I still remember the first time someone told me about TBEX. I was confused and asked them a bit shockingly, "What in the world is the teabag conference?"
We shared a laugh and then I learned that it was the conference focused on travel writing. As this is something I want to do more of, it instantly went on my radar and I thought about going last year in Vancouver.
Last week when I was asked to give the opening keynote speech at this years TBEX12 in Keystone, Colorado I jumped at the chance.
It was a bit of a whirlwind trip on top of all the other recent traveling I've been doing.
Landing at the airport and rushing to make a shuttle to the resort and then battling car sickness on the almost two hour drive to the resort wasn't the best way to start out. It didn't get better when I got there and was told to get off at the wrong location and then walked over to the right location where I had the "fun" of feeling my first effects of being at such a high altitude.
The Keystone Resort is nothing short of gorgeous. With over 3,100 acres making up the resort and beutiful views in every direction I quickly forgot the troubles and focused on the beauty around me. I mean how can you be frustrated when this is what it looks like around you?
Once I picked up my badge and checked in with the team so they knew I safely arrived, I took some time to check out the conference center.
I wanted to get a feel for the room I'd be speaking in and see how everything else was set up. Vendors were just starting to set up in the expo hall, but I got a chance to finally meet Scott from ScottEVest. They did a very smart thing and were giving out free vests to all the attendees. Speakers like myself also got a couple of other goodies from them and I'm looking forward to trying out their products in the field to see if they live up to the hype or not.
Everyone was talking about how backed up the gondolas might get to take us up to the evening festivities, so I headed over early. I got right on and began making my way up the mountain. I took time to get off and enjoy the scenery which was even more breathtaking at this altitude. Being at over 11,000 feet at the time really took my breath away.
I stopped to enjoy a band playing and people watch some visitors to the resort who were not there for the conference. As I boarded the last of the gondolas to take me to my final destination I was handed a glass of champagne and a warm chocolate chip cookie. Not a combination I had ever thought about consuming, but somehow it worked.
The night was filled with a taste of the Vail Resorts.
The variety and quality of the food was top notch. While it was hard to pick a favorite, I have to go with the suckling berkshire pig ragout over house made pappardelle pasta with peach preserves from Beano's Cabin. It was nothing short of amazing. So was the wild board shoulder from Alpenglow Stube and the corned buffalo sliders from Keystone Ranch.
Of course all of these might have been slightly overshadowed by the chocolate creations that filled the dessert tent. Everything from brownie hamburgers to chocolate coffee cup cappuccinos were awaiting everyone. Best part was I talked to the pastry chef for a bit and found out he was from Cape Cod.
I had hoped to stay and chat with more people for longer, but my altitude induced headache was not going to let it happen. Knowing I had to get up and rock the stage in the morning meant I had to get off the mountain and hope that I felt better in the morning. It was extremely peaceful to descend on the gondolas as the sun was setting and by the time I arrived at the bottom to be blanketed in darkness.
I awoke the next morning feeling better than the night before. Coffee, a granola bar and one final check of my slide deck meant that I was ready to go.
I packed up everything into my GORUCK GR2 since I'd be leaving directly from the conference center and headed on over.
The walk was beautiful with just enough chill in the morning. I chatted with a woman from the Loudoun County Tourism Board. I guess I never thought about Viginia having a wine country until that morning. Adding it to my long list of places to visit someday.
There is nothing like the rush you get just before taking the stage in front of a packed room of people.
My keynote went off without a hitch and the audience seemed to be really into it. I had lots of people approach me after the fact to thank me for coming to the conference. I kept thanking them for having me!
While my presentation style depends on me talking and not on the slides themselves, I thought I'd share what my slide deck looked like for the keynote.
Thankfully I had a few hours to check out the other sessions going on at TBEX. I popped around to check out several so I could get a feel for what the vibe was. Happy to report that it was one of learning on all levels. The conference organizers had done a really nice job of mixing up the sessions so that there was something for everyone.
While I would have loved to stay for the second nights cowboy themed party and the whole second day of the conference, I had to leave early in the afternoon in order to get home for Father's Day. I wish I had been able to talk with more people and make more contacts there for paid writing and speaking engagements, but family always comes first.
The next TBEX happens in Costa Brava, Spain this September and will be back in the States next year. If you have any desire to get involved with creating media around travel and tourism this is the conference for you to attend. Thank you to the entire team behind the show for putting on a great job. I'm hoping the next one is not at such a high altitude since I know I wasn't the only one who ran into problems with such a short stay.
If we didn't get a chance to talk one-on-one at the event and you would to hire me to create something for you, speak at your event or invite me on a press trip, I'm only an e-mail away and I look forward to talking to you.
Thank you to everyone at TBEX for letting me become part of your community.
Photo Credit of me speaking - Dave Cynkin