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.


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