Review of Travelcon

Review of Travelcon

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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.

Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing web designer & photographer. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

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Visiting the Belize Zoo

Visiting the Belize Zoo

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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?

Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing web designer & photographer. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

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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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Best Things to do in Lucerne, Switzerland

Best Things to do in Lucerne, Switzerland

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The Top sights to see & chocolates to eat!

Most well-known for its wooden bridge over the Reuss River, turreted buildings and a colorful Aldstadt (old town), Lucerne is like a childhood storybook come to life.  If you are visiting Northern Switzerland, or basing your trip in Zurich, then Lucerne is a must see.  With just a quick train ride from Zurich, you can hop off to explore this popular take off to the Swiss Alps. 

        Upon exiting the train station, historic Lucerne is a quick five-minute walk away.  In fact, the town is visible from the train station and is a perfect example of preserved history meeting updated 21st century livelihood, all settled gently on the shores of Lake Lucerne.  This contrast will have you scurrying toward the famed Kapellbrücke to immerse yourself in the old-world charm.

[We walked around Lucerne in half a day, had lunch then proceeded up to the top of Mt. Pilatus.]

Here are the best things to do in

Lucerne, Switzerland:

Kapellbrücke (Wooden Bridge)

     The Kapellbrücke is famous not only for its picturesque setting but also for its archway paintings dating back to the 17th century.  Uniquely Kapellbrücke has maintained its damaged areas from a 1993 fire, which destroyed many of the paintings.  The charred wooden sections have their own history to them giving visitors an opportunity to cherish what has been able to be preserved.  Known as the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe, Kapellbrücke is what lures visitors to Lucerne.

Jesuit Church Lucerne

     If you’ve visited elaborately decorated Italian churches than many of the churches in Switzerland will appear lackluster in comparison.  However, this Jesuit church is quite beautiful.  A light interior glittered with blush pink and gold accents, this was the first baroque* style church built north of the Alps in Switzerland.

Musegg Wall & Towers

     A quick walk towards the back of town and you’ll find the Musegg wall.  Built in the late 14th century, this rampant wall is still very well maintained with three easily accessible towers to climb up.  Enjoy the bright blue views of Lake Lucerne, and don’t miss the city clock that chimes one minute before the rest of the towns clocks.

Walk around Aldstadt

     Like Zurich’s Aldstadt area, Lucerne’s’ old town will have you wandering through winding streets and hidden shops.

Lunch on the Ruess River

There are a handful of restaurants on the Reuss river, and while I believe that places to eat in high tourist areas can be traps and/or have bleh food, many of these places had better reviews than places further in the town.  We ate at Rathaus Brauerei, which is a small brewery.  If you go there be sure to try whatever their seasonal brew is.  In the words of Donna from Parks & Rec, ‘treat yo’ self’ to a traditional Swiss lunch while enjoying the Kapellbrücke views.

Lion Shrine

One of the world’s most famous monuments, the Lion Shrine is dedicated to the Swiss mercenaries who were massacred during the French Revolution.  Mark Twain is quoted having said that this shrine is “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world”.  Let that sink in.  I’m always in awe of sculptures and the Lion Shrine of Lucerne captures agony and pain admirably.

So, why was this French Revolution monument built in Lucerne, Switzerland?  One of the Swiss mercenary guards was on leave in Lucerne during the time of the revolution and raised funds to construct a monument memorializing his fellow guards.

*Please keep in mind this is a monument and a place to be respected.  I wouldn’t recommend taking group photos or posing with a selfie stick here.

Mount Pilatus

If a clear day with blue skies, visit Mount Pilatus where its legendary curative dragon once dwelled is an exciting way to crawl up into the Swiss mountains.  Details on visiting Mount Pilatus are here!

Max Chocolatier

Chocolate lovers rejoice!  Stopping here prior to heading back to Zurich means enjoying seasonal hand-crafted chocolate pieces on your journey.  Tag this place on your map (opens in the afternoon) and tell me what flavors you enjoyed most!  With over excitement for these I cannot recall which flavor was best… let’s be real, they were all amazing.

Boat tours

We chose not to take a boat tour as we had done so in Zurich, however these seemed popular while we were there.  Walk up to the offices located near the train station to find more details.

 Lucerne radiates traditional mixed with modern and is a great gateway to central Switzerland for excursions.  Panoramic views of the Alps, peaceful Lake Lucerne and three stunning mountains to explore nearby are begging to be discovered here.

Top TIPS for visiting Lucerne, Switzerland

  • Baroque: following the Renaissance era, Baroque was a European style that thrived in the 17th and 18th centuries.  Best known for grandeur, contrast, detailed movement and was meant to stir awe. (I should mention I took an art history class in college that focused on the baroque style.  Probably the most impressive era for art).
  • See how to best navigate Mount Pilatus here
Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing web designer & photographer. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

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Towns to visit Outside of Zurich, Switzerland

Towns to visit Outside of Zurich, Switzerland

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The cutest towns to visit in one day when visiting Zurich, Switzerland

While most major cities are hubs for travelers there is quite a bit to experience and enjoy in the towns that are outside of the comforts of an international city cushion.  Food, people, transportation, the entirety of a destinations culture are most ingrained in small towns.

Below are three small destinations outside of Zurich that can be visited in one day.  Yes, you read that correctly. Three places in one day. Waking up early to catch a morning train is my personal travel style and what makes it possible to explore as this post suggests.  Basically, aim to experience as much as the daylight will allow. You can stay in the major hub for a reasonable price and be able to see more places than most.

Stein am Rhein

Stein am Rhein is a quaint and colorful town cozied next to the Rhine River.  The train station leads to a short bridge where you can see the town nestled in its original roots and waking up for the day.  Cobblestoned streets wind into the Old Town main square where every half-timbered building has a painted façade.

Pop into the nearest café to enjoy a cappuccino or espresso and a flaky sweet pastry, then wander outside to enjoy the serene calm before tourist groups clatter through. Make sure to take advantage of restaurants and benches that line the river for an exceptionally calm view.  And if you have the time, explore the Hohenklingen Castle.

Exceptional preservation of architectural heritage makes Stein am Rhein a place worthy of your time.  An hour or two to walk around is all you need to enjoy it.

Rhine Falls

Rhine Falls is Europe’s largest waterfall!  Its immensity comes from its width rather than its height.  With three different areas at Rhine Falls, my suggestion is to choose one and enjoy it from there;

  1. View point from the Worth castle; cross the bridge up top to get to it
  2. View point in the middle; this is where my pictures are from
  3. Open area at the bottom of it; where the boat rides are available (see below for details on this)

        Tectonic shifts during the Ice Age forced the Rhine River to the path it takes today and created Rhine Falls.  In the middle of the falls is a small but mighty rock that has withstood the test of time for over a thousand years!  Small boats ferry passengers over to climb the stairs and platforms hovering over the falls allowing brave people to feel the strength of the water.

        We couldn’t resist shffling onto a small speed boat to battle against the current of the falls and climb those stairs.  Most people were polite about cautious walkers and those wanting to take solo pictures, which made for a pleasant excursion.  Once back on dry land, hop onto the Rhyfall Express, a motorized ‘train’ that transfers guests to and from Schaffhausen, our next stop.

In total, Rhine Falls took about 2 hours to visit including the boat trip.

*See my tips below for how to successfully get to Rhine Falls (and not waste time getting onto the incorrect train like we did)

Schaffhausen

        Schaffhausen is a MUST-see town.  It was my favorite stop of the day!  Settled between the Black Forest and wineries with its own fortress lies this whimsical town.  Schaffhausen is known as being one of the most delightful towns in Switzerland because of its lavish facades (similar to Stein am Rhein), oriel windows, colorful buildings, great shopping and a wonderful open square.  Being that we visited at the end of the day on a Sunday by the time we arrived most places were closed for the day (as is typical of Europe), however just walking around was enough to pacify us. It is also what led us to our first of many Swiss chocolate shops

Finishing the day at Schaffhausen was the perfect ending to exploring northern Switzerland.  It also helped because there were no train transfers from Schaffhausen back to Zurich. That meant a simple train ride back into Zurich’s city center.

TIPS for towns to visit outside of Zurich, Switzerland

  • Getting there; Zurich to Stein am Rhein– check the Swiss train website for transfer details as you’ll need to transfer trains at Schaffhausen.  I found it best to follow what the website said as opposed to interpreting the many signs at the train station and it never led me amiss
  • At Stein am Rhein there is a castle atop of the nearest hilltop, called Hohenklingen Castle.  You can hike up or drive (I’ve read there is a car park up there)
  • Lindwurm Musuem in Stein am Rhein is a stop for those interested in exploring medieval middle class living.  Entrance cost is 5 CHF.
  • Getting to Rhine Falls from Stein am Rhine: I like to think myself an avid traveler who is able to get herself around easily with some research… figuring out the trains from Stein am Rhein to Rhine Falls was confusing.  This is your warning and some tips to get there quicker than we did—take the train back to Schaffhausen. Then take a train to Neuhausen. From the Neuhausen stop you can walk to Rhine Falls. There are signs to follow that are easy to find.  You can also walk along the river at the Schaffhausen stop to reach Rhine Falls. That should take you about 45 minutes.
  • Leaving Rhine Falls via the Rhyfall Express: Ask the driver what direction the tram is going/if they’re going to Schaffhausen.  For as cheap as it was, I would suggest doing it. It drives you through the town leading into Schaffhausen.
Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing web designer & photographer. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

Follow Along!

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Set up your blog today by using my discount code for Bluehost – Click the image to get started.

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