getting these PRE-BEX trips and excursions ready for sign ups, another group came in. We didn’t want to wait on getting these out to you; we know how important it is for you to coordinate your travel plans. Let’s just say that there are a lot more adventures to choose from, both before and after TBEX Cancun.

Now, here are a few things you should know about the sign up process:

  • Tour sign ups are located at the bottom of the PRE-BEX tour page.
  • Only registered conference attendees can sign up for tours, one tour per person before TBEX and one after. If you’re not registered yet, go here and take care of that first.
  • You must sign up with the same email address used as when you registered for TBEX Cancun. This is so we can verify that you are registered.
  • All tours are on a first come, first served basis
  • A few tours allow a +1 guest at a discounted price. If that option is available, the price will be specified. If it’s not specified, there is no +1 option. Information about how to pay for your +1, along with detailed meeting and departure information, will be published closer to the event.
  • The page will be updated as more tours become available, be sure to check back regularly.
  • TBEX Cancun FAM trips will be published separately and we’ll let you know just as soon as they are available.

Now go take a look at some of the fun you’re going to have in Cancun.

NOTE:  We’ll have information about the TBEX Athens trips and excursions in the next few days.

Announcing TBEX Athens Speakers



We’re very excited to announce the first group of speakers for TBEX Europe 2014 in Athens, Greece. There were a lot of great submissions, and we’re still reviewing many of them, but we didn’t want to wait any longer to share our excitement in welcoming these travel and tourism experts to the TBEX stage.

Bret Love

Bret Love is the co-founder of Green Global Travel, an ecotourism/conservation-focused blog that has ranked amongst the Top 30 Travel Blogs in the World since 2012. A veteran writer/editor with more than 20 years in publishing, Bret’s expertise on branding and content management has made him increasingly in-demand as a consultant for travel bloggers and travel companies such as the Adventure Collection and International Expeditions. He’s also the co-organizer of Atlanta Travel Massive, and has served as a guest speaker for the American Society of Journalists & Authors.

Bret will be speaking on Branding.

David Farley

David Farley is the author of “An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church’s Strangest Relic in Italy’s Oddest Town” (Penguin, 2010) which was recently made into a documentary by National Geographic. He’s a Contributing Writer at AFAR magazine and his work appears in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Bon Appetit, and National Geographic Traveler. He teaches writing at New York University.

Farley will be leading our writing workshop as well as speaking on Freelancing.

Jennifer Dombrowski

Jennifer Dombrowski is a location independent globe trotter and bases herself in Prata di Pordenone, Italy. She works as a social media and communications strategist in higher education and is an award-winning travel writer. She is also a travel correspondent on Traveling on the American Forces Radio Network and has been featured by top publications such as Huffington Post, CNN, USA Today, and Travel + Leisure.

Jennifer will be speaking on Social Media Strategy.

Katie Hammel

Katie Hammel is the Senior Travel Editor at, where she manages a team of more than 30 writers who contribute to and Viator’s blog. She also manages the company’s work with bloggers and its blogger ambassador program. Her freelance writing has been published on BBC Travel,, AOL Travel, the San Francisco Chronicle, New York Daily News, and others.

Katie will be speaking on Blogger-Brand Partnerships.

Kerwin McKenzie

Kerwin is an ex-airline employee who’s visited 109 countries/territories and flies 250,000-300,000 miles each year. He provides travel solutions for travelers, primarily airline staff. He will help you to make your travel dreams come true. He also helps travel bloggers to improve their online presence.

Kerwin will be speaking on Networking.

Laurel Robbins

Laurel’s first and foremost an entrepreneur running three companies:  Monkeys and Mountains, an award-winning travel blog, providing online courses in social media time optimization and Twitter, and most recently, she is the co-founder of BigSisterSummit, a European women’s entrepreneurship conference. An avid hiker, this cat-loving Canadian lives in Germany.

Laurel will be speaking about Twitter.

Ric Dragon

Ric Dragon is the co-founder and CEO of DragonSearch, a digital marketing agency. His is the author of Social Marketology and the DragonSearch Online Marketing Manual, both published by McGraw Hill, as well as a regular columnist for Social Media Today and Marketing Land. Dragon has been a keynote and featured speaker at over 100 industry conferences and events.

Ric will be speaking in our Industry track.

Zaid Al-Qassab

Zaid is the Chief Marketing Officer for HouseTrip, joining the company in January 2014, after almost 20 years with Procter & Gamble where he was Director of the company’s £1Bn Beauty & Grooming division including such brands as Gillette, Olay, Pantene & Max Factor. He’s also a passionate charity advocate and works with men’s health charity Movember as a special advisor.  A graduate in PPE from Merton College, Oxford, Zaid lives with his wife and two children in Surrey, England where he cultivates his intriguing facial hair designs.

Zaid will be speaking on Why Brands Need Bloggers.

More to Come

We’re still reviewing and processing speaker submissions (so if you haven’t heard from us, your submission is still under consideration) and will have additional speaker announcements next week.

Curious about Cancun speakers? We’ll have our first announcement of speakers for TBEX North America 2014 in Cancun later this week.


Tips for Managing Your Stress at TBEX


Hello fellow bloggers and TBEX-ers! Are you excited for the two upcoming TBEX events this Fall?

A blogger myself, I attended the TBEX event in Ireland last October. I prepared a lot and I learned even more. While TBEX is so exciting, it can be nerve-wracking too.

Angelica Wilk at Guinness Storehouse, TBEX Dublin

Angelica Wilk at Guinness Storehouse, TBEX Dublin

Some things I experienced throughout and after the conference were emotions I had not previously felt in such a setting:  anxiety to speak to the big name bloggers, nervousness about the speed-dating session, and even some loss of motivation and fear of rejection.

I’m a social worker so why did I sometimes feel so mentally unstable?

Easy answer:  It’s normal! Especially for your first TBEX conference. It’s something new, there a lot of people to meet, and you don’t go there to sit and not take part. You go there to take advantage of as much as possible.Some people feel that way every time, even if they’ve been coming to TBEX for years.

Preparing and taking notice of your thoughts throughout TBEX may help you change the direction of your weekend. Here’s some ways to take care of your mental health while you’re at TBEX:

Anxiety – Think of going to TBEX this way:  you’ve already bought your ticket, now you’ve arrived, what have you got to lose? There are lots of other new bloggers. You will not be the only “newbie” and for sure will not be the only one feeling anxious. If you’re feeling anxious, you can reduce it with this simple trick:  take a few breaths, smile, look up into the sky/ceiling, and keep going.

Don’t let anxiety hold you back from talking to as many people as possible. Go up to a stranger, introduce yourself, and be the first to break the ice. Try asking someone about any advice they might have for you. Do it a few time and you’ll get the hang of it, and then it’s as routine as 1-2-3.

Confidence – Oh my goodness, so what happens when you’re actually approaching marketers, travel agencies, and pitching your blog to others? That’s a whole other anxiety level, often combined with shyness and lack of confidence. I remember thinking the Speed-dating session playing with my confidence – thinking about other bloggers who have been around for much longer than myself and waiting for that moment that you get 8 minutes to pitch another company. Some bloggers don’t even do speed dating.

You can actually pitch the agencies throughout TBEX at the “open market” hours if you don’t want to be tied down to a slot, approaching them when you feel most comfortable. Ask yourself if you’re more confident in the mornings or if you’re someone who gets a good second wind in the afternoon, and go for it then. Wear some lucky item or just say to yourself “now or never”.

Medications and Alcohol – This is something that doesn’t often get talked about, but don’t forget prescribed medications (anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, anti-psychotics,etc.), how they might affect you. and make sure you know what side effects you might experience.

TBEX-ers like to go out for drinks, and there are lots of parties. Alcohol is a depressant no matter how lively or how much fun it may contribute into the night. Don’t let alcohol bring you down, especially if the conference is not going as you expected or if you feel inferior to others.

Whatever emotions may arise throughout the TBEX conference, make sure you maintain yourself in an appropriate, well-mannered, and healthy way. Enjoy the conference and don’t let your mind play tricks on you. Go do what you came to do and take advantage of every opportunity. And don’t forget to have fun!


Author Bio:  Angelica is a Double Psychology Major who loves to travel and influence others to do the same. While hopping around islands, cities, and scuba diving around the globe, she enjoys documenting her journeys on her blog, BrooklynChickTravels. She has recently resigned from her social work job to become a flight attendant. Follow her @BKChickTravels on her flying journey!

5 Things to Do in Athens When You’re Not in TBEX Sessions


A few travel bloggers were sent to Athens, along with the TBEX team doing a site visit, to attend Travel Trade Athens 2014. We attended a press conference, met some of the Athens travel and tourism representives, and saw a few of the city’s notable sights. Athens attracts 3 million visitors a year, so there’s plenty to see.

Here are five suggestions of things to do when you’re not in TBEX sessions.

1.  I am not a museum person,  just the”highlights only, please”, but a temporary exhibit at the National Archeological Museum captured my attention. The Wreck of the Antikythera, which is on display April 2014-April 2015, was discovered by sponge divers in the late 1900s.  The ship wrecked when it sailed from the island of Mytiilene in Turkey and passed thru the straight between Antikythera and Crete.



The wreck is dated 50-60 years BC, and its cargo even earlier than that.  Famous pieces brought up from the wreck include statues and bronze items, including a bronze called the Youth of Antikythera, which actually predates the wreck by a couple of centuries (around 340-330 BC).  This finding represents antiues from the Classical Era that going from Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) to wealthy Romans living in Italy.



2.  Another recommended stop is the Acropolis. Intertwined within the city, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is hard to miss, and you’ll find views of it from many hotels and other landmarks arount the city. Spend some time visiting the Parthenon and the Erechtheion. There are some spectacular views up there, so you know the drill, “go early, before the crowds”. The Ministry of Culture offers tickets to the Acropolis plus 6 other archeological sites for a mere $12 Euros, so save your tickets.




3.  A wonderful program Athens offers is scheduling a tour with a This is my Athens guide.

Snip20140609_43These are not professional guides and  they don’t accept money (I tried to bribe him with a beer), but are instead local Athenians who enjoy showing off their city or meeting people from around the world.  This is a 3 hour tour, and you help determine what you do based on where you have already been and your interests.

Information is exchanged before you meet the guide in Athens. They are completely flexible, at least my amazing guide Theo was, and after an hour or so took us to a local bar (now this is culture).  Too bad for Paul, as he had to tour the entire 3 hours without stopping, but he probably wanted to do that.  I highly recommend setting an appointment with this program.

4.  Next, just wander, and when I say wander, I am talking about getting lost in the neighborhood around the Acropolis, because we did that a couple of times when Kerwin was in charge! Monastiraki Square in Plaka neighborhood is a great place to start. Plaka is one of four ancient neighborhoods surrounding the Acropolis and the streets are narrow, winding and uphill.  You can sit on a few of the stairs you find and people watch, or you can stop at any number of cafes and shops.  We found some really cool ones.  There are loads of tourists, but you will find locals mixed in as well.


5.  And don’t forget the Greek islands! There are a few islands that are close to Athens, such as Hydra Island, or you can take a day trip out to Sounion. If you get a hankering to get out on the water, don’t do what Laurence N did!  If you want to get farther into the islands, I suggest Mykonos or Santorini?  Those Greek island’s season runs from April to October and much of the other time, they are practically shut down. The heavy season is June to September, so visiting TBEXers will catch the lazy shoulder season.


Well, there you have it, 5 reasons things to do in Athens when you’re not in TBEX sessions. I hope to see you there!


Disclosure:  My trip to Athens, Greece was in conjunction with the Travel Trade Athens 2014 and sponsored by the City of Athens at the invitation of TBEX (Travel Blogger Exchange).

Author bio:  Dr. Cacinda Maloney of is a travel writer, blogger and photographer who has traveled the world every six weeks of her life for over 19 years.  Her niche is “value luxury”, where she gets the most from her travel dollars by using loyalty programs to travel for less at luxury properties.  She is a scuba diver with over 150 dives worldwide, is Phoenix, Arizona USA based, and maintains an apartment in Santiago, Chile.

Apply Now for this Cancun FAM Trip from HouseTrip & Viator


HouseTrip and Viator are proud to sponsor TBEX this year. To celebrate, we’d like to give attending bloggers the chance to join us on a FAM trip before TBEX 14 North America in Cancun, Mexico.

ryan levittThe trip is an opportunity to experience the joy of bringing more “Us Time” into your life by staying in a HouseTrip rental in the Riviera Maya. Find out why millions of travellers worldwide are switching to holiday rentals in order to take advantage of the added value, amenities, and choice, that come when you have a complete home at your disposal. At HouseTrip, we believe that it is the shared experience that makes a vacation truly memorable – time spent with loved ones, families and groups of friends.

So let us help bring more Us Time into your TBEX stay.

Then Travel With An Insider by letting the excursions begin with the world’s leading global tours and activities provider, Viator. Take advantage of a team of dedicated travel gurus who provide handpicked and verified trip activities in more than 1,500 destinations worldwide.

There are seven spaces available on the Riviera Maya trip. Selected bloggers will receive free accommodation, transfers to and from Cancun, an itinerary of hand-selected experiences, and most meals. Note: Airfare or other transportation to and from Cancun is not included. We’ve got great properties lined up for you here and here and here.

Blogger Qualifications:

  • You must be registered for TBEX Cancun to apply. If you’re not, head on over to register.
  • Bloggers will be selected at random.
  • All interested bloggers should have a minimum of one year of regular blog content on their blog.
  • Although we are collecting analytic and social media information, it is for analysis purposes only; we we will not be looking at follower or traffic numbers in selecting participants.

All bloggers not selected for the trip will immediately qualify for an exclusive 15% voucher code from HouseTrip that can be used on the blog and/or shared with readers for their use. It’s a little extra thank you for your interest and time.

Don’t be scared or shy! Fill out the application form and come prepared for both independent explorations (designed to give you unique content), and the chance to experience what HouseTrip and Viator are all about. And, keep an eye out for another HouseTrip and Viator offer for Athens coming up soon.

Dates:  September 8-11, 2014. You will be finished with the FAM trip in time to register for TBEX and attend the opening night party.

UPDATE:  The FAM trip is for bloggers only. Sorry, no +1s can be accommodated.

Deadline for application is June 30th, 2014, midnight Pacific Time.


The travel bloggers who were randomly selected for the Cancun FAM trip are:

  • Find and Go Seek (Dana Freeman)
  • Mother of All Trips (Mara Gorman)
  • Crazy Sexy Fun Traveler (Alexandra Kovacova)
  • Mommy Kat And Kids (Kathryn Lavallee)
  • Surf And Sunshine (Jeana Shandraw)
  • Mary Hickcox (Bohemian Mom)

Great Value & Special Rebate at Moon Palace, Cancun


We now have a booking page for accommodations at our TBEX 14 North America host property, the beautiful and luxurious Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort.

Palace Resorts, the company that sets the standard in five-star, all-inclusive resort accommodations, is pleased to welcome TBEX attendees to the brand’s signature property, Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort. The AAA Four Diamond Award, Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort is located on Cancun’s tranquil south shore, nestled between 123 acres of tropical foliage and secluded white sand beach. The resort recently completed a 100 million dollar enhancement project which included renovations and upgrades to guest rooms, lobbies, the gymnasium, refreshed meeting spaces, restaurant upgrades and more.

Moon Palace overview

Enjoy the Moon Palace Resort during TBEX North America 2014 in Cancun

Moon Palace is an all-inclusive property, and the special TBEX rate includes:

  • Air conditioned accommodations, with nightly turn down service
  • Purified water in rooms
  • Seven outdoor pools, six with swim up bars
  • Two fitness centers, with sauna and steam rooms, yoga, Pilates, and fitness classes
  • Outdoor activity area, including basketball courts, beach and pool volleyball, beach soccer, tennis courts
  • Non-motorized water activities
  • 24-hour room service
  • Pillow menu
  • Unlimited phone calls to numbers within the U.S. and Canada
  • Complimentary wi-fi
  • Top shelf liquor, including a stocked mini-bar and liquor dispenser in your room
  • Gourmet dining at one of the many restaurants on property
  • All taxes and gratuities

We know how much TBEX attendees love to share stories over food and drink, but it may be hard to choose from among the restaurants and bars at the Moon Palace. Restaurants serve up Mexican, International, American, Italian, and Asian specialties, and you can order up a thirst quenching margarita or other tasty beverage at 12 bars, including six in the pool area. Try MoMo for Asian, Los Tacos for Mexican, El Caribeno for Caribean, or Arrecifes for a buffet breakfast or a steakhouse dinner. or discover one of the other restaurants offering ambiance from poolside snacks to fine dining.

Moon Palace beach

Enjoy some quiet time during TBEX North America 2014 in Cancun with a walk on the beach.

If you’re bring the kids, Moon Palace offers a variety of family friendly activities including two children’s pools, a teen club, and the Playroom.

The special TBEX pricing of $199 per night for one person, $299 per night for two people, is available ONLY by booking through the special TBEX booking site.

Special Rebate

And, we have an additional special offer.

For those registered attendees staying at Moon Palace, and who have booked through the TBEX booking site, we’re offering a $60 rebate off your TBEX registration. The rebate will be credited at the time of checking in at the TBEX desk on site. You must be present to receive the rebate. One rebate per person.

Grow Your Business at Destination Marketing’s Biggest Event


“So, what exactly IS a blog?”

It was only a few years ago that I’d hear that question rather frequently.

This was before Twitter became a big deal, before Instagram, LinkedIn was still just a resume dump, and Facebook had only recently changed from being TheFaceBook for college students.

That’s Nice, Dear

The first time I went to a media conference to meet people in the tourism industry, I’d get polite but quizzical looks when I introduced myself as a “travel blogger” instead of a “travel writer.” To me, there wasn’t much difference other than the publishing medium, but to them, blogs and blogging were still an oddity.

Why would they want media coverage from a blog? Did I have any newspaper or magazine travel outlets instead, perhaps?

How times have changed.

Aria Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas

Aria Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, will be location for 2014 DMAI annual conference.

Thanks to a number of factors including an emphasis on professional growth through events like TBEX, we now have the attention and interest of the tourism industry. More and more CVBs (Convention and Visitors Bureaus) and other DMOs (Destination Marketing Organizations) are looking for media coverage from online publishers who tell compelling travel stories through their social media networks, including but not limited to a blog.

They want blog posts, images, social network updates and video that can reach their potential visitors and hotel guests, and yes, we can certainly deliver that.

Make Connections & Grow Your Travel Media Business

While networking and speed dating between bloggers and DMOs has been a TBEX feature for awhile, we’ve never had anything like it at a purely tourism industry event….until now.

This year is the 100th anniversary of the biggest destination marketing organization in the world:  DMAI, the Destination Marketing Association International. The DMAI 2014 annual conference/#DMAI14 is a multi-day event in Las Vegas, July 21- 23 at the Aria Resort and Casino, and this year there is a special program just for travel bloggers.

DMAI partnered with TBEX for a Media Influencer Rally and Lounge, a series of panels about how bloggers and DMOs can work together, an exclusive speed dating session, plus a free full pass (US$1,400 value) to the entire DMAI conference including all sessions and social events, and they are seeking applications from travel bloggers who want to participate. (Travel to/from Las Vegas and hotel expenses are not included.)

If you’d like to be considered for this opportunity to develop your professional relationships and connections with destinations from across the globe, here’s what to do:

1. Go to the DMAI Media Influencer Rally page, read through the details, then click the blue “Register Now” button on the right sidebar.

2. That will take you to a CVENT info Summary page; skim that and hit the orange “Register Now” button.

3. You’ll land on an Invitee Information page. Proceed from there by clicking “Influencer.”

4. Now you’re on the Influencer application page, where you’ll provide some information to DMAI about your blog(s) and social media channels.

5. Those who are chosen will be notified ASAP via an email from DMAI.

Destinations want the world to know about what they offer. You want terrific travel stories about extraordinary places.

Apply now to attend the first-ever DMAI event that connects travel media and the tourism industry.

Author Bio:  Sheila Scarborough is a writer, trainer and speaker. She launched a family travel blog on BootsnAll in February 2006, co-founded and still writes for the Perceptive Travel blog,and provides social media training for the tourism and hospitality industries through Tourism Currents.

Athens Convention & Visitors Bureau Invites You to Athens


On behalf of the City of Athens Convention & Visitors Bureau, we would like to extend a warm welcome to the entire TBEX community. We invite you to read this post as a brief introduction to Athens’ highlights.

If you were asked to imagine what the city of Athens looks like and entails, you might just be surprised to learn. . . .


Athens is surrounded by a lining of striking seas and mountains, and is full of undiscovered treasures. There are a plethora of things to see and do in the city, and, usually under mild temperatures and sunny skies.

Athens is considered one of Europe’s safest capitals; its transportation network is user-friendly; there are lots of museums and archeological sites and hundreds of restaurants to satisfy every palate.

Athens’ popularity as a destination is also driven by the rising number of international airlines that fly into its modern and award-winning airport, effortlessly connecting Athens to the rest of the world. Athens is an ideal destination, as it combines state-of-the-art infrastructure and easy access from all over the world with world-class cultural attractions, modern amenities, diverse entertainment, and natural beauty. Since 2004, the city’s tourism infrastructure has undergone major transformation, and nowadays visitors can benefit from comfortable and stylish accommodations along with outstanding services.

Most importantly, Athens is a multifaceted 2,500 year-old city that is rich in history, yet modern at the same time. It is the Birthplace of Plato’s Symposia and the birthplace of the modern Olympic Games. Athens possesses the biggest pedestrian archeological site in Europe and many UNESCO cultural heritage sites. The city offers additional arts and culture aspects which include more than 40 World Class museums, including the new Acropolis museum, and a state of the art metro system, which also acts as a mini museum in some cases, as several stations have archaeological findings on display. The City of Athens operates visitor’s info-points, located around the city, and the This is My Athens Greeter’s Program which shows visitors around the city for free.


Mediterranean flavors are in abundance in Athens. During the last decade, Athenian cuisine has experienced a gourmet revolution. The traditional and world-renowned moussaka and souvlaki image has given way to a cornucopia of fine dining options. And the Athenian landscape of 19th century neoclassical buildings, ancient sites, artsy industrial and Mediterranean coastal milieus, have created a canvas for alluring interiors and exteriors. Rooftop bars and restaurants in Athens can compete with some of the world’s most renowned ones, but can they claim a view of the Acropolis?

Lastly, Athens is lined by a sophisticated and vibrant coast which offers unique experiences and activities. It is the only European Capital with about 15 Blue Flag beaches and Marinas and more than 50kms of coastline. The birthplace of the Olympic Games has a tradition of athletics and its multi-faceted landscape contributes to this purpose. Yachting, sailing, windsurfing, beach volleyball, trekking and skiing are all popular sports in Athens and its outskirts. Of course, the gorgeous summer weather is ideal for sea and sun sport enthusiasts, with crystal clear waters just minutes away from the centre of Athens. However, autumn and winter also provide opportunities for trekking and hiking on mountain trails, horseback riding, mountain-biking and skiing.

So what are you waiting for? Register for TBEX in Athens this October 23rd-25th, and make sure you have several extra days for your trip in order to enjoy the best of what our city has to offer!

5 Lessons I Learned At TBEX Toronto and How It Changed My Life!


I cannot believe that a year has passed since I attended TBEX Toronto!

When I look back and think about my newbie self, with my oversized backpack, my point and shoot camera and my self-made media kit walking into the Metro Toronto Convention Centre with nothing but a dream – I kind of cringe a little. I knew nothing about the business of blogging, had no travel blogging friends and was totally lost in a sea of bloggers all talking shop around me. I listened, wrote a full notebook worth of notes and started making new friends. I didn’t know it at the time, but TBEX was about to change my life forever!

Mendelaoui_Sharon 2014 April_25_smallHere are some of the life changing lessons I learned at my first TBEX conference.

Lesson #1. I Can’t Learn Everything About The Business of Blogging in one Conference

When the TBEX Toronto schedule came out I knew one thing for sure: There were a lot of different sessions held during TBEX and there was no way to attend them all. So I decided to really go through the schedule and the speakers profiles to figure out which session in each time slot were the ones that were most important to me in that moment. It was a good strategy because by the end of the conference I was able to swap notes with other travel bloggers and also found a Facebook Group that posted notes as well. After the conference the TBEX team also sent out slides of many of the sessions, and at the end of it all I got the information I wanted.

The other thing I learned very quickly during TBEX was that the sessions were not the only source of information and learning.  I decided not to let myself get overwhelmed by 5 days of non-stop blogger chatter. I had a notebook and turned it to the back page and started a list. In every conversation I had, if someone mentioned something I didn’t know, I wrote it down. I had no idea what a twitter chat was, but by the end of the conference I had a list of hashtags for twitter chats. The first week back from TBEX I became a Twitter Chat expert! If other bloggers mentioned a Facebook group, website, travel blogger, sponsor they’ve worked with, a place they contributed guest posts, I wrote it down.

I only remember a handful of people I met at TBEX and there was no way I was going to remember all that information. Those 20+ pages of notes in the back of my notebook were valuable resources of information that moved my blog forward step by step. I always remember this when it comes to learning new things for my blog: You do what you can with what you have in the present moment. Don’t try to do or learn too much at once it will end up driving you crazy. Just add it to the list.

Lesson #2. I Must Find My Own Network of Travel Bloggers

I have met a lot of travel bloggers over the past year and this is what I know. The really good bloggers are not the ones with 10,000 in Twitter followers and a new FAM trip every week. The really good bloggers are the ones that collaborate, share, and learn from one another. I was very lucky to make some amazing new friends at TBEX that I am proud to have in my own travel blogging network.

Why is this important?

By yourself you are only as big as your network. When you are new this is painful; when you are a giant you are expected to get the message out to as many people as possible. When you are in a network of 4 – 5 people who all share each other’s work, who sit down and talk about the things they did right and wrong, give honest and constructive feedback, share contacts and connections they’ve made – you multiply your reach. You get more opportunities and you expand faster and further than you will ever be able to by yourself. Forget competition – blogging is a collaborative sport. Together you are stronger – there is more than enough to go around for everyone!

Lesson #3. Just Because I’m New Doesn’t Mean Companies Don’t Want to Work with Me

I’m so glad, I didn’t go into TBEX thinking, I’m new, I don’t have enough followers, and no one will want to meet with me or work with me. I didn’t know my ass from my elbow, but I still signed up free tours, applied for press trips and most importantly, tried to get speed dates. Guess what? I had dates! People were interested in meeting me and learning about my blog.

However, because I didn’t know better at the time, I didn’t know how to pitch them. I should have been more confident, but the idea that people would send me to their regions (on their dime) just didn’t sink in. I got to meet some great companies and, luckily, I have had a chance to work with a few of them this past year. They didn’t care that I only had 300 Twitter followers and 24 Facebook fans. They cared that I had passion and loved my blog and what I was doing.

The people that didn’t want to meet with me during speed dating at TBEX – well guess what – I went to the Marketplace and found opportunities to talk to them. I may not have said the right things in the moment, but I have their business cards, which means I started my travel rolodex.

Now that I know better, I can pitch these companies and they are happy to do business with me. Making these connections were a MAJOR step for my blog and for me. Which brings me to Lesson #4.

Lesson #4. My Blog is Actually Good

The most important thing I learned at TBEX was that my blog was actually good and had incredible potential. I quickly realized that 2 years of writing was actually worth something.

I hounded poor Mitch Canter on Twitter leading up to TBEX when he announced he would be critiquing travel blogs in a session. Every day on Twitter I sent a tweet begging for a blog critique. And I got one! From this session alone I learned: my blog looks good, comments were broken and not working properly, the site should be responsive, but overall the review was good. Since then I’ve redesigned the blog in a responsive WordPress template and it is better than ever.

TBEX gave me the understanding and confidence I needed to believe in my blog and myself. People recognized my blog, my name, and the feedback was really positive.

So while I was shocked and surprised when Trump Tower Toronto invited me to a blog lunch during TBEX, it wasn’t until I was sitting in a room with the Planet D and Johnny Jet that I realized – hey my blog is good enough to sit at the same table as these guys! The whole lunch I was terrified they would realize they made a horrible mistake and would send me away, but they retweeted my photos and engaged with me on Facebook and Twitter. At the end of the day I was invited to that lunch the same way all the other amazing blogging giants were. It was at this very lunch I learned another important lesson.

Lesson#5. Check Your Teeth for Little Green Things Before You Meet Your Travel Blogging Idol

“You have a little green thing in your teeth.” Imagine that you’re standing on the patio of the Penthouse suite at Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto during a special private tour with some of the biggest Travel Blogging giants and hearing that phrase.

DreamTravelMag_meeting Johnny Jet

Yup, that was me, after totally fan girling all over Johnny Jet and asking him if he would take a picture with me. So I have this amazing picture with Johnny Jet and I have a green thing stuck in my teeth. If you learn anything from this blog post – please – remember to check your teeth for green things before you go up to your travel blogging idol and make a total newbie ass of yourself!

Bonus Lesson. How Getting Rescued from a Tree Could Change Your Life Forever

When the actual TBEX conference was over I jumped on a bus with 8 other bloggers on my very first FAM trip. It was an overnight tour of the Central Counties region of Ontario. Our last stop was at a tree-top trekking adventure which we were all told was zip-lining.

The short version of the story is that after a few segments of challenging tight rope walking and hanging onto metal wires for dear life, I could not go on anymore.

Sharon_TreeRescue_TBEXI was an obese blogger, stuck on a tree platform, and trying not to lose it on a FAM trip. The crew at the Tree Top Site didn’t flinch and began setting up “the high angle rescue.” I was horrified, and holding back tears and. Then I was told to step off the platform and fall backward. I was so freaking scared I forgot that I wanted to cry. After letting go and being gently lowered down the tree, all the fear and shame of being rescued went away and this feeling of sheer bliss came over me. I realized in that moment that I had a story – I could write about this experience in a way that no one else could! In that moment I was a travel writer and I knew it.

In the months after this event, I decided I didn’t want to be the fat blogger anymore. I didn’t want to be the blogger that got rescued from a tree. I didn’t want potential companies to think I couldn’t participate in one of their trips because of my weight. I knew in my soul that I was meant to be a writer. I also knew that if I wanted to be a travel writer, I didn’t want to be limited in any way.

I started to see a doctor who worked with me to help me understand how some foods were making me very sick. He stripped my diet and we worked together to create a healthy eating plan that I live by today. I’ve lost 62 pounds so far and counting.

As I worked on living a healthier life I also dedicated myself to my blog. I scheduled time each week in my calendar for blog time. I came home from my full-time job and in the evenings I wrote, worked on social media, website tweaks, did whatever I had to do. I became a freelance travel writer, and when I saved up enough I bought a DSLR camera, took a photography course, and found a new passion as a photographer. I may never quit my day job, but that won’t stop me from writing and working on my blog.

Since TBEX I realized that my blog was not just about my travel dreams. Dream Travel Magazine is about turning travel dreams and experiences into reality. Because of this realization I had a lot of firsts last year: attended my first travel blogging conference, rode a segway, ziplined, got rescued from a tree, went ice fishing, went dog sledding, went snowshoeing, saw a tractor pull, saw a horse pull, and attended a demolition derby.

Since TBEX my numbers have grown 5 times what they were last year. I have been a regular guest blogger at I have written sponsored posts, been on FAM trips, invited to special events, and made amazing friends who understand my crazy travel blogging life. I have the confidence in myself and my blog to continue to grow and use the hashtag #livingtheDream.

TBEX changed my life forever and it can change yours too! Just believe!

Sharon is a travel writer and blogger based in Thornhill, Ontario, Canada. She founded Dream Travel Magazine in 2011, an online travel magazine filled with travel tips, hotel and excursion reviews, and favourite vacation destinations. Sharon specializes in Caribbean vacations, Ontario road trips and getaways, and organized traveling. She loves to share her dream vacation destinations and how she turns them into reality. You can follow Sharon on twitter @dreamtravelmag.