Brace yourselves…it’s a long one. I’m giving you a proper run through.
I don’t know exactly what I expected to get out of my first TBEX, but I can guarantee that it was much more beneficial to me than I could have imagined. Spending the week in Killarney MAY have been one of the highlights, as well as being surrounded by folks with a love for Travel.
Not only were some solid connections formed, but I picked up some tips and tricks that will be put into practice immediately (or the second that I recover from it all.) Although I met a lot of new people, I did manage to run into quite a few familiar folks. But I guess that’s what you get when your family has been in the travel business for upwards of 50 years… Imagine having to “behave” yourself as an “adult” on an adventure because people actually know who to gossip to…
What exactly IS TBEX?
Well lads, they’re going to explain it better than I ever could:
“TBEX IS THE WORLD’S LARGEST GATHERING OF TRAVEL BLOGGERS, WRITERS, NEW MEDIA CONTENT CREATORS, AND SOCIAL MEDIA SAVVY TRAVEL INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS.”
If you find this as intriguing as I did, you can visit their website to find out what’s happening next.
(Aka the day my dog gave me the “You’re really going to leave me?” look.)
Being a Monday, it was already great having to not head into work early that morning. Having scoured the internet for blog entries containing helpful pointers, I did some VERY last minute “packing” and made sure to toss in plenty of handy dandy business cards. I then gathered my bits, dropped off the pup to my nan’s and went on my way.
The journey from Waterford to Killarney is a bit of a pain in the arse, but other attendees had much further to come and I acknowledge the fact that 4.5 hours with Bus Eireann was practically a delight. Thankfully, I was staying in town for the week and it took me all of three minutes to get to my accommodation before heading to Cafe Du Parc to check in for TBEX. The rest of my evening was uneventful and relaxing, exactly what was needed.
This comfortable four star guesthouse is centrally located and often used by my mother’s company Celtic Journeys. Awaiting me was a warm welcome, a warm bed and a hot breakfast…which is really all anyone truly needs is it not?! Charming through and through, I would honestly recommend it to anyone looking to experience (quiet) local hospitality while remaining close enough to town so as not to miss out on all the buzz.
As part of the whole package, I decided to join in on one of the Pre-bex tours. Being me, I was a little late to the game and many of the more “exciting” trips were full up. I still enjoyed my choice thoroughly however! Despite having an ex there, I jumped aboard the Tralee Trip. Wondering what went down? Well, that’s obviously what I’m going to tell you about next…hold your horses lads & ladettes.
Although we left a little behind schedule, we made good time and were able to explore Tralee Town Park where we visited the (wilting) rose garden before heading into the Kerry County Museum. If you’re ever in Tralee, the museum is a must visit simply because their Medieval Experience is so well done. YES there is more to the museum and it’s all quite good, but nothing will prepare you for walking through the life-size display.
From the museum, we headed to the Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre where we learned about local wildlife such as cheeky mink while boating around the marsh. We were also afforded the opportunity to walk up the many many steps of the 20 metre tall viewing centre where a beautiful view awaited us. Shortly after, we enjoyed a much needed and well deserved delicious soup & sandwich lunch at Kirby’s Brogue Inn. HUGE thanks to them for taking care of (and putting up with) us.
Blennerville Windmill was the next port of call…well, at least for half of us. Some of us were interested in a cultural afternoon at Siamsa Tire. Do I regret my choice? Not one bit. As an Irish gal who grew up with ringlets in her hair, I STILL have no interest in Irish dance. That being said I do love traditional culture and believe it to be a beautiful thing. Getting involved just isn’t something that has ever appealed to me.
So, the Windmill. Not only was it just a smidge picturesque, the history of it was quite interesting as was learning the process of making the flour. All I can tell you is, I would have had some nice arms working in such a place back in the day. One of the best things about visiting it is now being able to say that I “broke” the windmill.
Upon our return to Killarney, I hopped off the coach in town to freshen up before strolling out to a lovely night at the super scenic Killarney Racecourse. A night full of networking, alcohol sampling, Irish stew, Celtic Steps and fire juggling ensued!
Time to Learn
I’m not going to lie, I felt a little intimidated turning up at the INEC in Killarney barely knowing anyone and not knowing entirely what to expect. I wasn’t alone in that. Thankfully, I attended the newbie’s session with Jan Petersen before the proper start of the conference and I felt that little bit better about everything.
The venue was ideal and the layout was easy enough to navigate, all you had to do was pay attention. After the initial session, I headed for the warm TBEX welcome and Gary Arndt’s Opening Keynote. As someone who has had one foot in the blogging sphere for a while now, I already knew my way around a few of his points. But ultimately I gained a bit of confidence in knowing that I’m kind of sort of doing okay with the direction I’m headed in.
I mostly focused on the Tourism sessions. Let’s face it, with my background it’s what made sense. I hit up destination marketing (Leslie Walker & Carol Cain) in an attempt to garner some ideas on helping give Waterford a boost on my blog. Straight afterwards was a spiel on sustainable tourism (Cillian Murphy & Brett Love,) which is something I’m rather interested in as someone who’s used to being at those overcrowded tourist spots. After a DELICIOUS chicken lunch, I headed to the Snooker Room to learn how to monetize social media (Nathan Sado & Sean Boyle.) All three sessions were really beneficial to me in multiple ways.
After another exciting opening keynote, this time by Hashtracker Ciaran Blumenfeld, I zoomed on over to the pitching sessions to ensure a good seat. The first session on offer was by far the most interesting of the conference, most likely because it’s something that I’m building towards with this site. “From Billboard to Brand – How to Successfully Pitch Brands” with Archana Singh and Victoria Yore & Terrence Drysdale. I now know what to say, what not to say and how not to be taken advantage of (by brands.)
From there I stuck around to learn how to pitch to airlines thanks to Kerwin McKenzie, which also proved super useful for my future as a travel writer. The final session of the day, and event, was with Tim Leffel and it focused on extra income possibilities with other publications. It was a good note to end on, and hopefully I’ll be able to effortlessly pitch ideas to plenty of folks out there!
The end of it all
The closing Keynote from Mike O’Shea was more inspiring than informative, and it’s just what was needed after two days of note taking and blogging education. Not only does the man have some amazing stories and photographs to share, he does his best to make a difference with his travel and that is very admirable. Honestly, one of my biggest takeaways from the entire event is the necessity in this day and age to focus on ecotourism. We should all really be making more of a conscious effort to make our explorations matter.
But of course, there’s time for putting together an action plan AFTER the pub. Right? Our farewell evening event took place in the brilliantly quirky JM Reidy’s in the heart of Killarney Town. I think it’s fair to say that most everyone enjoyed the warm hospitality provided by the people of Killarney (and of Ireland.) I can’t really say too much on that front as I already know we’re an incredibly swell bunch.
The following morning, I slept in that extra hour before checking out of Killarney Lodge and heading to catch my buses home. As you can probably guess, the pup was glad to see me return.
So what’s next? Do I attend another TBEX event? HELL YES! I’m most certainly hoping to attend September’s event in New York, and not just because the folks at the Corning Museum of Glass gave me this cute little fall themed piece…but because I would recommend any travel writer/blogger/etc to attend such an event. It was a blast!
Travel wise, I really want to start exploring Ireland that little bit more. SURE I’ve been all over the darn place, but I want to look at things from different perspectives and really take note of how things are changing. As well as getting some home exploration under my belt, I want to push myself to take the odd weekend trip to spots in Europe. I’m aware that means I won’t be able to do a heap of exploring, but I really just want to test the waters. There’s nothing wrong with visiting one destination multiple times, as long as you’re making the effort to take things one step further for each journey.
Going forward in the short term, I would like to talk more to you about those travel experiences that I have been blessed with to date.
If you’re keen to give TBEX a go, give it a go. GO on the tours, GO to the events, GO make friends! Everyone I encountered was lovely and many were other newbies in the same boat. Next time around I will most likely also sign up for some workshops. I felt it would have been a bit too much for me the first time around.
Visit Killarney if you haven’t been, but be prepared for a heavy tourist population unless you stop in “off season.”
Be sure to keep an eye on my lovely little travel section for all these things that will definitely definitely happen in the near future. Really, I promise…I’ve been incredibly inspired by last week’s events. I’m ready and willing to grow as a travel writer, because to date, I sadly haven’t done as much as I would like.
DO check out my thoughts on my visit to Dublin’s Epic Ireland, it’s a really great introduction to the country if you’ve just arrived and a fantastic refresher if you’ve forgotten some of the more important factual tidbits. They made an appearance at TBEX and I’m glad to see that the attraction has been doing so well with so many different individuals. There really is something for everyone.