What to Expect From Your First TBEX
If you're looking at my title and thinking, "Chris, I'm fairly sure 'TBEX' is not a word," then you're right and you're wrong. No, it isn't a "word" per se, but it is a hashtag and abbreviation, so one could argue that in this modern age of blurred lines that it may indeed be a word after all. In truth, TBEX stands for the "Travel Blog Exchange," and I noted that in my previous post from my hostel in Tel Aviv. Just to keep it brief, I'll just copy the wording TBEX uses to describe itself via its website - "TBEX is the world's largest gathering of travel bloggers, writers, new media content creators, and social media savvy travel industry professionals. Every year, TBEX partners with fantastic destinations in North America and Europe to bring the travel industry's most creative minds together to learn, network and do business."
So, what did we learn from that? Well, we learned that I'm one of the "industry's most creative minds," naturally. Joking aside, this post is for those who are wondering what TBEX is all about, and if you can fit into the fold. Or, conversely, for those who are simply curious what happens when a plethora of relatively energetic and charismatic travel professionals spend extended periods of time together.
When I was looking into booking, I had a hard time discerning what the actual day to day experience might be like, so I thought I'd put together a quick post on my experiences at TBEX International 2017 in Jerusalem, also known as #tbexjlm. This isn't the 4700 word post that's going to give you what every minute of what TBEX will contain along with a headache from staring at a screen. Rather, it's meant to give you the aura and feeling of my experience, as well as those I met.
Expect to Explore
While the objective is to come to a conference and learn how to hone your craft, an obvious sell of the conference is the exploration of the city and country hosting the conference. Each year, TBEX holds a conference in North America, Europe, and and "internationally," and the cities are constantly rotating. As I previously mentioned, we were in Jerusalem, and exploring the city was a great joy. In truth, I would have loved some extra time to explore more of East Jerusalem as well as neighbouring Palestine, but, unfortunately, my time was limited. Alas, I'll go back, despite the flak I got at the airport for some of the stamps I had in my passport, but that story is for another day.
TBEX, in conjunction with the host city, will organize "pre-bex tours" and "post-bex tours" both before and after the conference for you to get to know fellow travel professionals outside of a conference room. They also have "fam trips," which, as far I understand serve more or less as a press trip for selected travel media. Mainly, I was only able to participate in the tours before the conference, but I appreciated the opportunity to see Old Jerusalem (all four quarters to some extent), as well as the City of David, and parts of the modern city outside the wall. I also spent time in Tel Aviv beforehand, which I also noted above. Whatever city hosts TBEX, expect to be actively discovering the history of the city and country, and likely enjoying it quite a bit. You can choose what suits your fancy, so you'll have some say in your experience. You're also welcome to disregard the tours altogether and explore at will.
Expect to be Tired
If you're imagining lengthy sleeps and drawn out cat naps, then you've got the wrong idea. Rather, think about jam packed days and unreasonable portions of caffeine. I'm quite sure that by the last day of the conference, I'd lost track of the number of cappuccinos I'd consumed, but we're talking double digits. That being said, it's perfectly understandable. If you're like me, and you're looking to get the most out of the conference, you're barely going to set foot in your accommodation at all. You've got limited time and an extensive agenda.
You're constantly on the move whether it be meeting people, touring the city, using transportation of rushing from conference room to conference room. It's exhilarating, but it's exhausting. In the end, it's very worth it. When I'm exploring cities and I'm downright exhausted I always joke to myself, "the pictures I take will never know how tired I was anyhow."
The schedule below gives you an idea of what a day can look like. Keep in mind that this particular schedule doesn't explicitly note the pub crawl which many of us took part in that night around Jerusalem and started at 9:30pm. Hey, good journalists explore both the day and the nightlife. You're either thorough or nothing at all, right? Well, that's what we're going with at least. My advice would be to take part in everything. Even if you think you're too tired, go out. You're bound to have an experience that will validate your decision.
Expect to Make New Friends
In truth, before I left I was intimidated by the people I might meet there. In many ways, this conference is the "who's who" of travel blogging, and I wondered whether I'd be out of place. Thankfully, I wasn't, and people were incredibly kind, humble, and helpful whether they were just starting out or had "made it." It was amazing to spend days sharing knowledge with like-minded people, and also making what I truly think could be some lifelong friendships. I've already got a friend I met there coming through Istanbul in May to visit. Beautiful stuff, right?
Below you'll see some photos that I snapped on my phone throughout the conference with people who I grew to really appreciate. You'll catch glimpses of Chris from Trip & Trail, Stephanie from GoThreeTwentyFour, Carol from Girl Gone Travel (we actually did a press trip in Central Europe a few years back that was fantastic), Curtiss and Ashley from Blissy Life, Chelle from Brown Girls Fly, Joanne from The Road to Wanderland, Edward from Reborn Stronger, Larissa and Jean from Nomaddictives and many more!
You'll have to kindly excuse the fact that these photos are from my phone and not my big camera. Not every situation, it turns out, calls for taking out a massive DSLR and posing. The trusty iPhone does the trick anyhow.
Expect to Learn A LOT
You're going to have the opportunity to listen to the best in the business, so yes, you're going to learn a lot if you're paying attention. There were some sessions that were absolutely invaluable for me where I felt like I left with a dozen actionable items. In truth, I didn't attend a session that wasn't helpful in some way or another.
I'm guessing you can picture what a conference looks like, but let me throw a few pictures down below to give you an idea of what we were discussing, and in what sort of format. Again, these will be coming straight from the ol' iPhone, so I'm not going to play the "edit and watermark" game. However, this should give a little glimpse of the comings and goings of TBEX.
So, What Did Other Attendees Learn?
Katie from World Wide Vegetarian said:
"Slow, steady, and determined wins the race. As someone who has been blogging for about 4 years I was starting to get bored and discouraged but it was great to hear that if you just keep going and trying new things you are bound to get results eventually! I am inspired to keep chugging along and know that my hard work will pay off in one way or another"
Shelbo Travels noted:
"Don't expect instant gratification, but if you are doing what you love, and are willing to work hard, your rewards will come."
Svetoslav Dimitrov remarked:
"Like the city of Jerusalem, TBEX is a melting pot of travel bloggers from around the world who come with peace and with a mission to make the world a better place"
Genevieve from Off The Western Wall wasn't a keen and noted:
"...I was extremely disappointed that the conference organizers made basically no effort to expose conference attendees to the culture and people of East Jerusalem. I hope that those who are still in town will take time to go to Salah al-Din Street next to Damascus Gate in the Old City and see EastJerusalem for themselves. Stop at the Educational Bookshop and buy a book about the region and talk with the highly educated and interesting people there."
Eran from The Laughing Traveller communicated:
"As a tbex newbie I enjoyed the atmosphere and mingling between the sessions and was especially amazed by the complexity of promoting videos on YouTube!"
Have you attended a TBEX and want to share your opinion? Do you agree of disagree with any of my assertions? Is there anything that caught your eye and you want to know more about? Comment below, and I'll be happy to respond!