Review of Travelcon

Review of Travelcon

An honest review of travel bloggings newest annual conference, Travelcon

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It feels like the past year (2018-2019) has been THE year for selling online courses. The amount of times I have signed up for a free webinar to gain some insight that turned into a 45 minute session describing how desperate we all must be and how wealthy we’ll all of a sudden become by spending $15,000 on this epicly life changing course… would amount to too many hours wasted.  So I get it, spending your hard earned money on a course or a conference can create a hesitating, stomach churning ‘I need to be able to pay rent this month’ effect.

This review of Travelcon 2018 will provide clarity from an honest, unbiased opinion from someone (me!) who attended the conference.

Travelcon is a travel blogger conference that is gearing up for its second run. Below are details about what the conference entailed last year, what I found to be the pros and cons, and how it could benefit travel bloggers who consider themselves beginners, intermediate or advanced at their craft. Lastly, we’ll cover what to expect for 2019’s Travelcon Conference.

What is Travelcon?

        Travelcon is a travel bloggers conference put on by the well-known & successful travel blogger, Nomadic Matt (aka Matthew Kepnes). It connects travel bloggers, writers, photographers, videographers in all stages of their blogging journey from beginner to advanced with industry leaders, brands and well-established bloggers. The primary goal of Travelcon stands alone in its pursuit to help others learn how to develop a profitable & successful travel blog (because not every travel blog may be pursuing profits, success is accepted in many different forms).

What does Travelcon include?

2018: Travelcon’s flagship conference was held in 2018 in Austin, Texas. The conference was three full days of inspiring keynote speakers, breakout sessions, and networking opportunities.

  • Each day began & ended with an inspiring and unique keynote speaker, many of which were individuals whose books I had read and/or heard about, such as Ryan Holiday & Rolf Potts.
  • Breakout sessions from morning through the afternoon, lasting one hour each, and varying in topic and level (beginner, intermediate & advanced), which were run by industry leaders in their niche
  • A Blogger Marketplace: an exhibition room where PR firms, brands, tourism boards and more were set up to showcase themselves. Attendees were able to walk around & speak to each table within the blogger marketplace. It was great for networking & discovering what their qualifications are for partnering with a travel blogger
  • Evening events: each evening there was a scheduled outing of some kind, with each one being different and located at Austin city favorites. One evening was an open bar night, the other a light buffet with a drink ticket. *Lunches were provided each day, two of which were at the hotel venue, the other a local favorite food truck
  • Afternoon Meetup: one afternoon was sectioned off for group meetups. Attendees had the option to choose which meetup group to attend based on their niche; Superstar Bloggers, Female travel, Solo travel, etc. Each was held at a different Austin bar.
  • Discounted travel related outings the day before the conference started. I flew in too late in the day to attend these, so I cannot speak to the quality of them but seemed like a fun option to explore the city & meet attendees prior to the conference starting.

Pros & Cons of Travelcon 2018

Pros of attending Travelcon:

  • The entire conference was very well organized: I was very impressed with the organizational flow as it was its first year. I’ve attended work related conferences for years & always had an opinion on how it could be better organized, so this was the first time I was very happy with a conference schedule
  • Everyone was friendly & welcoming!  With the exception of a handful of people, almost everyone I met or introduced myself to was so friendly, welcoming and warm. No matter your success level, the people in attendance were excited to be there.
  • Networking opportunities: from the daily sessions to the evening events, it was pretty easy to network and make connections with fellow travel lovers, those already successful in the industry and outside of it
  • Plenty of opportunities to meet the decision makers behind destination & travel brands
  • Variety of session topics & placement levels: the variety was amazing & each session provided great insight on current best practices & trends
  • Three FULL days where attendees can select their own schedule: this goes along with variety, but it was awesome being able to choose which sessions to attend based on what I wanted/needed to learn about
  • Not every speaker was in the travel industry: this provided us even greater insight & allowed listeners to think outside of the box
  • The Travelcon App: they created an app for the conference, and it was stellar. You could access the schedule and they used it to send out updates, in addition to other tools within it
  • Not once did I feel sold to: each session was solely aiming to help educate & support us, as opposed to self promotion which I’ve experienced elsewhere. Very refreshing!
  • Meal options were vegetarian friendly! I’ll be the first to admit I’m a picky vegetarian eater, and I was happily surprised when I found out that the lunches provided had MULTIPLE vegetarian options

Cons of attending Travelcon:

  • It was difficult to reserve spaces in the writing & photography workshops as they filled up so quickly — within minutes of opening them — however they did their best to alleviate this by adding a few additional workshops, it appears that they’ve added more of these in 2019’s schedule
  • Not every speaker was in the travel industry *yes, I’m using this in both pros & cons, so some had difficulty understanding the issues travel bloggers face when questions were asked

There were at least five sessions during each hour, so attendees have to choose among quite a few highly desirable sessions. The solution to this is that you can purchase a Virtual Pass, so that you can watch the sessions (for one year after the event!) in your own free time. I purchased a Virtual Pass for that reason & found value in being able to watch the sessions afterwards.

Get your Travelcon Virtual Pass Here!

Does Travelcon benefit beginner, intermediate or advanced travel bloggers?

        In my opinion, Travelcon can benefit travel bloggers in any stage of their success. No matter how developed a travel blogger you are, attending Travelcon will leave you feeling inspired & ready to crush it, plus the networking opportunities are great if you’re up for putting yourself out there.

Beginners: I attended Travelcon after starting my blog only eight months prior, and really not spending much time on it. As a beginner travel blogger, attending Travelcon will open your eyes to what is available to you when you begin to succeed, as well as what skills you need to learn to get there. Don’t worry about not fitting in, or not knowing enough, or not feeling ‘ready’!

       Intermediate: Travelcon is a wonderful place to develop your skills.  If you’ve been blogging for sometime Travelcon is a great conference to fill in any gaps and push yourself to network.

        Advanced: The successful travel bloggers I spoke to left saying that they enjoyed Travelcon as well.  Networking feels key to an advanced blogger, and is a great place to showcase your personal brand to new people & find further inspiration

What to expect from Travelcon 2019:

        This year Travelcon will be located in a different city, Boston, Massachusetts, and still focus on its main goal of educating travel bloggers. The 2019 schedule is now live and appears to be similarly set up as the 2018 schedule (yay! Because last years schedule flowed very well). Travelcons 2019 attendees can expect even more amazing keynote speakers like author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Mark Manson, popular female travel blogger,  Kiersten Rich, of The Blonde Abroad and the freaking founder of Lonely Planet, Tony Wheelers! There appears to be more breakout sessions and registration required workshops, as well as additional panel discussions.  The schedule also sneakily added in there a surprise musical act during one of the evening parties… fingers crossed Matt has enough pull to have the Backstreet Boys perform for us travelers.

        Understanding that the price tag of attending this conference may seem a bit high for your budget.  In comparison to my experience of others attempting to sell me online courses upwards of $8,000-$15,000, this was the most beneficial item I spent my time & money on in regards to my travel blog in 2018 (besides purchasing my domain & hosting services, haha).  If you’re still hesitant to take the leap, then I would definitely suggest you purchase a virtual pass for the conference.  You can purchase it right here.  Using this link will help Blue Eyed Compass to continue to share helpful & carefully curated content.

Here’s to hoping for an international Travelcon in the future!

Still not convinced? You can firm up your skills with one of Nomadic Matt’s travel blogger courses.  I can speak highly of the blogging & photography course. Plus if you use this link, you’ll help Blue Eyed Compass’s goals to share with others how to travel sustainably.

sustainable travel

Welcome fellow explorer!

Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger & photographer, sharing real and honest information about travelling & how to do so sustainably

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Visiting the Belize Zoo

Visiting the Belize Zoo

Why it’s worth a visit (even if you don’t like zoo’s)

The Belize Zoo is a safe haven for orphaned, injured, or misused animals local to Belize.  I’m not a fan of zoos or animal encounters, as so many contain animals in unnatural habitats, living in cement cages, who were ripped from their parents and paid for for human enjoyment.  So, I make sure to do research prior to contributing any funds towards something that could potentially endanger or threaten the quality of life for an animal. With this being said, the Belize Zoo is a gem of a place for the creatures it houses.

        The Belize Zoo started as a simple ‘backyard zoo’ to help house and protect animals that were used on film sets in the 1980’s.  Today it protects animals only natural to Belize’s land in open enclosures (some of which the animals could very easily leave if they wanted to).  It serves as a resource to the country as prior to the zoo existing many did not know of the species native to their country.

        These native animals living at this zoo have come in naturally; meaning they weren’t paid for to complete a set of animals a guest might want to see.  As I stated earlier, this place began on the premise that film set animals needed a refuge after being used for ‘work’ (another post for another time).  Currently many of the animals are rescues of wildfires, hunting accidents/orphaned young, or injured due to loss of habitat.

How unique & precious are tapirs?!  They are very difficult to see in the world and are Belize’s national animal.  To me, they look like a cross between an ant eater and a hippo.

        While still hesitant to visit any zoo, no matter it’s rescue efforts as a cage is a cage to a wild animal, I really enjoyed how the areas that held the animals were much larger than what I’ve seen at any zoo in the United States (with the exception of the San Diego Safari Park).  There were also signs throughout the park educating guests not to pluck any plants, the need for these animals to remain wild and why these animals ended up at the Belize Zoo. And the staff here are caretakers, not just assigned trash pick up or queue directors.

        If you find yourself in beautiful Belize and are able to, try to make time to contribute to the conservation efforts of the Belize Zoo with a visit.  See for yourself and compare to others zoos that you have visited- if you’ve been there, what did you think? Would you agree with how they have built this place?

End Note regarding the Belize Zoo:

I do not endorse any zoo or animal encounters of any kind.  I truly believe that animals should be kept in their natural habitat if possible.  Unfortunately, much of Belize land has been changing (tourism increases and buildings) that if an animal’s home is burned or destroyed their last option may be a zoo similar to Belize’s.  Please keep in mind that we are all entitled to our own opinions- if you disagree with mine or the words used in this post feel free to share, but in a respectful and kind manner.

*there is an option to pay to feed one of the jaguars;  I’ll admit I had considered doing this (as jaguars are my favorite big cat) however we connected with someone who used to work at the zoo while on another tour and he told us that he didn’t agree with the direction these encounters were going — as you can now have the jaguar perform tricks (?!) While these animals are well protected and cared for, this type of ‘entertainment’ should not be an option.  Pay to visit the zoo, but don’t fall for the trap of this kind of animal encounter.

If you’re planning a trip to Belize, check out my other blog posts on the most beautiful places to visit & the best things to do in Belize

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Sunshine Blogger Award

Sunshine Blogger Award

sunshine-blogger-award

Sunshine Blogger Award

What it is and why

The blogging and social media world have been an interesting online space to dive into.  You meet and become friends with people from around the world whom you may never actually meet in person.  But more importantly you gain inspiration and knowledge from them.

I was flattered and excited when Marcela from My Red Sabbatical nominated me for a Sunshine Blogger Award.  The Sunshine Blogger Award is a chain nomination given to bloggers from bloggers, who find their counterparts inspiring and bring ‘sunshine’ into the lives of their readers through their blogs.

Sunshine Award Guidelines

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you in the blog post and link back to their blod
  2. Answer 11 questions asked by your nominator
  3. Nominate 11 new bloggers you find inspiring to receive the award
  4. Ask them 11 NEW questions
  5. List the rules & display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your blog or social media post

Questions I received

What is your blogging niche?

I write about my travels and will be getting more into how you can travel while working full time and ways to be an eco-conscious traveler as I feel it’s so important to be self-aware of the impact we are having on the planet.

 

Is there a meaning to your blog name?

Blue Eyed Compass is a name based on three items: (1) So much of travel is visual and (2) it’s kind of like a kid in a candy store where your eyes are bigger than your stomach where I see a place and I want to explore it and I’ll lust after it until I’m able to get there.  (and in case you’re wondering I have blue eyes) (3) The compass part came from my passion to seek out ways to live my life that are positive to Mother Nature, so my drive to do and be a good environmentalist and animal protecor is geared towards where my internal compass directs me

 

Do you have a blogging routine and if so, what is it?

I’m still working on a set routine, as my full time job schedule is a constant change day to day, so I try my best to be very organized.  I have checklists, daily and weekly to-do lists and goals. I also set aside time each night and one whole weekend day to learn and work

 

What is the one top tip you would give to someone considering blogging?

Find your why.  Blogging is not a picnic in the park, it is a lot of work and time.  Once you have your why you will find your drive and build discipline, and continue to power through even when you don’t see success right away.

 

What do you think is the future of blogging?

I think the future of blogging could go in a bunch of different ways.  While Instagram is a wonderful social media platform people do still seek out words for inspiration and information.  While I don’t think blogging is going anywhere, I do think those who put their time and effort into creating something that is legitimate and worthwhile will stand out among those who are solely seeking social media fame.

 

Are you a full-time blogger or is this a side of the desk job / hobby?

Currently Blue Eyed Compass is my other ‘job’.  I do work full time and I enjoy sharing with others how you can work a 9-5 job and still be able to enjoy exploring the world (because there is so much to see!).

 

What is the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

I’ve grown up being a scaredy-cat but I’m pushing myself to be more brave.  I’d have to say the bravest would be moving out west to San Diego, unemployed.  When I book my one way flight I didn’t have a place to live nor any jobs lined up.

 

What are 3 interesting facts about you most people don’t know?

  • I used to be a dancer — I say used to be because I have some injuries that prevent me from enjoying it professionally now, however I still love to take classes when I can and dancing in my apartment
  • I’m a vegetarian (trying to transition to vegan) but I dislike a lot of vegetables.  It’s pretty comical. I won’t eat mushrooms, olives, peas or cooked spinach!
  • I’m left handed!  Which I’ve been told means I use the creative side of my brain more than the logical side… which could definitely be true of myself.

 

If money and time were not an object, what would your ideal travel experience be?

I would love to travel with my boyfriend and our cats (it’s so hard to leave them for long periods of time) and explore places that are off the beaten path and volunteer with animals.  If I could help rescue elephants, rhinos from poachers, dogs from dog meat farms and spread awareness on animal abuse I would feel so fulfilled.

 

What motivates you the most when blogging?

I’d have to say that it is a creative outlet to share my personality and the community.  I love the idea that the internet is almost available to the world so we can share ideas and information across borders.  I really enjoy helping to show others that travel is possible even if you aren’t earning a 6 figure salary and that you have a positive impact on the world without being a politician.  And the community is amazing. Once you start down the rabbit hole you can easily find so many wonderful people to learn from and who are eager to help. It’s inspiring.

 

What is the most off the beaten path destination you recommend me to visit and why?

Domestically I would say New Mexico and the Pacific Northwest (Washington and Oregon).  The United States has some incredible nature that everyone should experience at least once.  Internationally I fell in love with Madeira, Portugal. It’s a Portuguese island off the coast of Morocco and was mixture of Greece and Hawaii.  They also had some of the nicest people I have ever met in my travels.

 

San Diego Beaches
16th Avenue Tiled Steps
Altun Ha Belize

Questions for my Nominees

  1. What made you want to start blogging?
  2. What’s been your biggest challenge since starting?
  3. If you had a Round the World ticket, where would you start your journey & why?
  4. Who are your top two inspiring bloggers?
  5. If you could volunteer on your travels what would it be?
  6. What destination would you go back to over and over again?
  7. Ever have a bad travel experience?
  8. When you aren’t blogging, what do you do for fun?
  9. Tell us your best travel hack!
  10. What’s your travel style?
  11. What is your next blogging goal you want to hit?

My nominees!

  1. Wendy, at Lovinglybold
  2. Melissa, at Chasing Backlight
  3. Camilla, at Camilla Mount
  4. Natalia, at On the Fly Nat
  5. Katie, at Just Chasing Sunsets
  6. Courtney, at Little Brave Blog
  7. Scarlett, at Scarlett Chan
  8. Cindy, at Sights and Seams
  9. Deb, at Adventure Affinity
  10. Mia, at Worldsessed
  11. Tuliyani, at The Willing Road

Have other questions for me?  Don’t hesitate to reach out!  You can comment under this post or connect with me on my Instagram.  Cheers travelers!