I started this blog in August of 2007 with no agenda other than to write about being an expat. I certainly had no way of knowing that three years later, I’d find myself among a group of people who have helped me, hired me, inspired me and, most importantly, who understand my insatiable need to live the life I do. The conference was called the Travel Blog Exchange TBEX10, where travel writers, bloggers and PR professionals gathered to teach, learn and party like freaking rock stars.
There are many, many people who have already written about the conference with insight and intelligence. I’m not one of them, because I’m still on such a high that it may be months until I gain any kind of perspective on it. But I want need to write about it just the same, because otherwise I may just burst into flames from the awesome.
First and foremost, I got to spend lots of time with (most of) my BootsnAll colleagues:
- Sean Keener, who so generously welcomed me into the BTN (and his own) family and actually considered every crazy, overly ambitious idea I had about our new collaboration, Travel News Daily. (Shill: It’s our new blog, and it’s crack for travel addicts. Go there now.)
- Jessica Spiegel. I just. I can’t even. She is. I mean. Just. I. Yeah.
- Katie Hammel, editor of BootsnAll and writer of WhyGo Iceland and WhyGo Chicago, who patiently sat with me and answered every single one of my nit-picky questions about how my WhyGo France site works.
- Joanna Haugen of WhyGo Las Vegas, a whip-smart and remarkably calm woman, even when she won the trip to Curacao from Diamond PR!
Spud Hilton of the San Francisco Chronicle is one of my idols and the first non-BootsnAll person I met. He said, “Hi, I’m Spud” and I replied, “Oh my God, I love you!” before introducing myself. I’m fairly certain he and Jim Byers of the Toronto Star were having a grown-up discussion about journalism on the terrace of the Professor’s Loft at the beginning of the BootsnAll/Euro Cheapo party, but I joined them anyway and we talked about good and bad travel writing for an unforgettable (for me, at least) 15 minutes.
I finally met several people whose work I’ve long admired, and whom over the last few years I’ve come to know as well as one can on the Internets. It’s a weird feeling – there’s an initial “OMG you’re real” moment, followed by the kind of camaraderie that comes from longtime, in-real-life friendship.
- Pam Mandel of Nerd’s Eye View. Not nearly enough time spent with her. I weep at the loss.
- Mike Barish of Gadling. He is the human equivalent of a basket of sarcastic, funny puppies, and I hope I was not the only one to tell his girlfriend that I had a crush on him.
- Wendy Perrin of Conde Nast Traveler, with whom I share a past in the theater! Who knew? Again, not nearly enough time spent with her.
- Paul Brady of Conde Nast Traveler. After a year-long Tumblr love affair I met him on Saturday night and I forget what I said that made him laugh, but somewhere at that moment an angel got its wings.
- Melanie Waldman of Travels with Two. We both graduated from NYU in the same year (I won’t tell you when). We did not know each other then, but that didn’t stop us from behaving as if we had been besties since the Reagan Administration.
- David Farley, author An Irreverent Curiosity, who hilariously asked me if I had been wearing clothes when my Miss Expatria photo was taken (see right-hand sidebar). Our conversations
devolved from there to the point where we’d just look at other and laugh.
- Mary Ann Grisham of Enchanted Traveler. We couldn’t find each other for two days, but made up for it on Sunday afternoon with many hugs and nearly incoherent babbling about France.
TBEX was founded and organized by Kim Mance and Maren Hogan of GoGalavanting. I met Kim, the most dynamic woman on the planet, in Rome last year, and we hugged about 5,000 times over the weekend and hatched
evil fun plans for TBEX Europe. This was my first time meeting Maren, who is so elegant it’s almost hard to look at her, and who always had a moment to listen to me gush about how much fun I was having. Love them both ten times.
Justine Chellel of Keystone, one of the Vail Resorts at TBEX, should get a raise for the way she rallied when I told her I don’t ski and hate the cold. She promptly invented the most delicious-sounding, entirely apres-ski weekend idea, involving lots of blankets and five-star dining. We then bonded over our Delaware Valley roots and love of scrapple. Jessica and I are going to make sure she has the best Italy honeymoon ever.
Oh gosh, who else? There were a million moments I never want to forget. Lola Akinmade of Matador and Mike Yessis of World Hum graciously accepted my fan-girl praise. Bobby Laurie of the Crew Lounge at Upgrd may be the next inductee into my Gay Mafia. Pete Meyer of Euro Cheapo was so, so easy to talk to. Mike Richard of Vagabondish is in the running for my Travel Crush of 2010. Chérie King, the Travelbee, was an absolute joy with a face like a sunbeam.
And finally, no one else is gonna say it, so I will: Robert Reid of Lonely Planet and the 76-Second Travel Show and Jim Benning of World Hum are hot and smart and funny and I want to put them both in my pocket so we can travel together all the time. Even though Robert yelled at me during the Weber Shandwick Travel & Lifestyle party at the Omni Berkshire for saying I’d rather be attacked by a shark than a bear.