TBEX Athens Opening Night Party to be held at Technopolis

UPDATE 10/20/14

The Opening Night Party at Technopolis will start at 7 pm. Use your Metro pass to get there. Get off at the Kerameikos (Exit- Technopolis).

 

TBEX Athens attendees are in for a real treat at the Opening Night Party at Technopolis. You won’t want to miss it, but you must be registered to attend.

Athens opening night party

The City of Athens will welcome all TBEX attendees at one of the biggest post-industrial venues in Europe – Technopolis, the Athens’ Natural Gazi museum – for an evening full of music, art and Mediterranean flavors.

Technopolis, situated in the former gasworks, is located in the hipster Kerameikos-Gazi area, surrounded by bars, clubs, and live concert stages. This multifaceted party, especially prepared for you, will incorporate various exciting elements such as a Greek Village, live concert and dance stages, and performing arts.

In the Greek Village you will have the opportunity to explore products from all over Greece, from food to art and jewelry. Taste unique traditional and local Greek food, taste wine, beer and other Greek beverages, observe handmade jewelry creations, folk art, and much more. Admire live performing arts from Greek artists and dance away to the sounds of modern popular Greek bands and live DJ sets. A wonderful trail leads through the grounds, giving attendees a chance to explore Greek beauty projected against the museum’s interior.

The Details

  • Date:  Thursday, October 23rd
  • Time:  7:00pm – midnight
  • Closest Metro Station:  Kerameikos (Exit- Technopolis)

A very big Thank You to the City of Athens, ACVB for sponsoring this opening night party. It’s going to be a fabulous evening of entertainment and fun.  Remember, the opening night party is a badged event, you must be registered to attend.

 

TBEX Athens: Come Early and Stay Late

ath_antiquity0158©dkoilalous2008

Coming to Athens for TBEX? You will find a plethora of things to do in the city, so we hope you’ll be adding on several days in order to fully enjoy what the city has to offer. Athens is famous for many things and you will have the opportunity to experience these by signing up for one of the many day tours available.

What do you want to experience? Here’s a local’s take on the options available.

Gastronomy

Do you love food? Athens offers a wide variety of food options, from simple street food to higher-end gastronomy. Join one of the many food tours offered and you will get to visit various specialty food shops, colorful and alluring delicatessens and grocery stores, aromatic bakeries and confectionaries, and the meat, fish, and spice markets. You will get to sample authentic Greek Yogurt, freshly ground coffee, tangerine scented marzipan, olive oil and Greek olives, honey, savory pies, cheeses and charcuteries, mouth-watering sweet and syrupy “loukoumades”, traditional “bougatsa”, and the savoury “pastourma”. All this while learning more about Athens’ history, architecture and culture.

Would you rather be indoors? Then join a cooking lesson and enjoy a home-cooked meal in an authentic Greek home, or a multi-course gourmet meal while while viewing a historical exhibition.

Winetasting

Wine lovers will find some wondering offerings in the day tours and experiences. According to mythology, Dionysus, the god of wine, spread the art of wine-making to the Greeks.

Visit some of the best wineries of Attica and beyond, and enjoy the landscape of our beautiful vineyards. You will get to sample some of the most famous and award-winning Greek wines, accompanied with cheeses and cold cuts, amongst a pristine environment, and you will get to learn about its history and cultivation.

Shopping

Are you into shopping? Athens’ shopping scene is huge!

You will be able to enjoy the best that Athens has to offer in terms of handicrafts, clothes, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, artifacts, souvenirs, wine and more. Each store has a story to tell and you will discover not only wonderful products, but also a lot more about Greek culture. Interested in Greek jewelry and sandal-making? Walk around the city center, from Syntagma to Plaka and beyond, and explore the myriad of artist-owned shops selling and creating all sorts of handmade, unique jewelry and sandals. You will be able to visit the Athens flea market, and discover all sorts of antiques. If you are interested in mainstream shopping, you will have the chance to visit a designer outlet in the outskirts of the city.

ath_antiquity0447©dkoilalous2008

Athens’ Historic Centre

If this is your first time in Athens, then you surely should not miss some of the classic sights that all visitors should see: the Acropolis, the Acropolis Museum, the National Archaeological Museum, the National Gardens, Zappeion, Hadrian’s Arch and the Olympian Temple of Zeus, the House of the Greek Parliament, Mount Lycabettus, Panathenaic Stadium, the Agora, the Academy, the University and the National Library, the Numismatic Museum, the Museum of the City of Athens and the historic neighborhoods of the Plaka, Monastiraki, Psyrri, Thiseio.

Arts and Culture

For arts and culture enthusiasts, take some time to walk around the city and discover some of Athens’ most well-known art galleries and artists’ studios. View first hand the work of contemporary artists and explore neighborhoods where artists have converted old industrial buildings into living spaces and workshops. Discover the emerging neighborhood where the new National Museum of Contemporary Art will be housed, the Onassis Cultural Centre and the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center, which will house the new buildings of the National Library and Opera.

Athens is also rich in terms of street art – learn about graffiti in neighborhoods containing artistic, social and political elements.

Film, Theater, Dance

Are you a fan of film, theater, or dance? Then attend one of the special workshops designed especially for TBEX attendees.

You can shoot a short film while discovering Athens as a local, and you can become part of a film crew and leave your mark by taking over the camera and with a cinematographer’s guidance you will develop your directive skills! You can also participate in an interactive theatre workshop based on ancient Greek Tragedy, and take part in a mask workshop as well, while getting introduced to Greek history and tradition. Learn about Greek Folk dance and folk culture and expose yourself to dances from a variety of Greek regions, executed in their true style.

ath-sealeisure_0035©dkoilalous2008

Nature and Sports

For nature and sports enthusiasts, Athens has much to offer. You can learn how some of the secrets of golf with experienced coaches and hae a chance to practice basic golfing skills. Experience the beauty of the Athenian Southwest coastline through sea kayaking. If you are into trekking, you be able to visit Mount Parnitha, situated north of Athens.  You can visit Lake Vouliagmeni, famous for its therapeutic wonders, or choose the Attica Zoological Park which hosts more than 2000 animals from 350 different species.

Nearby Excursions

Lastly, Athens may be chock-full of things to do in the city, but there is plenty to do in its surrounding areas as well.

Visit the Temple of Poseidon at Sounio, overlooking the sea. Take a daily excursion to the Oracle of Delphi, and then visit the picturesque mountain village of Arachova. Go to Lake Marathon, and Ancient Corinth and Nemea, or take a cruise to the nearby islands of Aigina, Poros, and Hydra, all containing a rich history.

Find more information on the TBEX Athens Day Tours & Experiences here.

 

Digital Nomad Robert Reid to Keynote at TBEX Athens

img_9074We’re excited to announce that Digital Nomad Robert Reid has been confirmed as a keynote speaker for TBEX Athens.

Robert Reid is the Offbeat Observer and the current Digital Nomad for National Geographic Traveler. His writings have also appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Lonely Planet, CNN.com and ESPN.com. He often picks unusual subjects for trips — counting moustaches in Siberia, using Billy Joel lyrics as a guidebook to New York’s Long Island — and keeps up a decidedly home-made 76-Second Travel Show on his site, Reidontravel.com.

We’re happy to be able to tempt Robert back to the TBEX stage. His keynote presentation will touch on how travel bloggers can become reputable sources and, perhaps even more importantly, the responsibilities of becoming an “expert” in an era of burgeoning user generated content.  In his own inimitable style, Robert will provide information and recommendations, with plenty of funny stories woven in. Don’t miss it!

We hope you’ll join us for TBEX Athens on October 23-25th, 2014. See you there!

Wanders in Athens

I had the pleasure recently of visiting Athens with some of the TBEX team on a pre-conference recce. I was particularly excited for two reasons – one, I’ve never been to Athens before, and two, I knew I was going to be coming back here later on in the year to teach some photography.

Athens cloud and temple I got plenty of opportunity to get out on the streets and roam the sights on my visit, as well as ponder photography subjects and start to plan for my return. Here were some of my highlights :

The Acropolis

acropolis

You can’t visit Athens without at least noticing the Acropolis, given how this hill sits in the centre of the city and jumps into the corner of your eye at every occasion. I popped up here on a tour which gave me enough of an impression to realise I needed to come back under my own steam at a quieter time of day, if such thing exists, and take pictures at a slightly more leisurely pace. That, or find a hotel room with a spectacular view…

acropolis side on

Sailing the seas

Athens old port from the sea

Greece has had its fair share of water based history, and any trip to the country should involve some time on the water, ideally exploring some of the many islands. I just had a brief day trip out on the sea here, enough to get the wind in my hair, and appreciate the views of Athens, including this shot of the old harbour of Athens.

The markets

athens spice market

Like any major city, Athens has some impressive markets. Whilst the meat market was not for the squeamish, the nearby markets selling spices and herbs were more stomach friendly. I loved the colours of these assorted spices.

The old stuff

Philosopher and statue

Athens is where pretty much all the stuff we take for granted – democracy, philosophy, triangles  – got itself going. It’s been around for a good long while, and has plenty of old stuff to admire, both stuffed into the museums, and, well, everywhere else too. These statues were outside the library, with a god looking rather threateningly at a philosopher.

The newer stuff

street art in athens

There might be a lot of old stuff, but Athens doesn’t feel stuck in the past. There’s street art and modern art, plus of course a lively cafe scene and splendid opportunities for eating, drinking and making merry.

Stamped metal names_

The beaches and coastline

Yacht at sea Athens

Finally, Athens is much more than the city. To the south of the city you’ll find the Athens Rivieria, home to large yachts, stunning beaches (some private, some not), and rather handy sunset spots, such as this one I found below. If you have a chance, I can recommend getting out of the city and exploring the coastline a bit!

sunset athens coast

All in all, Athens is a fine place for a visit, and an even better place to wander with a camera – there’s so much variety on offer in terms of things to shoot, from temples to street scenes, sunsets to cityscapes. Something for everyone – I hope to see you there!

Author Bio:  A photographer, writer and traveller, Laurence has spent much of the last five years on the road, documenting his journeys and adventures at his popular travel and photography blog: Finding the Universe, which he runs with his partner Vera. He is also a founding member of Lightmoves Creative, a photography firm which offers bespoke photography and learning opportunities to brands and individuals.

Laurence will be leading a 2-day photo workshop at TBEX Athens, along with Daniel Nahabedian, as well as speaking about monetizing your photography.

HouseTrip & Viator FAM Trip to Crete

HouseTrip & Viator are proud to sponsor TBEX this year. To celebrate, we’d like to give attending bloggers the chance to join us for a FAM trip to Crete, immediately before TBEX Europe in Athens, Greece.

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 Crete. 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 Crete FAM trip. Selected bloggers will receive free accommodation, transfers to and from Athens, an itinerary of hand-selected experiences, and most meals. Note: Airfare or other transportation to and from Athens is not included. We’ve got great properties lined up for you here and here.

Please note on the application form whether or not you have a valid drivers license and if you would be comfortable driving in Crete.

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

Blogger Qualifications:

  • You must be registered for TBEX Athens 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:  October 19-22

Application deadline is Augsut 10th, midnight Pacific Time

Apply Here

 

Two More Workshops at TBEX Athens: Photography and Design and Technology

We’ve added on two more small, hands on, in depth, highly focused workshops for TBEX Athens and they are now open for registration.

These workshops provide a chance to work closely with an expert in the field, getting specialized attention, and answers to the challenges YOU face. It’s a chance to get up close and personal, learning from the best, in a way that can’t be done as part of the regular program with a larger audience.

Photography Workshop and Photo Walk

Laurence and DanielLed by Laurence Norah and Daniel Nahabedian, this workshop will help you become intimate with your camera, helping you learn how to get the most out of it.

Day one will review some basic concepts of photography, give you some tips on exposure, lighting, balance, lens types, and composition, and then you’ll get out and about in Athens on a photo walk. Day two will start off with a look at the photos, moving into post processing, then touch on developing a creative eye and breaking all the rules. The session will finish up with some time spent on the business of travel photography, including social media and SEO.

The class is limited to 20 people, keeping a 1:10 instructor to student ratio.

Click here for full details about the workshop and to register.

Website Design and Technology Workshop

headshot2000Led by world renowned web designer, developer, and fellow blogger Mitch Canter, this workshop focus on your site and what you want it to do.

You’ll learn about best practices in design, and how to use the technology that supports that, whether you’re an individual blogger and entrepreneur or a industry attendee representing a destination, hotel, or other travel and tourism brand. And you won’t just talk about it, you’ll be able to dig in and improve your site right there on the spot. Before the workshop, participants will be sent a survey with various questions about their specific wants and needs, allowing Mitch to customize the curriculum to best help YOU.

The class is limited to 10 people.

Click here for full details about the workshop and to register.

Both workshops will be help at the Megaron Conference Centre (the venue for all the TBEX education sessions). There is a $200 fee to register for each workshop, and is an add-on to standard TBEX registration. You  must be registered for TBEX Europe 2014 to register. No refunds; transfers are permitted.

Full details about each workshop, along with our previously announced Writers Workshop, can be found here.

Head on over to sign up before the spots are all gone.

Still More Speakers Announced for TBEX Athens

acropolis parthenon athens greece

We’ve been teasing you with our preiously announced list of speakers here and here, and today we have another fabulous group to join that list. These fabulous folks are going to make it hard for you to choose what sessions you’ll be attending at TBEX Athens (you are registered, aren’t you?).

Amy Jackson

Amy leads brand strategy and consumer marketing for TripIt, the world’s highest-rated travel organizing app from Concur. For more than a decade, she generated national media coverage and pioneered social media programs for award-winning technology and consumer brands. Amy is a frequent traveler and a reward point geek. She’s especially passionate about mobile apps that make life easier, 5-star hotels and local cuisine.

Amy will be speaking with Angie Orth in the TBEX Business track, helping the industry learn about tools for press trips.

Angie Orth

Angie Orth is a rare breed of communicator, navigating both sides of the fence as a publicist, journalist, digital strategist and blogger. After a decade at PR agencies, she left it all behind to explore the world and to write about it on her blog — AngieAway.com. Four years later, she’s combined her PR foundations with a passion for digital storytelling, and is now firmly entrenched in the space between the two worlds. Today she blogs about the tensions between writers and publicists; represents clients from around the world; and covers travel and lifestyle for print, online and TV outlets.

Angie will be speaking with Amy Jackson in the TBEX Business track, helping the industry learn about tools for press trips.

Casey Mead

Casey has been working in the public relations industry for more than 12 years, with the past eight being dedicated to travel PR in the UK. She is currently the PR Manager for small group adventure company G Adventures, but has worked across the cruise, hotel, travel tech and luxury and domestic tourism sectors. Co-founder of the first London travel tweet-up in 2009, Casey is a savvy social media PR and loves nothing more than travelling or geeking out. But preferably both.

Casey will be speaking in our TBEX Business indusry track.

Michael Collins

Michael loves to travel. He is based between Dublin and Paris. Michael has worked in the Irish travel and media industry for 14 years. During this time he has worked as a travel journalist, editor and publisher, editing and publishing the magazines Backpacker Europe, Abroad and Irish Business Traveller. He has also worked in television and radio as a presenter and travel expert. Today Michael runs TravelMedia.ie, representing international tourist boards, hotels, airlines and tour operators in the Irish market and further afield. Today social media is now the majority his client work.

Michael is making a return TBEX appearance, speaking in our industry track.

Sara Robles Romero

Sara is a hands-on solutions provider! Using Social Media to deliver happiness, and managing blogger relationships for Tourism and Technology companies.

Sara will be speaking on how to create small and medium sized blogger brand campaigns, a perfect topic for bloggers who have not yet begun working with brands.

Sarabeth Jones

Sarabeth Jones is a creative at Fellowship North who enjoys all kinds of artistic work: writing, directing, acting, design, photography, and the occasional flash mob. Her personal stage is her blog thedramatic.com, where life is series of scenes: some with fabulous costumes, some with witty lines, and some that should probably be edited out. She lives in Arkansas with her husband and 3 kids and loves to write about they way they make her laugh, whether they are traveling the world or living the #DogtownLife at home.

Sarabeth will be leading a session on iphonagraphy and some of the advance techiques that you may not yet have discovered.

Tim Leffel

Tim Leffel is the author of five travel books and is an award-winning writer who edits Perceptive Travel, the Cheapest Destinations Blog (established 2003) and several other sites. He is frequently quoted in the major media and has been a speaker at many industry events.

Tim will be speaking on managing and prioritizing your writing, social media, and business tasks.

And wait — there’s still more to come! We’re still working to finish up the schedule and will have another handfull of speakers to announce sometime next week.

We’re excited about the way the program is starting to shape up. We’ll be adding these latest speakers to our Athens speaker page where you can learn more about all the speakers for our event (patience please as it will take some time to get everyone added). We’ll also have our general schedule of event and full information about our session topics of soon.

What do you think about the way our TBEX Athens program is coming together?

More TBEX Athens Speakers Announced

Acropolis at Night

We’re very excited to announce another group of speakers for TBEX Athens. You won’t want to miss out on hearing what these speakers have to share with you to help you develop better content, monetize in a ways that works for you, and build a community around a thriving business.

A big round of applause and welcome to:

Candace Rardon

Candace is a writer and sketch artist with a passion for telling stories about the world, be it through words or watercolors. In addition to running her travel blog, The Great Affair, which has been featured in the New York Times and on National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel blog, her work has been published in outlets such as AOL Travel, Gadling, the Guardian Weekly, and Selamta Magazine. She received her Masters in Travel Writing from London’s Kingston University, where she was awarded the Faber & Faber Creative Writing Prize, and recently released my first book of sketches, “Beneath the Lantern’s Glow.”

Candace will be creating a unique and ongoing “live” session, bring the highlights of TBEX to life through her sketches. The end result will be a wall size mural of our time in Athens.

Chris Gray Faust

Chris Gray Faust is Destinations Editor at Cruise Critic, where she oversees all of the website’s destination content, as well as Facebook and The Lido Deck blog. Creator and publisher of Chris Around The World, Chris has won a Lowell Thomas Travel Writing award for blogging and has worked as a staff writer at the (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, the Philadelphia Inquirer and USA TODAY, where she served as travel editor. She has a journalism degree from Northwestern University and a master’s degree from Brown University. She lives in Bucks County, Pa. with her husband, two cats and a puppy.

Chris will be leading a session on how important it is to listen to your community and how to manage that responsibility.

Colm Hanratty

Colm has over four years experience working with travel bloggers from the brand side, having first collaborated with bloggers in April 2010. Since then he has picked up invaluable tips and advice on how to get the most out of brand-blogger relationships. He now runs digital marketing consultancy sixtwo digital where he stills deal with bloggers on a day to day basis through different clients.

Colm will be outlining a 12 month plan to building better blogger relationships.

Daniel Nahabedian

Previously an HR generalist, Daniel Nahabedian is now a full-time freelance travel photographer, and a photography/Lightroom instructor, organizing workshops in various locations around the world. His 5-language speaking skills and multicultural background lead him to different countries with his trusty camera, documenting cultures and traditions while sampling various street food and never missing the opportunity to capture a sunset shot. After 3 years in Chiang Mai – Thailand, he now lives in sunny Granada in Spain, enjoying tapas and planning big (and often overwhelming) projects.

Daniel will be leading a 2-day photo workshop along with Laurence Norah (look for details about registering for that later this week) and will also be speaking on monetizing your photography content.

Jessica Spiegel

Jessica Spiegel is a freelance writer & community builder based in Portland, Oregon. She’s built thriving online communities from scratch & grown existing communities for online brands, including TBEX & BootsnAll. Virtual communities and real-life communities have more similarities than differences, especially when the goal is the same – we want to talk to “our people.” Jessica loves helping people make community connections, and she’s been working in community building since before there was an internet. On the side, she’s a singer in a band, a passionate footy fan, an unabashed Italophile, and a Sazerac enthusiast.

Jessica will be speaking on the differences between building a community for a brand vs. your own personal community.

Laurence Norah

A photographer, writer and traveller, Laurence has spent much of the last five years on the road, documenting his journeys and adventures at his popular travel and photography blog: Finding the Universe, which he runs with his partner Vera. He is also a founding member of Lightmoves Creative, a photography firm which offers bespoke photography and learning opportunities to brands and individuals.

Laurence will be leading a 2-day photo workshop along with Daniel Nahabedian (look for details about registering for that later this week) and will also be speaking on monetizing your photography content.

Mat Rider

Mat is a senior level social media strategist experienced in leading corporate marketing organizations of every size, industry and geography to results on time and within budget. He is a respected leader who has directed, coached and developed teams of up to twenty marketing professionals, including strategy, research & development, program development, multimedia design, product launch, campaign execution and management, and measurement. Mat is adept at conceptualizing, activating and amplifying marketing campaigns to effectively build brands, deliver record setting levels of audience engagement, and drive sales pipeline.

Mat will be speaking in the industry track on Twitter conversions.

Mitch Canter

Mitch Canter is a WordPress Developer and marketing strategist from Franklin, TN. He strives to push technology and online media to new levels to help businesses, non-profits, and industry leaders tell their story online. Mitch is the Chief Creative Mercenary of studionashvegas and binary church.

Mitch will be leading a 2-day workshop on best practices in website and blog design and the technology that supports it (registration details coming soon). He will also be speaking on SEO for travel bloggers.

Peter Parkorr

Peter Parkorr is a writer, photographer and videographer who loves to reveal the best of long-term travel. Visiting more than 50 countries so far and spending the last 3 years as a full-time traveller, he likes to share the beauty of the people and places that he encounters all over the world, looking at what makes them successful and happy.

Peter will be leading a half-day video workshop (sign ups will be open soon), and will also be doing an ed session on video.

But wait – there’s more! Yes, there are more speaker announcements coming up this week. There were just too many great Athens speakers to include in one post, so check back to see if your favorite speaker is on the list.

Day Tripping from Cancun

Have you ever considered Cancun as a place to get off the beaten path? Probably not.

There is so much more to Cancun than the Hotel Zone. Make some time either before or after TBEX to visit one or more of the nearby towns that are part of the full Cancun experience. The hidden gems of Isla Mujeres, Holbox, Contoy and Puerto Morelos are overlooked by millions of visitors every year. But you don’t have to mis out – take a leap of faith and summon your adventurous spirit at:

Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres, or the Island of Women, is located northeast of Cancun and can be easily reached by taking a 20 minute ferry from the mainland. Don’t worry if you are not staying in the Hotel Zone. There are three ports that you can take to get to the island: Gran Puerto (Ultramar ferry), Puerto Juarez (Magaña Express) or Punta Sam (car ferry). Feel free to ask your hotel concierge for directions to the closest port to you, or give the name of the port to your taxi driver and they will know exactly where to take you.

Isla Mujeres has a relaxed island vibe. The island is visited by giant sea turtles in late May when they dig their nests and lay their eggs. From May – September the waters off Isla Mujeres and Cancun are home to the largest concentration of whale sharks – the largest fish in the sea. Isla residents love the whale sharks and have named them “domino” because of their distinctive white spots. To welcome their arrival, locals organize a parade and festival every July.

The seafood at Isla Mujeres is incredibly fresh and succulent. In Playa Lancheros, one of the most beautiful beaches on the island, you will find La Casa del Tikinxik, a small outdoor cafe that serves the most delicious Tik-in-chik on the island – a traditional Mayan dish of grilled fish. If you arrive at Isla Mujeres early, check out Mango Café for their popular breakfast specials. At night, you will have plenty of bar options to choose from with some of the best outdoor music in the Mexican Caribbean. While exploring the main streets of the island, don’t miss the artisan shops selling pottery and jewelry.

A visit to Isla Mujeres is not complete without a stop at Garrafon Natural Reef Park, where you can snorkel and even zip line across the Caribbean Sea. Punta Sur, next to Garrafon, receives the first rays of the sun in all of Mexico and is the highest elevation in the Yucatan Peninsula – so if you can get up early enough, go!

Isla Holbox

Isla Holbox is a tiny fishing village located about two hours from Cancun and is one of the lesser-known destinations in the Mexican Caribbean. There are a few ways to get to Holbox from Cancun:

  • Take a bus from the Cancun Airport or Cancun bus depot to Chiquila. Then take the ferry at Chiquila to arrive in Holbox.
  • Choose private air taxi services with AEROSAAB.
  • Secure special shuttle services from your hotel (if available).
  • Rent a car and drive to Chiquila to take the ferry to Holbox. The car will have to remain in Chiquila as Holbox does not allow cars on the island.

hammock

This small island, part of the Yum Balam Reserve, is home to flamingos, whale sharks, and other exotic species. Holbox is best known for its ideal calm waters for kite surfing, and has a couple of kite surfing schools, if you are feeling adventurous. The hotels here are tiny, you won’t find any with more than 40 rooms, and  TVs are not available at most hotels. If you want to explore the island, you can rent a golf cart or bike to get around.

The fishermen moonlight as tour operators, and are extremely knowledgeable about the island and the natural areas that surround it. During season you can find hundreds of flamingos and waters filled with whale sharks.

Holbox residents are very friendly and you will see that many of them are expats from all over the world, making the gastronomy offerings very diverse. Don’t miss the famous Lobster Pizza at Edelyn Pizzeria or the ice cream at Maresa Ice Cream Shop (also found all over the island). Many hotels and restaurants will also cook your freshly caught fish – so if you get lucky fishing, eat your catch for dinner!

Isla Contoy

Isla Contoy is located 18 miles north of Isla Mujeres and is considered one of the most important seabird nesting sites in the Mexican Caribbean. Protected by the federal government since 1961, and declared a national park in 1998, the island is home to more than 150 migrating and resident bird species. This island is ideal for serious bird watchers and nature lovers. If you want to visit the island, you must take an official tour that sails from either Isla Mujeres or Cancun. Tours to the island offer snorkeling on the Ixlache Reef, bird watching, and a lunch consisting of regional fruit and dishes like the famed Tik-in-chik.

isla contoy

Puerto Morelos

Puerto Morelos is a friendly, laid-back fishing village located 20 miles south of Cancun and the only destination listed above that can be reached by car, ADO or Mayab buses in the area. Puerto Morelos has some of the most pristine beaches in Cancun and is ideal for scuba diving and snorkeling. If you like to fish, Puerto Morelos hosts various international fishing tournaments every year, and offers various deep sea fishing excursions.

The village is located very close to the Mayan jungle, which makes it ideal for mountain biking and trekking. Puerto Morelos is also famous for their handicrafts and silver jewelry, so when you are in the area keep your eye out for quality charms and colorful hammocks.

One of the charms of Puerto Morelos is the mix of small boutique restaurants and hotels with large luxurious properties. Restaurants in the area specialize in a variety of cuisines. El Nicho is a small and popular place for brunch, Tacos.com has the best Mexican food in town, and Le Chique at Azul Sensatori Hotel offers a haute cuisine experience with various courses and pairings. Don’t miss the live music at Unico Beach Club, photo ops at the famed leaning lighthouse, and interact with the animals at Crococun Zoo.

Puerto Morales

The Little Mexican Cooking School is also a must-visit for foodies. Here you will learn how to cook traditional Mexican and Yucatecan cuisine that you can showoff to your friends when you get back home.

Travel Bucket Lists – Love Them or Hate Them?

You know what a travel bucket list is, right? It’s a list of all of the places you’d like to visit and global adventures you’d like to pursue before you kick the bucket. Writing such a list seems like an innocuous and personal endeavor but some serious travelers have passionate opinions for or against such lists.

Colleen LaninWalt Disney said, “All dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” I I have a little plaque with this phrase on my desk to remind me of these words every day as I clack away at my computer, dreaming and pursuing big dreams. Post-it notes scrawled with encouraging words like this populate the cabinets, fridge and coffee maker in my house. I’m a believer in the power of visualizing your dreams into reality. I’m guiding an interactive session on building vision boards at TBEX Cancun. So, you can probably guess where I come down on travel bucket lists: I love them!

There is a whole group of travel lovers out there, however, who think bucket lists distract from real travel experiences. I recently asked a bunch of travel bloggers to share their thoughts on bucket lists and was not surprised to find very opposing views on the topic.

Margherita Ragg, of the Crowded Planet blog, is against bucket lists because, “travel is a lot more than ticking boxes for me.” This sentiment was echoed by other travel enthusiasts who seem to think that people who write travel bucket lists are simply traveling for the joy of placing a checkmark next to an item on a list.

The implication is that bucket list writers merely want to brag about where they’ve been; they don’t care about connecting with the culture or having a meaningful experience. Amy Truong, author of the Generic Dreams blog, said, “I think having a bucket list is fun and a good way to decide what some of your goals are (travel-related or not) but it shouldn’t be just about ticking off a check list or bragging rights.”

Everything Everywhere Founder Gary Arndt seemed to poke fun at the idea that bucket list makers are only in it for ticking off items when he said, “I don’t think people should shop for groceries just to check stuff off a list.” (Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink.)

Talon Windwalker thinks that a bucket list can distract travelers from living in the present moment. On his blog, 1Dad1Kid.com, he said, “When you have a bucket list, there’s that constant sense of ‘I haven’t done everything yet! This is the main reason I don’t have this kind of list. I don’t want to spend my time focusing on the things I haven’t done yet. I’d rather focus on what I’m doing.”

Shawn Achor, author of the book, Before Happiness, explained in an interview with Oprah Winfrey on the OWN Network’s “Super Soul Sunday” that travelers actually enjoy their vacations more before leaving home than they do during their vacations. It is the anticipation of travel that brings so much joy. He said, “Our brain can’t tell much difference between visualization and actual experience. So if you’re visualizing something positive that’s going to happen in the future, you’re literally doubling the positive effect upon your life.”

My Itchy Travel Feet Blogger Donna Hull also believes travel dreaming is good for you. She said, “There are many once-in-a-lifetime trips. Want to make them happen? Start a list. Keeping these special trips on a bucket list (or whatever terminology you choose to use) is a good way to set goals to make the trips actually happen.”

Amanda Kendle would rather reflect on her travel accomplishments than create a list of travel goals. On her blog, NotABallerina.com, she said, “I’m not really a fan of the bucket list craze that seems to be sweeping the world (and travelers in particular!). I don’t mind a spot of travel daydreaming, but the idea of making a really long list of things I must do before I die is a bit overwhelming (especially since I have no idea how long I have until then – ten years or fifty?)…” Instead, she decided to write a reverse bucket list to revel in dreams fulfilled.

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As the creator of a bucket list and reverse bucket list, I see value in both exercises. Writing down your achieved goals gives a sense of gratitude and pride. It is important to celebrate our accomplishments by pausing to look back and be thankful for how much we’ve experienced.

According to Gretchen Rubin in her book The Happiness Project, “Gratitude is important to happiness. Studies show that consistently grateful people are happier and more satisfied with their lives; they even feel more physically healthy and spend more time exercising. Gratitude brings freedom from envy, because when you’re grateful for what you have, you’re not consumed with wanting something different or something more.”

Anti-bucket list blogger Windwalker feels that travel bucket lists can serve as a distraction. He said, “I think people get so focused on the list that they lose out on other things, other places, and other parts of the places they’re visiting.”

I believe the key to successful bucket lists (and vision boards) is being flexible with the results. Set goals, but be open to how they manifest in your life. Robin Roberts, sports newscaster and Good Morning America host, talked about being creative in how you reach your goals on the television show, “Master Class”. She said, “I used to dream about one day being at Wimbledon. I could taste the strawberries and cream. I could see myself curtsying there on center court. And I didn’t make it there, obviously, as a tennis player, but let me tell you, even though I had a mic in my hand instead of a tennis racket for ESPN when I went to cover it for the first time, to me it was like, “Check. Wimbledon.”

Be willing to rewrite your bucket list if a goal no longer appeals to you. Add new wishes to your list as needed. To come back to Arndt’s grocery list analogy, just as shoppers may purchase some impulse buys that aren’t on their lists while in the store, bucket list makers shouldn’t be afraid to stray from their defined travel goals either.

As poet Ursula Le Guin said, “It is good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters in the end.”

What do you think about travel bucket lists? Let us know in the comments below!

Bio: Colleen Lanin is the author of The Travel Mamas’ Guide and the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. She teaches blogging classes and gives presentations on how to travel with babies and children. She has given travel tips on television, radio, and as a paid video blogger. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. Her stories have appeared in such publications as the “Today” show’s travel section on NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, Working Mother Magazine, and more. Colleen will be leading an interactive session at TBEX Cancun on creating and using a vision board to remain inspired and focused.