What We’re Reading This Week

SA CALETA 2 Lloret de Mar (Costa Brava)

 

Do you have something you think we’d be interested in knowing about? Add #TBEX to your tweets or Facebook posts and we’ll take a look. We’ll share the best of what we find each week here on the blog.

Here’s what we’re reading this week:

About PR, Sales & Marketing

About Social Media

About Technology

  • How to Use Slack and Why Your Business Needs It – Slack recently debuted as a simplified project management and communication tool for teams. Are you using it? We’d love to know what you think. Here’s one example of how a small team is using it. Read original article here: How to Use Slack and Why Your Business Needs It
  • The 12 Best New Travel Products From CES 2015 – For the gadget lovers in our community, here’s a review of travel product from CES. Is there anything you are looking at longingly? Read original article here: The 12 Best New Travel Products From CES 2015

About Travel

  • Traveling to Europe is about to get a whole lot cheaper – Travel to Europe is looking a whole lot cheaper than it was last year. This is great news (for Americans) about the US dollar to Euro valuation. Read original article here: Traveling to Europe is about to get a whole lot cheaper
  • NatGeoTravel Staff Bucket List: 2015 – If you’re looking for travel inspiration, you can find some here. Read original article here: @NatGeoTravel Staff Bucket List: 2015
  • How to Score the Best Airfare – Turns out those recommendations about the best time to buy airline tickets are an urban myth. So when is the best time to buy? Read original article here: How to Score the Best Airfare
  • The Town of Castellfollit de la Roca in Girona, Catalonia – Gary gives us a peek at one of the many small towns in the Costa Brava area of Catalunya, Spain. Read original article here: The Town of Castellfollit de la Roca in Girona, Catalonia
  • 20 Reasons to Never Leave Home Without Duct Tape – Duct tape can make a Macgyver of out any traveler? Do you travel with it? What other uses have you found? Read original article here: 20 Reasons to Never Leave Home Without Duct Tape
  • Life’s a Trip, then you have a Double Mastectomy – Our thoughts and good wishes go our to our community member Leah, as she follows through on a tough medical decision. Read original article here: Life’s a Trip, then you have a Double Mastectomy

 

What We’re Reading This Week

Sunset in Kona, Hawaii

Sunset in Kona, Hawaii

Here’s what we’re reading this week:

About PR & Marketing

  • Delaware Tourism Changes the State’s Slogan – Delaware has changed its state slogan to “Endless Disoveries” (it used to be “Small Wonder”). Does the new slogan make you want to visit? Do you even pay attention to state or country slogans? Read original article here: Delaware Tourism Changes the State’s Slogan
  • 15 buzzwords to avoid this year – Are their any other words or phrases that you’d like to see banished in 2015? Read original article here: 15 buzzwords to avoid this year
  • PR’s obsession with media coverage – What is the goal of public relations? Historically it turns out to be more than just getting media coverage. What do you think? Read original article here: PR’s obsession with media coverage

About Improving our Craft

  • Quick Tip: Sunrise and Sunset Locations – If you’re trying to take shots at sunrise or sunset, here’s some information to help you plan the right time at the right place. Read original article here: Quick Tip: Sunrise and Sunset Locations
  • A photography guide to Santorini – Getting that Postcard shot – We’re not the only ones who fell in love with Greece. This guide to photographing Santorini will help you get that postcard shot. Read original article here: A photography guide to Santorini – Getting that Postcard shot

About Food

  • Museum Of Gastronomy Showcases Great Greek Cuisine – Paul Lasley was a speaker at TBEX Athens. He ventured out to explore the food of the region, happening upon the new Museum of Gastronomy. You can listen to what he discovered in this podcast of his radio show on Armed Forces Radio Network. Read original article here: Museum Of Gastronomy Showcases Great Greek Cuisine
  • Barcelona Tapas Guide: What, where, and when to eat tapas – Some tapas suggestions in Barcelona. You know you’re going to want to try them. Read original article here: Barcelona Tapas Guide: What, where, and when to eat tapas

About Travel

Do you have something you think we’d be interested in knowing about? Add #TBEX to your tweets or Facebook posts and we’ll take a look. We’ll share the best of what we find each week here on the blog

Bangkok at Night

For those of you who have not feasted your eyes upon Thailand, you will be led through the touristic paces upon your arrival.  Expect a dollop of the Grand Palace and maybe even the Full Moon Party.  There are the verdant mountains in the north, and a plethora of beaches to choose from.  Tripadvisor named Bangkok a top 20 city in 2014 and Thailand is the 10th most visited country in the world.

Of course, there are many other reasons to visit Thailand and as a part-time resident I will share with you some of the reasons I love this city.

For those of you who have been on the South East Asia circuit; you are all too familiar with street food of Khao San Road and the electric night life of Sukhumvit.  I will share with you another side of Bangkok to discover and savor.  Bangkok at night.  Just one more reason to attend TBEX Asia in October, 2015.

Bangkok has never been short on temples (wat) to visit.  Viewing them at night allows you to appreciate them under the stars and the moon.  Wat Pho is one of the major Buddhist temples located in the heart of Bangkok.  It is named after a temple in India where Buddha is said to have lived.  The 18th century Wat Pho has two claims to fame.  First, a reclining Buddha is gloriously resting in an enclosed area.  It is over 120 feet long and 45 feet high.  Wat Pho is also said to be the oldest public university in Thailand.  It is known better today for establishing a medicine and massage school in 1962.  During the day the temple is teeming with both Thais and tourists.  At night, the temple is deserted.  The gates are open, and the temple is graciously lit up.  I had the entire grounds to myself.

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Around the corner is the granddaddy of temples in Thailand: Wat Phra Kaew.  In English you will know it better as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.  This wat is considered the most sacred of Buddhist temples in Thailand.  During the day, it is a kaleidoscope of brilliant and sparkling colors.  It is a magical place to visit.  Unfortunately, the grounds close early at 4 pm.  In the evening, the golden stupas glow in light but are concealed by the towering white walls.  There is a nearby hotel roof where you can glimpse the illuminated wat with a bird eye’s view.

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Wat Arun known as the Temple of Dawn rests on the banks of the Chao Phraya River which empties into the Gulf of Thailand.  It dates back to the 17th century.  There is a café on the opposing side of the river and a perfect place to watch the sun set behind the temple after a long day of walking around historic Bangkok.

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While walking near Temple of the Emerald Buddha, I passed the eye-catching Loha Prasat known as Wat Ratchanaddaram.  This mid-1800 temple has 37 metal spires.  Each spire represents the 37 virtues of enlightenment.

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Thip Samai is a legendary restaurant that for decades has specialized in one dish: Pad Thai.  Tons of Thais and foreigners pack into this compact restaurant.  A giant line of customers snake around the sidewalk and the open kitchen, anxious to eat dinner.

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After gorging on Pad Thai consider having something sweet before you hit the town.  Another tradition is Mont Nomsod since 1964.  The concept is very straight forward.  Toast with incredibly sweet toppings, ranging from chocolate to sugar.

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Another interesting place to visit at night is the Bangkok Flower Market (Pak Klong Talad), the biggest wholesale and retail fresh flower market in Bangkok. It sits near the Wat Pho temple.  Open 24 hours, Pak Klong Talad is most lively after midnight.  This is the time to visit.  The chaos of the market place increases as dawn approaches.  Flower vendors receive flowers from all over the country as they prepare for their morning business.

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And of course, Bangkok is known for its nightlife.  A spectacular place to view the sunset is State Tower.  Resting on the 64th floor is the Sky Bar.  A circular, lighted bar seems to be suspended in the sky.  A golden dome sits above the bar in an expansive, open area.  While the drinks are expensive, this is arguably the coolest rooftop bar, ever.

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So, don’t miss this opportunity to visit Bangkok and make sure you reserve your tickets for TBEX Asia.  

Author Bio: Ric enjoys travel and the experiences associated with discovering new people and places. His travels have brought him to over 80 countries and all 7 continents.  Ric produced and was featured in the adventure-travel documentary, Hit The Road India.  He has also published two books.  Hit The Road India traces a rickshaw road race covering 2000 km from Mumbai to Chennai. 7000 KM To Go traced his journey from Budapest to Yerevan in a 17 day road rally that covered 7000 km. 

Follow Ric’s adventures on his blog, GlobalGaz, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

In Memoriam: A Tribute to Wes Nations

He was Johnny Vagabond in the travel writing world. When he tells you his actual name is Wes Nations, you figure maybe he’s still pulling your leg. It was too perfect.

Born James Wesley Nations on July 1, 1967, dear Wes passed away November 25, 2014, not on that long dusty road, but back in his hometown, his parents Tommy and Barbara at his side. He had traveled full circle.

Wes Nations

Wes Nations

His birth home was Aransas Pass, a small town outside Corpus Christi on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico in Texas. As a young man he moved to Austin and became a self-taught techie, while making some dear friends he’d keep for life. His next move was to Northern California to get involved with the growing tech industry, but the urge to travel always nagged at him. He was dismayed with the ever-accelerating rate of change in the world, the growing cultural homogeneity creeping in with globalization, and wanted to go see it all before it disappeared. He dreamed, planned, and saved, and finally, in 2009, already in his 40s, he set off on a one-year journey that became indefinite. Johnny Vagabond was born. He worked hard on his writing and photography, and due in no small part to his keen sense of storytelling, he was soon a typical inclusion on any list of travel bloggers to follow.

Many of us knew him, either in person or online; some of us traveled with him, others traveled with him through his stories and photos. And while the tagline on his blog was “taking pics and telling lies,” he wrote more of truths. His anecdotes had humor and heart.

Never self-congratulatory, Wes was humbled by his experiences. An inveterate tease and kidder, he had a great sense of humor and the ability to laugh at himself. He had a live-and-let-live attitude toward most people, but a strong sense of justice. He didn’t take kindly to someone knocking a friend or mistreating a stranger, and he was a stand-up sort of person. His disgust and outrage at a Guatemalan man peddling children set him on a mission that led all the way to the US embassy (though darker thoughts of justice had crossed his mind).

Physically he could be a bit imposing, a fellow not to be messed with; he “could fill a doorway” as he used to say. He would use that to his advantage. “When I was in Central America, I learned that there was a way to carry yourself if you didn’t want trouble.” He detested bullies, and sometimes put them in their place.

But the truth is he was sensitive guy, sentimental and not afraid to show it. He’d call you brother and it felt like he meant it. Family will tell you he “was a self-proclaimed curmudgeon with a professed animosity to children, but one could frequently find him surrounded by happy, laughing children as he passed out sweets. The children invariably wanted to rub his bald head, and he would let them, mumbling under his breath.”

He learned to live frugally – such is the backpacker’s life and the boom and bust of blogging for your coin – and despite his love for riding on two wheels – tooling around Chiapas or motoring the length of Vietnam – he’d hoof it in Chiang Mai. All part of his “low and slow” travel philosophy. Make a plan to meet him for noodles and he’d eventually amble up, smiling, that bald head red in the sun, his “man purse” across one shoulder like Carradine and his satchel in Kung Fu.

Wes’s photography was as colorful as his stories. A shot from his travels in India, “The Woman in Red,”  won awards – and funded more travel. If you wanted photo tips or Lightroom advice, he’d take the time to share his expertise.

News of his untimely demise traveled fast. Within hours his Facebook page was taken over by grief and tributes; many friends, family, and friends who had become family shared anecdotes. Much like Wes once showed us, stories are the way to deal with loss, and if not to make sense of it, at least keep it from taking us down. Some linked favorite blog posts from his website and we all recognized them. Memorable stories. He had a strong voice in his writing, and if you had spoken with him once, you’d hear his actual voice anytime you read him.

Wes’s time came much too soon, and he will be sorely missed. For such a traveler it is fitting that we speak of death as a departure as he’s gone to explore the undiscovered country. As his mother Barbara puts it, “He is out in the universe, looking for more adventure.” We can picture him in a hereafter, sitting in a divine coffee shop or cantina, waiting for the next one of us to wander in, waiting with a smile and a tale to tell.

Wes was preceded in death by his grandparents: Frank Nations (Aransas Pass, TX), Tavie Scheler (Aransas Pass, TX), Tom Peoples (San Antonio, TX), and Fay Sims (Odessa, TX). He is survived by his loving parents, Tommy and Barbara Nations of Aransas Pass, TX; his brother Tom Nations (Hyunjoo) of Geoje, South Korea; his “sister” Sara Shake DeLozier (Jon) of Long Beach, MS; many aunts, uncles, cousins, and numerous close friends, including those Wes called his “brothers from another mother” – Dave Reimer (Emily) of Fort Worth, TX; Richard Littlejohn (Maria) of Austin, TX; and Leon Alesi (Stella) of Austin, TX.

Author Bio:  Kevin Revolinski is a travel, outdoors, and beer writer. Revtravel.com, TheMadTravelerOnline.com

10 Tips for Maximizing Your Time at TBEX

 

1. Have current business cards. Having current business cards with your contact information readily available. You never know who you are going to meet in an elevator or coffee line. Having a photo on your card is a great way to help people remember you and your blog

tammilee_head_shot2. Prepare an elevator speech or practice talking about your blog. You may only have a few moments to share your blog with someone. Be prepared with your top points and what you love about your blog. PRACTICE!!!!! Tell your friends, family or anyone who will listen what you plan to say. Practice will help take the jitters out when you meet that amazing destination you have been dreaming about talking to.

3. Make appointments/coffee dates. TBEX is a great time to get to know not only industry reps but fellow bloggers. Reach out and see if you can make a speed dating appointment or coffee meeting. If a companies speed dating is full ask if you can meet for coffee or a cocktail.

4. Look up from your phone and talk to people/Be present. I know we all want to keep the world updated on what is happening at TBEX but remember to look up and be social. Talk to the people around you, introduce yourself and just enjoy the moment. You never know who will be sitting next to you in a session. Remember to be present. Remember to look up and absorb the moment. TBEX is an amazing experience! Take a moment to soak in the atmosphere, the fact that you are in a gorgeous city and that you have the chance to talk with both industry leaders and peers.

5. Dress for success. Dress for who you are meeting with and come prepared. I am not saying to dress in a business suit or formal wear but remember who you are meeting with. Represent your brand in a way that shows that you are the perfect person/entity to work with for their destination/brand.

6. Participate in pre and post TBEX trips. This is the perfect way to meet other writers and share knowledge. Some of our best contacts have come from pre and post TBEX tours. You have the opportunity to share amazing experiences together and get to know each other on a personal level. The people you meet on these trips may be the same people that introduce you to your dream destination.

7. Get social! Use the TBEX hashtag and check out who else is on social. Ask questions, comment, respond and get to know people before you land in Athens.

8. Be yourself! Please don’t try to be someone you are not. Be yourself and have fun! You are participating in an amazing experience and have the opportunity to get to know wonderful people. BUT don’t have so much fun that you can’t remember what happened the next day.

9. Make a plan and be willing to adapt it. This may sound counter intuitive but make a plan but know that it is perfectly fine to adapt it. You may plan on attending each and every session but then end up in a killer conversation with someone and miss one and that is fantastic. Sometimes the conversations in the snack line are the most important conversations from the event.  Be prepared with a plan but know that life happens and sometimes the best laid plans have to be changed up a bit

10. HAVE FUN!!!! Greece is amazing! Have fun! Soak up the atmosphere, enjoy the amazing food, and get to know your neighbors!

Author Bio:  Tammilee Tillison is a professional blogger from Washington State that uses her Masters of Business Administration degree to create a thriving blog in the competitive world of travel blogging. Moving from the corporate world to the blogging world, she has grown her blog, Tammilee Tips, to over 500K page views a month and has readers in over 170 countries. Her social media outreach encompasses over 250K fans. Tammilee has a passion for food, travel and helping others. You’ll want to catch her session at TBEX Athens about Building a Blogging Business: Getting it Done Every Single Day.

Exploring the Parks of Cancun Mexico

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Apart from the white, sandy beaches and turquoise waters of the Hotel Zone in Cancun, what could you possibly want to do in your down time? If you plan on spending any length of time in the city, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the local haunts, and there’s no better way to do that than by exploring the parks of the mainland.

When most people hear “parks in Cancun”, their instant reaction is the theme parks that line the highway south of the city along the way to Tulum: Xcaret, Xplor and the like. And while those Disneylandesque attractions certainly have their appeal, the city parks and plazas are what bring the Mexican culture to life in the downtown district. It’s at these local hotspots where the culture truly comes alive and gives you a chance to explore the festive nature of the Mexican people.

Most of the parks are fairly empty during the daytime hours. You’ll find the random few hanging out underneath the shade trees during the heat of the afternoon, or passing through on their way to work, but if you really want to see what’s going on you have to come after the sun goes down. Especially on the weekends.

Mexico is still a mostly cash-based society, which is why the local parks continue to thrive as they do. This isn’t an X-Box or Playstation culture; rather, families still spend their free time going out and doing things, spending their hard-earned cash on activities for the kids and the carnival-like atmosphere that springs into place once nightfall comes and the temperature cools down.

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Parque Las Palapas is the main park in the heart of downtown Cancun, also known as the zocalo. It’s also the busiest, and during the daytime hours the food stalls stay open with antojitos for any random person passing by. On weeknights it’s the same, but Friday, Saturday and Sunday is when you want to be here, because that’s when it transforms into a carnival of food vendors, local artists and performers and beyond.

From local bands and school groups on the main stage, to the Mayan vendors selling clothing in the wheeled-carts on the outskirts, to the ice-cream vendors, the children’s playground, the mimes and clowns and beyond, there is always something to see here. And during official festival days, like Independence Day and Mother’s Day or Halloween/Day of the Dead and the like, the zocalo is shoulder-to-shoulder packed with local families.

 

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Just around the corner past the church is the Parque del Artesano, or Hippy Park to the locals. It’s a mostly dreadlock-and-patchouli crowd that make up the vendors here, but if you are into hand-crafted clothing, pipes, incense or street piercings and tattoos and recreational, under-the-table stuff, this is the place you want to come.

Slightly down from there is the Parque Bohemia, also known as the Salsa Park due to the fact that every Sunday there is a gathering of salsa enthusiasts who take up around the gazebo and spend the evening hours dancing away. During the weekday afternoons and evenings you’ll also find local students using the park as one of the primary practicing areas for their own dance presentations.

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If the market scene isn’t to your liking and you just want to get away from it all and kick back with nature for a few hours, the Parque Urbano Kabah is across the street from Costco. With outdoor exercise equipment as well as jogging and walking paths plus plenty of local flora and fauna, you can get a taste of nature even within the city landscape. Bear in mind that the park is only open from 6 a.m. until 5 p.m., and there aren’t any vendors inside, so bring plenty of water or a pack lunch if you want to have a picnic or spend more than a couple of hours wandering around.

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There are dozens of other parks spread throughout the overall urban sprawl that makes up Cancun, such as the Jardin del Arte and the Parque Folklorico just south of Las Palapas, and most of them share the same aspects of the Parque Las Palapas in the sense that during the daytime hours not much is going on, but at night they transform into open markets and carnivals with activities for the kids and numerous street vendors.

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The big difference you’ll note between here and many other countries of the world is that the Mexican culture is all about getting out of the house in the evening hours and enjoying  festivities with friends and families, not staying indoors and logged into the Internet or a console game. Cristina can tell you that if there’s one thing Mexicans enjoy more than anything else, it’s beers and festivals at the local park, any chance they get.

If you really want to blend in and experience Cancun the way the locals do, you’ll be spending most of your downtime at the parks of the city as opposed to some random nightclub. The real culture is here.

Athens: Poetry of Everyday Life

Editor’s Note:  Many of our attendees enjoy digging into the literature, stories, art, and music of our TBEX destinations. When Agata told me what a joyous read this book was, and how it made her excited for TBEX Athens, I knew others in our community might find it equally engaging.  –Mary Jo

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People often ask us ­ travel bloggers ­ how we prepare our journeys. Some of us advise, consult and suggest travel arrangements for a living. Our blogs provide information on how to buy a cheap plane ticket, book accommodation and purchase the equipment necessary to safely travel around the world.

92 Acharnon StreetSure, the technical aspects of a trip are important, no doubt about it, but the real journey is something more than just going to a place and seeing things. It’s all about a life changing experience, isn’t it?

Out of the box

Leaving home early in the morning, catching a taxi, heading towards the airport. Being late, (as usual!) and asking yourself: ‘Why on earth I haven’t got up earlier?’. Check-­in, the endless line to a security check, boarding, loooong flight, turbulence, the airport again, a shuttle bus to the city center, getting lost on the main square (oh my, what a shame!), and finally cramped in a 10 bed hostel dormitory.

How familiar are you with this process?

Just before you close your eyes that evening you promise to yourself: “Tomorrow I’ll start exploring the place just like a real traveler, having amazing adventures along the way, getting know a place thoroughly, making new friends…”. Too often the next day brings new technical challenges that gradually turn your travel into a well known sequence of low cost transportation and a hunt for cheap accommodation. It all turns into the chase for affordable places to eat and sleep. Too often, our ambitious attempt to escape banality turn into a blind run right into it.

Before you go

The journey starts long before you leave home and lasts much longer than a trip itself. The journey starts with inspiration and desire to cross unknown lands, to know the others, and to experience something extraordinary.

For me and many other travellers, the best and most rewarding way to start your journey and provide an endless source of inspiration, is to read the best travel books. One life is not enough to experience everything and reading books stretches our perception to the limits.

Past, present and future

The book I took in my hand right after I realized I’ll visit Greece for the first time in my life was 92 Acharnon Street:  A Year in Athens by John Lucas, published by Eland.

What a blast! I knew I would love it from the very first page. Not that I share the political views of the author. Nor his excuses for laziness and incompetence of the local bureaucrats. On the contrary! But this book is precious because of its sincerity, integrity and poetry.

Yes, you’ve read it right: poetry! There are poems by the author himself and extensive references to contemporary Greek poets. Why do I consider this so precious? Because one thing that travel has taught me is that every country and every person has something for which you cannot find a proper word or name. Something inscrutable. Something that seems to be at your fingertips but is slipping away the moment you want to speak it out loud. Instead of neglecting it or pretending it does not exist, poetry is just perfect to fill the gap. And so even if I’m not a huge fan of poetry as such, the combination of poetry and prose in this book is just perfect.

The book tells a story of an English literature professor who took a visiting lectureship to Athens in early 1980s. Tough times to visit Greece. But there he was: a stranger among natives, newcomer among eternal statues, new recruit among men who knew what real life was all about. Fisherman, cooks, shopkeepers ­ they were all deeply rooted in that special Greek attitude towards life, fate and politics. Not knowing their language, habits and social etiquette, the author succeeded in surviving the whole year in Athens. And made the year extraordinary.

Cultural shock is a proper description for what this English professor experienced in Athens but what I absolutely love about this book is its artistry in showing a slow but fruitful process of full embrace of the local culture by the author.

A paragraph starting with: “Every Greek wants to own his own shop” tells you a story of a peculiar habit: instead of removing the previous owner’s sign, let’s say ‘electrician’, the new owner simply adds his own, say ‘laundry’. And the story continues: ‘…the shop owner into whose place of business you’ve wrongly stepped sits you down on the chair which is a fixture of all shops, perhaps offers you a glass of ouzo, and then, when he’s sure you’re comfortably settled, goes to make the purchase for you’ (p. 193). And I assure you: when you start reading you will not leave this book until you read the very last page.

New way

The book tells an amazing story derived from first hand experience, shares details of everyday life and draws from Greek literature and poetry. By covering such wide spectrum of issues it gives a profound and intimate knowledge about life in Athens.

When I go to Athens having read this book, I’ll have something precious with me: an insight of someone else who spend a considerable time there, a few of his thoughts that were a result of this journey he made and few pieces of ancient and modern history. I know I will need to open my mind for the food experiments. I will remember that people instead of giving precise information on ‘how and when’ prefer to tell whatever it was they assumed you wanted to hear. I’ll try not to get upset when the bus does not come on time. And above all, there will be “the light: a luminous blue and gold in which everything was held and clarified as though by some achieved alchemical process” (p. 152).

Perhaps there will be a morning rush to be on time at the airport, maybe I’ll get lost on the main square but I know that the moment I’ll step onto Greek soil with Lucas book in my hand my mind, soul and eyes will be ready for this endless delight with what I’ll see. And I am pretty sure that because of this pre­travel meeting with Greece this journey will be experienced with all my senses and that the memories brought from there will last long. Having this mindset I’ll simply not allow this journey to turn into a frantic run all over the place.

The author eventually rented a flat on one of the Greek islands and would spend his summers every year there which proves that traveling is a dangerous business. Who knows where it leads you? If travel does not touch deeply your heart and soul there is no reason to even start the journey.

All quotes come from: Lucas, J. (2011). 92 Acharnon Street. A Year in Athens. Eland.

Author Bio:  Agata Mleczko is a travel blogger (Null & Full), photographer and writer. She holds a PhD in social sciences with particular focus on migration studies. Her academic research was pursued in Italy and she finally moved there. A long term residency in Ferrara allowed her to familiarize herself with local habits, traditions and language. She established a new venture called “iloveFerrara.it” where she shares her expertise on Italy by organizing week stays in Ferrara – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Agata loves travel literature and she often follows her favorite authors in her travels. This winter she will follow footsteps of her favorite travel author Nicolas Bouvier in an epic journey to Asia. Follow her on twitter at @NullNFull.

Wanders in Athens

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

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

The Acropolis

acropolis

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

acropolis side on

Sailing the seas

Athens old port from the sea

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

The markets

athens spice market

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

The old stuff

Philosopher and statue

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

The newer stuff

street art in athens

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

Stamped metal names_

The beaches and coastline

Yacht at sea Athens

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

sunset athens coast

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

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

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

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.

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!