Cancun:  Your Jumping-Off Point for Latin America

 

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Beaches? Check.

All-inclusive hotels with epic views of the Mexican Caribbean? Check.

Endless expanses of white, sandy beaches stretching as far as you can see? Check.

Turquoise waters lapping gently at your feet while you laze in the sun, read a book, browse your tablet, or get some work done on your laptop? Check.

Year-round sun and an endless supply of travelers of all types, from all corners of the globe? Check.

English-friendly environment where you can ease your way into the Spanish language without a crash course? Check.

There’s a multitude of reasons that people come to Cancun. It is, after all, the crown jewel of Mexico when it comes to the tourist industry as well as coastal real estate. And while at first glance you’ll see the above reasons portrayed in nearly every photo or blog post you come across on Google or Facebook or Twitter and beyond, one thing you almost never hear mention of is the mainland.

Even the Wikipedia entry for Cancun makes mention of the “Mexican” version of the city with a semi-racist undertone (if you read between the lines) of two separate versions of the same place. One for the foreigners, and one for the brown-skinned locals.

And it’s not an untrue fact; there are two very unique and completely different Cancuns, one that is heavily promoted around the world as being one of the premier beach destinations on the planet, and the other being the heart and soul of the Hotel Zone. But without the mainland, the Hotel Zone would cease to exist. And vice versa.

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The reason for the distinction? The mainland is where the bulk of the employees working in the Hotel Zone live on a day-to-day basis. The rental rates are three to five times cheaper than they are in the all-inclusive tourist zone, and beyond that, the only grocery stores, markets and the bulk of the infrastructure that keeps everything flowing are all located in the mainland Cancun: the beating heart of the overall sprawl.

If you aren’t careful, if you dismiss the mainland as nothing more than a transportation hub (there is the ADO bus station downtown plus the international airport serving the entire Riviera Maya), it’s entirely possible to leave Cancun without ever actually experiencing anything remotely Mexican, because let’s face it:  the Hotel Zone isn’t really Mexico at all; rather, it’s an English-language beach resort specifically marketed to foreigners from North America and beyond.

But there is a living, breathing city to be discovered once you dig beneath the surface. A thriving culture that marches to the beat of a very different – and very Mexican – drum. From Market 23 with its freshly-butchered meat stalls and produce stands, to the weekend events at Parque las Palapas, to the weekly presentations and displays put on at La Casa Del Cultura, to the local art community at places like Pasearte, to the lavanderias on every street corner and beyond…Mexico exists within the Cancun sprawl, but only if you are looking close enough to discover it.

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Make no mistake:  the culture in Cancun is not related to history. You won’t find colonial ruins here, as the city itself is barely 40 years old. However, the surrounding Maya culture and ruins celebrate centuries of development to dig into, and beyond that there is a thriving Mexican overtone to the mainland city that is the perfect stepping-off point if you don’t happen to speak any Spanish and just want to get your feet wet while preparing for prolonged exposure deeper into the country or further south into Central or South America.

The main difference between the two is obvious at first-glance. While the Hotel Zone is resort complexes and condominiums and townhouses stacked together, Cancun proper is two and three story typical block structures that you’ll find throughout all of Mexico. The older sections of the city are laid out in triangles known as “super manzanas”, or super blocks, while the areas within each super manzana are known simply as manzanas (yes, the same as apples).

Each area generally has its own school, little grocery store, church and built-in infrastructure. But as you go into the Hotel Zone or south of the city towards the airport you’ll see the northern influence on the architecture and city planning; new developments follow the grid pattern you’ll find in most other North American destinations throughout the United States and Canada.

If you only have a brief window of time, it’s hard to see beyond the surface layer of Cancun because you’ll spend most of your time on the beach and the all-inclusive restaurants at the resort. But if you want to set up shop and live for three to six months, there’s cable and fiberoptic Internet solutions, 3G and 4G networks, the aforementioned airport, plenty of supermarkets, a phenomenal medical tourism market, international banking options, parks, plazas, restaurants, and easy access to the beaches via the public transportation system that runs around the clock.

And while it’s not as cheap as central Mexico, mainland Cancun is more affordable than the Hotel Zone, although you sacrifice waking up to morning beach views in exchange for a lowered cost of living. The three of us (myself + Cristina + Devlin) lived very comfortably in downtown centro with a total cost of living around 800 USD per month for everything; rent, utilities, food. When I was just renting a studio for myself prior to that, my monthly bills maxed out at around $600.

That being said, if you don’t mind spending 1500 – 3000 USD per month in rent, the Hotel Zone has incredible views and a complete Westernized infrastructure. The only downside is that there aren’t any grocery stores in the tourist area, so you’ll at least have to bounce out to the mainland once in a while to pick up supplies.

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Cancun is Mexican at its core, which means the weekends are always busy and you can time your trips appropriately. In a society where people aren’t plugged in 24/7, families still go out on the weekends, as does just about everyone else. Which means the parks, plazas and malls are absolutely bursting at the seams with people on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. You’ll never be wanting for an event to attend, discounts on clothes, open markets and parades, fiestas and general revelry in the bohemian style…not to mention have access to the entire Riviera Maya with its myriad beaches, cenotes and ruins throughout.

It’s easy to get caught up in the laid back pace of life. I originally only came here for three months to learn Spanish and finish my scuba diving certification while preparing to dive off into the southern parts of the hemisphere. I still haven’t done the latter, but the former led me to meeting Cris, which in turn led to me spending the past 4+ years in the Riviera Maya, getting married and immersing myself fully into the Mexican culture.

If you are looking to explore more of the Maya civilization, enjoy an affordable cost of living and have direct access to some of the best coastlines on the planet, not to mention an international airport giving you access to the overall Central and South American sprawl south, Cancun is definitely worth looking at under a microscope. The mythical Spring Break and hordes of overweight American tourists are nothing more than a distant possibility and rarely venture out of their all-inclusive resorts, so you have nothing to fear and everything to gain in terms of beginner-level immersion into the overall Latin culture.

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Author Bio:  T.W. Anderson is the founder, head blogger, editor in chief, social media strategist and co tour leader for Marginal Boundaries, a Spanish and English travel brand with over 12,000 readers and 1+ million monthly views. He’s been traveling full time since January of 2008 and focuses on immersion travel, or long-term stays in countries around the world. He’s lived in Bulgaria, Colombia and then Mexico since 2010. he has published 12 books and is a regular speaker and teacher on social media management, plus the head teacher for the travel brand boot camps in Mexico from Marginal Boundaries. Tim will be leading a session on Facebook Advertising for the travel industry at TBEX Cancun.

TBEX Athens Pre and Post Tours Announced

We’re very excited to give you the first look at the pre- and post-TBEX Athens tours, offered on October 21-22, and 25-26.

What do you have to look forward to? Tours and excursions themed around art, sailing, GLBT culture, history, shopping, food, theology, literature, outdoor adventure, and a whole lot more.

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Each listing provides specific details about the activity, including the date, time and duration, tour provider, how many people the tour can accommodate, and more. There’s lot to choose from so look them over carefully before making your selection. Only one tour sign up per person.

Here’s what you should know about signing up for the trips:

  • You must sign up with the same email address used as when you registered for TBEX Athens. If you’re not registered yet, go register here.
  • All tours are on a first come first serve basis.
  • You may only sign up for one activity. This is to ensure fairness to everyone attending TBEX Athens. Please use care in making your selection. If you sign up for more than one, all requests will be canceled.
  • Only registered conference attendees can sign up for tours, one per person only
  • A few tours allow a +1 guest and when permitted it will be noted with that specific information. If it is not listed, no +1 is permitted.
  • The page will be updated as more tours become available, so if you don’t see something that interests you, be sure to check back.

A very big THANK YOU to Athens CVB and their fabulous partners for creating these activities.

Ready? Go take a look at the TBEX Athens Pre and Post Tours.

NOTE:  Information about multi-day TBEX Athens blogger trips will be announced separately.

Six Ways to Exchange Details When Your Business Cards Run Out

 

Imagine this:  You are at a conference. You finally get the courage to say hello to the person you specifically came to the conference just to meet. You reach into your pocket where you keep your business cards and there are no cards. You are out; you gave the last one away just moments ago. Now what?

I’ve been there many times. So what do you do? Panic? No.

Kerwin-McKenzieWell, here are six things you can do to keep in touch with that person (after apologizing that you ran out of cards) the next time this happens to you:

1.  Ask for their card. This is the easiest way out, but what if they’ve run out as well or don’t want to give you their card. Yes, it happens, the fact that you want to give someone your card, does not always mean they want to give you theirs. You can usually tell this is the case, by how much fumbling goes on to try to find the card or how uncomfortable the whole transaction is. If they’ve also run out as well, read on.

2.  Add their details to the Notepad application in your phone. Also, very easy, plus you can write notes about them at the same time.

3.  Send them an email using your phone. Ask for their email address and send them an email from your phone. You can also take a photo with them and attach it. People love to see photos of themselves, so the propensity to open that email is higher. Make the photo memorable.

4.  Follow them on social media. If they have any kind of presence on social media, this is a great way to quickly keep in touch with them. The particular social media will send them a notification. Try to get them to do the same or respond to your follow request right there and then when your username is fresh in their minds. Don’t be pushy. Usually if they are active on social media, they will reciprocate. You don’t have to do all social media touch points, just one is enough as typically once you find them in one location you can use that one to find the rest.

5.  Add their details to your phone’s contact list. If you have a smart phone, there is a contact application built in. Just add their details there. Then send them a text or call them depending on if you are both local or not. If they allow it, take a photo and add it to the contact file. They may be in a rush though, so be prepared for them saying I have to go, how about we link up later. If you don’t have a smart phone, read on.

6.  Find a pen and a piece of paper. A good rule is to always carry a small notepad and a writing instrument with you to every conference. You never know when your electronic devices will run out of battery. Go old school and write the details down. You could hand one piece of paper and a pen to the other person and while they write down their details you do the same.

What are some ways you’ve handled this situation in the past? Please leave a comment below as I’d love to hear from you.

TBEX NOTE:  Kerwin will be speaking about How to Network without Being Annoying at TBEX Athens. You’ll learn more practical tips from this master networker in his session. Register today.

Kerwin McKenzie is a Travelpreneur who creates travel-related solutions for travelers. He also runs a service at TravelBlogger101.com specifically to help Travel Bloggers get started.

 

 

Announcing TBEX Cancun Speakers

 

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We have a stellar line up of new and returning speakers for TBEX North America in Cancun, Mexico. We’re excited to announce these speaker today, and will have more speaker announcements, for Cancun and Athens, next week.

Carol Margolis

Carol Margolis is the queen of helping people travel smarter, with less stress and more productivity. She is the author of Business Travel Success, a member of the National Speakers Association, and has appeared on Good Morning America, Great Day Houston, CBS, Fox TV; acontributed to USAToday, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, LATimes, Success and Entreprenuer magazines and lots, lots more.

Carol will be speaking on how to generate publicity and media appearances for you and your blog.

Chris Christensen

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. He is also a co-host at This Week in Travel. Chris is the owner of BloggerBridge.com which is a new startup connecting bloggers and industry contacts. He has worked for years in technology startups in Silicon Valley. He was formerly the Director of Engineering for TripAdvisor’s New Initiatives group and was the EVP Engineering at LiveWorld.

Chris will be speaking on how to find a successful balance between travel blogging and a day job.

Colleen Lanin

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 on creating and using a vision board to keep inspired and focused.

David Brodie

David is a Vice President of Citizen Relations, a global Public Relations firm recently named 2013 Canadian PR Agency of the Year. He heads up Citizen’s Vancouver office and also sits on the agency’s North American leadership team. His extensive work in the travel and tourism sector includes leading the Destination British Columbia and Rocky Mountaineer accounts, as well as leading initiatives for brands such as Travelocity and Princess Cruises. He is also the founder of Travel in 10, one of the world’s first travel podcast that continues to be one of the top travel downloads on iTunes.

David will be speaking on how to find a successful balance between travel blogging and a day job.

Diana Laskaris

Diana Laskaris, Chief Food Officer of Food Travelist, has been cooking since she had to stand on a chair to reach the stovetop. Nothing makes her happier than a contented group with smiling faces seated around a table eating and enjoying one another’s company. The interplay of world events and culinary history fascinate her and, like Thomas Jefferson (who brought French cuisine to America before Julia Child popularized it), she cannot live without books. Her background in entertainment media has made her an animated storyteller, who loves to explore culinary adventures in some of the world’s most delicious destinations.

Diana will be speaking on how to profit from the boom in culinary tourism.

Kerwin McKenzie

Kerwin is an ex-airline employee who creates travel solutions for travelers to make their travel experiences better. He’s been to 109 countries and counting and travels about 250,000 miles annually.

Kerwin will be speaking on how to get started with Facebook ads and get results.

Lou Mongello

Lou Mongello is a widely recognized Disney author, expert, host, speaker and entrepreneur. He is the host of WDWRadio.com (Best Travel Podcast 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013), author of the Disney World Trivia Books, 102 Ways to Save Money At Disney World, and author/narrator of Audio Tours of Disney parks. He founded the Dream Team Project, which sends children with life-threatening illnesses to Disney World, and speaks to businesses, conferences and schools on the magic of Disney, the power of social media, and creating an exciting future by following one’s dreams and passions.

Lou will be speaking on how to use offline interactions to increase online engagement.

Max Hartshorne

Since 2002, Max Hartshorne has been the editor of GoNOMAD.com travel, publishing the travel stories of hundreds of writers and promoting, speaking and marketing his way to making the site his full time job. Today he works with legions of travel writers and develops new talent by working with interns from local colleges. He is a regular guest on travel and talk radio shows and continues to travel regularly around the world. GoNOMAD also has 22 travel ebooks on Amazon and has formed partnerships with major travel brands to promote them on the site and on social media.

Max will be speaking on how to find and use interns, virtual assistants, and salespeople to grow your business.

Sheila Scarborough

Sheila Scarborough is a blogger and founder of Tourism Current (launched in 2009), an independent team of professional educators offering online and in-person training in social media for tourism, hospitality, and economic development.

Sheila will be speaking in the TBEX Industry track.

Tim Anderson

T.W. Anderson is the founder, head blogger, editor in chief, social media strategist and co tour leader for Marginal Boundaries, a Spanish and English travel brand with over 12,000 readers and 1+ million monthly views. He’s been traveling full time since January of 2008 and focuses on immersion travel, or long-term stays in countries around the world. He’s lived in Bulgaria, Colombia and then Mexico since 2010. he has published 12 books and is a regular speaker and teacher on social media management, plus the head teacher for the travel brand boot camps in Mexico from Marginal Boundaries.

Tim will be leading an advanced Facebook session.

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 the profits and prestige of book and e-book publishing.

Veronica James

Upon sending their youngest out into the big, wide world, Veronica set out to break the empty nest rules by selling everything and hitting the road with her husband, David, to become more than empty nesters, to be gypsies, GypsyNesters! Along the way they began writing posts for their popular website, GypsyNester.com, and rediscovered the couple who fell in love years ago. They’ve been full-time travelers since 2008. Watch for their debut memoir Going Gypsy: One Couple’s Adventure from Empty Nest to No Nest at All in February 2015 from Skyhorse Publishing.

Vernoica will be speaking on how to deal with haters, flamers, and trolls.

 

TBEX Mission & Programming Ethics

 

We often tell prospective destinations that hosting TBEX is like offering the world’s biggest press trip. It’s a chance for a destination to showcase its tourism product, the attractions that make up the backbone of the destination’s tourism economy.

rickcalvert_blogworldPart of this amazing opportunity is the ability to host a variety of tours and excursions that will give attendees a small sampling of what the destination has to offer visitors, a sampling that they, in turn, can share with their readers. Each destination creates a wide range of itineraries to offer TBEX attendees. For example, these may include food and shopping experiences, historical tours, ecological tours, adventure tours, cultural experiences, museums, even wildlife and zoological experiences.

When we were in Cancun for our site visit, there were three dolphin related tour companies that came to meet us. They subsequently provided itineraries for Cancun to offer to TBEX attendees. This has the TBEX community talking. Talking about issues is good. Talking about issues where everyone has a chance to get full information and respond is even better.

So let’s talk.

First let me share the Mission of TBEX.

TBEX exists to provide educational content and networking opportunities that benefit both bloggers and the travel industry, and in doing so, raising the standards of professionalism on both sides. This creates more opportunities for content creators and delivers measureable value to the travel industry.

We are passionately committed to this mission, and to the belief that new media has empowered all of us in a way never before seen in human history. New media gives everyone the opportunity to share their opinion no matter what his or her views are.

Our goal is to give you everything we can to help you chart your own success, leaving it up to you to pick and choose what best fits your personal preferences and business plan. We know you may not like everything on the program, but we hope the diversity of information helps you connect with what will be most useful to YOU.

We are not a political event. We are a professional development event. We are an advocacy organization. We advocate for you, the travel content creator. It is not in keeping with our mission to advocate on one side or the other of a political debate.

The same is true for any tourist board. Their job is to bring visitors to the destination and to represent their private industry partners who make up their local travel industry.  There is a saying in the travel industry:  the job of the tourist board is to put “heads on beds”.

Even though TBEX isn’t political, and tourism boards as a whole are not political in nature, it still begs the question – is there a line, and if so where is it?

The honest answer is yes. There is a line. But there is a very high threshold to crossing that line.

We know that some of you are offended by these dolphin programs. Some even find the concept abhorrent and consider it animal cruelty.  You have been very vocal about your beliefs and convictions.  Some have asked, or even demanded, that we remove these experiences from the program.  We respect you and your beliefs. We have heard you. And we understand you. But at the same time, numerous others members of our community have excitedly signed up for those same experiences and have emailed us to ask that we do not cancel them.

There are numerous advocates for these programs who believe they offer valuable research and that their practice is humane. There is obviously an active debate both outside and within the TBEX Community. It would not be ethical for us to choose a side in this debate. Doing so would be doing a disservice to some part of our community and violating our mission to advocate on behalf of ALL content creators.

We believe the TBEX community is made up of professionals who can accept people with differing views, never allowing a healthy debate to turn into personal attacks or insidious conversation aimed at any attendee. In fact, encouraging constructive discussion is exactly in line with TBEX’s mission.

I know some of you may be upset with this decision, but I sincerely hope you can respect the reasoning behind it.

You have only seen the tip of the iceberg in the trips and excursions that will be offered by Cancun and their partners. There will be diversity in the opportunities, including cultural and local experiences, and we believe that there will be something that will pique the interest of all our attendees.

This is a good debate to have. Change can come out of debate, so feel free to sound off in the comment section below, on your own blogs, and the social channels.

We value you. We hope you will find many other excursions that you are passionate about exploring and blogging about when you join us in Cancun this September for TBEX North America.

Thank you for understanding and respecting our mission here at TBEX.

Rick Calvert

 

***Update 7/12/14****

This has been a very active debate and I thought it was important to include some more information.

Some of accused us of including these programs on behalf of sponsors and to make money.

Fact, the company providing these tours is not a sponsor. TBEX has not been compensated monetarily or otherwise.

Diana from d travels’ round has been very active in this discussion. All of her comments have been thoughtful and respectful. I felt it was appropriate to include her latest comment here. My reply to her comment is below as well.

Diana’s comment:

That is the problem though: your audience is not that knowledgeable. Speaking from experience and working in both the PR and blogger sides, most bloggers don’t know the truth about animal tourism and without someone actually taking the time to educate them, they won’t. I’ve come across so many in my time working with responsible tourism who tell me they wish they would have known the truth about whatever animal attraction it is they supported and wrote about, because then they would not have written/advocated for it. People learn because thought leaders, brands, etc. speak out and make it a priority to educate.

My reply:

 Fair point and very well said Diana. They should be. Isn’t it their job as providers of information to educate themselves and share that information with their audience? Isn’t that your job?

Imagine if every blogger who signed up for one of these trips came home and wrote a story that agreed with your point of view. How many more people would be educated?

This is the point I have been trying to make from the beginning. Our audience is not made up of consumers. It is made up of new media content creators and travel industry professionals. TBEX is not for the general public. This is an important distinction. Part of our job is to teach new media content creators how to improve their investigative skills, how to write and communicate effectively and deliver real value to their audience. In order to do that, they need to gather information.

It is their job to educate the public.

Our critics are taking the position that some sources of information are acceptable and others should be censored. That they have found the truth and no further debate or fact finding is needed. That our audience is too naive to learn and decide for themselves. That is completely contrary to what we believe and what we advocate for on behalf of new media content creators.

We are not trying to defend these programs or promote them. We included them because local businesses offered them. We think our audience is / should be sophisticated enough to make the decision of taking one of these tours and then writing objectively about their experience for themselves.

 

We hope more of our community uses this debate to educate themselves about this subject.

 

Visit These Athens Neighborhoods During TBEX

 

In a country of approximately 11 million people, the city of Athens is the premier urban destination where approximately 40% of the country’s population lives. With its interesting archaeological sites and museums, world-class cultural attractions, fantastic food sourced from local ingredients, modern infrastructure, and a vibrant nightlife, Athens is a fabulous city to visit.

In order to make the most out of your trip to Athens, and your time before and after TBEX, here are some urban neighborhoods that will give you a well-rounded perspective of the city:

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Classical Athens

Plaka – Plaka is located below the Acropolis, between Syntagma and Monastiraki, and is one of the oldest neighborhoods of Athens. Despite the fact that it is the most touristy quarter of the city, it offers much in terms of architectural interest – it is chockfull of 19th century neoclassical mansions, Byzantine churches, and special interest museums. Stroll through its labyrinthine streets and narrow alleys to experience its romantic and nostalgic atmosphere, and sit down at one of the various restaurants, cafes and bars. Anafiotika is a section of Plaka which has beautiful Cycladic-style white houses that lead up to the Acropolis. Important archaeological sites can be found here, including the Ancient Agora and the Tower of the Winds.

Monastiraki – Monastiraki is another one of the oldest neighborhoods in Athens and is famous for its Sunday flea market offering a huge variety of products on display. The neighborhood is also known for its numerous antique stores, and other stores which sell vintage items, books, second-hand clothing, decorative objects, etc. The central square and fountain of Monastiraki is a popular hangout and many outdoor events take place here. Additionally, Monastiraki contains buildings with beautiful architecture and restaurants, cafes, and bars.

Thissio – The Thissio neighborhood is adjacent to Plaka and and Monastiraki and next to Filopappou Hill. Walk to Pnyx Hill,considered to be the birthplace of democracy, and then observe the Hill of the Nymphs, which contains the Observatory. Thissio enjoys views of the Acropolis from almost every angle, and contains many neoclassical buildings along with trendy cafes, tavernas, and bars. Thissio is also home to the Herakleidon Museum of Art along with other art galleries. There are many pedestrian streets and a famous open air cinema, Cine Thissio, open in the summer months.

Museum & Shopping District

Kolonaki – Kolonaki is considered to be the most elegant and wealthy neighborhood of central Athens, with a long and cosmopolitan history. It is located at the base of Lykavittos Hill and attracts a variety of people – from politicians to jetsetters to businessmen to designers. It is a trendy and fashionable meeting area and has many lovely restaurants, cafes, and bars as well as boutique fashion and jewelry stores. It is no secret that it is one of Athens’ leading shopping areas. The Benaki, Cycladic, and Byzantine Museums are also located in Kolonaki, along Vassilissis Sofias Avenue, the main avenue which starts at Syntagma. Many embassies are also located in this area.

Cosmopolitan Center

Syntagma – Syntagma, or Constitution Square, is the most centrally located area of Athens, and has as its landmark the Parliament building, which used to be a palace. The changing of the guard takes place in front of the Palace. Next to the Parliament are the National Gardens and Zappeio Park. The National Gardens house, among others things, a playground, children’s library, small café, and a duck pond. Zappeio Park contains the Zappeio building which was constructed to house the first modern Olympic Games in the 19th century. Nowadays, it is used to hold conferences and exhibitions. The beautiful gardens also contain a café, restaurant, and an open-air cinema. Across from Zappeio Park you’ll find the Panathenaic (Kallimarmaro) Stadium, the stadium of the first modern Olympic Games.

Where Locals Go

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Gazi – The Gazi district obtained its name from the old Gas factory of Athens which was located where the Technopolis cultural center now stands. The Technopolis is an exhibition/concert venue and is operated by the City of Athens. In recent years, property in this area has been converted into loft-style residences and offices, which has resulted in buildings with interesting and creative architecture. The neighborhood is bustling with bars, restaurants, and cafes, and as a result is one of the most vibrant areas of the city. More recently, locals have been hanging out at Agias Irinis Square, flanked by Agias Irinis Church, off Monastiraki, which has many restaurants, bars, stores, and coffee shops. Lately, Hipsters have been frequenting the Petralona neighborhood as it offers much in terms of traditional Greek tavernas, artsy bars, as well as new loft apartments.

 

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

 

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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 Viator.com, where she manages a team of more than 30 writers who contribute to Viator.com 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, TravelandLeisure.com, 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, LaurelRobbins.com 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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 PointsandTravel.com 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.