Another Hackneyed ‘What I Learned at TBEX’ Post

The Spire, Dublin

The Spire

I only became aware of TBEX five months ago, which is right around the time I started to consider myself ‘a blogger’ rather than a person with a blog and began pursuing freelance writing. I attended some events Matador Network hosted during TBEX in Toronto (whatever your politics on that, we’ll put them aside for the purposes of this blog post) where I made some new friends and learned quite a bit about ‘the blogosphere’.

Literally the week before that, I was just writing on my .blogspot blog Colour Me Martinique and trying to understand why the hell people use Twitter.

When my good friend Brenna told me that the next TBEX would be in Dublin, I was very keen to attend – I was likely to be living in London and I wanted to meet new people and learn about the art and business of blogging.

Everything fell into place and a couple months later I was sitting on a Ryanair flight to the City of a Thousand Welcomes.

Before I get carried away explaining minute details as I’m apt to do, here are my takeaways from TBEX Dublin:

Odeon bar, Dublin

Hello, friends!

For me, TBEX is about the people…

The sessions were informative and the keynotes inspiring. The parties were awesome. The networking opportunities were plentiful.

However. I don’t have a huge readership and 12,000 Twitter followers. No one is going to send me on trips in the near future. I find ‘networking’ awkward because I’m shy (cue gasps of disbelief) and really bad at small talk. I don’t want to make a business of my blog.

I just like meeting people, learning from them and hearing their stories. I find people fascinating and I believe that every person has something to teach me. I try to be open to everyone and to learn at least one thing meaningful to them. I generally just  want to connect with people. As a result, I’m bad at small talk and I ask what some people probably perceive as weird or intrusive questions. Some people dig that, some people don’t – I’ve come to terms with it.

That being said, I did make some really great connections with people – and I’m sure you know who you are because we’ve met up for drinks, exchanged Facebook messages or promised to go to Burning Man together. I will share the link love one day soon – trust.

Bord Gais Theatre, Dublin

Happy by myself, too!

…However, I find that kind of environment draining.

I’m an introvert and I appreciate genuine connections with people. For those reasons, I’m acutely aware of people who make no effort to get to know me. I find it exhausting to have one-sided or superficial interactions.

Maybe it was an effect of the environment. Maybe as bloggers we are inherently more inclined to talk about ourselves (I mean we put our experiences online with the expectation other people will read them!). Perhaps in a sea of super-interesting, well-travelled my people, my former-expat-in-Martinique-new-expat-in-London story isn’t all that intriguing – not that I expect people to find me intriguing but I like to think people at least attempt to make an informed decision…

I also really like to sleep. It may just be a habit developed from living in the Caribbean and rarely going out, but I couldn’t find the motivation to stay up late and drink in Dublin. It takes serious mental and physical preparation for me to party past 1am. Yes, I am aware that, at 24, this makes me seriously uncool.

I’ll never be a successful blogger…

The heart and soul of travel blogging, besides good content, are marketing and networking. The market is saturated and standing out is difficult.

As I said, small talk is not my forte and I generally intrigue people or turn them off. FYI, that is bad news in a networking situation. Any situation, really… Likewise, I don’t like trying to get people to look at my work or see me as valuable – I like to think those things will speak for themselves when necessary.

To illustrate, I went to a Travel Massive meet up the other night. While I was busy laughing and joking with some hilarious Greek man*, it was Tom who actually talked me up to someone looking to hire writers. I’m hiring him as my publicist. No, you can’t have him – he’s mine.

Though I’ve been writing and blogging for many years, my blog as it appears now has only existed for about five months. Alyssa Writes doesn’t get thousands of page views a day, but people have told me that I’m a good writer…and I believe them.

At the end of the day, my inability to market myself will probably keep me from a lot of opportunities. To comfort myself, I’m a believer in the right ones finding me.

Pouring a pint of Guinness

Most importantly, we learned how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness

 …But I don’t want to be a blogger. I want to be a writer.

Too many times that week in Dublin I heard some permutation of “I’m a rich/ famous/great blogger – but I’m a terrible writer”. If that’s your situation, I don’t want to undermine you – I think it’s great you admit it and it’s pretty damn cool that you have found a way to use your other talents to run a successful business.

Personally, I like to write. I always have. When I was in Grade 3 (age 8), I filled 30 pages of a diary describing the weekend I got to take home the classroom stuffed animal – in French. He was a giant shark and I took him to the mall. In university, I preferred writing essays to tests, and in my final year I published one in a respected academic journal.

I hadn’t considered a career in writing – outside of academia, that is. Being a writer had this struggling artist connotation and I was encouraged into science and math in school. By university, I was much more interested in student politics and sports so the only time the student newspaper crossed my mind was when I was being written about in it (that’s not a humblebrag. It was bad things. Sometimes good things, sometimes libelous things).

I’m older now, I know better. And there are some pretty cool ways I can use my writing talent and get paid.

I would definitely go back…

…to Dublin…

I loved Dublin. I want to live in Dublin. I felt good there. I love Dublin. I’m not just writing that for SEO. I. Love. Dublin. There will be a series of blog posts to that effect. Wait for it.

Oktoberfest in Dublin

Photobombers/BFFs at Oktoberfest in Dublin

On that note, Failte Ireland and Visit Dublin did a kick-ass job of welcoming us to the city. Dublin did a kick-ass job of welcoming us to the city. I stayed at Abigail’s Hostel and they were the bombdotcom. Seriously. From the moment I arrived in the airport and saw the TBEX logo flash across the announcements screen to Failte Night at Guinness Storehouse to the hangover care package from the front desk at Abigails to the lady who smiled at me on public transportation (small gestures!)…I was loving life.

…and TBEX!

This wasn’t my first rodeo – I’ve been to a couple conferences before – so I can authoritatively say that TBEX in Dublin was a damn good rodeo. I may not have went to all the best sessions, i.e. the ones people raved about after, but I did learn a lot from speaking to people. I’m looking for work in content marketing in London as well, so I made use of sessions related to that to get insider details.

The most useful thing I did in terms of my writing that week was going to the Writing Workshop with Christine Cantera, David Farley, Ernest White II, and Leif Petterson. I learned about their writing journeys, met other people interested in improving their writing, and importantly, I got feedback about my writing and helpful advice about the freelance work I have coming up.

Guinness Storehouse Dublin

Failte Night at Guinness Storehouse

An overall…THUMBS UP!

*This hilarious Greek man in fact turned out to be a guidebook author, but who’s asking?

  14 comments for “Another Hackneyed ‘What I Learned at TBEX’ Post

  1. 21 October, 2013 at 16:32

    Awesome post! Great insight as well. I wish I could have been at TBEX Dublin but hopefully I’ll be at the next conference in Europe!! Go you!

    • Alyssa James
      21 October, 2013 at 16:53

      Hey Katka! Thanks for commenting – I shall see you sooooooonnn, I hope!

  2. 21 October, 2013 at 16:59

    I think our first Tbex experiences have been pretty similar. I’m terrible at networking and marketing and I just talked to some companies just to see what it was like. The most meaningful interaction I had with a company was when I happened to chat to them over lunch.

    Also, I chuckled a bit to myself when I realised that my first tbex was in your hometown and your’s in what was my home for 4 years!

    • Alyssa James
      24 October, 2013 at 07:12

      I talked to companies and they said “So, tell me about your blog” and I was like “I write about expat travels…” *Cue eyes glazing over* haha. It was slightly demoralizing, but also a really good time – I think I’ll make it!

      That’s awesome! Didn’t even think of that. One day, I will move to Dublin…

  3. 22 October, 2013 at 14:03

    Great write up!

    Ha ha, that photo of me and Brenna is hilarious. I am trying to do a Brenna face and failing miserably!

    x
    Helen recently posted…Photo Essay: African ElephantsMy Profile

    • Alyssa James
      24 October, 2013 at 07:09

      Ah, I thought it was a great photo! Thanks for reading :)

  4. 28 October, 2013 at 15:40

    May I ask, what writing styles and tips did you learn at the workshops?
    Nicole | The Wondernuts recently posted…This is the Face of a GriperMy Profile

    • Alyssa James
      28 October, 2013 at 17:34

      Hi Nicole,

      We just learned about how they all started writing and how they get freelance work. Ernest talked about cultural sensitivity when writing, Christine about expat blogging/freelancing, Leif about how he’s never taken a writing class in his life, David about teaching writing and how to pitch editors…

      I’m writing a piece for T&E, so I got specific information about how I could improve the piece. We ended in small groups, and read some work out loud and got feedback on it from the writers running the seminar as well as from other people in the group.

      Hope that helps!

  5. 14 January, 2014 at 14:43

    I’ve never heard of TBEX before but sounds like something I could benefit from. How often do they hold the conferences and do you by chance know when/where the next one is?
    I’ve just started blogging and everything is quite new to me!

    • Alyssa James
      15 January, 2014 at 07:56

      Hi Tana,

      Thanks for stopping by! They generally have two every year – one in North America and one in Europe. You can check it out here: tbexcon.com

  6. 14 January, 2014 at 14:50

    Did you find that the conference was worth while? I’ve never heard of TBEX before but feel, as a new blogger, it would be something I could benefit from. Do you know how often the hold the conferences? Do you know when/where the next one is?
    Tana B recently posted…Riding Motorcycles in Complete ChaosMy Profile

  7. 30 March, 2014 at 19:45

    I’ll be attending my first TBEX this year. To be honest, I’m terrified of the networking. I rarely travel solo and the idea of being surrounded by people I should talk to on my own for a couple of days…
    I know it sounds stupid, but that doesn’t seem like me.
    Let’s hope for the best:D
    Sofie recently posted…Review: Timberland Earthkeepers Brookton 6″ Classic BootsMy Profile

    • Alyssa James
      1 April, 2014 at 08:03

      Hey Sofie,

      I think the best thing to do is not think of it as networking. Just talk to people – no one really likes to sold do anyway, and in travel people are very skepitcal. Which TBEX are you going to, Europe or US?

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