To be honest, I wasn’t going to write about TBEX. This weekend’s 2nd Annual Travel Bloggers Exchange (TBEX) brought together more than 500 of the blogosphere’s most intrepid and influential travelers and though I was truly excited to put faces with blogs and share stories and advice, I didn’t think it was something my readers would find interest in. After all, they’re not bloggers, they are travel lovers.
But Friday night when I arrived at the event’s opening reception at the Vancouver Art Gallery, I had an epiphany. As I stood in the middle of the atrium and took my first critical look around a room filled with animated conversations and exuberant reunions – the kind that can only exist between those who have spent months at opposite ends of the globe – it struck me. I was home. These were my people.
Everyone says they love to travel and it’s true, almost everyone does. It’s become a meaningless statement. A little like declaring that you love to breathe. Of course people love to travel; it’s a holiday, a vacation, a break from real life. But the people in this room don’t just love to travel, I thought. They are living it. Breathing it. Making it their life’s work.
I knew they were out there, of course. Over the years I have followed many of their blogs as they tackled the globe. Following along from behind my laptop as women, men, couples and families threw caution to the wind, left their homes and families behind and struck out to follow their nomadic dreams.
Since I started traveling the world 6 years ago, my friends and family have been supportive. They have followed me enthusiastically and shared my travels with their friends. Though I know they love me and enjoy seeing the world through my eyes, I also know they don’t get me. They don’t understand the obsession. The passion. The joy that it brings me. I have made my peace with that.
It’s not always easy to explain the simple gratification that comes with every new stamp in my passport, every sunrise in a new land, each friend that I make there. They tolerate and they appreciate, but they don’t understand. Not really. Because they have not done it. Not because they can’t but because it’s not their dream. They are not like me. They are my friends and my family and I love them dearly, but in this sense they are not my people.
This weekend I discovered that I am not alone. I guess I always knew that on some level. But it is one thing to follow like-minded travelers from a distance online, it is quite another to be enveloped by their vagabond spirit in an art gallery. Consider for a moment the raw power of a room filled with people who are living their dreams. They are not bound by conventional wisdom. Their energy is magnetic. It is contagious. It is pure. These are my people.
It was a mantra that replayed itself over and over again in my head throughout the weekend. The more people I met, the more certain I felt. I was in a room with 500 strangers yet at the same time I had never felt more at home in my entire life.
What makes a travel blogger?
I became obsessed with learning everyone’s story. What inspired them to travel? What was the “aha moment” that finally made their latent wanderlust impossible to ignore?
It was a similar story repeated again and again. For some (like me) it was a simple article in a newspaper or magazine. A story about an around-the-world traveler who gave up the stress of the rat race and hit the road. For others, it was a fellow travel-lover who inspired them, a friend who had taken the leap. Who made them realize that around-the-world or long-term travel was possible. I hope that I have done that for some.
But with every long-term traveler I met, there was one common denominator: Once the idea had infiltrated their mind, their soul was committed. There was no turning back.
It was just a matter of time. Months for some, years for others. But they are all making it happen. And thanks to the miracle of blogging, they are sharing their experiences with the world. They are inspiring others. They are living the dream. These are my people.
These are the people that I always hoped were out there somewhere. Traveling, exploring, learning and sharing it all with anyone who will listen, just like me. Meeting everyone in Vancouver this weekend has given me a measure of peace about my travels. A sense of purpose, harmony even. A comfort that I am not alone but part of a community.
Thank you, TBEX, for giving me the gift of these people. These wonderfully-effervescent people. For the first time in my life I can honestly say, I have found my kindred spirits. Hundreds of them. These are my people. And I am thankful for each and every one.
To my readers – some of whom I know are planning their own round-the-world adventure as we speak – have faith in the knowledge that you are not alone. Keep dreaming, keep planning – but, most importantly, share your journey with others. We could all use a little inspiration in our lives.
And next summer at TBEX12 in Keystone, Colorado…I’ll save you a seat.