Two years ago I remember sitting on the subway in Seoul while talking to Simon (ex-boyfriend if you haven’t been following) about how travel bloggers have conferences which are “supposedly” just more like big parties.
“Isn’t that weird? Do you think all the famous travel bloggers are all getting drunk and making out with each other?” I pondered.
Why was I thinking about that? No idea. Why do I remember thinking about that? No idea either.
At that critical moment in my life in South Korea when I decided to abandon “fareastmvmt” (wtf?!) and merge to this site, travel blogging seemed like a secret world which I never knew existed. “More than just people’s friends and family reads them? People do this for a living? What is this nonsense!” all crossed my mind multiple times.
Here I am two years later, having just gotten back from my first travel blogging conference, called TBEX. Now, if you were fortunate enough to not be swallowed whole by the #TBEX hashtag on social media, I’ll explain:
TBEX, or the Travel Blogging Exchange, is a conference held for travel bloggers in both Europe and North America each year. This year it was held in Athens from the 23-25th of October with events before and after the actual conference days.
While it was very much how I imagine a typical conference to be in some ways (speakers, workshops, networking) it was also so much more. It also made me reflect on this strange society I’ve now somehow gotten myself into. Now the gossip girl inside of me is ready to expose it to you. Here’s the truth about the secret world of travel blogging:
Most bloggers don’t frequent blogging conferences to learn
Unless you just started your blog in the last month or so, chances are you didn’t come to TBEX to learn about WordPress, SEO or social media. In fact, I wouldn’t say at this point I learned much at all from the conference. While the speakers were great and gave me direction and focus for my blog, I didn’t leave with a ton of knowledge I would of otherwise never come across. Was it still worth it? Oh, of course.
TBEX is for meeting other bloggers, businesses and networking. I learned by trial and error how to pitch myself to companies and then did it. I talked to other bloggers about their strategies and what worked best. I also finally met so many bloggers who’d I’ve been interacting with and following for so long.
To name a few: Alana of Paper Planes is so stylish and hilariously sarcastic. It’s impossible to have a bad time around Naomi of Anywhere But Home. Rob of Stop Having a Boring Life is a complete psycho, but in a good way. Angie from Angie Away really is the most friendly and fun “girl next door”.
At the end of each conference day I tried to let go of all the blogging talk completely and just make friends. This usually led to me staying out till 4am. It was exhausting!
On the other hand some successful travel bloggers don’t really come to the conferences to learn OR network. So why do they attend you ask?
Some attend to hang out with people they rarely get to see (obviously we all travel a lot). Some attend just for the parties. Some attend just to meet the new, young, attractive bloggers and downright creep. Truth.
Travel bloggers are a debaucherous bunch
Put 1,000 people who have all decided to leave a conventional, comfortable life at home for one of adventure and complete freedom, and you can imagine what happens at night.
Also, imagine what it’s like to not have co-workers ever and then be surrounded by hundreds of people doing the same thing as you.
It’s madness! These parties are a great time and usually last all night. Also luckily, the parties aren’t intimidating at all! If you don’t have a problem walking up to someone and introducing yourself, you’ll mostly leave a TBEX party with more friends and business cards then you’ll know what to do with.
Some bloggers buy their followers
Yeah, it happens. Although there are a few ways to tell if someone has purchased followers or not, a lot of businesses who work with bloggers haven’t quite caught on yet.
Some bloggers blog as a business. Some bloggers blog because they love it. For this reason I can’t totally judge those who buy followers. They just have a completely different business model (and morals, maybe? *cough cough*) than others. Still, everyone blogs differently and there are those who are in it only to make money. For that reason, many people purchase a chunk of followers to get ahead of the game.
Unfortunately, this does make things that much harder for the rest of us. But that’s our choice I suppose.
Bloggers are annoying
Yup, including myself. I’m that annoying person taking photos of food so I can get it in an article or on Instagram. I’m that person who walks around cities pretty damn slowly because I want to take photos.
Now put all these people together on the same tour and watch the madness ensue. Everyone wants the best photo of the food. No one can eat until everyone has a shot.
In Meteora, we went on a group hike and it probably took two hours longer than planned. Everyone needed to get their photos in. Everyone had different questions to ask.
Some bloggers also just love to talk about how many followers they have. Instead of name dropping, it’s “number dropping” and some bloggers just can’t help inserting their success into casual conversations.
Even for a blogger, all of the above became quite the headache for me after 5+ days!
It’s easy to get something for free, but it’s hard to make money
Unless you are part of the blogging community, you might not know that many bloggers get tours, hotels or activities for free. Of course in my opinion, none of this is really free. For me, publishing one article takes hours and hours of writing, editing photos, editing text and then promotion on social media.
Some bloggers never accept free perks. Some bloggers only ever do things if they are free. Everyone is different.
One thing is true though. If you start a blog, it can be decently easy to get something for free (again, free is a bad word for this) even only after a few months. On the other hand, actually making consistent money from blogging is a very time-consuming and difficult business.
Most travel bloggers aren’t really making their money from travel blogging
Once you’ve established a blog (or an online portfolio as such) other opportunities sometimes just come from there. Most people who say they are digital nomads or travel bloggers really make the majority of their money in a variety of different ways. Some people do web design. Some only do freelance writing.
In my case, when I’m working from home in Madrid I’m a mad hatter, constantly juggling a variety of tasks. Some weeks I’m profitable. Some weeks I’m not. I’m still getting the hang of it.
For instance, this week I am: doing virtual assistant work for a few different bloggers including the Spain auxiliar favorite, Liz of Young Adventuress, blogging consultations at cafes around Madrid (holler if you want my help!), dabbling in sponsored posts when I really need to pay the bills, pitching articles to other blogs for freelance writing and pitching to a few companies I’d like to work with. Other weeks I do work by the hour on Odesk or do trip itinerary planning with OutTrippin‘. I
n between all that I do a lot of brainstorming, trip planning and of course, my favorite, keeping up with this blog!
It’s on the verge of something big
When I took a step back from the conference and really thought about it, I was amazed. It’s crazy how much my life has changed just from starting a blog from a desk in South Korea. I’ve made lifelong friends. I’ve found work. I’ve traveled more frequently. I pushed myself and cultivated new skills.
I made a good friend while in Meteora that, while on a cloudy hike together, planted a seed in my head. This friend has been building companies and mad-hatting his way around the world on his own terms for years now. During a conversation with him at an ancient monastery on the top of a sandstone mountain (as you do) he mentioned something pivotal. Something I wanted to believe but hadn’t yet put a finger on. Something that American culture has tried so hard to make me ignore.
“Soon society will place less importance on what exactly you do and where exactly you do it. Already technology is allowing us to juggle many different jobs, all from our phones and computers, from anywhere we want.”
There, looking down on Kalabaka town, it hit me. Maybe I shouldn’t get so discouraged. Maybe I’ll figure out how to make this work.
And if this is where things are going, then maybe I want to be part of it for a long time too.
So, are you surprised? What are you thoughts about travel bloggers and travel blogging?