Sitting down on the stained cement curb or worn bench overlooking a market is one of my favorite places to hang out in a foreign country – and not because I like the burning scent of urine that floats up from below, unwelcome but eternally present, or even necessarily the view of the market, busy and often a touch exotic – it’s because of the person who invariably sits down right next to me and strikes up a conversation as we jointly slurp down sticky and dripping bags of chili-powdered mango strips.
That’s where my stories are born, and those are my most vivid and happy memories. Similarly then it’s the people I met this past weekend at a travel bloggers conference in New York City that stick out the most – more than the panel discussions that were noticeably light on content is the memorable collage of faces, stories and experiences of others on similar paths around the world.
What I learned is that within our own families and social circles most of us travelers are anomalies. We are often the odd ones out – choosing more modest lifestyles to save up and then spend those precious earnings sleeping in cheap rooms that make us wish that the word “dirty” adequately summed up what it’s like to see bugs on the floor, mold in the crevices and a sad, limp mattress, naturally sheetless, drooping in the corner.
I am so happy that I was able to attend the Travel Blog Exchange conference this year, dubbed TBEX (by the travel community on Twitter) and actually meet the faces behind the other blogs that I follow. These other travelers continually inspire my own travels – their words and photos often fueling my next off-the-cuff and rapid travel decisions.
Without further ado, the people I met at TBEX and fun experiences we shared:
Andy Hayes and I were able to spend a whole day gabbing about SEO and future plans as we walked the quirky Roosevelt Island – an almost anti-traveler’s destination in the city, we both couldn’t help but enjoy the surprisingly good music from a guitar player hiding himself in the bushes near a foot-path as he sang to himself and strummed his guitar; he wasn’t busking and soliciting tips, just enjoying the peaceful little island looking out over Manhattan. Thanks Andy, look forward to our planned joint ventures!
Shouting over the painfully loud music at the equally painfully trendy Ace Hotel I met Amanda (The Lost Girls)– though I choked a little on paying for the $9 beer, I stayed am was so glad to see that Amanda is equally as sweet in person as our emails. I dare-say an inadvertent late-night confession session means we’re BFFs now, no?! ;-)
Jodi (Legal Nomads) was one of those unexpected finds – I didn’t know she was coming to TBEX…nor that she was such a foodie! Along with Dan and Audrey (Uncornered Market), Gary (Everything, Everywhere), and Kyle and Bessie (On Our Own Path) Jodi showed us how to eat our way through New York City – my favorite foodie experience was stealing away with this group to Otafuku for street-side Japanese barbecue topped cabbage pancakes so hot and fresh the plate burned my lap and we filled that hour with jokes and stories.
Rounding out the weekend was an impromptu Chipolte lunch with Dave and Deb (The Planet D), Trisha (Travel Writers Exchange) and Margo (Travel Belles). Each have personalities completely matching and exceeding their online friendliness. So glad that I had the extra few days in NYC to meet up for poutine and french fries with Dave and Deb, Melanie (Travels with Two) and several others at Pomme Frites – another recommendation from Jodi that exceeded my expectation for a french fry restaurant…sweet mango chutney mayonnaise, who knew it was so good?!
There were so many other travel bloggers I met and loved (Craig/Stay Adventurous, Steph/20-Something Travels, and Dave/Go Backpacking) – their stories each unique, some in the middle of their RTWs, others weekend and family travelers, but all with tales that had me horrified and grossed out (thanks for the toe-nail story Jodi) falling out of my chair with laughter and itching to get back out on the road.
Thanks for the sense of community TBEX-ers as I hit the road again but now know so many of you are out there too! :-)