Author: Jessica Spiegel

Ode to Some of the People I Met at TBEX 2010

My usually glamorous (ahem) routine of staggering from my bedroom to my home office down the hall was interrupted last weekend when I spent a few days in New York City in the company of 300-ish other travel writers and bloggers at the second Travel Blog Exchange (TBEX) conference.

I could go on and on about how even though most of us are perfectly comfortable having “internet friends” and how the level of friendship we cultivate online these days is often deep enough that even upon first meeting many people at TBEX were exchanging hugs instead of handshakes, but instead I’m going to focus on some of the people with whom I got to exchange said hugs and handshakes.

>> Here’s a more complete wrap-up of what BootsnAll’s Katie Hammel got out of the conference itself.

Here are some of the people I’m especially excited to have spent even a little time with this past weekend in New York, loosely categorized into groups that are almost completely useless and yet still somehow amusing. At least to me.


People I Want to Spend a Month Gabbing, Eating, & Drinking With

It’s easy to feel like you’ve found “your people” when you’re surrounded by an auditorium full of travel writers, bloggers, and overall enthusiasts, but even in that crowd I felt lucky to spend time with a couple people I think are long-lost sisters. Melanie Waldman (Travels With Two) and Christine Cantera (WhyGo France, Travel News Daily, Miss Expatria) are said quasi-sisters, whether they like it or not. We have more in common than should be legal for people who aren’t actually related. Either that, or our parents have some explaining to do.

People I Was Honored to Share a Stage With

As noted above, it can be hard to get me to shut up about how much I love social media and its travel applications, so I was pleased to be part of the niche marketing panel at TBEX. I was even more pleased to be sharing the stage with some incredibly smart people, only two of whom I’d met before this past weekend. Debbie Dubrow (Delicious Baby) was our rockstar moderator and deserves credit for keeping us on task; next time she deserves to be on a panel and share her wisdom, too. Annemarie Dooling (Frill Seeker Diary), Heather Poole (Gadling’s Galley Gossip), and Mike Richard (Vagabondish) are social media savvy travelers whose personalities come shining through online so that when you meet them they are exactly who you’d expect.

The highlight of the panel for me, however, was Evelyn Hannon (Journeywoman). She has consistently done what she thought was good for traveling women for more years than some of the women in the TBEX audience have been alive, and I don’t think I’m alone in saying I want to be just like her.

photo by Art of Backpacking‘s Teresa Gotay

People Who Share My Italy Obsession

I was lucky enough to meet Robin Locker (My Mélange) at a foodie meetup organized in part by Kelly Goodman and Austin Hill (Travellious) in Rome last year, and it was great to see both Robin and Kelly in New York. Two other Italophiles I was happy to meet for the first time – after having corresponded with both for longer than I can even remember at this point – were Melanie Renzulli (Italofile Blog) and Kathy McCabe (Dream of Italy). It’s not as if finding people who love Italy is particularly difficult, but it’s kind of awesome to meet up with people who don’t even ask why I love Italy so much – they just know.

People Who Have Such a Dry Sense of Humor that I’m Never 100% Certain When They’re Joking (but I Choose to Assume They’re Usually Joking)

I’m a big fan of a dry sense of humor, and since that doesn’t tend to translate well online I’m an especially big fan of people who are skilled in the art of walking that oh-so-fine line between funny and, well, not-so-funny. Robert Reid (Lonely Planet, 76-Second Travel Show) didn’t let Jim Benning (World Hum) finish his TBEX-opening slideshow presentation of almost-believable Twitter updates from conference attendees without interjecting his own findings in the form of his trademark hand-drawn charts and graphs. David Farley (An Irreverent Curiosity) shared some of the other potential titles for his book over drinks on Friday, including “The Messiah Flap.” If you don’t get why that’s hysterical, then you need to read Farley’s book. Mike Barish (Gadling) wanted to win a trip so badly he wore a ruffled powder blue tuxedo (and flip-flops) to TBEX on day two, despite the searing heat and humidity in the city. (Although on second thought, maybe that’s not Mike being funny so much as just Mike being Mike.)

Honestly, I’d like to put these four in a room together and just watch the sarcasm ricochet off the walls.


People I Loved Talking World Cup With

I’m one of those rare Americans who loves watching soccer (AKA “proper football”) at all times, but it’s of particular interest during the World Cup – which just happened to also be during TBEX this year. I found that I wasn’t alone in my love for footy among the TBEX crowd, so I’m reserving a special section for my fellow soccer enthusiasts. Spencer Spellman (Carolina Nomad) and I joked on Twitter before the conference that we should create hand signals so I could be updated about the USA-Ghana game since it was during my panel. In the end, BootsnAll’s World Cup Blog was displayed behind me and the other panelists on the wall and I’m thankful that Matt Long (Land Lopers) was in the front row to let me know when the US scored. (The fact that this led to me involuntarily yelping in my “outside voice” and scaring the bejeezus out of Annemarie sitting next to me was, in retrospect, regrettable.)

Mike Tieso (Art of Backpacking) betrayed his footy allegiances by wearing an Argentina jersey to TBEX on day two, thereby making himself a target for my unsolicited analysis of the tournament thus far. And Jodi Ettenberg (Legal Nomads) gets especially big props for joining me in being another kind of rarity – a girl who likes soccer. It was a pleasure talking about the World Cup with all of these fine people.

People Whose Voices I Regularly Hear in My Head

My commute from my bedroom down the hall to my home office doesn’t allow for much time to listen to podcasts in my everyday life, but the one I don’t miss is This Week in Travel. I love the casual banter, and routinely want to add my own two cents to a conversation before I realize it’s not live and they can’t hear me. It’s always fun, therefore, to see the show’s hosts in person. Jen Leo wasn’t at TBEX this year, as she’s busy getting settled in London, but it was nice to see Gary Arndt (Everything Everywhere) and Chris Christensen (Amateur Traveler) in New York. Chris’ tips in the podcasting panel were accessible and easy to understand (and he’s extremely generous with his hard-earned expertise even away from conferences), and Gary’s presentation on “Travel Porn” was one of the highlights of the conference. The fact that I aspire to be the Alec Baldwin of guests on This Week in Travel has nothing to do with it. Honest. (Mostly.)


People Who Know How to Throw a Party

I’m pleased that so many people came to and enjoyed the Saturday night shindig that BootsnAll co-sponsored with our friends at EuroCheapo, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t extend a special thanks to the EuroCheapo crew for their work in putting the party together. Yes, it was a joint effort – but since we came from the other side of the country it was left to Pete and Tom to scout out a location and arrange for everything ahead of time. We truly appreciate their hard work in that regard, and it sure looked to us like a good time was had by all.


People Who Defy Categories

I’ll admit that me lumping all of these people into one group is more about my own laziness than anything else, but this is my article. Hrmph. Here are some more people I loved seeing, and why:

  • Pam Mandel (Nerd’s Eye View) – Because there is no such thing as too much time spent with Pam Mandel.
  • Julie Ovenell-Carter (These Boots) – Because it was awesome to be able to thank her in person for the Haida Gwaii travel tips she gave me last year.
  • Pam McNaughtan (Spunky Girl Monologues) – Because Pam’s a long-time BootsnAll member who’s about to set off on a RTW trip, so it was good to see her one more time before she leaves.
  • Trisha Miller (Travel Writers Exchange) – Because she’s not only smart but she also loves to share her know-how, and that makes her seriously good people.
  • Corey Taratuta (Irish Fireside) – Because now that I’m doing a weekly Italy podcast, it’s a helluva lot of fun to talk about podcasting with people like Corey who are way more experienced than I am (and who, like Trisha, are all about sharing what they know).
  • Julia Dimon (Travel Junkie Julia) and Jeremy Kressman (Gadling) – Because I like knowing that I’ll always be able to say, “Oh, I first met them at a diner in New York…”
  • Kate Kohler (BVK), Margo Millure (The Travel Belles), and Ryan Lile (Savvy Travel) – Because as they now know, once someone who likes Portland gets me started talking about how great Portland is, I may not stop.
  • Audrey Scott and Daniel Noll (Uncornered Market) – Because they’re all kinds of delightful and they had the good sense to get married in Italy.
  • Justine Chellel (Keystone Resort) – Because she has the good sense to be planning a 3-week honeymoon in Italy.

People I Work With and Don’t Get to See Enough

This may seem like a weird category, but hear me out. BootsnAll went from being partly virtual to entirely virtual last month, and with colleagues scattered across the globe it’s kind of rare for many of us to be in the same room at the same time. Which is a bummer when I enjoy my colleagues’ company so much. So it was especially fun to spend concentrated time with Sean Keener (BootsnAll CEO), Katie Hammel (BootsnAll articles editor, WhyGo Iceland, WhyGo Chicago), Christine Cantera (WhyGo France, Travel News Daily), and JoAnna Haugen (WhyGo Las Vegas) – not to mention Sean’s wife Brandy Keener, a flight attendant who does the @Airfare account on Twitter, and Sheila Scarborough (Family Travel Guide), who I had never met before this year’s TBEX. These fine folks make going to work – even in a virtual sense – a pleasure every single day.

photo by Sarah Sloboda

People Without Whom I Wouldn’t Have Gotten to Hang Out with All These Great People at Once

No list of people I’m happy to have seen at TBEX would be complete without a category devoted to the people who put the damned thing together in the first place. Even if you haven’t done event planning, my guess is that you can appreciate the amount of work it takes to put on a conference like TBEX. So I’d like to take this opportunity to start a slow clap for Kim Mance, Maren Hogan, Shanna Quinn, and Courtney McGann – and I invite y’all to join me.

And a Note to Everyone I Didn’t Meet

In sifting through the business cards I collected, I’m dismayed at how little time I got to spend talking to some people, and even more dismayed when I think about who I missed meeting entirely. So I hereby issue a blanket invitation to anyone I only met in passing, or didn’t meet at all – don’t hesitate to get in touch. I’m good for unabashed gushing and travel advice about Italy, tips on visiting (and eating in) Portland, rapid-fire talk about Italian calcio/soccer/football and the beautiful men who play the game, as well as enthusing about travel and social media and the intersection of the two.

If we didn’t meet at TBEX and we have anything in common at all, you can pretty much assume I’d like to know you – and that I’m very much looking forward to exchanging hugs and/or handshakes with you at next year’s TBEX in Vancouver BC.

photos taken by me on my BlackBerry, unless otherwise noted