The thing about a travel bloggers conference is that it is full of people who think that what they have to say is important enough that other people should read it and care. This is not necessarily a bad thing, or even undeserved. It’s just a thing you should know going in. So if you have a problem with opinionated blowhards you might want to take a pass on the TBEX travel bloggers conference. Or take a long drink of something before, during, or after.

Maybe that’s why there’s so much drinking there. That and the fact that we’re in an all-inclusive resort in Cancun.

A beautiful tray of Margaritas await the travel bloggers at TBEX

To be honest, I was a little peeved that the TBEX organizers had chosen Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort for their conference. I mean, we are travel bloggers! Except for the luxury travel bloggers (and why didn’t I think to get into that niche earlier on?) we are scrappy, budget-conscious, how-to-travel-the-world-on-$50-a-day travelers. Why on earth would we spend $200 a night on a place to sleep? Especially since so many of our meals would be covered at the conference.

For this year’s TBEX conference in Cancun, I opted to stay at the lovely THE WESTIN RESORT & SPA CANCUN in the Hotel Zone using my Starwood Preferred Guest points, in part because, as a part-time blogger who does not make a ton of money from my blog, my family was not keen on my spending a ton of cash to spend a week in the Caribbean without them.

But in retrospect, I actually think that the decision to hold the conference at the Moon Palace was a brilliant one, and it probably would have been worth $600 to stay there. Not for the unlimited food and drink, which appeared mediocre and watered-down, respectively, but for the opportunity to continue the networking, which is the most valuable part of the conference, for hours before and after the conference. And to avoid the outrageously overpriced cab rides to and from the hotel zone. So, lesson learned for next time: pay to stay at the conference hotel for the bonus networking time.

New friends

I was one of nine bloggers chosen for a pre-conference stay in a HouseTrip rental apartment in Playa del Carmen, and wow! did I hit the jackpot there. The HouseTrip apartment was super deluxe, and the housemates were not only some of the top travel bloggers in the world, but fantastic fun people I will follow you guys and hope our paths cross again soon. Ryan and Sophie from HouseTrip were the perfect hosts.

Carol Cain toasted my birthday with me on multiple occasions, as did Robin and Alex, though they said that in Germany and Slovakia it is considered bad luck to celebrate before the date. Thankfully, I do not share such a superstition, and I gleefully celebrated my birthday all week long.

Dana from Find and Go Seek was an excellent co-conspirator at the airport gift shop.

And sweet and lovely Katja from Globetotting! Like an old friend from the get go, with a similar distaste for dinner theater (sorry, Xcaret!).

Jess from TripIt who thought I looked like my hero Amy Poehler – thank you!

And Jayson from Cook Islands Travel North America, who made it seem like I might have a chance to go there sometime soon – a dream!

And the indefatigable Tim from Marginal Boundaries – I’ve already learned so so much from reading his website.

Old Friends

I didn’t get to see much of Mara Gorman or Elena Sonnino, with whom I spent a fun weekend in Philly earlier this year, but knowing they were there was a great comfort.  Mara has been a (younger, smarter) role model for me since I started blogging, so I was thrilled to spend even a little bit of time with her. And she still has the best blog name ever. Don’t know it? Click on her name and find out. And then go buy her book.

Coincidences

I met CancunGringa from my home town of Richmond, Virginia and the girl and globe from there, too.

I learned just how little I know about the miles and points game hanging out with justin (Miles of Adventure) Kathy (Will Run for Miles) and Deb (Traveling Well for Less).

And still can’t believe that Kathy and I both attended the same tiny law program at Amsterdam School of International Relations just a year or so apart.

TBEX Highlights

The TBEX conference itself was as full of information and networking opportunities as ever, and I was happy to have a note-taking partner in Meli from Sweet Travel Adventures.

I met sooooo many people over the course of the conference I couldn’t possibly list them all, but I’ll mention some highlights.

Adorable Alba from Visit Spain said she couldn’t believe I was the mom of teenagers. Flattery will get you everywhere, my dear! And hopefully that means to Spain for the next TBEX conference in Costa Brava.

Travel writer Melanie Wynn said our business card was the best designed one she had seen. And her website has one of the best names I’ve come across. Again, click on her name if you want to know what it is.

Loved hanging out with Deb and Dave from the Planet D – and learned so much from their great presentation. If you guys enjoyed following my family’s trip around the world, you should check out their site. They are NON-STOP!

I told Sherry Ott just how much attending a Meet Plan Go meeting in DC helped my family work up the guts to take our gap year abroad, and she seemed genuinely touched.

Jade Broadus whose Vagabond3 was another early travel inspiration to my family, is a joy to hang with, and I wish we lived in the same city so I could hang with her more.

I was happy that at our second meeting, Gary Arndt was not quite as much of a jerk to me as the first time at WTM a few years ago, and that I was not the only one with that special experience. He’s a smart guy, and a truly brilliant photographer, but he doesn’t have to be everyone’s best friend. I get that. And I still love to follow his photo streams.

The fact that I have the business card of Don George, BBC and National Geographic Traveler editor and travel writing guru, in my grubby hands at this moment is beyond belief.

The delightful Nathaniel from the Daily Travel Podcast seems like a star in the making. But a very polite and attentive star, always greeting me by name when we passed. But it wasn’t just me, darn it. He knew everyone by the end of the conference.

There were more. So many more. The truth about travel bloggers is that they are a lot of fun to hang out with. They find joy wherever they are and they want to spread that joy through their writing, photography, video and podcasts. So get a bunch of them together and you will find great sparks of adventure and light and a little mischief as they try to create new stories to tell. And if you’re lucky, you’ll be part of their story.

Every year I hem and haw about whether or not to buy a ticket to TBEX, but then I remember how very many connections I have made at each one I’ve attended, which have led to many friendships, opportunities, and partnerships, not to mention the great improvements to this website I have made based on knowledge gained at TBEX. So as soon as they announce the date and location, I will buy my ticket to the next one in North America. Join me!