This year was all about learning as much as I could about this industry. I have worked in a travel agency and after leaving that job and starting The Rambling Gals, it has definitely been a learning curve! There were SO many things to learn, like: how to build and design a website, how to use social media in a more professional capacity, how to write effective blog posts, how to start, record, and edit podcast episodes, social media marketing and a thousand other things we don’t need to get into right now.
When the opportunity to attend the first annual TravelCon came up, I purchased tickets within 10 minutes of receiving the email! I knew this would be an opportunity to learn from some of the best people in this new (to me) industry and network with like-minded people. This was our first foray into the new landscape of travel industry professionals. Below you’ll find our tips for making the most out of attending TravelCon as well as what you can expect from the conference.
So, what is TravelCon?
Well, it’s a Travel Conference put on by Matt Kepnes of Nomadic Matt (you can listen to + read our interview with Matt HERE) for all kinds of people within the travel industry. There were Travel Writers, Bloggers, Vloggers, Photographers, TV Personalities and everything in-between.
Each day would start off with a key-note speaker; someone who has been a standout success or a pioneer in the travel industry. There were famous authors, travel bloggers who helped to make travel blogging a legit business and industry, and people who have their own shows on The Travel Channel.
Where was it held?
This years’ TravelCon took place in Austin, Texas and we arrived a day early and stayed a day after the 3-Day Conference. This allowed us to have a chance to explore Austin as neither Audriana, nor I have been there!
I am happy we opted to stay for 2 extra days as otherwise we would have seen almost none of Austin. The conference started at 9am, lasted until 5pm and then there were after parties and meet-ups at designated bars around the city, so there wasn’t much time for us to do our own exploring!
Key Note Speakers
There were several key note speakers throughout each day, they were all pretty amazing and I certainly left their sessions feeling a renewed energy to keep pursuing a career in the travel industry. I’ve included some of our favorite speakers here, as well as links to their books if you’re interested in their work!
What are the sessions like?
There were also plenty of other speakers teaching different topics in classroom-like settings with only about 50 people in the room. Everyone had the opportunity to choose the topics they needed the most help in; there were sessions on SEO (Search Engine Optimization), social media marketing, how to monetize your blog, growing your YouTube Channel, photography and photo editing, how to do your taxes as an entrepreneur, and everything else you could imagine. In this way, it was excellent for people in every stage of their entrepreneurship. Even if you were just starting out, there were sessions on how to start your blog and one where you could ask all your tech questions. If you’ve been in the game quite some time, there were discussions for more those more advanced and, of course, everyone has some areas they can improve in!
In addition to speakers, there were also break-out sessions for certain niches. If you were a travel blogger focusing on family travel there was a smaller session just for everyone in that niche; it’s a great way to network with your peers and learn from each other. There were writing workshops with professional travel writers where you sent them a sample of your work beforehand, received their feedback and then got to sit down with them in very intimate group of about 15 people and ask whatever questions you wanted.
If you were at the stage in your career that you were looking to work with prominent brands and do some collaborations, there was a Media Marketplace where you could pitch companies and set up meeting to discuss opportunities.
Is it a good place to network?
Absolutely! In fact, we put out a question to the TravelCon Facebook group asking if anyone else would want to rent an airbnb with us and we had about 12 ladies opt in. This meant we were already making connections with other people in the travel industry, and could spend time outside the conference chatting about what we wanted to accomplish and also made friends that we explored the Austin area with!
In addition to other people attending, there were so many opportunities to chat with the speakers and travel professionals participating in the conference. In between lunches in the ballroom, you can sit with the key note speakers, and after parties everyone shows up and talks business and collaborations. There are so many chances to meet and speak with the very people that you’ve been following and reading their work for years!
10 tips to make the most of the conference
Plan your day practically
There are a lot of speakers and sometimes you’ll have a conflict of wanting to see two or more people speaking at the same time. Go over the schedule and make sure you’re seeing and learning about all the TOPICS you need to. If you’re wanting to listen to someone speak, but in doing so missing the only session on SEO that you can make, opt for the one you need, not the one you want.
Sit down at lunch with different people everyday
During lunch and break times, you’ll see a lot of the speakers mingling about and eating with everyone. Go sit with different people during lunches and meet as many different people as you can. It’s nice to bond with several other people and make friends, but make sure you get to know other people, too!
Go to the pre and after parties
This is where you’ll probably meet and make connections with the most people. Everyone’s drinking and eating and having a great time, and you’ll have plenty of mutual things to discuss from the day. You can exchange information on sessions you each missed but wanted to attend and spend some quality time with other people in the industry.
Go to the sessions you NEED to go to, not the ones that sound the most fun
It was hard to miss out on someone that I had been following for years and admired their work, and instead go to the session on Facebook Marketing or How to do Your Taxes as an Entrepreneur. There are exciting people there you will want to hear talk, but may not neccessarily NEED to go hear. Go to the sessions which are going to help you further succeed.
Bring business cards
We didn’t hand out a ton of these, but it was nice to be able to give them out when we wanted to. I think it also helped us look and feel more professional and business-like. Especially if you are at the point in your career where you will be arranging meetings with brands and tourism boards, having some professional looking business cards on hand will help make you stand out. We had ours done with MOO and they look great and were fairly inexpensive.
Be ready and eager to learn
This is self-explanatory and if you’re paying a good chunk of money to both attend, fly out to the conference, and pay for accommodations, you should be there to take it seriously and learn something. For the most part, it seemed like everyone was on board with that, but some people were there to just network with famous travel bloggers and influencers. Go prepared and take as much away from it as you can. By all means have a great time, but also remember you are there representing yourself as a brand to other people in the industry!
Set up appointments with brands + tourism boards
Not everyone had the opportunity to set up meetings with brands and tourism boards; only if you have a pretty solid reputation, following, and influence did you get an appointment accepted. If you are at that point, then by all means reach out to brands (there will be directions on how to do that) and present yourself as a professional business person!
Throughout the conference you’ll be brushing elbows with people you have been following online for years. AND you will meet other people just like you in the travel industry who are maybe just getting started and still learning and developing. Make sure you put forth the effort to make relationships on both fronts. All of these people are your peers, and you may have the chance to work with any of these people in the future. The ladies we stayed with in the airbnb have become our friends and we have chatted with them about different business strategies, collaborations in the future, and would love to have them on our podcast as guests. We even met up with one of them in Thailand months later for a reunion! Every person is an opportunity to create a meaningful relationship.
Brush up on the speakers’ work so you have something to chat about
This is something I wish I had done more of. While I was well-versed on the people who I had been following for years, I wish I had read the work of other speakers beforehand. It was still amazing to hear them talk about their career, but it would have been nice to read their work before hearing them. This would have also been helpful for conversations with some of the speakers as I would have possibly had more context and speaking points for a conversation.
What did we take away from TravelCon?
It was honestly just really nice to hear from so many people who are making it work in their various fields within the travel community. And especially from the people who basically carved out their own niches and made the way for things like travel blogging and vlogging to be a legitimate, profitable professions.
I think so many of these careers are considered kinda “non-careers” by a lot of people. And as a fairly new industry, I have found it’s always a struggle to try and explain what it is we do. The Internet has opened up an insane amount of avenues for those who are willing to take a jump into it and kind of figure things out for themselves.
To see people who have taken their writing talents, or photography and videography skills and created their own very successful business is incredible. I mean, I know that sounds cheesy as shit, but really, listening to people who creatively used this new-fangled Internet to create a career and make good money…pffff it’s amazing.
Anyone who has tried to explain to an older relative that the reason they’re at the grocery store in the middle of the day on a Wednesday is because they work for themselves and make their own schedule knows the confused face you get.
Additionally, I’ll be the first person to say that working online for yourself isn’t the hardest job in the world. It’s not a back breaking job like being a Carpenter, or working on an Oil Rig. And it’s not a potentially life-threatening job like being a Corrections Officer in a prison, a Police Officer, a Firefighter, or being in the military — it’s not even in the same realm. And I think that’s where some of the disdain for online entrepreneurs lies; the fact that they have a career they’ve created that sometimes allows them to potentially make WAY more money than any of those other jobs I listed above and do it on their own terms.
Now, with that being said, it stills requires a lot of work and you have to consistently work very hard. You have to wear an insane amount of hats and there are never enough hours in the day to do all the things you need to do. It’s kinda lonely because your family and friends have no idea what it is you actually are doing with your time. In fact, I’m 95% sure my family thinks I sit on the couch and watch The Sopranos each and every day. And that’s something I try to not let bother me. I have always been someone who works hard and wants to do the best I can; so people thinking I’m lazy or unmotivated actually really bothers me.
In actuality, I work at least 8 hours every day…that includes Saturday and Sunday and the holidays. And most days it’s more around 10-12 hours, not including the other 2 jobs I have that allow me to make actual money to pay rent!
But, it’s something I’m willing to plug away at and make a success out of what I want my life to look like. I’ve always said I was never made for an office and I have a minor problem with other people telling me what to do. I have always known that eventually I would have to be the boss.
If you’re on the same road as me, maybe I’ll see ya at TravelCon this year?!
Will be held in Boston, June 27-29, 2019
Key Note Speakers (so far!):
Mark Manson, Author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
Cheryl Strayed, Author of Wild
Tony Wheeler, Founder of Lonely Planet
Kiersten Rich, The Blonde Abroad
Tahir Shah, Author of The Caliph’s House
You can buy tickets here: TravelCon 2019 Tickets + Information
let us know if you’re coming! We’d love to meet you!
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