What’s the story here?
This is about the business of travel blogging. If you’re here for the tragic stories of humiliating disaster, here’s one about getting robbed in Germany.
A few weeks ago, I was sat in the audience as legendary travel writer Don George spoke to a packed audience. He shared some of his guiding questions – the things he always asked himself when he arrived in a new place. What was he learning? Where and how could he write stuff down? (Paul Theroux favours toilets.) What details spoke volumes? What angle (read: subjective focus) would he take, and why him? And above all these things, unifying them into one guiding mission statement: “what’s the story here?”
It was the feeling that everyone knew they weren’t the most important people in the room.
TBEX is a conference for travel bloggers, and travel requires self-confidence. Approaching blogging as a business requires even more confidence. Put the two together and you could easily end up with a cheap-day ticket to unbridled arrogance. “Do you know who I am?” I hate it when I see it, and I’ve caught myself edging towards it a few times (which is hilarious because even I don’t really know who I am). You have to be a little cocky, a wee bit cheeky, to get noticed – and you have to believe in what you’re doing (which is why it’s important to do the things you love, which require no effort whatsoever to believe in). As a result, it’s easy to get trapped in your own orbit.
TBEX Dublin felt like a lot of folk looking around at the other talented people in the room and thinking, “holy crap, what am I doing? I should be listening to these people, not waving my own flag. Shut up.”
I’m still thinking through a lot of things. I’m still thinking about Don’s talk, about David Farley‘s advice on freelancing after I threw the microphone at him in a breakout session I was leading, about Lola’s Akinmade-Åkerström’s smart thoughts on backyard blogging, and on a cheer-inducing closing keynote from Uncornered Market which was everything I’ve wanted to hear about how storytelling and travel are a force for doing some good in the world, and why everyone (including sponsors) should have a part to play in that tale. I’m still thinking. I’m still processing. More on those soon.
But the story of TBEX Dublin? I reckon I’m with Lola.
Here are the slides from my presentation about online storytelling…