Passports with Purpose 2012: Jaw-Droppingly Amazing Prizes (& Clean Water to Boot)


Passports with Purpose is now in its fifth year, and TBEX is proud to be a sponsor of this fundraising effort driven totally by travel bloggers. The 2012 beneficiary is, and the goal is to raise $100,000 to build two community wells in rural Haiti. At first glance, that number is astounding – especially given PwP’s youth – but we all believe it’s possible. Just last year PwP raised $90,000 so that Room to Read could build two libraries in Zambia, right? So, yeah – $100,000 for clean water is totally do-able, and what a worthy cause.

photos courtesy of

Of course, Passports with Purpose isn’t just about the great causes – it’s also about the exceptionally cool prizes that travel bloggers manage to procure every year so PwP can raise money for those causes. As the fundraising goals get bigger every year, so does the list of awesome prizes – and this year is no different. As soon as this year’s list of prizes went up on Tuesday night, I started drooling over the options. It’s truly a testament to the strong connections travel bloggers can establish with the travel industry that such great travel prize packages are donated to PwP each year.

Oh, and if you wanted a visual representation of the prizes – and who doesn’t? – the clever PwP folks have a Pinterest board dedicated to all the prizes available this year. It’s a feast for the eyes, I tellya.

Here’s a selection of some of the most jaw-dropping prizes up for grabs in the 2012 Passports with Purpose.


    • 26-Day Silk Road Tour (value $4300) – Okay, hold the phone. Wandermom and Intrepid Travel teamed up to offer a 26-day tour through Central Asia. Talk about upping the ante! What a phenomenal prize – and one lucky person will win it with a $10 donation. Fantastic.


    • 21-Day Photo Trek in Nepal (value $3900) – Oh, those Seattle bloggers know how to bring the good prizes. Peter Carey is offering a spot on his photo trek in Nepal scheduled for next September/October, which includes all lodging, meals, transportation, guides, porters, and photo instruction for 21 days (you just have to get yourself there).


    • Exclusive Atlanta Experience at Omni CNN Center (includes a swim with Whale Sharks!) (value $1700) – Yep, you read that right. Not only do you get two nights at the Omni Hotel in Atlanta with this package from Field Trips with Sue, you get a $200 spa credit at the hotel spa, two tickets to the World of Coca-Cola, two VIP tour tickets at CNN Global Headquarters, and – yes – a chance to swim with whale sharks in the Georgia Aquarium.


    • Amazon River Cruise (value $3898) – So, who’s up for spending eight nights on the Amazon? Yeah, I thought so. What a cool prize from Green Global Travel – a cabin on the Amazon Voyage for eight nights, including guided tours and most meals.


    • 7-Night Vacation at an Inspirato Luxury Penthouse in Mexico (value $4550) – The words “luxury” and “penthouse” go together so nicely, don’t they? Especially when they’re combined in a prize package from Ciao Bambino! that lets you stay in the aforementioned luxury penthouse in Mexico for a full week. Oh, and this place sleeps six – so bring the family!


    • A Glorious Week in Provence (value $4700) – Is there any other kind of week in Provence than a “glorious” one? Maybe not, but this package from The Provence Post will help make sure your week is blissful. You’ll get a week’s stay in a villa, private guided tours, meals in top restaurants, and even relaxing massages – and you’re surrounded by Provence for the whole thing. If that doesn’t sound glorious, I don’t know what does.



    • Revealed Rome’s Perfect Trip to Rome (value $1435) – All your Rome needs are met with this package, which includes two nights in a 5-star hotel, a pizza-making class, a guided tour of the Vatican, and travel planning assistance from Revealed Rome.


    • Two Nights in Paradise (value $1160) – This package from No Vacation Required will give one lucky winner the chance to spend two nights at the oceanfront Makena Beach and Golf Resort in Maui, including breakfast at their lush buffet, plus an authentic Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe experience and a snorkeling excursion.


    • Three-night stay at Jicaro Island Ecolodge in Nicaragua (value $1500) – Participating in PwP makes us all feel good, right? Well, you can carry that feel-good mentality with you whenever you travel by selecting green accommodation like the ecolodge in this prize from Ever the Nomad. Your stay includes three meals a day and non-alcoholic beverages for two people.


    • European Tour with Busabout and Haggis Adventures (value $950) – One of the things I love about this package from A Dangerous Business is its flexibility. The 6-stop Busabout pass means you can spend as long as you like in each place, so you could use this package on a two-week trip or a two-month trip. When you’ve used up your last Busabout day, then you can top off your trip with a 5-day Highland Fling tour of Scotland from Haggis Adventures.


    • 2 Nights in New Orleans at Hotel Monteleone (value $750) – I’ll admit, I’m biased about this one… Because I won this prize from A Traveler’s Library two years ago in PwP! My stay at the Hotel Monteleone was fabulous (it’s right in the heart of the French Quarter), and the city of New Orleans never disappoints.


    • 2013 Kahumoku Ohana Music and Lifestyle Workshop (value $1450) – By now we’re all well aware of PwP co-founder Pam Mandel’s affinity for the uke, but she’s not the only travel blogger who loves the diminuitive instrument. The winner of this prize from Live Ukulele will get a week’s worth of tuition to this ukulele workshop on the Big Island, including three meals a day during the workshop. After that week, Pam might just be begging you to join her uke band. (And y’know what? If you don’t already have a uke, Pam’s got you covered with her PwP prize this year – a Kamoa Concert Ukulele.)


No matter which PwP prizes you have your eye on this year, the important thing is that you donate to Passports with Purpose and help them get closer to their lofty $100,000 goal to build community wells in Haiti. The donations page is open now, and will be open until December 11, 2012 at 11:59pm (EST). Each entry for a prize you’d like to win will cost you $10, and that handy page will tally your total at the bottom as you go.

Go on, support a worthy cause this holiday season, and simultaneously give the world another reason to think travel bloggers are pretty incredible people!

Is there room under the travel blogging umbrella for calendars and calendar haters?


Earlier this month, there was a bit of a kerfuffle over a travel blogging calendar. The fact that there were facets of the travel blogging world that didn’t embrace and applaud the calendar isn’t the interesting part, that was to be expected. Rather, what was interesting was that the sentiments of both the calendar’s detractors and its champions, taken together, did a fine job of demonstrating how all-encompassing the travel blogging world has the potential to be.

But let me back up a bit.

Travel bloggers posing for calendars isn’t new – just ask Diamond PR about their “Men of TBEX” calendar from Vancouver. Unlike that effort, however, the impetus for this new calendar of travel bloggers has come from the bloggers themselves – and this time there are separate calendars for men and women. Twenty-four bloggers agreed to submit photographs of themselves, and two charities were selected to receive “the entirety of the profits” from the sale of the calendars.

And then came the questions. Questions like, “How close to nude can we go?” from one calendar participant, to “Really??!?” from one skeptic, to “Who’s going to buy these calendars, anyway?” from a few people, both in public and private.

These calendars were never going to be just another travel blogging initiative – something the organizers knew going in (if for no other reason than the fact that the earlier “Men of TBEX” calendar brought up questions, too). They were going to generate some raised eyebrows and (yes) some questions. The success of a project like this has to be based on getting the word out. If even a portion of that is accomplished by said project being of a slightly prurient interest, then that makes the promotional effort easier. Raising eyebrows (or questions) is fine, since “there’s no such thing as bad publicity,” right?

Evidently not everyone who’s a fan of the calendar agrees with that old chestnut, and some were unprepared to deal with any questions that weren’t along the lines of “how can I be in it next year?” or “where can I buy one?” When the purpose and motivation of the calendar effort was questioned, the conversation quickly went off the rails.

What I love about this calendar is that it’s something different. Who knows how much money they’ll raise – I genuinely hope it’s a good sum, and that they share their progress – but at least they’re thinking creatively. The calendar is an effort to drive money toward a charity, but it also showcases the ability of travel bloggers to think creatively and work together – skills that are in demand as more people flood the already saturated travel blogging market. Additionally, turning this from a “spur-of-a-moment idea” into an actual, physical thing in a short span of time highlights how adaptable travel bloggers can be – the world moves quickly, and we must move quickly with it or get left behind. All of these traits are specific and marketable skills – we’re talking resume-quality language here – and that deserves applause. We need more of that kind of forward thinking. The calendar’s organizers and participants get major points for showing creativity, adaptability, and the benefits of collaboration.

But what the array of reactions to the calendar has demonstrated is something that I love even more – that there’s room under this enormous umbrella of travel blogging both for the people who adore this calendar idea and want to buy it every year and for the people who roll their eyes at it before going back to whatever section of the travel blogging world suits them best.

There is no brush broad enough to paint all travel bloggers at once, nor should there be. Travelers are exceptionally diverse, why shouldn’t travel bloggers be, too? We travel differently, we blog differently – we think differently. If we all produced the same ideas, what an awfully boring community this would be! There are enough niches under this gigantic umbrella that everyone will find something they love and others who have similar affections. The travel industry is even bigger than our umbrella, trying as it is to appeal to the whims of every traveler on earth, so it’s big enough to support a wide variety of travel bloggers, too.

Not everyone will cheer every new idea. It makes sense, right? There are critics in every industry. Some will quietly scoff and go about their own business, some will openly mock, and others will ask questions. We need to be prepared to deal with every kind of critic – whether simply accepting that not everyone is a fan, ignoring the detractors who offer nothing more than vitriol (don’t feed the trolls!), or explaning what we’re doing and why we’re doing it – in a thoughtful and reasonable manner. Critics should be expected to ask pointed questions about things they find confusing or about which they just want more information. Asking “who’s the target audience for this calendar?” isn’t an attack, and it certainly shouldn’t generate threats of physical violence. (Update: the Twitter post with the threat has apparently been removed, but here’s a screenshot of it.)

Whether the loudest (so far as I can tell) skeptic of the calendar had simply asked pointed questions or “took a hard(ish) line on” the topic, this kind of lighthearted retort seems the better place to start. Really, the first – and only – response could even have been, “Sorry you don’t like it, man, and I’mma let you finish, but we’re gonna be over here raising money for charity, mmkay?” before dropping the mic and walking offstage.

Yes, I’m being flippant, but the point is we have to know that not everyone will love what we do. If we fail to respond appropriately to our critics we run the risk of looking foolish or, even worse, looking like we haven’t even thought about our actions as much as our critics have.

Asking pointed questions helps us refine our bold ideas and prepares us for when businesses (rather than other bloggers) are asking the hard questions. We need to ask ourselves pointed questions, so we’re ready when others ask them. We need to answer thoughtfully, so we don’t appear poised for attack (even if we think it’s a defensive move). When we do all of this, it doesn’t matter one iota whether someone else under this umbrella doesn’t totally love our idea. There’s plenty of room for all of our well-considered (if sometimes quirky) ideas. Not everyone needs to follow the same path or even like every available path, as long as we agree to disagree as professionals.

As for the question posed at the beginning – is there room under this travel blogging umbrella for both the calendar lovers and the calendar haters? – I’d like to believe the answer is a resounding yes. The incredible and sometimes bizarre diversity of people I’ve met in this community – a community drawn together by a love of traveling – never ceases to amaze. I’d also like to believe that the umbrella is limitless, and that we all (at the very least) share the willingness to defend one another’s right to push boundaries, throw spaghetti at the wall, and ask questions.

If we can’t do that – support creative discourse and a little spaghetti throwing – then we’ll fracture our community instead of growing and sustaining it. I think the growth option is better for all of us, even if it comes with a few hard questions along the way.

We’re interested in publishing editorial content on the TBEX blog that represents a wide array of opinions on all things travel, blogging, and anything else that the TBEX audience might find interesting. And as it turns out, TBEX staff have opinions, too. This opinion piece may not represent the opinions of everyone working at TBEX or New Media Expo. Do you have a counter-point to this editorial? Do you have something else you’d like to get off your chest? We’d love to hear from you.

Happy Thanksgiving from TBEX


happy thanksgiving 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

We’ve been following your posts, tweets, and status updates about everything that you’re thankful for, and now we want to share thoughts on that from the TBEX staff.

Rick Calvert, CEO:

I am thankful for my family, friends, for having a dream job and the amazing group of people that I work with. There are so many other things I am thankful for but that’s a good start.

 Dave Cynkin, CMO:

I’m thankful for the fact that I currently have not one, but THREE lip balms in my possession. I typically misplace them shortly after purchase, and honestly it’s quite vexing. Now I have extras. This is bliss. 🙂

I’m thankful for the fact that my kids are still young enough to want a hug every day. And every day, I take advantage of this opportunity. These are truly good days.

I’m thankful for the fact that my wife seems to really like me. I’ve had her fooled into thinking I’m ‘a find’ for over 20 years. What was she thinking, picking a goofball like me? She must’ve been crazy.

I’m thankful to have met so many nice people in recent years. Full of passion, spirit and creativity. So many willing to share with others, and spreading their positivity to those around them. Friends, however briefly engaged amidst busy days, brighten them all.

I’m thankful for my health, which in my lineage has not been doled out liberally. I work hard to keep it, I sometimes slip. But for now I have it, and at times, I feel youthful and vibrant. That is a gift, the most precious kind, and one that I will share with others however I can.

Jessica Spiegel, Community Manager:

I’m thankful for my passport & the privilege of using it. I’m thankful for every teacher who told me that yes, writing skills really were going to be useful in my life, even though they hadn’t even heard of the internet yet. I’m thankful for an incredibly supportive family who may not understand what the heck I do for a living, but who cheer me on regardless. I’m thankful for the bizarre menagerie of friends I never would have met without blogs, social media, and traveling. Oh, & I’m thankful for pumpkin pie. I mean, let’s be honest.

Patti Hoskings, Director of Business Development:

I am thankful for my healthy children, love of God, amazing friends, and brilliant clients.

Carrie Hebert, Business Development:

All the simple things in life we so often take for granted.  I am thankful for my supportive and loving husband, my children, family, friends, shelter, food, and my health.  Most of all, OPPORTUNITY!

Jim Craven, Business Development:

With 30+ years in travel, on Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for home…

 Home, the United States of America, I’m thankful for the freedoms for which our forefathers fought;  we are best when we tolerate and defend those freedoms. 
I’m also thankful for the comfortable couch in my living room, there’s nothing like coming home after a long trip and sleeping on your our couch (home couch surfing).
Dorothy probably said it best, “Home, there’s no place like it…”   
Matt Long, Business Development:

This year I’m thankful to be able to do what I love and have family to support me through it all.

Dani Goren, Director of Operations:

I am thankful for my husband and dog, Abby:)

Chris Castro, Registration and Technology Director:

I’m thankful for my friends and family, my dog Ash, the 20 days of the year without rain.  I am also thankful that I was able to take my first trip to Europe with TBEX, and had a great experience walking the Camino Portugues.  – Happy Thanksgiving!

Mary Jo Manzanares, Conference Director:

I’m thankful for a life that embraces travel, both personally and professionally. I’m thankful to have wonderful people in my life to love, and who love me back. And I’m thankful for each new day that serves as a reminder that I have another opportunity to be the best person I can be.

All of us here at TBEX wish you a very happy Thanksgiving!

 Photo credit:  SXC

With Honors: Graduating from My First TBEX


When today’s guest blogger, Atreyee Gupta of Bespoke Traveler, first offered the “TBEX is like school” analogy, we were intrigued. Was that a good thing? A bad thing? As it turns out, Atreyee found her first TBEX experience in Keystone to be a little of both – although the biggest lesson didn’t occur to her until after she’d returned home.

When I first began blogging about my immersive travel experiences, I was not aware there was such a profession as a travel blogger. While sharing personal stories of discovering art, architecture, and history abroad, I found fellow adventurers writing their own fascinating travel accounts which compelled me to chat with these digital nomads.

When I heard about the Travel Blogger Exchange (TBEX) Conference from one of them, I was excited about the opportunity to meet some of my fellow virtual travel companions face to face, make new friends, and spend a weekend discussing our mutual passion for travel. I was just as excited for my first visit to Keystone, Colorado where the conference would be assembled.

However, upon arriving at the meeting site, I found myself suddenly whipped back into high school with 800 other students all writing about similar experiences, all climbing the same ladder, all hoping for the same goal. I felt like the new transfer kid who had registered into a “Fame” school for travel aficionados and who had forgotten to tie her shoelaces on the first day.

Even though I had communicated with quite a few bloggers online, I did not recognize any of these faces, and I was overcome by the thought of my current “sink-or-swim” situation. How could I possibly survive the next four days, never mind graduate with the rest of the class?

How TBEX was like my school days

Just like the first day of school, the TBEX conference began with formal registration and a prescribed schedule of classes. To teach the classes there was a roster of talented speakers who fulfilled the role of lecturing professors. The student body consisted of a diverse collection of bloggers, writers, photographers, and tourism professionals who by their personalities and behaviors satisfied every school attendance list.

Besides classes, there were a suite of extracurricular activities to participate in from approved icebreakers to evening parties. My next few days in Keystone continually reminded me of school days: hurrying down corridors hunting for the next class, furious note taking while staring at slide presentations, and a hectic schedule of events.

Between the pressure of capturing information during sessions and socializing with everyone afterwards, I had my plate full. Although there weren’t any homework assignments, pop quizzes, or final exams at TBEX, the responsibilities of attending seminars and quickly developing relationships with both lecturers and fellow bloggers at the TBEX conference felt just as overwhelming as successfully passing classes and making friends at school.

How TBEX was NOT like my school days

Choosing which classes to attend at TBEX Keystone turned out to be extremely important. Unlike my school experience, this was the only time teachers were educating me about real world applications. A course on turning a hobby into a business offered insights into various methods for making a profit for my company. In several seminars, I was fortunate enough to hear personal stories of the speakers’ battles to obtain sponsors and project funding. One lecturer’s insights into the statistics of current social media sites helped me understand how to use these sites to better interact with customers.

While learning algebra theory and the history of nineteenth century writers in school had provided me with information, there were never real life applications to which I could apply these classroom lessons. At the TBEX conference, however, practical guidance was being offered not only by the lecturers but also by my fellow bloggers. With years of experience as travelers, writers, and photographers, TBEX attendees were providing me with vocational advice, technical expertise, and practical know-how. My only regret was that there wasn’t two of me so that I could attend every session.

The Most Important Lesson I Learned

There was one lesson from TBEX that I learned not in the classroom, but only once I returned home. While reminiscing about all the events I attended, the many different people I met, and the overwhelming support I received, I was left to evaluate the entire weekend with the strictness of hindsight.

Attending TBEX didn’t exponentially grow my readers or customer base and didn’t provide me with instant access to a sponsor. Instead, it filled me with ideas, concepts, and goals I might never have thought of on my own. This was something my long years in school had never helped me to do.

Through the conference I connected genuinely with a handful of fellow writers, bloggers, and travel professionals who I fostered new plans and expanded my experimental ideas. Learning from the speakers and conversing with fellow attendees stimulated me.

Ever since attending my first TBEX event, I feel more energized about my passion, more enthusiastic about my direction, and more…inspired! Inspiration is what every school should provide its pupils, and it’s the best lesson I could have learned as a TBEX alumni.

all photos by Dave Cynkin

Author bio: Atreyee Gupta is cofounder of Bespoke Traveler, a curated travel publication which produces digital books and journals to inspire travelers to cultivate relationships with their destinations. As managing editor of the Bespoke Traveler website and journals, Atreyee plans, develops, and edits the company’s online content as well as its product offerings. Atreyee’s travel stories can be found through Bespoke Traveler’s e-books and blog.

TBEX Memories


As TBEX matures out of infancy and into its toddler years, I’m struck by all the new faces I see at each conference. There are a few people who have been to every single TBEX so far, but I imagine that number will shrink fairly quickly from here on out. Because of that, I wanted to make sure we’re doing a good job of talking about not just the latest or next TBEX but also chronicling where we’ve been and how far we’ve come – especially while looking in the rearview mirror back to Chicago in 2009 isn’t too much of a strain yet.

Toward that end, I’d like to invite those of you who have TBEX memories from any past conferences to submit them to the TBEX blog. We’ll take photos, brief stories, or a combination of the two. Let’s keep a storytelling tradition alive internally, shall we?, so that when we talk about storytelling at conferences we’re walking the talk.

Here are some of my TBEX memories to start the ball rolling. (The one TBEX I missed was the first Europe conference in Copenhagen, so I’ll wait for you guys to fill in the blanks there.)

Chicago 2009

  • I remember following the progress of the TBEX Road-Trip as it snaked from Seattle to Chicago. I kept waiting for the road-tripping trio – who, if I remember right, hadn’t met before they agreed to drive cross-country together – to implode. Not only did the experiment not fail, Pam, Kelly, and Peter remain good friends to this day.
  • I remember a stuffy room with giant windows on two sides packed with travel bloggers who could have complained endlessly about the heat, the cramped seating, and probably a bunch of other things, but who were just so happy to be there.
  • I remember walking to an outdoor cafe when it was all over and having drinks with a few bloggers who came along, at what was probably one of the first TBEX after-parties (albeit an incredibly low-key one).
  • I remember meeting, for the first time, so many of the bloggers I’d “known” online for what seemed like ages. It was overwhelming, seeing all these moving avatars in one room.

New York 2010

  • I remember a two-day schedule, twice as many speakers, and a wide variety of topics made it feel like TBEX had really grown up.
  • I remember being surprised at how articulate Gary was onstage, since his speech came before my learning of his debate club days (not to mention his general affinity for talking in front of a microphone).
  • I remember the World Cup going on during some of the sessions, including my own panel, which meant that a kind soul in the front row had to alert me when someone scored and I may have scared Annemarie by yelping in her ear at the news.
  • I remember Mike donning a powder-blue polyester suit (with flip-flops), nevermind that it was a thousand degrees.
  • I remember a party upstairs in a cool old building where the music was too loud (though many didn’t seem to care) and where a vuvuzela was making the rounds (because the music apparently wasn’t loud enough).
  • I remember meeting, for the first time, even more people I’d only “known” online, and still feeling excited about the connection.

Vancouver 2011

  • I remember a road-trip from Portland to Vancouver in a rental car that could not have held another ounce, a delayed flight that meant I got a brief catnap in a Sea-Tac restaurant parking lot, and a Canadian border guard who gave the most grief to the sole Canadian in the car. I decided not to point out that we were actually returning her, so he should cut us some slack.
  • I remember putting too many people in an otherwise splendid hotel room.
  • I remember finding a Vancouver hockey jersey on my bed, a garment that could have easily fit three of me.
  • I remember the gorgeous building where the conference was held – soaring floor-to-ceiling windows on one side and actual break-out rooms – and felt like TBEX had really grown up.
  • I remember a ukulele jam session with Pam and Spud in between panels, and then later Pam playing the uke while Andrew (clad in a Slanket of some kind) sang along.
  • I remember Robert telling us all to pick up the phone, already, and do some fact-checking.
  • I remember being almost alarmed at the sheer number of people in attendance, wondering where all these travel bloggers had come from, before having that familiar and welcome experience of meeting so many of those “oh, I know you!” avatars for the first time.

Seeing Avatars Move

Yes, there’s a theme here. I never tire of meeting TBEXers for the first time, of seeing that little Twitter avatar smiling at me in real life and life-size. Shaking hands and getting hugs from people whose voices I’d never heard before that moment (but who I feel like I’ve known forever) never, ever gets old.

What are your TBEX memories? What snippets stand out for you – without looking back at posts you may have written at the time? We want to hear them. Send in your TBEX memories to with the subject line “TBEX Memories” and we’ll share them on the TBEX blog.