Register for TBEX Travel Writing Workshop at TBEX Asia 2015

Don George headshot

Don George wrote the book on travel writing. Literally. And as the co-founder and chairman of the acclaimed Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference, he knows a thing or two about teaching travel writing.

Don is returning to TBEX to teach this small group travel writing workshop, and we open registration for it today.

During the workshop, Don  will focus on the art and craft of travel writing: how to find, shape and build a successful travel story. You’ll learn what can make your travel story stand out from the crowd.  He’ll cover some of the practicalities of being a travel writer in the field – what to do when you land in a place, how to move through it, how to process what are you looking for.

The workshop will be a mix of lectures and in-the-field writing exercises and discussion.

Don’s goal – and ours – is for you to come away from this workshop with a clear sense of your options for travel publishing, how to construct a compelling travel story, what it takes to break into different media and how to move from one level to the next, and how to apprehend and evoke a place most effectively as a travel writer.

This small group session is limited to a maximum of 10 participants, and is open to registered TBEX Asia 2015 attendees only. Add on workshop fee is $200.

Register for the Travel Writing Workshop at TBEX Asia 2015 here.


Announcing TBEX Cancun Photography & Writing Workshops

We’re excited to announce that we’ve extended our new small group workshops to TBEX Cancun. If you’re interested in some extended time to hone your craft, these workshops, led by award winning instructors, are a value-priced add on to your TBEX Cancun registration.

Both workshops are offered on September 9-1oth, 10 am-4 pm (time approximate), at the Moon Palace Conference Center.

Travel Photography Workshop

Gary Arndt Cancun headshotTravel Photographer of the Year and professional travel blogger Gary Arndt will give hands on instruction to those who are looking to improve their photography and then integrate their photography into their websites and social media.

Topics covered will include:  learning how to get more out of your equipment, composition, travel considerations for your gear, post-processing, and more.

The second day of the workshop will include a photo shoot, giving participants the opportunity to put all the skills together in the field. Participants will select their best work from the photo shoot to create a short photo essay.

This small group session is limited to a maximum of 10 participants, and is open to registered TBEX Cancun attendees only. Add on workshop fee is $200.

Get more information about the specifics of the Travel Photography Workshop at TBEX Cancun and register here.

Travel Writing Workshop

Don George headshotDon George wrote the book on travel writing. Literally. And as the co-founder and chairman of the acclaimed Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference, he knows a thing or to about teaching travel writing.

In this travel writing workshop, Don will focus on the art and craft of travel writing: how to find, shape and build a successful travel story. What will make your travel story stand out from the crowd?  He’ll cover some of the practicalities of being a travel writer in the field – what to do when you land in a place, how to move through , how do to process, and what are you looking for.

The workshop will be a mix of lectures and in-the-field writing exercises and discussion.

Don’s goal – and ours – is for you to come away from this workshop with a clear sense of your options for travel publishing, how to construct a compelling travel story, what it takes to break into different media and how to move from one level to the next, and how to apprehend and evoke a place most effectively as a travel writer.

This small group session is limited to a maximum of 10 participants, and is open to registered TBEX Cancun attendees only. Add on workshop fee is $200.

Get more information about the specifics of the Travel Writing Workshop at TBEX Cancun  and register here.


Introducing the TBEX Travel Writing Workshop in Athens


You spoke.

You said you wanted a chance to work on your craft, to burrow in and tackle the meatier process of crafting great writing. You said you wanted to write, re-write, and re-write again, then share your writing with others who have sweated through that same process. You said you wanted time to learn more about writing and to work on your craft.

We listened.

In Toronto and Dublin last year, we created a half day writing workshop, although we had to to limit participants in order to ensure that everyone received individual attention. In both locations, the slots filled up fast. Really fast. And as we reviewed the surveys from both locations, it became clear that you not only liked the workshop approach, but that you wanted more.

So this year, we’re bringing you more. We are very excited to announce our small, hands on, in depth, highly focused Travel Writing Workshop at TBEX, with registration opening today.

Our 2-day travel writing workshop will be led by David Farley, a published author, successful freelancer, and travel writing instructor at New York University and Columbia University. This is an opportunity to work with one of the industry’s best as he guides you through story ideas, structure, research, and pitching. Through class instruction, discussion, and writing exercises, Farley will help you workshop a piece of writing that may very well lead to your next big sale. We have a Facebook group set up so that you can meet one another before you get to Athens, ask advance questions of Farley, and get homework assignments that will help you get the most out of the workshop. Class size is limited to 12 people.

The TBEX Travel Writing Workshop

Here’s what you need to know to secure your spot in the TBEX Travel Writing Workshop.

Dates:  October 21-22, 2014. Participating in the workshop will leave you free to enjoy PRE-BEX activities on October 23rd.

Time:  Class meeting time will be announced later. You should plan to arrive in Athens no later than October 20th, fully prepared to start the workshop on October 21st.

Location:  Megaron Athens International Conference Centre (this is the venue for all the TBEX education sessions).

Fee:  $200. This is an add-on to standard TBEX registration. You  must be registered for TBEX Europe 2014 to register for this travel writing workshop. No refunds; transfers are permitted.

Head over to the TBEX Travel Writing Workshop registration page for a workshop synopsis and to sign up. Don’t miss out on this chance to hone your writing in an intimate workshop before the TBEX main event. This workshop WILL SELL OUT, so sign up now.

For those of you who miss out on this opportunity, you can catch David Farley’s session about Freelancing during the TBEX education program.

And a teaser:  If you’re hoping to hone your photography skills, stay tuned for an announcement next week about our photography workshop in Athens.

How to Connect with Your Travel Blog Readers on a Personal Level


If you’re interested in learning how to write blog posts that really resonate with people, Christine Cantera is the teacher you want. Not only has she written for several travel publications, but she’s also ghostwritten dozens of ebooks, articles, and blog posts.

Christine Cantera at TBEX Dublin

Christine was part of an excellent workshop at TBEX 2013 about tone, voice, and direction. She said something that really resonated with me, and that can help you as a blogger, no matter what your specific travel niche:

“Write specifically to someone as if you were sitting and talking to them across the table. I find that is how you get people the most excited and get people to come back and read more about what you have to say about a destination, because you’ve made that connection with them on a very personal level.”

Some of the best tips Christine gave to help with this process include:

  • On press trips, try to negotiate daily social requirements instead of daily blogging requirements. Being able to sit down and write your blog posts afterward helps you organize your thoughts about the experience so you’re writing to that specific audience.
  • Don’t write for someone. Write to someone. It can even be someone you know, like your mom or a certain friend. Keep that single person in mind and pretend you’re writing your post just for him or her.
  • You can’t be all things to all people, so don’t try to be. Your voice has the best chance of being heard if you find your niche within the world of travel and write to the people who respond to your unique personality.

When you write, do you have a certain person in mind? If not, it might be the time to start! Or do you disagree with Christine’s advice? Leave a comment with your thoughts.


TBEX Speaker Post: Dublin, City of Storytellers


Old Library at Trinity College, Dublin (photo by Aaron Parecki)

Old Library at Trinity College, Dublin (photo by Aaron Parecki)

It’s so fitting that TBEX is coming to Dublin, a UNESCO City of Literature. Has there ever been a city more influenced by its writers and shaped by the arts? The renowned Irish literary tradition, boasting four Nobel Prize winners, is constantly looking forward, embracing new styles and forms of writing. And now a new generation of storytellers are descending on the city, inviting the deep-rooted legacy of Joyce, Wilde, and Yeats to shape their budding manuscripts.

While in Dublin, take the time to acquaint yourself with the founding fathers and mothers of Irish literature – and reap the benefits of their inspiration!

The Book of Kells

The written word has dominated Ireland for over a thousand years. Take a step back to 800AD and revel in one of the most beautiful books ever created. The Book of Kells is four volumes of lovingly illustrated vellum pages containing the Latin texts of the Four Gospels. You will find it on display in the Old Library at Trinity College Dublin.

Bonus! The Book of Kells is only one of the highlights at Trinity College Dublin. Marvel at the many exhibits in the Old Library and wander the cobblestone paths of the campus to find other treasures.

Dublin Writer’s Museum

Swift or Sheridan? Shaw or Wilde? Yeats, Joyce or Beckett? If your time is limited, the Dublin Writer’s Museum will help condense centuries of history into one magnificent collection of books, letters, art work, personal artifacts, and more (see if you can find Mary Lavin’s teddy bear!) The stunning museum architecture will encourage you to linger, as will the Chapterhouse Café, whose scones I can heartily vouch for!

Bonus! If you plan on also visiting the James Joyce Center, you can take advantage of a special combined rate to enter the two facilities.

The Abbey Theatre

As the first state-subsidized English theatre in the world, the Abbey has always stood out as a unique institution. Founded by Lady Augusta Gregory and WB Yeats, the Abbey courted controversy at a very early age. One of its first productions was John Millington Synge’s Playboy of the Western World, whose unprecedented portrayal of scandalous events in rural County Mayo caused riots in Dublin in 1907. Never one to shy from a little drama, the Abbey has been a steadfast supporter of Irish playwrights ever since.

Bonus! William Butler isn’t the only Yeats in Abbey history. His brother, Jack, illustrated Synge’s books, designed sets for the Abbey, and had three of his own plays produced there – yet he is most distinguished as an outstanding painter. You can see his work at the National Gallery of Ireland, including The Liffey Swim, for which Yeats earned Ireland’s first Olympic Medal for painting – an exhibition event at the 1924 Paris Games.

Famous Footsteps

While writers may spend endless hours at their desks, in Dublin you can pound the pavement instead! Take to the pretty cobblestone streets on a literary walking tour (or pub crawl, as it may be). The James Joyce Center offers Dubliners guided audio tours, ranging from 2 hour mini-excursions to 10 hour epic adventures. For those looking for a little lager with their literature, The Duke Pub is the launch point for the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl. I join this tour every time I’m in Dublin – it’s always fresh, entertaining, and even a wee bit educational.

Bonus! Irish literature is celebrated throughout the city through public art. The statues of Joyce and Wilde are the most famous, but dedicated fans can find even more.

Irish Writer’s Center

Wrestling with Writer’s Block? Looking to do some writing of your own? The Irish Writer’s Center welcomes visitors, who will surely appreciate a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the city to concentrate on their own work. A 50 Euro membership (25 Euro for students) comes with perks such as free wi-fi, coffee & tea, private writing rooms, computer use, archive access, and special events.

Bonus! Feeling inspired with the gift of gab? The Storytellers of Ireland and Milk and Cookies Stories offer artistic events celebrating Irish storytelling in Dublin and across Ireland.

No matter where you go, there’s always a pocket of Dublin steeped in literary history, awaiting your discovery. Dublin is the perfect city to reflect on what it means to be a writer and a storyteller, and I’m hoping that you will draw on the city’s rich cultural legacy to create some new masterpieces of your own!

vanessachiassonAuthor Bio: TBEX Dublin speaker Vanessa Chiasson is the founder of She is passionate about getting great value – the best possible travel experience for your limited time and money. Speaking at TBEX Dublin marks Vanessa’s third visit to Ireland. In previous visits, her graduate studies in the Irish political economy were oft disrupted by a passion for art, culture, history – and bakery visits!

TBEX Speaker Post: Ask Me About Art

I’ve been blogging since 1997. I have work in the early archives of Matador and BlogHer and World Hum and Travelblogs. I used Tripod (gone), MSN Communities (gone) and Blogger (now owned by Google) before joining the church of WordPress in 2001. I have a loyal audience, readers that have been with me for 15 years. Parallel to my blogging timeline, there’s a career in technology; I moved to Seattle right before the tech bubble hit and built a portfolio of skills that has served me very well.  Given all this, it’s not surprising that from time to time, a newbie asks me how to make money blogging about travel.

You’d expect the answer to this question to be an established plan of strategizing, optimizing, monetizing, and socializing. Here’s your rule book, travel blogger, go forth and prosper. Instead, I have a much shorter answer to that question. How do I make money travel blogging? I don’t. Not much, anyway. Make no mistake about it, I know how to make money blogging, but that is not my path. I’m in it for art.

vintage typewriter

Let’s back up a little bit.

I was contracted for my first real job shortly after my 30th birthday. I worked as a caption writer for Encarta, Microsoft’s CD-ROM multimedia encyclopedia. It was my job to put accurate, pithy remarks beneath photos of dictators and geographic wonders and great works of art. I was good at it, the work was interesting, and it prepared me, though I did not know it at the time, for Twitter.

When that project was over, I went to work on travel planning software, a tool called Trip Planner. It became part of Expedia, and Expedia became its own company, but at the time, Trip Planner was Microsoft software that allowed you to plan your vacation in the US and Canada. I was a fact checker, which meant I made sure that all the attraction and restaurant and hotel listings were accurate and up to date. This prepared me, though I did not know it at the time, to write guidebooks for Thomas Cook.

I did many things that readied me for a career in today’s travel web. Natural language indexing, which evolved into keyword indexing for search. Web production work, coding HTML and XML, which made me bold enough to edit php in WordPress. Writing online help, which taught me to explain complex tasks in a simple way – perfect for those travel “how to” pieces. I even had a brief stint in management, but candidly, I hated it. I like doing things, not shopping them out.

In case you’re wondering, no, I didn’t hit the technology jackpot. Not by a long shot, I didn’t even win a nice nest egg. I was offered a number of full time positions at companies that were making people rich.  But every time I was recruited, the fat salary and stock options and benefits had to compete with the lure of elswhere. I can’t take this job because I am crossing The Outback in eight weeks. I can’t take this job because I am spending the winter in the Austrian Alps with a man I met while crossing the Outback. I can’t take this job because I have six weeks of summer road tripping planned. I can’t take this job because your two week vacation package is like a prison sentence, but hey, I really like working with you, let’s keep it casual! I wanted to travel more than I wanted financial stability.

I never settled into traditional employment, and now, it’s impossible for me to take a desk job that requires my daily physical presence; I am constitutionally unsuited for regular office work. But I know how to give people the information they are looking for, to make it findable, to make it understandable, and to publish it. Companies pay me well for these skills and my work is project based, so I still have time to travel and work on the writing I love. You’d be forgiven for thinking that I would put this muscle behind my blog to build it into a thriving business. But.

I don’t blog for business. I do it for art.

I came out of university with a degree in drawing and painting and a rock solid commitment to the creative. The fine arts students were one floor up from the graphic design students. Downstairs, they learned how to assemble the portfolio that would ace the interview while upstairs we wondered how we’d pay our rent and pray we had a future in teaching. The graphic artists would have jobs when they graduated; we would eat ramen noodles long after the ceremonies were over. We optimistically hoped we’d find a way to make a living without compromising our art.

We were committed, regardless of the known economic challenges. We would make the work we wanted, we were Artists. We would strive for truth over popularity, the purity of our expression was more important than making money. We would never sell out our vision to The Man. We believed in the power of art. Even now, my classmates, many of them still close friends, hold solid to these ideals. We’ve all found ways to stay true to our art.

When I began to blog, as an expat West Coast Jewish girl in a tiny alpine town, I did so with an artist’s mind, a mind towards making stuff I wanted to make. I wrote about what it was like to be an outsider. I wrote about snow and cake and Nazi themed graffiti and racism. I wrote to make my readers feel something, and to see my stories outside myself.  I wrote to understand my experiences. I still write to understand. I am not always successful, but I write to make art.

I didn’t worry about getting readers or being found by Google. I didn’t give a second’s thought to optimizing or strategizing or monetizing or socializing. I was surprised when people offered me trips, gear, ads, but I remained anchored in art. I wanted to write, I wanted to get better at it, I wanted to share my stories. Blogging allowed me to do that; it was my classroom and my gallery all at once.  15 years later – albeit with some digressions into commercial experiments — these are still my goals. Write. Get better. Share. Make art. I am first and foremost an artist, writing and blogging is my medium. I still do it for art.

There are lots of reasons to blog. Making money is one of them, but it is not the only one.

Blog because you are teaching yourself to write – blogging’s time driven nature creates an excellent framework for homework.  Blog because you are compelled to share your stories – blogging is perfect for that. Blog because you can’t not write – a blog is a good place for you to see your story outside your own head, to see your work made real. The roots version of “Why blog?” is still 100% valid – because you’re having an adventure and you want to document it. Or blog for the same reasons I do, because blogging is your medium and writing is your art.

I make a little money as a travel writer. I have some nice bylines – Afar, Lonely Planet, the San Francisco Chronicle — to name a few. I work as technical writer and I design website architecture. The geeky work pays well, I learn things, and I genuinely enjoy it. Recently, I’ve worked on several projects that tap my social media and travel experience; it’s cool when worlds converge. I stay freelance so I have time to travel and write. And best of all, because I’m not locked into making my blog pay, I’m free to do the kind of writing I want to do. I get to keep making art.

Not for a second would I argue that my approach is right for you. If you blog because you want to attract sponsor attention and fund your travels, the lofty high art perspective is the long slow road – though all of my successes as a travel writer have come from exactly this choice. Lay a good foundation in writing and journalism basics. Strive for good grammar. Get your facts straight and be honest with your audience. But where you go beyond that is your call, it’s your blog, your business, your writing.

You can choose art, though, and it is liberating. Try this.

Don’t focus on making money today or tomorrow or next year, instead, focus on making amazing writing. Dig into the dark places the tourist office doesn’t want you to see. Tell a good story purely for the satisfaction of telling a good story. Experiment, write backwards, unravel history, ask hard questions, tell stories that leave your readers feeling dizzy or angry or exhausted as though they have made the journey with you. Turn away from all the optimizing and strategizing and monetizing and socializing because they do not have to be why you blog.

I could make more money travel blogging, but it’s not my goal, so anything I can tell you would be untested. My goal is to make art. If yours is too, ask me about that. I think we’ll both find it’s a much more interesting conversation.

This is a guest post from TBEX speaker Pam Mandel. She’ll be leading Friday’s extended TBEX writing workshop (along with Andy Murdock and David Farley) as well as speaking on a panel about self-editing your work.

Pam is a freelance travel writer and photographer who’s been blogging about travel (and other topics) at Nerd’s Eye View since 1997. She’s created stories for Gadling, World Hum, Conde Nast Traveler Online, NPR station WGBH Boston, MSNBC, SF Chronicle, Afar, Lonely Planet, inflight magazines, custom publications and more. She’s a surviving guidebook writer (for Thomas Cook) and says never is too soon do guidebook work again. She’s currently procrastinating on her book about the ukulele by working as a user experience architect. She lives in Seattle with her Austrian husband where she shreds with Seattle’s loudest ukulele band, The Castaways.

 Photo:  Courtesy of Pam Mandel

Competing with Astronauts


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


blue moon

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

Then, I was distracted by Neil Armstrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit:  Josué Cedeño via wikimedia commons